How I developed central sensitization, Part 4

I began to wonder if something about the compartment syndrome and the leg surgery could have changed something in my chemical makeup, weakening my body and depleting its healing response.

After all, pain was supposed to be my body’s way of telling me that I was injured.  Something was broken; something was wrong.

Time and time again, I’d go to see a doctor, and they wouldn’t be able to find anything wrong.  My elbow was fine; my wrists were fine.  One of my shoulder muscles had a knot the size of a pea, but according to the pain specialist I saw, it  “shouldn’t be causing this much pain.”

It was honestly so, so frustrating.  I really started to think there was something wrong with me that doctors just couldn’t find.  Something wrong in my tissues; maybe some kind of problem with inflammation.

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My primary care doctor back home started to think there was something wrong with me psychologically; that maybe this was depression, or anxiety.

But her suggestions just didn’t resonate with me.  I’d been depressed before.  I knew what it felt like, and this wasn’t it.  As much physical pain as I was in, I was still in so much less pain, emotionally, than I’d been in as a teenager.

After all, I’d been through a time when it felt like daggers just to breathe; when I was so exhausted from trying to make it through the day that the walk from my parents’ driveway into the house seemed so far I might not make it, and I had to rest in my car.

I’d been through all that, and it hadn’t resulted in physical pain like this.  In fact, my body had been at its peak, running faster and faster.

Now I’d come out of all of that– the clouds had finally lifted, and for the first time, I felt like knew what I wanted out of life.  I was enjoying my classes, and the fact that I was meeting so many like-minded people.  I felt like we were all going to graduate and change the world together.  Finally knew what it felt like to be happy, when before it had been just a word.

How could depression be causing this debilitating pain now, when it never had before?   Apart from the pain itself, I was actually happy with my life now.  It didn’t make any sense.

To be continued in Part 5.

To start from the beginning of this series:

 

The road to physical therapy school

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It occurred to me recently that I really haven’t talked much about my progress towards becoming a physical therapist on this blog.

So, if you’re curious, here’s my deal:

I have a Bachelor’s degree in the humanities.  My concentration was social theory, with an emphasis on gender studies.

My goals, when I was in college, were focused in a pretty different direction than the path I’m on now: I wanted to study social policy, and travel abroad working for various non-profits and human rights agencies.  I also wanted to become a psychotherapist.

I started down that road immediately out of college, working at a mental health agency so that I could gain experience before grad school.

Before this, I’d already had a lot of struggles with chronic pain, and had to have surgery for compartment syndrome.  Yet after college, I’d managed to reach some kind of holding pattern where pain didn’t cause me to miss work.  That was, until the awful winter of 2010, when a few things happened in a brief span of time that caused my pain levels to flare way up.

That was my breaking point– when I tried, anew, to get answers.  Finally, after months of searching, I found my physical therapist Tim, who had studied pain neurophysiology education with Neil Pearson.

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Ultimately, I was so inspired by everything I learned from Tim that it led me to consider becoming a physical therapist.

I’d always found physical therapy to be a fascinating field.  As a high school runner, I’d had a few serious injuries where I really needed PT to get up and moving again.   I had formed some great relationships with my therapists, and hung on every word they said.  A part of me was always a little bit sad when they told me I was doing well enough that I didn’t need to come back.  I would have gladly come back back every day, just to hang out and learn.

When I was a freshman in high school, I partially tore my hip flexor during a cross-country race and was on crutches for months.  It was a physical therapist who helped me overcome my fear and eventually start running again.

Then, when I was 19 and had surgery for compartment syndrome, it was a physical therapist who got me back up and moving again.  While I’ll always be grateful to the surgeon who fixed my legs, my PT was the one who gave me the confidence to actually start using them again.

And now, when my life had ground to a complete halt at age 25 because of constant, debilitating pain, it was a physical therapist who gave me my life back again.

I’d always had so much appreciation for PT’s.  Now, the idea dawned on me: why don’t I try to become one?

