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©2018 by Amber Stoby

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Pain is Pain

March 6, 2018

It started slowly and my mobility steadily decreased, as the pain increased.

 

By Thursday night, I couldn't move without growling like an injured animal.  Every step was agony.  I knew intuitively that this was most likely a compressed nerve or spinal disc issue.  But as seems to be my way, waited until things got really bad before realizing I needed help.

 

It's funny because I'd been feeling pretty low in March.  Because I'd been working a lot, a friend suggested I take some time to be, instead of do.  She also said I might consider taking some time to grieve some of the losses I'd experienced in my life.

 

Somehow, I've always considered the losses I've experienced in this life to be small in comparison to others.  But as I was on the brink of a visit home, and I had been thinking about some of those things, it seemed like sound advice.  But this 'time'... I wondered where I would find it.  Things are always just so busy. 

 

So it struck me as evilly synchronistic that just a few days later, I was bedridden and struggling in pain.  It was as if the gods heard me say I was ready, and conspired to exorcise so much pain through this mysterious injury.

 

In recent years I've been working at uncovering my own story, which now stood boldly as ally to the symptoms listed. I'd learned pain and dysfunction in the hip and lower back, in alternative modalities were considered to indicate a lack of support.  A mother who refused to mother, my father's death and lengthy illness, their battlefield of a marriage, racial confusion, so much anxiety; all a legacy of pain I've always felt chained to, and yet somehow not responsible for.

 

This lesson from pain, it showed me that pain is pain.

 

Because it hurt.  It hurt a lot.  I was immobilized.  For four nights I didn't sleep, an electric current running through my hip, down my leg, my back. All the whilst processing and considering events I'd never really allowed myself to dwell on. 

 

Alongside painful, it was humbling.  Once again in my life to think I knew what I was doing, only to learn I was so very wrong.  I'd been dealing with back and groin pain for a couple of years, but had stopped any exercise in an attempt to "rehab myself" for the past 6 months.  I had started Pilates recently, and the groin pain had really eased off for about 2 weeks.

 

In my usual fashion of pushing my body too far, too fast, too much- I jumped back into what I considered conservative activity; just a short run, just a little soil turning in the heavy, wet, barely-spring mud, just an upper body workout, just a beginner's Pilates class. The afternoon spent building a rock wall, well, I have no excuse, save my endless need to make my life harder than it needs to be.  But there must always be a tipping point.

 

I was hyper-aware at the hospital that what I was experiencing was not a life or death emergency.  I was worried the staff wouldn't think I was in enough pain to warrant kindness.

 

But at the hospital, they were kind.  I sensed they also knew it was only a slipped disc or sciatica but the kindness was another lesson.  That being, we can't measure another’s pain.  We are a summary of the events we've experienced in this life and each of us has a specific set of tools.  Maybe with our tools, we can draw the pain out of others rather than let it sink in too deeply and become part of them.

 

With these realizations, I'm also learning to be gentler with myself.  I shaped myself in such a hard way, left to my own devices.  I'm listening to the slow language my body speaks and trying to keep compassion top of mind.  I'm moving the pain through my body, walking an unfamiliar path between physical ailments and energy guided intuition.

 

Experiencing pain is a part of life.  One we all find creative ways to avoid. Unaware of what I was doing in my earlier years, I went to great lengths and damaged myself to hide these losses from others and not express my pain.  What a thought!  How much time and how many semi-precious brain cells lost trying to avoid the pain, only to have it re-emerge in an event so profound, that lack of support manifest in my own inability to stand.

 

I've heard, we are all new versions of ourselves every day, and I do feel like a different version of myself lately.  I'm being asked to accept circumstances I can't control, to move at my body's requested pace, to hear my body.

 

This spring, my challenge has been to love and accept this version of myself, as it is so different from the one I tried to create; softer, more pliant.  I always wanted muscles and the hard exterior that went along with them. But I went too far.  My experience was that suffering was success.  For a few years there, I barely ate ANY chocolate! 

 

Whether it's age or wisdom, or that magical space where we just begin to accumulate both, my life has begun to change.  I can put a positive spin on a painful experience. I eat loads of chocolate.  I don't push myself as my injuries need care.  I'm learning acceptance, not just of my limitations but of the events that shaped me into the person I am today.

 

And I'm not building any more rock walls. 

 

 

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