At the end of 2011 my dad was diagnosed with inoperable, stage-four lung cancer. While all forms of cancer are ubiquitous these days, until now my family had not experienced a serious illness/trauma. Over the next four months I went through a range of emotions: anger, sadness, depression, hopelessness, hopefulness. I also contemplated lots of big questions like, ”Is this all there is to life?” “If I were diagnosed with a terminal illness would I continue to live my life in its’ current state, or are there other things I want to do/experience while I’m still healthy?” “Will it really matter if I take 4 days rather than 2 days to grade and return these papers to my students?”
At this time I was still experiencing debilitating chronic pain, which only heightened my angst. On April 1, 2012 I dug deep, called on my courage and decided to unravel and overcome my chronic pain. To quote George Bailey at the end of the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, ‘I want to live again!!!’ In my case I wanted to THRIVE again. So my healing journey began and I leapt into the learning pond, listening, reading and applying new ways of moving and being with my body. First, I had to acknowledge the beliefs and behaviors I had been doing for the last 18 years that were not working. Here are six revelations and/or mistakes I discovered along my journey.
Mistake # 1 “I just need to have the ‘right’ test.”
While having tests is not necessarily a bad thing, ruling out serious health issues is advised. However, chronic aches/pains usually don’t have one single cause or event that triggered the pain. Instead the body has been trying to get our attention for weeks or years but we have not paid attention to its messages. As a mind/body educator I use the MELT® Method and Pilates to help clients learn how to listen to their body, which is a key part of the healing process.
Mistake # 2 “I just need to find the ‘right’ health practitioner.”
I know for sure that YOU are the “star” of the show and practitioners are supporting players. It is important to utilize health practitioners, but you know your body’s history better then anyone and you have the answers. In the words of Glinda, the good witch from the Wizard Of Oz, “you have always had the power.” What we do, as health educators, is hold up a mirror for you to see your body in a new way and help you make sense of the information you intuit.
Mistake # 3 “I just need to get the ‘right’ medication.”
Living on pain medication is not a way to live. It is expensive and may become addictive. There are natural alternatives that work if you are patient and willing to do them daily. Melting every day is a part of my lifestyle and it has allowed me to live pain free MOST of the time. Pain is a messenger and one of the main messages of pain is to SLOW DOWN. Step off the merry-go-round and schedule rest and play into your life. Allow your body’s self-repair system to do its job.
Mistake # 4 “I just need to get the ‘right’ amount of rest.”
I know in my previous answer I said slowing down and scheduling rest/play into your life is part of the healing process. The key is to know when bed rest will be helpful and when it will make the situation worse. What doctors now know is that prolonged bed rest is almost never helpful. Instead, scale back on your activities, but do keep up your normal schedule including any physical activities that do not aggravate the pain. Again, you have to be a good listener and friend to your body.
Mistake # 5 “I just need to find the ‘right’ exercise.”
Different exercise routines may produce positive results if you are working with a professional who corrects your form every step of the way. Repetitive movement patterns and the compensation habits we all acquire are one of the key factors that trigger pain to begin with. So while exercise is important, it may not be the first step in the healing process. Unraveling the compensation patterns needs to happen first otherwise you can end up strengthening a dysfunctional body. As a mind/body educator, I focus on active recovery techniques using the MELT® Method, along with teaching my clients about proper sitting, bending, lifting, etc. I am certain you can unlearn compensation patterns, thereby reducing your likelihood of injury and/or pain in the future.
Mistake # 6 “Hey, I am ‘right’ in line with other people my age, pain is an inevitable part of growing older.”
This is one of the most pervasive myths out there! Yes, our cells are aging, but that does NOT mean we are bound to become riddled with aches and pains that can’t be easily managed on our own. Our bodies need daily attention in the form of active recovery techniques like MELT that relieve the stuck areas of stress we experience every day. The research shows that on average, humans experience 50 stress responses every day. When that stress goes unmanaged and is allowed to accumulate it turns into back pain, stomach pain, shoulder pain, headaches, etc. I am no stranger to chronic pain. For most of the past 22 years, minus the most recent 4 years of living pain free, I have suffered from mild aches to debilitating pain. I spent countless hours going from one appointment to another and countless dollars. In my search for answers, I discovered that I needed to take responsibility for my healing. First, I DECIDED it was possible to live pain-free. Second, I BELIEVED I had the power to figure out what my body needed in order to heal. Third, I became a really GOOD LISTENER to the messages my body was sending me and I made changes to my lifestyle and exercise routine accordingly. Fourth, I acted like a PARTNER with any health practitioner, whose help I enlisted. And, finally I was PATIENT with the process. It took me a good year to get my body out of crises mode. Today, I still enlist the help of a few practitioners but the difference from then to now is that I can easily go 3-4 weeks between visits. Whereas I used to just be hanging on until my next appointments, which were usually ten days to two weeks a part. I absolutely know that we all have this power to heal ourselves from chronic aches/pains. We just need LOT’S of faith and patience, along with becoming a good listener and partner to our body. We can’t avoid taking a leap of faith if we want to experience a new way of living. The bottom line is when we accept responsibility for our health, it is possible to age with ease, stay active and live pain free!! BTW, my dad is doing OK, his cancer is in remission!
I hope you will join me this fall for either a MELT® review workshop OR my new MELT® Neurostrength workshop. I am ready to be your partner in pain free, healthy living!