Weekends are typically my time for reflection where I kick back and either listen to relaxing music, read a book, watch motivational YouTube videos or just take time to review how my week has been. Today, I want to dig a bit deeper and reflect on how the past year has been going in regards to my health and wellness journey.
As you may or may not know, for the last five or six years I have been finding it more difficult to deal with chronic pain. No longer have I been able to ‘push through the pain’. The old athlete mentality has no longer been serving me well and the pain has been ‘winning’ despite my best efforts to deal with the situation. This year, I finally decided I couldn’t will myself to simply ignore the pain and attempt to go about living despite it. Lastly, I couldn’t find any medical options that would simply take the pain away. I was forced to find a way to live with the pain and make room for it in my life.
So, what could I do when pain was infiltrating every aspect of my life? How was I going to continue to function? When pain was impacting my ability to perform even the simplest of tasks and triggered additional pain how was I going to cope? I found myself backed into a corner with no where to go but to finally think outside the box and begin to explore any and all alternatives. I was desperate for answers and pain relief. I simply had to find a way to break the pain cycle.
When confronted with what seems to be a lack of options, most people will continue to trudge down the same path even when they know the path leads to a dead end. Why continue to walk the same path, you ask? Humans do what they know because it’s familiar, it’s safe and it’s what has worked in the past. I, too, figured if I tried harder, maybe next time it would make a difference. This is what I consider ‘universal human behavior’ It’s not wrong and no one should go and beat his or her self because we simply do what we know. However, it’s vital to our well being to understand when something is no longer working for us. It doesn’t make sense to repeat the same behaviors.
I am no different. I kept trying to do the same things, looking for answers and attempting to get pain relief without success. Even though Western medicine kept failing me again and again, I continued to seek pain relief from a variety of practitioners including pain management specialists and rheumatologists. I even met with my spinal surgeon hoping he could do something. I was prescribed caudal and facet joint steroid injections, nerve blocks, physical therapy, aqua therapy and pain medications. I revamped my diet and removed all inflammation triggers and carbs in an effort to control the pain per my rheumatologist’s suggestion. Still, nothing worked and I simply couldn’t figure out ‘why’.
I explored a variety of alternative healing methods, too. I tried detoxification, cranial sacral treatments, massage, meditation and acupuncture. I was prescribed a number of natural supplements and essential oils to help ease my pain. I even tried CBD oil. Still no relief.
In fact, I was only getting worse! Any intervention or increase in physical activity would trigger a firestorm of heightened pain for a week or more. The more active I was, the worse I felt.
Desperate to break the pain cycle, I did what I thought I would never do and I agreed to see a shaman. At this point, I was desperate and willing to try ANYTHING. However, I was skeptical because of my own pre-conceived notions about shamans and I still had not fully gotten past the stigma of what I considered ‘new age’ treatment methods.
Before you continue to read and, perhaps, cloud the rest of this article with your own pre-conceived beliefs, I ask you to agree with the notion that chronic pain is actually multi-faceted. This belief looks to identify the source of pain rather than treating pain’s symptoms. I now concede that it was remiss of me to think that chronic pain could be relieved or reduced by simply addressing the physical symptoms. And yet, that is exactly what every practitioner had attempted to do and how I was addressing the problem, too.
The truth is pain had taken away or impacted so much of my life that I no longer felt I was in control of ANY aspect of my life. I was fighting to hang onto the best of me and I disliked the me I was becoming. I was losing my vibrant, adventurous and full-of-life self.
It is true that chronic pain results in loss – loss of physical abilities and activity, loss of independence, loss of self-respect, loss of financial stability and loss of socialization. It causes a decrease in mental acuity and, eventually, this results in a sense that your ability to meet life head on is also lost. When this happens, your system goes on high alert in an attempt to manage the pain. Unfortunately, the more you try and control the pain, the more the pain takes precedence. Eventually, chronic pain has a way of squashing your spirit, your self-esteem and your ability to lead a fulfilled life. Many individuals who suffer from chronic pain have pushed their dreams aside and have given up on being able to enjoy life. Some chronic pain sufferers are simply existing from day to day.
This is the point in my life when I made an appointment with a shaman. Shamanic Healing addresses the spiritual aspect of illness. That is to say, it addresses the part of the illness that is in your spirit, soul, or energy body. Shamans believe that illness/injury appears in this spirit before it shows up in the physical body, and that if the body is injured the injury will also exist on the level of the spirit. Shamans believe that healing on the spiritual level can prevent conditions from appearing in the body, and also that healing the spirit will allow the body to heal once a condition has appeared. 1
After several appointments with the shaman she referred me to a physical therapist who practiced The Feldenkrais Method®. This method is a powerful and revolutionary approach to improving your life using gentle, mindful movement to bring new awareness and possibility into every aspect of your life.
With its emphasis on learning, the Feldenkrais Method® offers a gentle, comfortable way of shifting your pain by exploring your movement patterns. You’ll begin by exploring movements that are well within your comfort zone – no matter how small. Gradually, as your brain learns that freedom and comfort are possible, you’ll experience your body letting go of unnecessary tension. Pain will begin to dissolve. You’ll discover greater range of motion and ease of movement.
Contrary to popular belief, pain is not your enemy. Instead, it’s your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. Pain signals you to stop, assess what’s going on, and take care. If you don’t, the pain and discomfort increase until they become chronic; your brain learns that pain is “normal.” The more you resist, the more you tighten. The more you tighten, the more restricted your movements, and the more uncomfortable you become. 2
The Feldenkrais method teaches you to ease into the pain versus resist the pain, to acknowledge the pain, let go and then shift your movements or your body to ease the pain. Feldenkrais teaches you to move more efficiently and to transition from tension to relaxation.
Without agreeing to participate in these two treatment methods and having such wonderful natural healers as part of my recovery process, I don’t believe the ending of 2018 would have been a positive one. This is the first time in a very long time where my pain level has become more manageable. Being made aware of how pain has affected me spiritually and learning how suppressed and unconscious emotions can increase or trigger my pain has been life changing. Once again, I believe in me and my ability to heal myself.
In closing, the New Year is just around the corner and my wish for each of U is for U to explore ALL of your options when it comes to your health and well being. Just because a treatment method is familiar doesn’t mean it is able to provide U with the answers and relief U need. U are a unique being with your own unique needs. Explore, reach out and continue to try. Remember, stepping out of your comfort zone can make all the difference in the world!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
When something enters your life that is so big and so non-negotiable as catastrophic illness, you either go in denial for a while … or ultimately you accept it and you make space for it. And in making space for it, you illuminate a lot of things that you normally don’t have room for … you simply just look at the world differently.– Michael J. Fox
What we think, we become. – Buddha