30 Days of Yoga: Day 3

It is day 3 and I’m back in London. Today I went to my usual Iyengar yoga class and it was tiring but lovely. I’m jet lagged, anaemic and seriously lacking in strength. I got through the class OK but had to modify towards the end as I could’t hold myself up for shoulder stand or head stand. Because of my iffy neck I’ve not been able to do either for months now, so I have an alternative finishing sequence.

I’m 95% OK to modify in class these days and I’m happy to drop out of a posture and into child’s pose when I need to. This is a huge step from where I was before hip surgery when I’d go to classes and get frustrated. To be fair, before surgery I couldn’t do 75% of the class without triggering pain in my hip so no wonder I got pissed off with myself! These days I’m progressing in my practice and feel my strength is returning very slowly but surely.

 

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I am OK

A lot has happened since my last post “Are you OK” and the good news is that I am now OK. I’ve caused a lot of worry to friends and family, but I’m doing OK now. And very grateful for the support of family & friends.

I can always tell when I’m struggling as I stop writing. To be honest, I stopped writing this blog mostly because I’ve been doing really well. The recovery from hip surgery is a distant memory and I’m enjoying a more active lifestyle. I still have joint pain due to the hyper-mobility but it is very mild compared to what I’ve been through in recent years.  Life is actually pretty good. Winter has been tough though and I don’t think the UK climate is good for me, I can feel it in my joints.

My work-life balance hasn’t been good either and I think I underestimated how stressful it is to settle in London.  I’ve not yet made friends outside of work, and in recent months work has taken over. Something I’ve addressed now and 2016 looks to be an exciting year for me. This year I’m focusing on the yoga (of course), writing & music. I hope that if I do the things I enjoy, I’ll make friends and my social circle in London will grow.

 

Are you OK?

All I wanted was for someone to ask “are you ok?”

A question that in the past has triggered a lot of tears. In fact I can think of only one person who has asked me that question and really meant it.

I ask myself now… “Am I OK?”

If I am truthful… the answer is no. I am not OK.

But I’ve shed so many tears in the last few weeks, my eyes are dry. There is a drought, the ground is dry beneath my feet. It is hot & sunny. I have run out of tears. All I have is fears & love.

Tears of sadness on the yoga mat

I’ve been getting progressively worse since leaving Mysore. Better in some ways, but worse in others. I’ve been pushing the limits and exploring my “edge” so that has resulted in more pain. But I’ve amazed myself with what I can do. I’ve walked for hours at a time, swam in the sea for 45mins several times and cycled to the market and back. These are all things I’ve not been able to do in years without a major flare up. 

But since returning to Thailand my sleep routine has changed, I’m not eating as well, I’ve been spending more time on the computer and in front of the TV. Bangkok is noisier, brighter and more stressful than Mysore. I’ve been playing with a 3yr old, lifting her and carrying her at times. This brings me joy but it’s physically challenging. I’ve also noticed my stress levels have been increasing as I worry about money, moving to a new country and finding a job. I am also avoiding the yoga mat.

It’s pretty easy to work out why some of my old symptoms are coming back. My joints hurt, the central sensitisation is worse and my feet are burning. Luckily I know what I need to do to resolve the situation and address the downwards spiral. The first step is address the sleep hygiene, have a massage (sort out over tight  muscles) and face the music on my yoga mat. 

The yoga mat is a funny place, before the chronic pain it used to be a place of retreat, relaxation, fun, community and physical challenge. I always loved it as it was a diversion from my busy life and a space to unwind. Now it’s a place where I check in with myself, and feel the effects of my lifestyle and whatever is going on with my health. There’s no running away from the pain on my yoga mat and this is the direct opposite to my old favourite pain management tool of distracting myself from pain. No wonder I’ve been avoiding my yoga mat! 

As much as I don’t like to feel the pain, yoga usually does make things better even if it hurts a lot to get started and it’s difficult to keep going. But I’m not enjoying yoga these days as it’s painful and lonely. Even when I was practicing in a class environment in Mysore, I was the girl in the corner doing something completely different to everyone else. I’ve not done a yoga class in years and I can’t wait to go back to classes to feel part of a yoga community again.

