I made it – but traveling with hip pain sucks

It’s been a big week and boy are my hips feeling it! A 4hr flight to Australia, 10hrs or so to Bangkok, several long car rides (plenty traffic jams), a 4hr flight to Bangalore and finally 3.5hr drive to Mysore. I left New Zealand on Monday morning and arrived in Mysore Thursday afternoon, spending 2 nights in taking Bangkok on one in Bangalore.

I love travelling and if I’m stuck with this hip pain, I need to learn how to work around it. My strategies for coping this long journey were:
1. Breaking the journey up as much as possible. This allowed me to rest and recover from the big flight before travelling in India. It also eased me into a new time zone. Part of me still agrees with this strategy, but another part wonders if it would have been better to do all the travel in one hit then manage the consequential flare up, rather than stretch the travel out and fight multiple smaller flare ups.
2. Always asking for the isle seat, this meant I could get up and move around on the plane. Having my problematic hip in the isle meant I could stretch the leg out.
3. Taking pain killers to make the journey tolerable. I hated wasting my emergency meds on plane travel, but it would have been absolutely hellish otherwise. Deciding when to take pain relief is tricky, I’ve learnt that sometimes (only sometimes) nipping the pain in the butt is best, especially when you can’t change what is triggering the pain.
4. Using ice/heat to ease the pain when the opportunity arises (ie, on arrival). For the last couple of days I’ve been using the tiger balm medicated heating pads, they have made a huge difference. These are particularly useful on the long flights or when I know I’ll have an active day. I’m finding the warmth on my skin really helps and it’s nice not to smell like a tiger balm factory!
5. Meditation. I’ve kept up the yoga nidra and it’s been great to help me stay relaxed and really calms my nervous system. This is important because the pain has been quite bad and India is so noisy. I also found doing guided meditations on the plane and before sleeping really useful.

So I have finally arrived in India, got a few essentials and had a wander around to get my bearings. The hip/sacrum has flared up but it is manageable and I expect it will settle in a couple of days if I take it easy. The left hip has started clicking and catching again which is very annoying, when it catches it’s very painful at the time but usually releases and settles within a minute or so. Knowing that the intense pain passes quickly makes me a lot more relaxed about it. My legs/hips are also feeling a good gym sore from all the walking around, this is good – even without the yoga I’m pretty sure I’d be going home fitter and stronger!

The one thing that is causing me the biggest problem is my over sensitivity to bright lights and noise. Unfortunately the place where I’m staying is on the main road and by golly is it noisy. Lots of autos, buses and motorbikes revving up the hill and beeping constantly. The constant abrasive noise is playing havoc with my nervous system and I’m unable to sleep even after taking sleeping meds! It is so bad I actually booked a hotel last night so I could give my system a break and get some sleep. My doctor infers I put too much importance around sleep, but the reality is without it I turn into a wreck! Anyways, needless to say I’m actively looking for a new place to stay for the month.

Here are some photos, including the lovely hotel I stayed in Bangalore my accommodation in Mysore is a lot more basic.

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Yoga, Travel and Happiness

Ive decided to spend my last few days in Thailand on an island called Koh Chang. It’s a large island about 4-5hours drive from Bangkok, very close to the border of Cambodia. I took a bus and ferry to get here and “winged it” for accommodation, as a result I had to do a lot of walking, sometimes with a heavy pack on my back. The fact that I am able to do this makes me very happy. Im a traveller at heart and crutches + travel don’t go together so well! Of course my hip has played up a little, I’m pushing gently at the edge of its abilities… but I accept the pain is likely to be part of my life for a while longer so I’m not letting it ruin my holiday. I’m just oozing with happiness that I can walk with a pack on and not suffer the consequences too badly.

While in Koh Chang I decided to do a yoga course and signed up for 3 days of twice daily sessions of yoga, pranayama and meditation with Joy at Baan Zen. The pace of the classes is much slower than what I’m used to but is perfect for me right now. There is only me and one other student who happens to have hip pain too! Oh dear… I’m seeing quite a correlation between yoga and hip pain.

The teacher, Joy is very gentle, informative and does reiki teachers training. So it’s very restorative and healing here. I highly recommend Bann Zen as an add on to a holiday in Thailand. And if you do come here, try and stay at The Blue Lagoon, it’s very close and super lovely. The best budget accommodation I’ve stayed at in a long time.

Here are some photos:

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2013 – lucky for me!

I’ve started 2013 with feelings of calmness, determination, strength and hope. 2013 is going to be a good year for me, I’m sure of it.

I saw the new year in with my dad, stepmum and their friends on a mountain in Thailand. We spent the evening praying and meditating. I reflected on how far I’ve come and set intentions of strength, stability, good health and love. After a meditation we went outside and released lanterns into the sky above. It was a perfect way to bring the new year in.

Another busy week in the office of ‘acute chronic pain’

I’m aware I’ve not updated the blog in a while but between going to medical appointments, resting, living life (as in the basics) and trying to be “normal” I haven’t had the time or energy!

It’s been another busy week for me but things are settling and I’m starting to get used to a much slower pace of life. I still get exhausted easily am still in pain but doing SO much better.

The pain is familiar to me but the exhaustion is new. I’ve been writing these posts on my iPhone and rarely use the computer because it’s so tiring and gives me headaches. Crazy to think I used to spend all day, everyday (and some evenings while studying) on the computer!

