30 Days of Yoga: Day 7 

Today I did two things towards my 30 day commitment. I’ve picked up a book called “Awake in the world” by Michael Stone, teachings from Yoga and Bhuddisim for living an engaged life. I’m quite interested in yoga philosophy and as I return to work I’d like to find better life/work balance, I think this book will help. I also went to my Iyengar class. Wednesday is the intermediate class and I really enjoy it, tonight we got to do backbends. I love backbends and have been feeling a little flat, backbends are great for depression apparently. Bring it on I say! 

  

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Hello “Hello Fresh”

In an attempt to streamline my life, reduce stress levels & ensure I eat well I’ve signed up for Hello Fresh. Each Sunday a box of food will be delivered to my doorstep with three recipes. Everything I need to prepare the three meals is in the box. I’m really excited about this as I’m a little bored of cooking the same food each week. I am really looking forward to trying new vegetarian recipes. 

   

    
 

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.

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!

  

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! 

 

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.