Today after a short yoga practice (aborted because pain levels were too high), I did a Yoga Nidra for 30min to calm my nervous system and reduce the central sensitisation. Suddenly I started to cry, I felt overwhelmed by sadness as I realised I’ve come to a point where I need to accept that managing pain is still a big part of my life. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s forcing me to live a much healthier, more mindful and balanced life. Many people live a life in chronic pain, I’m not alone in this. But it’s up to me to decide how I handle the situation moving forward. I could choose to go down the path of endless medical appointments, treatments and sitting on the sideline because I can’t do things. Or, I can live my life like a “normal person” and intergrate wellness and preventive measures into my lifestyle to avoid getting so bad I get sucked into doctors appointments and needed treatments to get better. 

I’m a big believer of “everything happens for a reason” – perhaps pain is the best way my body knows of how to push me into a healthy lifestyle! 

 

A little pre-op hospital tour

Today I had a little hospital tour to try and desensitise my fears around hospitalisation prior to my operation. I’ve had a few terrible hospital stays so have developed quite a phobia of the place. The lovely nurse from the pain clinic gave me a tour (I followed her around while she did a few jobs) and I’m now feeling A LOT better about my stay there… phew.  I was feeling very nervous about the idea of the visit, but once I was there it wasn’t so bad.  I used mindfulness techniques to calm myself down and it worked a treat.   I’m now feeling 98% ready for this operation and am looking forward to getting it over and done with!

Today I was shown the waiting area for pre-op, the rooms where you get ready before the operation and then we went up to the ward.  The plan is for just one night in hospital and they have put measures in place to plan around the CRPS and ensure the pain is well controlled before I go home.  I think the hardest thing about being in hospital is the fact that I have to take a back seat, not something I’m used to doing.  I can’t control what happens when I’m in hospital and I can’t control how I get treated. All I can do is be mindful about how I react to the situation. I have to trust the surgeon and the hospital staff have my best interests at heart, and that I will be OK.

After today I’m feeling ready for my surgery, calm and relaxed.  Now I just need a DATE!  Agh, waiting lists suck.

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The value of rest

In April I hit the wall. My pain levels were escalating, I was getting increasingly more exhausted, and was finding it harder to deal with the daily grind that is a life in chronic pain.  It felt like things were spiralling slowly out of control so I went to the GP to discuss medication and pain management.  After some discussion we decided that it was better to rest and see if the pain levels would subside.  I took 1 week sick leave and 1 week annual leave.  In the 2 weeks I took off work, I slept a lot, watched DVDs and towards the end underwent ‘active rest’.  After my two weeks of much needed rest my pain levels had gone from a very uncomfortable 6-8/10 to an easy (and relaxed) 3/10.  The space this gave me to breathe was immense, its funny how you don’t realise how bad the pain is until it is almost taken away.

And then I went back to work.  My pain levels shot back up and the tiredness crept back quickly.  It was very clear to me how much pain and suffering my work is causing.  Sitting at a desk is creating havoc with my health, it is the number one thing I can’t avoid that flares up my hip pain.  While the standing desk helps, its not working for me as my standing tolerance is so low (made worse by spraining my ankle). The overstimulation of the office environment makes things worse, the bright lights and noise wears me down.

My two weeks of rest paid off though, I filled my cup and learnt the value of rest as part of my pain management toolbox.  This gave me the confidence to ask my employer to  reduce my hours leading up to the operation.  I’m now working 32 hours a week, which gives me time/energy to do my physiotherapy, swim, go to medical appointments and get some rest.

New moon, new attitude

After battling with myself (and in a way, my teacher) for almost 4 weeks it came to a head. I stayed after class and had a good discussion with my teacher, we both said our piece and cleared the air. I feel a bit bad because I don’t think it’s the Indian way to challenge your teacher, but I was respectful and the conversation really needed to happen. I highly respect my teacher, he introduced yoga to my life and has taught me so much over the years. So after our talk I decided “new moon, new attitude”and have been going to class with a much more positive attitude, accepting that “boring-asana” is what I need right now. Since then, there have been no more tears on the mat and I’m feeling so much lighter. It is a shame I wasted so much time being angry and frustrated with myself. Oh well, such is life with chronic pain.

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