You get injured. You suffer. You recover. You feel better. You find the happy place until you get hurt again. And the cycle continues. Such is the precarious nature of your body, your mind and your life.
What I did (to hurt myself)
A few weeks ago, I twisted my lower back going for a backhand in tennis. Immediately, I knew something wasn’t quite right. However, I had a match to play and I wasn’t going to stop for a little discomfort. I played through it and my partner and I won the set. When I stopped rushing around, the throbbing began. By the end of the day, I was flat on my back – the only position that didn’t hurt.
What I noticed (about myself)
During the agony of normal movements, my mind zig-zagged like the little ball in a pinball machine. I felt a bit schizophrenic, as if I had been split in two.
It hurts when I do that.
Don’t do that.
I just need to do this.
You shouldn’t have done that.
Ever the optimist, I made plans and refused to break them. My physician said I have high expectations. And why shouldn’t I? I don’t want to feel pain, soreness or little tugs of “ooh, ouch, ah.” I don’t want to feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to hurt. However, pain is humbling. Eventually I backed out of some commitments and accepted rest. I knew I needed to get better. Fast.
What I did (to heal myself)
There are things in life we cannot explain. Perhaps that’s why I seek and explore different ways to feel better faster.
I drew on my yoga practice, attempting gentle back poses. I also tried stretching exercises that I learned from physical therapy three years ago when I hurt my back moving furniture. I took Aleve, smeared arnica cream on the sore areas and used moist heat. I visited my doctor, had massage therapy and saw a chiropractor. I also meditated, talked and wrote about what I was feeling.
I can tell you that not one thing worked by itself. Collectively, however, doing these things helped me to heal. Plus there’s one standout in my journey I must share: my friend Ann. She’s a licensed massage therapist, educator, consultant and entrepreneur. She owns Heart and Sole Therapies, but her skills lie far beyond any label. You know how there are some people in life that you trust implicitly and feel at ease with? She’s that kind of person – someone who I can talk with for hours about anything. She truly loves helping people and I love being in her presence.
What I learned (about myself)
As Ann and I talked, she suggested that perhaps it wasn’t tennis that caused the strain in my lower back. Perhaps there’s an emotional link to a physical ailment. The root cause of my pain might lie in deep-seated stress. Only when I can understand and remove the obstacles causing stress in my life would I truly be able to move forward.
As I pondered this, I could visualize the scene in my mind: A big sack labeled “LIFE” is loaded on my back. The farther I carry it, the more stuff I collect and the heavier it becomes until one day I can’t carry the weight. The sack eventually breaks and I crumple beneath it. Ironically, there’s an odd sense of relief that goes hand in hand with pain. As I struggle to get up, the contents spill out. I can’t put the entire load into my sack again. I must leave some of it behind in order to continue.
What will happen next?
Now, that I’m moving around with ease – playing tennis, chasing James, walking Beck – my back pain is almost a distant memory. However, I still feel a twinge here and there – a reminder that I have some unfinished work to do.