Monday, July 27, 2015

Mind Over Matter: Believe In Yourself

About ten years ago, while working full-time and getting a post-graduate degree in the evenings, I developed pain in both arms and shoulders. Since my day job required typing literally the entire time I sat at my desk, and I took course notes via laptop, I was soon diagnosed with a repetitive stress injury. Cue the rounds of treatment, time off work, pills, pain, and frustration.

This went on for almost a year. We tried everything. The pain stuck. Nothing made it better. The only medication that helped at all was the stuff that knocked me out completely, but you can't sleep 24 hours a day. Life was horrible—I wasn't even living. I'd sit for days, staring at the television, arms by my sides, because I couldn't move them. This was before Netflix streaming. One day, I watched Canadian women's college hockey for three hours. It hurt too much to use the remote to change the channel. When my roommates talked me into leaving the house, I'd sit and stare at my plate, in too much pain to make conversation (or to lift food to my mouth). I lost most of my friends during that period, because they didn't know what to do with someone who sat in silence or cried all the time.

Finally, the doctors said, "We don't know why the pain's not getting better." One doctor told me that there was nothing physically wrong, and I must be faking it. When I left his office, I sat in the car and cried for half an hour because it hurt too much to drive home. The pain continued. Eventually, I was left with two choices.
1. Spend my life taking medication that left me too doped up to function (yet didn't really do much for the pain), or
2. Figure out how to deal with it.

I quit the job that had me typing nonstop and upped my student loans (Not sure I advocate this one, but in my situation, it helped dramatically.) I withdrew funds from my 401(k) to help pay tuition. When I noticed that the pain tended to be worse in summer (which is basically March through November in my hometown), I started looking for post-graduate jobs in cooler climates.

Then, I rested. Took some time off to heal. Avoided typing nineteen hours a day. I started working out, to rebuild damaged muscles and be strong. I wanted a better life than the one the doctors insisted I would have. Look at me now.

Two years ago, my husband and I climbed to the top of Mt. Tremblant on our honeymoon.

The reason you can't see anything is that we're really high up.
Shortly after we got married, I started taking pole fitness classes regularly. Six months later, I performed in a showcase put on by the studio. Now, I fill in when the regular instructor isn't available. I'm stronger and healthier than I've ever been. Three weeks ago, I rode a mechanical bull for 90 seconds—longer than most of the friends at the bar with us. Last weekend, I did an Extreme Tree Climbing Adventure with ropes, climbing, swinging logs, and zip-lining. The things I can do now consistently astound me. If I went back ten years, that injured, sobbing girl on the couch wouldn't even recognize me.

All because I made a decision to learn to overcome the pain. I refused to accept a diagnosis of "The pain will never go away and you will never live a normal life."

I'd like a second opinion.
Whatever. Why would I want to live a normal life when I can live one that's completely awesome?

I'm still in pain most days. In the summers, it's excruciating. My signature scent is Icy Hot. But I refuse to let the pain hold me back. Life's too short. Believe in yourself, and it's amazing what you can accomplish.

6 comments:

  1. I had no idea. You're twice the inspiration now!

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    1. Or, I'm an example of how to seriously injure yourself. One or the other. ;-)

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  2. Great post! And that picture... :)

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    1. Thanks! I have far less impressive pictures of me falling on my butt....

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  3. Oh, I can SO relate to this. I also had RSI a couple of years ago! It's baffling how useless doctors were in my situation as well. "Rest and take this glorified Advil" was the best they could do. For me it was 6 months of constant pain, depression, battling with insurance over my physical therapy (which didn't help) and finally a leave from work.

    What finally helped me was massage therapy and yoga (neither of which are covered by insurance, but your health is worth it!) I do both of those things to this day and haven't had any issues since. I'd encourage anyone going through RSI to skip the expensive surgeons and physical therapy and 1) rest 2) find a good massage therapist (I mean one that makes you scream in pain at first--it helps, I swear!) 3) start strengthening yourself and keep strengthening yourself.

    I need to do a post about this on my own blog, it's amazing how little you hear about RSI until it happens to you--and little the medical community knows about it. This whole experience made me wary of traditional doctors in general--they're so quick to just give you pills rather than trying to actually fix the problem.

    So happy you're all better (and so happy I am too!)

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    1. This makes me glad I posted. :-) RSI SUCKS. Glad to be reminded that I'm not alone.

      I do yoga now, too, twice a week, and it's a huge help. Nothing *fixes* it, but I'm glad for anything that makes it a little better.

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