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Growing up, I didn’t really consider myself that much of a science person.  Looking back, I think a lot of that has to do with the environment at my school, and how our science classes were taught.

Once I started looking into becoming a PT– taking classes, shadowing practicing PT’s– I realized I always had been interested in health science, and exercise physiology, and human anatomy.  It had just taken a different form.

I’d always wanted to do the best thing for my body.  I loved when my running coaches talked about strengthening, building endurance, the benefits of stretching.

And I’d always been interested in nutrition, and being healthy overall.

It’s just that when I was younger, I didn’t have the healthiest mindset, and took some of these interests too far.  But my eating disorder was not all of me– it was a snapshot of a specific place I was in, at a certain point in time, at a certain age.  Although I had some distorted beliefs, that does not mean I wasn’t also genuinely interested in health and fitness at the same time.

The difference is that now, I am able to come at it in a much healthier, stable, and more grounded manner, and know that I will be able to help others with similar struggles.

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Five years later, I can say that I ended up loving all of my prerequisite classes, and I’m so glad I made the decision to take them.

It’s been an incredibly long road.  You see, some of the classes I needed to take had prerequisites of their own.  At the same time, due to my SI joint issues, there were periods of time where I found it incredibly difficult to walk, drive, or even stand up for more than a few minutes.

Despite of all of this, I’m finally at the point now where I’ve basically taken all of the classes I need in order to apply to PT school.  (I might need to take one or two more, depending on specific programs I might try to get into, but most of my bases are covered).

And honestly, I’m so glad I made this decision.  I realized that, while the humanities will always be my first love, I am also a science person, and have been all along.   I couldn’t see it at the time, but I know it now.

Reading List: Vulnerability

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This is the question that has consumed me recently: how do people take their most precious and guarded memories, and spin them into stories, unfurling them to the world?

It seems so easy when other people do it– when you read a famous, heart-wrenching novel for class, and analyze its themes. “I could do that,” you say. “Someday maybe I will.”

But it’s so different when you begin to try– shockingly different. In real life, I haven’t begun– I’ve only hinted at my most personal stories. I’ve only begun to write them and tell them in my head.

In the morning I wake up too early, in a panic, short of breath. “What have I done?” I gasp. Then I relax. I haven’t actually written anything yet; haven’t hit publish.

I have so much respect for those who have. I’ve always loved and looked up to writers, but now I do so with a respect that is so much more real now that I’ve begun to consider the task myself.

So here, my readers, are a few things I’ve read recently that have inspired me:

Rian Kerfoot, Truth and Cake:

Mary Gelpi, Fibromy-Awesome: Getting Clean Real talk from a girl with fibromyalgia who talks about how, somedays, bathing is just not on the agenda. I’ve been there.

Bianca Sparacino: “You Are Not for Everyone.”

Beauty Beyond Bones: I love her whole blog, but I’ve recently discovered her early posts, which send chills through me. I so want to tell my story like this. (I was never hospitalized for my eating disorder, but her words resonate on so many levels).

Sade Andria Zabala: I discovered her a few months ago when I was heart-broken, and her words ripped me apart more and then healed me at the same time.

All of these pieces of writing are breathtaking — check them out!

Fear of authenticity

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I’ve noticed something about myself, since I started this blog. I love, love, love sharing my writing with others, and forming connections. Every time I have a meaningful moment on here– let’s say I publish a particularly personal post, and people really respond to it– I’m exhilarated. I get totally fired up. I start planning my next post immediately, and come up with a long list of topics for future posts…

…and then somehow, I don’t end up publishing anything for like a month.

Something in me always pulls away. I get stage fright about telling my story publicly; I procrastinate. I decide I don’t want to publish something until it’s perfect, and the next post is never perfect.

For a while I just thought this had to do with my fear of putting myself out there and being judged by strangers; of writing something really personal and then wishing I could take it back.

But I’m realizing now that there might be a deeper level to my hesitations.

