A little over a year ago, I started a second blog to focus on what I’d come to think of as this weird hip problem I’d had for years that no one seemed to understand (sacroiliac joint dysfunction).
Among friends, I usually tried not to talk about it too much, because I didn’t think anyone else would want to hear about it. Sometimes I wondered if it was all in my head, since so many of the doctors and physical therapists I’d seen didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. I was embarrassed to tell people about it, since only my chiropractor seemed to believe it was a real problem (and you know how skeptical I am about most things alternative health).
I started My Sacroiliac Joint Saga one warm day in May. I’d had an absolutely awful day, and was just about reaching my breaking point with this problem and thinking I might need surgery. I didn’t really think anyone would want to read what I wrote, but I left it set to “public” just in case.
But a funny thing happened. Once I actually gave myself permission to focus on the issue, instead of judging myself for it, I found I had a lot more time to problem solve.
I used the mental energy I’d once devoted to questioning myself instead to research the problem from every possible angle. Not everything I read was helpful to me, but by giving my full energy to the problem, instead of wondering if I was crazy, I ended up finding the answers I needed.
And it turned out there were people out there who were familiar with this problem– patients who had experienced it themselves, and doctors and PT’s who treated patients with it, and were even contributing to research on the problem. I just hadn’t had the luck to come across any of them. Looking back, I think the reason why is that I stopped searching too soon.
Last spring, I wrote a post called “Inner Limits,” about how I was coming to realize my past with an eating disorder was haunting me more than I knew.
Internally, I had set certain limits for myself on how much time or energy I was willing to spend focusing on fixing a “problem” with my body, and so I held myself back. I did my exercises, I went to the chiropractor once or twice a week, I maybe read one or two articles a month on it, but that was it. Other than that, my main focus was sticking to my routine, as if pretending I didn’t have a problem could somehow limit the effect it had on my life.
But really, as I wrote in the post, there was more I could do. I could do more exercises; I could do more stretches. I could spend an hour a day researching, if I really wanted to. I had the time… for some reason, I just wasn’t. Because I was afraid to devote my full attention to it.
Funny, right? Here I’d been working on this blog about my journey with central sensitization, and how much it took me to find answers for it, and how for so long I’d felt misunderstood when I had a legitimate medical issue. One of the main messages of Sunlight in Winter has always been “Believe in yourself. Your pain is real and you deserve help.”
And yet here, the same patterns were playing out with my sacroiliac joints. Deep down, despite what I’d already been through, part of me was still afraid that if I fixated too much on my body, and trying to “change” it, it would trigger the same level of obsession that drove my years of starvation and overexercising. So I held myself back.
I haven’t written much about my family history on this blog, and I probably won’t say more than this anytime soon. But in the past few years, I’ve come to realize that some of these thought patterns of self-doubt didn’t start with me. Often we learn them from somewhere– usually, consciously or not, from our families. These patterns can be passed down, and I think they very much were in my case. There were things that happened in my family long before I was even born, that sent out ripples across generations.
I realize now that I have been on a long road– not just with my health, but with learning to believe in myself; to trust myself. There were events that occurred in my family, long before I existed, that have affected my life and my ability to believe in myself.
Now that I’m aware of how the past has been affecting me, I’m learning to see things differently; to create my own future and way of seeing things that’s healthy, and works for me.
I won’t always be able control what my body does (I’m sure anyone reading this blog can relate to that!). But I can control the way I see myself, and I don’t have to let health issues affect my self-perception. Just because a doctor can’t give me an answer for something, it doesn’t mean the problem is in my head. It doesn’t mean my problem isn’t real. I can’t make a problem worse by “dwelling” on it when what I’m actually doing is researching and trying to find answers.
I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that, most of the time, the best thing we can do is to try to make meaning out of something for ourselves, whatever that turns out to be.
I don’t know if all my health issues happened for a reason, but now that I look back, I know this common thread was there all along. Compartment syndrome, central sensitization, sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
All of these problems were real; all of them were hard to get diagnosed, and hard to find the right treatment. But for each problem (and I know I’m fortunate in this) there were eventually answers out there.
I know this is not true for everyone who writes under the “Spoonie” banner, but for me, my major health issues have all turned to be manageable. There were answers out there, and I probably would have found them sooner if I had taken myself more seriously, and believed in the possibility of finding answers. Or, I should say, the possibility of being understood.
Over the past weekend, My Sacroiliac Joint Saga hit 10,000 total page views. I still can’t believe this blog I started a year ago as a somewhat embarrassing side project has grown to this extent, and helped so many people. (And I know this because of all your kind comments and messages– thank you!).
And, aside from page views, 2016 Me still can hardly believe how fortunate I’ve been to finally find answers to this problem. When I was at my breaking point that day in May, getting better wasn’t something I could really even picture.
So let this be a reminder to me, and to you if you’re reading this, to never let our health issues change the way we see ourselves.
We are so much more powerful than we realize… we just have to be able to see it in ourselves.