If this blog actually posts I would like to start off by saying that I wanted to quit this entry many times. This is a difficult topic to get across and although I’ve shared pieces of what’s below with friends and family, there’s a lot of information that I find very disturbing, upon deep reflection, that hasn’t ever really occurred to me before. I am practicing ahimsa (non-violence) with myself for letting things get this far, and I’m now doing everything in my power to solve my “pain problem.”
In my Yoga Flirt class Tuesday, we spoke about satya, or capital-T Truth. The lesson is always a chance to take a look inside and see if I’m living the yogic principle in question. What I realized is that, as honest as I have been on this blog about my past and my present, I have left out what is probably the biggest piece of my life for the past 3 years. To be fair to myself, sometimes I “forget” about it because it’s always, always there. It seems to me that we forget to mention what becomes mundane to us on an individual basis.
The reason it feels important to share this portion of my life is not to draw sympathy (over 3 years I’ve had plenty, but it doesn’t help any). Tuesday, the lightbulb went off that I’m not the only one with chronic pain, and that I should share my experience in the hopes that people who are suffering from it can maybe get something from my experience. Loved ones suffer too, from having to watch their friend or family member go throught their issues and being essentially powerless to help. I know there’s many of you out there that are in constant hurt, I’m not sure how many of you have been foolish enough to put off seeking extreme measures until 3 years of it has passed though!
The issue escalated so incrementally for me that it took taking a major painkiller after surgery for me to figure out how very, very much my life was being limited! I had an elective surgery in August 2010 that had severe initial pain and a long recovery period (aka boob job!) and they gave me some oxycontin, which is VERY STRONG. I realized that I had an increase in range of motion, was much more physically comfortable and could just generally breathe with less difficulty when I took an oxycontin. And that is with brand new chesticles!! That was the point where I realized something should probably be done about what I had been hoping would just go away on it’s own.
That’s when I started trying to find a solution, starting with traditional, going Eastern, and then doing any and everything anyone that had ever been in pain or had known some one in pain suggested that had worked for them. Treatments I’ve tried: massage, chiropracty, acupuncture, surgery to burn the nerves off (!) around the painful area, hypnosis, ice, heat, not doing anything but lay down when I wasn’t physically at work, being super active, some kind of osteopathic manipulation not classified as chiropracty, yoga, visualization, meditation, physical therapy, foam rollers, breathing techniques, four 200mg ibuprofen three to four times a day, Lyrica, non-narcotic muscle relaxers, quitting my much needed pole dancing classes cold turkey, hot tubs, epsom salt baths… it’s been 3 years, I know there’s other stuff in there. Nothing has been as effective as that oxycontin, which is not an option to take every day. Avoiding mind-altering pills has been my number one priority in this mess, due to a history of substance issues and also just simply wanting to be present for my life! It’s impossible to truly connect with my Higher Power or my fellow humans if I’m riding a little drug cloud. I wouldn’t trade those things for all the oxycontin on the planet. So I’ve suffered a lot because of it, and so have my relationships with family and friends. Now, I’m going to try to explain this… journey.
By now, I’d rather talk about anything but the amount of pain I’m in all the time, blah blah blah, but it’s difficult to truly understand the effect of waking up to your body demanding that something be done about it’s obviously urgent condition. Obviously there’s the physical aspects, yes. Everyone has gotten a cut or been bruised, we all know what pain feels like and we all react differently with our conscious mind. Something really cool is that your body knows what to do when you sustain an injury. You don’t have to tell your blood vessels to constrict at the site of an open wound on your body, it’s your body’s response to slow blood loss. Your body knows when the pain is too much, and will literally knock itself out to avoid feeling it! The human body is an amazing machine, working with and without the conscious mind.
As much as I’ve tried (with the exception of about 6 months where I gave up all hope and laid on the couch feeling sorry for myself) to live, or at least create a facsimile of, a normal life, I have not been able to do so because my body is the one in charge – not my mind. My whole body is dedicated, 24/7 to dealing with it’s crisis! When I sleep, my whole body tightens up to try and protect itself, so every day I have to start fresh trying to relax the muscles from my ears to my glutes. All day, my body contends with itself while I try to live my life. ACK! It is really hard to explain… but I think I figured out a way. Read on…
Remember that silly kid’s game where you try to see who can hold their hand over a candle flame the longest? Think back to the way your body reacted, and how you had to override your body’s instincts to pull away so you could show how tough you were. Remember how it got increasingly difficult to hold it there, even though you weren’t getting any closer to the flame? Go back to the point where you had to stop talking and just concentrate to demand your body to let you keep your hand there. Now envision doing that, 24 hours a day, for three years, while you attempt to hold conversations, go to work, make love to your spouse, cook dinner, sit still in meetings, visit with friends, sleep. Oh! And no one can see that you’ve got this super hot flame in various ranges of closeness (up to and including times where you’re actually touching the fire for any random length of time). Some wonder why you’re so distracted, so fidgety, why you always have that little crease between your brows. Your boss may wonder why you’re not really living up to the expectations they had upon hiring you. Friends may stop calling because you never get back to them, or because talking to you is, frankly, kind of a drag. Your husband may try to be understanding, but can’t help but occasionally become impatient. The poor guy just wants his wife back!
Because of all the energy being expended internally I am, at any given time, mildly to extremely limited on my ability to focus externally. There was a point about midway through this 3 year saga, where I had literally zero external energy to spend beyond what I would attempt to give at work. I would come home, put some ice or heat on my back, lay down on the couch. I had nothing. Nothing for my husband, nothing for our marriage. Nothing for my friends or for family. I wished my life could just stop. I felt powerless to make the pain go away. I wanted to die in that way where you don’t want to kill yourself, but you just wish you could stop regretting waking up every morning.
The truth is, as I realize it now, I might as well have taken that oxycontin the whole time I felt like that. I was cut off from my fellows, from my higher power anyway! Drugs and self-pity are closely related in their destructive power. I became motivated when I realized that my attitude was affecting my marriage to the point where my husband was happy when he could get away from me. It didn’t hurt, I totally understood why. I just didn’t like the fact of it, and realized I needed to make a decision: just let it all go… or fight to get better. I looked at my life, the facts of it, and saw that any woman might consider herself lucky beyond her wildest dreams. I knew I had felt that feeling, and I decided I wanted it back.
This turning point seems a good place to end this post. There is more, but we’re starting to layer in another yogic principle. So as soon as I recover from writing this one I’ll start on the happy middle. There’s no ending yet. Soon, I hope.