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I think it has more to do with the fact that sometimes it can be painful to get in touch with that deepest part of yourself. The part of you that’s really you, that knows exactly what you want most out of life. Sometimes it’s easier, safer, to pretend that that space within you doesn’t exist. To focus on the tangible, the everyday.

I seem to go through months- or even year-long phases where I focus most of my attention on the more surface aspects of life. I am practical; pragmatic; planning my future. What graduate program do I want to attend? (Been stuck on that one for a while). Where do I want to live? What do I need on my next trip to the grocery store?

I want to be put together; organized. I don’t want the future to catch me off-guard.

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Something I’ve learned about myself is that I’m happier when I’m busy; when I’m surrounded by other people, and by ideas. I get really focused on things– my classes when I was in college. Different internships. And then, after college, the various jobs that I’ve had.

And with each one, for a little while, I’ll think that I’ve made it; that I’ve finally figured it all out. But after a while, when I’ve been focusing exclusively on other people’s ideas and never on my own, I start to feel a creeping sense of emptiness.

I try to ignore it at first. I mean, it’s an unpleasant sensation—obviously, my first response is going to be to try to block it out.

But it grows, and grows, until there will be a night when I feel distraught and cannot sleep. I will no longer have the option to try to hide; it is time to return to my own center. To get in touch with what I want, not what I think I have to do.

And for some reason, it always hurts at first, to come back in touch with this place within myself.

Does that make sense to anyone else?

It’s not that my hopes and dreams and desires are painful– it’s that it was painful for me to suppress them. I was so busy being distracted that I didn’t notice the pain building up, and now there’s a scab.

It’s not as though there has always been one thing, one way of living, one career path that my inner voice has always told me to do. First, I wanted to be a psychotherapist. Then, I wanted to work in social justice, with more of an advocacy role. Then, a few years ago, when my own physical issues had opened my eyes, I decided I wanted to become a physical therapist.  It’s not like there was one thing my true self has been telling me to do, and I’ve ignored it.

Instead, I think it has more to do with a way of being, of remembering to be in touch with that space within yourself on a more regular basis.

Why do I block out that voice? I don’t know. I think it’s because I’m not completely sure there is a place for that part of me in the world. If I was to truly listen to myself, to rely on intuition, to push ahead nonstop, guns blazing… what would happen? I’m afraid everything would turn out wrong.

So I temper that voice. I focus on external ways of making sure I’m making the right choices. (What are my PT-prerequisites? What’s the best way to build my resume until then?).

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Working on this blog, however, requires me to get in touch with that space within myself.

It’s a totally different experience than writing when someone else is telling you to. I can write academic papers or reports in my sleep; I can edit your paper, and you’ll be shocked at how much better I make it (haha, really!).

But writing in a truly personal way– especially when others are going to see it, when it’s a representation of yourself that you’re putting out into the world– requires a certain clarity; a sense of purpose. It requires being in touch with that truest, deepest part of yourself.

And it’s honestly hard to do that, at least on a regular basis. It’s hard for me, and I have the feeling that it’s probably hard for a lot of people.

But I also have the feeling that it’s not an issue for everyone; that there are people who have found a way to live out of that most authentic part of themselves on a regular basis, and that for them, it isn’t painful.

How do people do that? I want to know.

I have started to look for answers. I recently watched the movie “Wild,” based on the book by Cheryl Strayed, and it blew my mind. I’ve also recently started to check out Brene Brown‘s work on vulnerability, after seeing some friends whose opinions I really respect rave about her.

I’ll let you know what I find out.

In the meantime, I am happy to at least have some insight into the problem, because I think that was probably half of the battle.

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Please, please, please, let me know what you guys think!  Does this dilemma sound familiar to anyone else?  I want to know your thoughts!

Photo credit: Magnus Karlsson

I only understood myself…

A few days ago, I went for a walk around this beautiful historical estate that’s practically next to where I live now.

I’ve been making some big changes in my life recently, and some of them have been pretty difficult.  This park feels like home to me, so I went there to clear my head.

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I walked around for a little while, and then stopped to lie down on the grass.  It was so peaceful, in the warm sun.  I just wanted to take in the moment.

