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! 

 

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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.

A not so happy update to “Happy Healing Hips”

Its been a few weeks so I figured its time for an update.  I notice when things aren’t going great, sometimes the blog gets ignored.  On the flip side, when things are going fantastically the blog also gets ignored while I go out enjoy life.  Unfortunately, at the moment things aren’t going great.   The pain levels are escalating, the central sensitisation has been a lot worse and I’m exhausted from battling the system.

Where are things right now?  well….

  • Work/life balance has swung out of control again, have been working long hours.  The project ends this week (maybe next) so I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Its a bit of a race to the finish line though, so this week will be rough.
  • The pain levels are high and are interfering with my sleeping again.
  • I’m on thin ice, and need to rest a lot more.
  • The bursitis is REALLY sore and always swollen, I can’t lie on my left side or my tummy and have to ice my thigh constantly.
  • I’ve been trying to get a cortisone shot for the bursitis, its taken 4 weeks at least but I’m finally booked in next monday (phew).
  • The hospital is mucking me around and it turns out I’m not actually on the waiting list for surgery yet, and assuming my paperwork goes through ok it is a 5 month wait.  She said they are processing my paperwork now and I should get a letter in the next couple of weeks.
  • I got offered a fantastic job but had to turn it down as it was conditional on surgery (when I applied the surgeon had just told me surgery would be end of April)
  • I’ve been getting my right ankle treated for a sprain I did several weeks ago when dancing on one leg (as you do).  It is apparent there is a lot of scar tissue due to years of multiple sprains (because it’s the opposite side to my sore hip it’s taken a thrashing).  Because I am unable to rest it properly it’s not healing well and is rather swollen and sore this week.
  • Because I’m now bearing more weight on my left leg (due to sore ankle) my hip is much worse than usual and the bursitis is getting worse.
  • I’ve had to pull the crutches out for the first time in over a year.  Am not quite able to bring myself to use them even though I probably should.  But I have been told to take them to me when I go away for a choir trip this weekend (lots of standing).
  • I’ve skipped a lot of choir practice due to pain and am also saying “no” to things.
  • Have been slack re the physio therapy and swimming, mostly due to pain, tiredness and a lack of time.
  • Am working with the Pain Clinic again, quite frequent appointments and quite intense treatments.
  • The weather is getting colder which is not great for my pain levels and circulation.

Good news….    (there must be some)

  • I started a new blog called  Pretty Ordinary Things where I take a photo a day of something ordinary in an effort to help me be more present in the world and actively search for beauty in every day things.  Its been working a treat, I feel my eyes are constantly scanning the environment, it pulls my thoughts away from my problems and is helping my photography.   I’m really enjoying the project.
  • We got restructured at work, so at least something is changing there.  I’ve got a new manager and a new team, hopefully I can move my desk too.  That with a new project will help refresh me at work.  Just as well seeing as I had to turn down that amazing new job.
  • I did a 3 day cram and passed my Six Sigma Green Belt Exam this week.  I’ve just got to put together a portfolio and I’ll get certified. Six Sigma is a methodology for process improvement and data analysis.
  • I’m going away this weekend, heading to Otaki to do a 2 day singing workshop with my choir.  I can’t wait.

Fingers crossed things pick up soon, I think the next couple of weeks will rough but hopefully things will improve soon.  I’ll feel A LOT better when I get a date for this surgery, I just need to know when it is going to happen so I can plan things and prepare.  In the meantime, I’m looking forward to going away this weekend.