As an athlete, I was led to believe in order to achieve you had to experience pain. Not the broken leg type of pain, but the internal exhaustion when you’ve pushed yourself to your absolute limits – physically and mentally. A place where grit overtakes the will to give up. A time to intentionally break myself down so that I could be built back up. Yes, pain was a friend sought out as a hallmark of progress. No pain, no gain.
As an adult, with my athletic days far behind me, pain is not something to be achieved, but rather to be relieved. My aging body sounds off, retaliating for years of athletic overuse, leaving me to now wonder if the price of greatness in youth means payment in doses of pain in adulthood. The repetitive nature of high caliber sports – particularly swimming and volleyball, have left behind hallmarks of arthritis and degeneration. A January snow shoveling “twitch” triggered my avalanche of problems. The bottom line is pain and once you are held in its tailspin, getting out consumes your thoughts. Believe me, I’ve spent many months trying to reduce my back pain: Rest, ice, heat, physical therapy, oral steroids, lumbar injection, CBD oil, and even dietary restrictions to work on inflammation from the inside out. But I’m still left with pain that refuses to cease. Disabling pain that prevents me from climbing mountains, hiking, standing and walking any distance – all activities that have both restored me and defined me for decades.
“Pain is like a song you can’t stand on continuous replay, drowning out the melody of your favorite tune. And worse yet, you simply can’t figure out how to change the channel.”
I now better understand those of you who live in pain every day. I empathize with you and know what it means to have good days and bad days. Depression envelopes me while looking back at what I could do just one year ago as I stew in what I can’t do today. Then I am buoyed up while counting the many blessings of family and friends, of a beautiful home, garden and front porch to write this blog. Yes, pain plays mind tricks and tests you constantly. I get it now, some 8 months later. Pain is both a reminder that we are alive and a warning flare that something is wrong.
This message is intended for those of you struggling with your own pain – be it physical or mental – the type that rarely gets relief , that gnaws at you daily, hourly. I get it now. Sure, I’ve been through many bouts of pain after childbirth, surgeries and injuries. But they were temporary, not a constant drumbeat that refuses to be silenced. Pain is like a song you can’t stand on continuous replay, drowning out the melody of your favorite tune. And worse yet, you simply can’t figure out how to change the channel.
So what do you do when pain is winning and you don’t know what to do? Get help. So I’m putting my trust in a surgeon to fix my back. Little does he truly understand the importance of recovery for me as a person. How can he? I’m just another back, another surgery, another fix. The potential for his skilled hands to transform my pain into living life fully again is palpable. Counting down the days, I am actually looking forward to feeling the pain of surgery as that intentional infliction means the possibility of resuming life as it was. Life without pain that I took for granted. So many times I’ve put my trust in a talented doctor to fix my broken body and have been healed. It’s time to do so again as options are all but exhausted.
Trust. Pain. Gain. It’s all a part of living. To those of you still in pain, whatever it is, seek help. Explore your options. Try everything for your one body and one precious life. For now I understand, first hand, that living in pain is not fully living; it is time to get back to the business of living.
See you on the other side of pain.