And then I looked up, and saw this view:

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Suddenly, it hit me.

I thought back to the days in high school, before I got compartment syndrome, when I would have been here running.

Rushing, rushing, hurrying, going as fast as I could.  A high-intensity day. Three miles, in as little time as I could.

Or maybe it would have been an endurance day, and I’d be purposely holding myself back for the first few miles, so that I could stretch my run out to six or seven.

I loved running.  I loved pushing myself, the freedom.

But you know what I wouldn’t have been doing?  Looking around me.

Looking up, specifically.

You can’t really look up when you’re running, at least not when you’re outside.  You have to look at the ground almost constantly, to make sure an awkwardly-placed tree root doesn’t leave you on crutches for the next two months.

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I loved running.  Everything about it– the thrill of pushing myself, the endorphin rush, the adventure of being outside.

But it was always a blur.   Even when I ran through my favorite places– and I knew some beautiful trails– I was never able to stop and enjoy it.   In my head, it was keep going, keep going.  You have to burn calories.  You’re going to get fat.

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I could never pause, never rest.  Even on Sundays, when my coaches made all of us promise not to run… I tried to go for walks, but I just wanted to be running.

I’d be in the middle of the most beautiful nature scenes, and all I’d be able to think about was how hungry I was.  And how fat I was going to get from not running that day, from the meager calories I’d decided to allow myself.

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Things are so different now.

I can’t do the same things with my body that I used to, but I can look up.

I can go to a beautiful place, without having to spend almost the entire time staring at the ground.  I can stop if I want to; I can pause.

Don’t get me wrong; I will always love running, and exercise in general.  I love a good endorphin buzz even more than I love coffee in the morning.

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But I exercise now because I want to; not because I’m afraid of what will happen if I take a day off.

It’s such a crazy feeling, and I don’t know if anyone who hasn’t been through it themselves can know what I mean.

I know what it’s like to have the ability to pause, because at one point I lost it.

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(Check her out, she’s an amazing writer!  http://sadeandriazabala.com/)

“Real Stories Take Time”

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My friends’ raspberry patch, where I was housesitting last month.

“Most of the stories we are told now are written by novelists and screenwriters, acted out by actors and actresses, stories that have beginnings and endings, stories that are not real.

The stories we can tell each other have no beginning and ending.  They are a front row seat to the real experience.  Even though they may have happened in a different time or place they have a familiar feel.  In some way they are about us, too.

Real stories take time.  We stopped telling stories when we started to lose that sort of time, pausing time, reflecting time, wondering time.  Life rushes us along, and few people are strong enough to stop on their own.

Most often, something unforeseen stops us and it is only then we have the time to take a seat at life’s kitchen table.  To know our own story and tell it.  To listen to other people’s stories.  To remember the real world is made of just such stories.”

This quote is from the most amazing book– Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Noemi Remen.  I randomly happened to pick it up off the bookshelf at some friends’ house, where I was housesitting last month.

Honestly, this book basically changed the entire month of August for me.

The quote I picked out above is part of the Introduction, and lays out the basic premise of the book: that stories can lead to healing.  Real stories– the ones with twists and turns.   The stories we maybe gave up on, in our own lives, only to revisit them years later and realize we managed to learn and grow from the experience, even if it wasn’t apparent at the time.

Not the stories we are accustomed to hearing– the stories that follow a perfect literary arc.  You know, the chart we all learned about in English class.

This whole idea really resonated resonated with me in terms of the difficulties I’ve faced in my own writing.  It’s hard to put yourself out there– to write from a place of vulnerability, when you’re afraid it’s going to look like a place of negativity.

It’s hard to do that, to write about your own story in a way that feels constructive, when you don’t actually have all the answers yet.

But you know what?  I never have trouble telling my own story when I’m just talking to my friends.  My close friends– the ones I would tell even my most embarrassing secrets to.  I consider them my sisters (a few brothers, too).

