Checking in

There is a thing that I do whenever I spent time on my yoga mat, and that is checking in with myself. How am I today? How is my body feeling? This is a thing many yogi’s do.

I’ve just realised there is a 2nd habitual check in that I do regularly. Every time I’m in the shower for the last several years I have always checked in with myself. How is my body feeling? How are my energy levels? I remember the old days before surgery and I could tell how painful my day would be by the number of pain free minutes in the morning. A shower is always one of the first things I do in the mornings and I used to almost always feel pain during my shower. If I ever had a whole shower without pain I knew it would be a really good day.

Tonight I was going to go to a fairly athletic yoga class, I’ve got my period and its not a nice one. Very heavy and quite painful. I had a shower before going to the yoga class and I automatically ‘checked in’ and decided that I really don’t have the energy for yoga class tonight. Instead I’ll have a shower, put my PJ’s on, finish tidying the house, watch some Netflix and do some restorative yoga before bed.

Its funny the little routines we develop. I’ve been pain free (ish) for well over 6 months now and yet I still check in with myself in the shower!

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.

 

The first workout at the new gym 

Finally. After YEARS of pretty very crappy hip pain, two surgeries & two rounds of CRPS I’ve recovered to a point I can go back to the gym! I’m feeling super happy and excited. Don’t worry I’m building myself up slowly and carefully. I admit I was looking longingly today into the dance fit (ballet) & spin classes, but a girl has to have goals aye? Thai boxing, box fit & the hula hoop class are also on my wish list. In addition to yoga of course. 

Today for my first workout I cycled 5miles (8km) with some hills in there too. I also did some long overdue foam rolling & abb strengthening. I’m trying to get my strength & fitness back before I do the fun stuff. My left leg is still a bit thinner and obviously weaker than the right, I really hope they even out with time! 

I’m so proud of myself for getting this far and not giving up hope. I know I’ve got a fair way to go, especially as the other joints are still playing up somewhat. But I really believe in what my physio is telling me. Strength & muscle tone will protect and strengthen the joints, this will reduce the instability and problems caused by the lax ligaments. I feel like I’m almost at the final corner before I sprint to the finish line. Nearly there. 

  
 

Back to work! 

After effectively 11 months off work since my surgery I finally went back to work and I’m happy to report it’s been an absolute success! 

A bit of background if you are new to my blog, I initially planned 3 weeks off for my surgery (hip arthroscopy). I knew it would be a risk with the CRPS history that a return to work may take longer than expected. While I didn’t have a major flare up of the CRPS my recovery was definitely slower than normal. Due to an inability to sit in a chair for long, the surgeon had to keep extending my sick leave. I could tell work was getting antsy and I was getting worried about money, so I offered to take a period of leave without pay to go overseas and give myself time to recover properly. In the past I have found yoga therapy and a warm climate to be very helpful, so I planned for 6 months in India (to do yoga therapy) and Thailand (to stay with family). At the end of my 6 months I started thinking about leaving New Zealand and moving to London. I was really unsure what to do, but in the end I felt the need for a fresh start, a new adventure and to be closer to my UK based family. 

I arrived in London and after some initial job hunting, I had the choice of two jobs. The two jobs very VERY different. One of them looked like it had a very good work/life balance (35hr weeks are the norm), low stress and a very easy commute. Naturally I didn’t take that job, I chose the more interesting and challenging job with a b*tch of a commute! I knew I was taking a risk as I wasn’t sure how the hip would react to sitting all day, but I’m so pleased as it was totally risk worth taking and the hip has been fine! And even better, I’m really enjoying my new job. 

I still have a way to go with the physiotherapy and strengthening, and there are few things I need to actively manage, but that’s more around the central sensitisation and other injuries (ankle and knee are still playing up). But the key thing is I’m feeling fully confident that everything is going to be ok and the hip problems are mostly behind me now. Thank goodness!

  

Standing at the entrance of a cave

I’m in a bit of a funny place right now. For years because of the chronic pain I’ve felt like I was living life from the sidelines. I felt like the world was going on without me and I was treading water on a daily basis just to function. For a long time I was envious of people who could walk, sit, sleep and stand without thinking about it. Now that I’ve almost fully recovered from hip surgery and from CRPS, I feel like I’m at the sideline and about to rejoin the game of life. It’s a wonderful feeling but its also a little scary. Over the years I’ve lost confidence in myself and I worry more than I used to. This is understandable because I know from experience that bad stuff does happen.

All of this hip malarky happened in one second because of a silly accident at the gym, I remember that moment clearly. I got hospitalised with CRPS twice because of a perfect storm of events. I know that something as minor as going sailing and walking home can trigger the most excruciating chronic pain you can get. Pain worse than unprepared childbirth, cancer and amputation (according to the Mc Gill Pain Index). I know how to avoid another CRPS flare and I am very confident I have the skills to ensure it will never happen again. But fear of CRPS and hip pain is still with me and casts a shadow. As time passes I’m sure that shadow will fade.

I’m very excited to get back to an active life, but I’m more cautious than I used to be because I have a fear of it all happening again. But I can’t live a life in fear, I need to put this behind me and trust that everything will be OK. I’ve moved to London to get away from old associations and make a new life for myself, its not as easy as I expected but it is exciting and full of promise. I’m at the edge of the cave and there is treasure inside, it will be 100% worth facing my fears and working through what I’m feeling.

The cave

This image is from Facebook, source unknown.

A change of pace

I’ve been in London a week now and things have been pretty good. I think the cooler climate has been good for my joints and trading sandals for proper shoes (with orthotics) has made a huge difference to my ankles, knees and hips. I’m in generally in a lot less pain and have been able to stop taking paracetamol (teylenol) regularly. My liver will be pleased! My neck has also improved but that might be due to the better ergonomics of my laptop setup. 

I’ve increased my walking considerably, and while I’ve been sore the hip has coped really well. I’m living in a household with a dog so have been walking at least 60min a day. Yesterday I walked 7km (approx 2hrs) and it’s amazing how different the hip is now that I’m almost 9 months after the surgery. It really does feel like I’m a new person! Before I was in pain all the time, took a lot of medication and was unable to walk for more than 10min without the pain getting unpleasant. 

My fitness is still terrible though and my legs are very weak, but I’m sure that will improve with time. I can feel the muscles in my feet are getting stronger and my inner thighs are doing some work. I’m not 100% sure my biomechanics are quite right so I’ll see a physio this week to fine tune my rehab and help me get back to yoga classes. I’m quite keen to give barre classes a go too , and when I’m feeling more confident in my recovery I’d like to return to the gym. 

Things aren’t perfect though and I’m often reminded of “what was”. I get tired easily and need to sit down to rest fatigued muscles. I was in the supermarket on Friday and the hip got stuck and clicked very painfully for the first time in months. I’m pretty good about not panicking when this happens, but it does make me a little uneasy. But as things continue to improve week by week, I’ll stay positive. I believe having a positive mindset is a key ingredient to a successful recovery.

  

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!