Most of my hospital outpatient appointments are now over, I’ve had my MRI, seen my surgeon and I finally have a reasonable pain management plan to see me through to when I see the pain specialist in less than 2 weeks time. My MRI shows some abnormalities in my hip joint (FAI, swelling and indications of possible cartilage loss in the joint) but nothing to explain the discolouration in my leg, circulation problems and the intense pain in my hip and thigh. My surgeon is puzzled and has referred my case to a pain specialist who has experience with CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome) and similar pain disorders. We both agree surgery is not an option until the pain is under control and we know what is wrong with me. Eugh… I really hope it’s not CRPS, that scares me.

So… I’m still without a diagnosis, I don’t know the prognosis and I have no idea when/how I can return to work. BUT I have started the healing process and am on the road to recovery. Physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Life is not easy, but it is good and I’m going to be fine. I’ve got lots of creative projects brewing and next week I hope to start singing lessons. The hardest thing for me is (as always) learning to pace myself. I’ve learnt I can cope with one outing a day and need 1-2 days where I stay at home to rest.

I’ve now got a very solid rehabilitation plan in place, I feel well supported and I have an excellent team of very skilled people looking after me. Its finally time for me to take the back seat for a while. I cant control the future and there is nothing more for me to do but to rest, relax and get well. Easier said than done, but I’m trying my best.

Photo of my “Little Book Of Calm” reproduced without permission but I hope they don’t mind:

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Trust and equanimity

It is the second day of my commitment to a daily meditation practice. Today, in preparation for a challenging doctors appointment, instead of doing a meditation specifically for chronic pain I did one on equanimity.

Equanimity – mental calmness, composure, evenness of temper, esp in a difficult situation

I’ve got a hospital appointment to see a pain specialist that, for various reasons, I no longer trust. I’ve been with my hip pain for nearly 3 years, I no longer expect pain free – but the levels of pain I’ve been in since I got home from hospital have been extreme. My pain is still not under control and I feel like I’ve got a lot riding on this appointment.

The thing that is bothering me today is the fear. I am scared this doctor won’t be able to help me. I am afraid I’ll be given medication that will make me sick again. And while I’m afraid of the medication, I’m also scared I’ll be told to keep living with this level of pain without medication!

Oh dear… As you can see, Im stuck in a cycle of pain and fear! Not for much longer, the appointment is today.

This level of pain isn’t sustainable and I don’t want to give up hope for a normal active life. I’d like to get in the pool this week, my circulation is struggling and my body needs to move. I’d like to be able to do physio therapy. I’d like to be able to cook a meal for myself three times a day. I’d like to be able to sleep.

My goals are simple, I’m not asking to return to the gym, run a marathon or go dancing in heels….. I’m asking for basic functions that many people take for granted.

I must remain optimistic and maintain hope. This doctor spent a lot of time at medical school, she’s a pain specialist and I need to try to trust.

Trust and equanimity is what I’ll focus on this morning. The rest will sort itself out. Knowing me, I’m worrying about nothing! 🙂

Here are some photos of dawn this morning:

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A new routine is forming

A new routine is forming. I find that waking up at 5.30am means I can do my daily meditation in bed then listen/watch to city (and birds) wake up. I really like the early mornings and had a similar routine when staying in India for the yoga therapy.

Today is “Day 1” of the online meditation course and it was a big achievement for me to finish the 20min guided meditation. I signed up for the course a few days ago but it’s taken a while to get started. Since being in hospital last month I’ve actually come to fear meditation. It’s hard to explain, so I am not even going to try. But given I meditated almost daily before hospital, this new fear is significant and presents a new challenge.

The great news… The meditation for chronic pain/illness works wonders. I feel like I’ve been covered with a cloak of calm. Sure I am still worried about next week, but my worries are justified because it is a very stressful situation. A little bit of worry is ok (normal even). It is when the worries that spin out of control they can be destructive. I know this, and my worries aren’t out of control… my pain is. This is why I am getting REALLY fed up with people (especially doctors/family) telling me to ‘chill out’ and ‘relax’ – It is not that simple and it is very patronising.

So, it is Sunday, the birds are tweeting away, the sun has risen and traffic noise quieter than usual. I just took a big step forward in my recovery by completing my first “sit”, I feel happy and am looking forward to the rest of the course.

Today my job is to sort out my bills/filing (eugh) and update my hip folder where all the medical records are kept. But first it is time for breakfast (eggs), meds and a shower.

For more information (or to sign up) for the online meditation course check out
www.monthofmindfulness.info

Here’s a photo of sunrise:

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Sick leave isn’t so bad!

Had an 8am appointment with my wonderful osteopath, seeing as I’m out of the house I’m making the most of the opportunity. I’m being a tourist in my own city which makes me happy, I’m a traveller at heart.

I also made a buskers morning by giving him a chocolate bar. He was an older man, sitting on the ground in the cold. He had a beautiful voice. I had no cash. He was very thankful and immediately went to get a coffee.

I feel happy that even though I’m unwell, I can still make a difference in the world. Its the little things in life that REALLY matter.

My osteopath has talked to me today about self kindness. Something that is very hard when your body, mind and spirit feels ‘a little’ crushed. But I know what I need to do, another round of ‘Month of Mindfulness for chronic pain coming up’. I signed up two days ago and am going to start today. I feel ready.

Deep breath.
It’s going to be ok.
It’s going to be MORE than ok.

Photos from this morning, Cuba Street Wellington (NZ) on a windy spring day:

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