When I am with my friends– at Rachel Noemi Remen’s metaphorical kitchen table– I don’t feel the pressure to form my experiences into a discernable arc.  I am able to find meaning in telling my story (and hopefully my friends find meaning in hearing it!) even if I haven’t gotten to the end yet.  Even if there is no answer, and I’m not sure there ever will be.

Dr. Remen is right– in our culture, there is this pressure to talk about ourselves in a way that’s unfailingly positive.  To present our story in a neat package, with all the loose ends resolved.  To apologize for being negative.  To only talk about our problems in the past tense, once we’ve already found the answer.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, that’s a pressure I’ve felt on this blog.  Not, of course, from any one person.  (In fact, I have been shocked at how generous people have been with their support!).

The pressure comes from myself, from the general cultural expectation we have that people will be positive, that to talk about our problems is a sign of weakness.

My friend M. is from Costa Rica, and says it’s different there.  That people are much more free and open in talking about their problems.  That when people do talk about their problems, others don’t see it as a sign of weakness.  Everyone has problems– it’s just part of life.

So I’m going to try to incorporate Dr. Remen’s perspective, and M.’s, as I write this blog.

“Until we stop our ourselves, or more often, have been stopped, we hope to put certain of life’s events “behind us” and get on with our living.  After we stop, we see that certain of life’s issues will be with us for as long as we live.  We will pass through them again and again, each time with a new story, each time with a greater understanding, until they become indistinguishable from our blessings and our wisdom.  It’s the way life teaches us how to live.”

Telling the whole story

 

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.

Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” Ira Glass (thanks to Jo Malby for introducing me to this quote!).

My blog, as you can probably guess, means a lot to me.

I’ve had some really meaningful moments on here.  Times when someone has thanked me, so profoundly, for something I’ve written that’s helped them, and I feel like they really get what I’m trying to do here.  Or, in different way, the times when a person or an organization with a lot of followers has shared a link to my blog, and I end up getting hundreds of views and multiple re-shares in one day.  This, of course, doesn’t happen very often. But when it does, it’s an absolutely breathtaking feeling to know my words resonated with so many people.

But in a weird way, all these experiences have sort of made it harder to come on here and write from a place of vulnerability.  To admit that I don’t have it all figured out.  After all, I want to inspire people, not bum them out.  It’s supposed to be “Sunlight in Winter,” not “The Clouds of Winter.”  And the posts that people have really tended to gravitate to, for the most part, tend to be the posts where I talk about everything that I’ve learned.

But my roommate said something really helpful the other day.  She asked, “You know what? I think you should just not give a fuck.  When I read a piece of good writing, I don’t care whether someone thinks they have all the answers, or whether or not they are writing as a professional.  What I am impressed by is their truth– that they had the courage to put something so real, so raw down paper.  When someone tells you about the truth of their experience, it makes you feel that you are not alone.”

And she’s right.  When I think about the different pieces of writing that have resonated with me over the years, it’s not necessarily the straightfoward, informative, “This is what I know now” pieces that have stuck with me.  It’s the writer’s voice that makes the difference.

After all, telling your story is not about skipping ahead to the end, to the answers you found.  It is about how you got through.

So I want to tell you about all of it.  About how, in high school, I starved myself, convinced that if I didn’t I would become fat.  And then I ran myself into the ground– all to later realize it was based on an illusion, and that I wasn’t being healthy at all.

And then, at 17, the leg injury I got from running too much.  For years, I blamed myself, and even after the surgery was afraid to move at all, feeling like I couldn’t trust myself not to break my own body all over again.

And then, at 20, how my nervous system changed.  It was a physiological process, not a psychological one, but I didn’t know that at the time.

And then, a few lost years of thinking I was crazy– of everyone else thinking I was crazy too.  Of my nervous system spinning out of control, and telling me that everything was hurt; everything was damaged…

Until finally, I discovered the work of Neil Pearson (and, by extension, Lorimer Moseley and David Butler)…

And how it changed everything about how I think about myself.  Not just my pain, and my physical body, but myself as a person.  How I realized I didn’t have a psychological problem, and that everyone who told me I did wasn’t seeing clearly.

