When I was in the hospital and not sure if I'd be on my feet again, literally and figuratively, there was a doctor who came in every afternoon and asked, How far have you walked today? This was in the midst of so many people who thought I wouldn't really walk again, people who were Type One and Two who really had no faith in my long term or even short term success, even people who saw me as a nuisance in the ward. He did not. Dr. Karlapudi came in every day to ask how far I'd walked.
Then one day I got so sick of that question that I put on my robe and took the longest, most painful walk of my life. It was a few steps down in the hallway. The next day was a little more, and the following day I couldn't walk but I kept thinking about this beautiful picture window that I'd seen at the end of the hall. My whole city was laid out there before me if I could just get there. It was one of the most beautiful views I've ever seen. Sometimes I think the hospital was planned that way, our stunning city as a reward for pain, for therapy, for endurance. I stood there next to the man I loved and the pain couldn't scream as loudly.
Pain will try to drown out everything good in your life. It will steal your days, and in so doing, it will steal your life. The whole beautiful city is there, find your way to get into the beauty, into your life.
Ask yourself, How far have I walked today? How much yoga have I done today? What art have I created today? What love have I given today? What love have I allowed myself to receive?
This may seem oversimplified. Know this, it is not simple at all. Pain is so complex. Someone once said, Pain is an enemy worse than death. I believe this must be true because those of us who have faced the enemy of death and come away living often find that it is only to face the greater enemy of chronic pain.
Lots of people will make comments like, “At least you're still breathing,” or “You did that, you can do anything.” If these comments help you, please by all means, let them help. But I find that this kind of thinking only helps when it comes up organically from our own minds, not when it's pushed at us like a pacifier. Pacifiers keep people quiet, they don't nourish or sustain us. They are a stand in for the nourishment that we truly need. The nourishment you truly need can come in so many forms. Don't discount any of them and don't be pacified into giving up on yourself!
In the beginning, I made the mistake of turning away possible treatments because of my fear. I was throwing myself into counseling, into spirituality, into mindfulness, into the physical practices and goals for healing, but I was neglecting the medicinal ways to help with pain. I didn't like the idea of taking pain relievers. I had seen someone I loved struggle with an addiction to pain killers among other things and I was terrified of that life.
It wasn't until my counselor at the time, a veteran nurse of over twenty years turned to me and simply said, You're turning down help you need and I think you're doing it out of fear. I was floored. Fear holds us back in so many ways and sometimes we don't even realize that it is there, lurking, taking the quality out our lives, slowly and surely.
The most important lesson I learned from that day and the days to come was this; don't push aside a way to deal with pain, or grief, or something seemingly insurmountable just because it hasn't worked for somebody you know, or because you haven't thought of yourself as the kind of person to try it whether it's yoga, counseling, breathing techniques, extended release pain medicines, support groups, physical therapy, you name it. Of course you never thought of yourself as the type to try that, you probably never needed it before now.
Physical therapy took me from struggling to walk back and forth down the hall to the bathroom to being able to walk around my block. Those are some of the most stunning spring evenings of my life to date and I never would have had them if I hadn't taken a leap and tried the advice of my mom, a Core person for me. I didn't want the added pain of physical therapy. I was going to more appointments than I could keep up with at that time and adding another thing seemed awful if not impossible.
Then I read this quote, Discipline is the difference between what we want today and what we want for life. Think about that. What I wanted for that day was to limit the appointments, limit the number of people who were witnessing what felt like my greatest humiliation, a crippling illness. I saw a sick and sickly person when I looked in the mirror and the thought of taking this limping, pale, sick show on the road reduced me to tears. That's the difference between what I wanted that day and what I saw for my life moving forward which was joy, love, dancing, meaningful work, playing ball with my dogs and starting a family. Fear was standing in the way of me bing able to accomplish any of those things.
In the end, my physical therapist was was also unbelievably kind, thoughtful, and he could predict the ins and outs of my struggles because this is what he does for a living. I might have been taking my show on the road but it was hardly the first he'd seen who was learning to walk again. He was an expert in walking when walking seems impossible, and as a bonus, he helped address lots of the other issues that any long hospital stay or bout of malnutrition presents.
These were the daily things I was trying to ignore to keep focus on what seemed like the biggest issue to me, but allowing someone else to carry the burden for a moment let me refocus and realize that if I didn't also deal with the muscle atrophy in my neck and abdomen, the clenching jaw that wouldn't let up, and a host of other things, then I would be walking around again only to be trapped in the twisted cage that my body had become. He helped me get free. I helped myself find freedom through reaching out.
I still practice physical therapy, do yoga sequences designed for people dealing with illness (I'll link those below), learn and practice new mindfulness and breathing and massage techniques, and go to counseling. I pray and meditate and read and sing. In fact, I recently found myself dancing in the kitchen again, laughing and cooking and being myself for that perfect moment.
Try it all, reach out for every scrap of help in these battles that become a war. Create peace in the struggle. So even if the never really goes away, neither do you. Reach out, challenge yourself, try, find, hope, and heal. Then ask yourself, How far have I walked today?
I wish you the greatest hope and healing, I wish you survival & peace.
Lots of Love,
PS I've linked several things that helped me & in that spirit, if you have ever suffered chronic pain or are suffering now, please comment below and share your techniques for finding peace. The more we know as a community, the greater our quality of lives, the stronger our survival & peace.