And now, five years later, I’ve developed a perspective that I am honestly quite proud of.  I’m not afraid of my body anymore.  Not afraid of myself anymore.

I can now hear in my own voice, at times, the same rationality that I used to cling to in the voices of my doctors and physical therapists.  Thanks to all the classes I’ve taken, and the reading I’ve done, and all the questions I’ve sometimes had to push various medical professionals to answer, I’ve actually managed to piece together a larger picture.  One in which I’m not constantly afraid, or thinking something’s wrong with me.

Now I can think objectively.  I can think scientifically.

But I’m not out of the woods yet.

It’s the story of my life that just I find the answers to one problem, another problem develops.   I’ve written before about my issues with the sacroiliac joint, and they have turned to be almost as mysterious and vexing as my chronic pain problem.

But I’m going to write about them.  I’m going to write about all of it.

It’s not just about finding the answers.  It’s about how you get there.

Building Back My Muscle Strength

The more knowledge I’ve acquired about the human body, the more I realize that most of the problems I have now are due to lack of muscle strength.

When I developed compartment syndrome at the age of seventeen, it was due to over-training for the spring track season (combined with the fact that I had an eating disorder, and was also starving myself).

But everything since then—that’s all been the indirect result of muscle weakness.

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I first learned about the concept of muscular atrophy when my friend fell in second grade gym class and broke her arm. I remember the gym teacher telling us then (after the ambulance had taken my friend away) that when she got her cast off in a few months, her arm would look small and shrunken compared to the other arm.

The teacher explained that when you don’t use a muscle at all for a very long time, your body lets it get weak because it doesn’t think you really need it. And that it can happen quickly– really quickly. That it would take my friend a lot longer to do these exercises to build her arm back up than it had taken for her muscles to get weak with the cast on.

That concept—atrophy—scared me so much when I first learned about it then.

But when it actually happened to me, following my leg injury, it was gradual. I didn’t really notice the rest of my body getting weak, because it was overshadowed by the pins and needles in my lower legs.

If I could go back in time, I would have worked out in a pool every day, so that I could I maintain all of the other muscles in my body I wasn’t really thinking about– back, shoulders, trunk/core– despite the fact that I couldn’t really use my legs.

I didn’t actually feel the atrophy as it happened. I felt like I was choosing not to use my body to do certain things because of the pain in my legs, not because of weakness.

But when I threw my back out, a month after my leg surgery—that probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t come so weak.

And that, in turn, is when my nervous system really went crazy—which of course, started off its whole chain of problems, which of course my regular readers already know about.

But I’m coming full circle now.

I’ve addressed the pain—or, more specifically, learned how to address it. (This process of learning to manage chronic pain—it’s not something you do once and are done with. It’s about learning how to think. The knowledge that the more you feel you have control over what’s happening in your body, and that you truly understand what could be causing the pain—that’s an equilibrium that you must continually strive towards and re-create).

And now I see the underlying problem– that I am weak. Less now, of course, now that I’ve been working out in the pool for so long. But nowhere near as strong as your ordinary, average person who might not work out regularly, but has never had an extended period of time where they had to stop using their body.

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When I first started to voice my idea of becoming a physical therapist, there were actually quite a number of people who discouraged me.

“But it’s such a physically demanding career,” they would say. “Can you do that?”

And yes, I’ll be honest—sometimes that question makes me a bit nervous too.

But there’s no reason I can’t get strong again. I am lucky not to have anything wrong with me that is permanent. I just need knowledge.

When I took Kinesiology last summer, that was the point at which everything started to click for me. I learned about the motions each joint of the body can perform, and how the different muscles work together to produce that movement.

I started to understand why some of the exercises I’d been doing hadn’t helped that much, and I actually began to see holes in some of the exercise programs past physical therapists had given me.

I realized how specific muscles can be.  Especially relevant to my case were the muscles of the back and shoulders. You can be doing two almost identical motions with your arm, but a ten degree difference in the angle your arm is at can completely change which back muscles are working.

I’d never known things were that specific. I’d always progressed through my back exercises based on my level of pain, doing the easiest, least painful exercises first, figuring I’d work up to doing the tougher ones after a few weeks.   What I know now is that those easy exercises were never going to prepare me for the harder ones, because they simply weren’t working the same muscle groups (despite how similar they all seemed).

It’s frustrating– I’d always told my physical therapists what I was doing, and none of them ever warned me the plan might not work.

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Part of the problem, I believe, is the physical therapy model (at least, in the United States) where the therapist can only focus on one specific diagnosis or part of the body at a time. This means that your physical therapist has to send you back to your primary care doctor, to get a new prescription and a new insurance authorization, just to be able to answer a question about a different part of the body than what they were treating.

Now, all the PT’s I’ve seen haven’t been like that. But there were enough, over the years, that I’m sure it cost me a lot of potential progress.

All of my various diagnoses had the same underlying problem—I was weak and extremely out of shape.  My whole body was the problem, not just one part.  Treating each problem one by one wasn’t going to stop the next problem from developing.

I have a great physical therapist now, who is able to think abstractly, and answer all of my questions about strengthening various parts of my body. And that is the kind of physical therapist I would like to be for other people.

The type who understands that strength is important—overall strength. And that you aren’t really helping the patient if you help them strengthen one part of your body, but leave the rest totally weak.

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So now I’m strengthening everything.

The problem is not, primarily, my sacroiliac joint (although that’s obviously what causes me the most grief right now).

The problem is that my muscles are not strong enough to hold my sacroiliac joint securely into its proper alignment.

I’ve had to completely change how I think about my physical problems. When I work out in the pool, I’m not just focusing on fixing my SI joint, or my knees.

I’m troubleshooting.

I’m strengthening everything. Every major muscle group, and every major joint motion. (At least, as best as I can).

I’ve finally broken through the mysterious veil of pain that clouded everything I did, and made me afraid, and made all my physical therapists think I needed psychotherapy.

And now I’m back.  I’m building myself up, back to the level of strength I should have had all along.

 

Posts that blew me away

snow streaks

I spent much of this weekend huddled in my house, hiding from winter storm Nemo.  I have to be honest– it was kind of fun.  I secretly enjoyed the driving ban– in a weird way, it was nice to have about 24 hours where I had no choice but to stay home and relax.  Normally I push myself to get out on the weekends and prove to myself that I still have a social life, but this Friday night was different.  No one was doing anything; it was illegal to drive, and nothing was open.  So I took it as a chance to stay in and catch up on blogs I’ve been meaning to read.

I found some really great blogs/posts this weekend.  There are a few in particular that I find myself still thinking about, hours later.  Great writing transforms you; it takes your breath away and makes you forget where you actually are.  To the authors of these posts: thank you.  I really feel like I learned something.

Interestingly, all of the posts I am choosing to link to are part of a series of posts on each blog.  I didn’t want to link to all the posts in the series (thereby spamming their respective authors with a million pingbacks) so I am only linking to one post for each.  I’m sure you guys can figure out the rest :)

Here are the links, in no particular order:

Does Your Journey Seem Long: a series of posts by author Stina Morrison on her experiences with endometriosis.  Her story really resonated with me.  Click here for part one.

Fibro Feist: an ongoing series of posts by my blogging friend Sarah called “What I need you to know.”  I just read her most recent post and it completely blew me away.

While I Wait: A Journey of Recovery: a blog written by Ana Turck, a native Sarajevan who survived the Bosnian War.  I was incredibly moved by her series of posts “They Are Coming.”  By the end of Part 2 I was actually crying (another sign of good writing!)

I hope these stories resonate with you all as much as they did with me.  And again, thank you to the authors of these posts!  Your writing was truly thought-provoking.

Hope everyone had a great weekend (and that anyone else in Nemo’s path had as relaxing a time as I did!).

ruby storm 3The dog was on patrol, as you can see.