Age 41 (and 3/4) I hit my physical "rock bottom". Getting of bed one morning, an excruciating pain seared through my body, dropping me to the floor.
I could feel myself going into shock - a sudden chill, shaking, teeth violently chattering, hyperventilating and heart racing.
Trapped in a web of pain and screaming in agony. Any attempt to move ramped up the pain to a level I can't even describe. I'd known a lot of pain over the years, but this was something else.
I was totally helpless, and with a weird detachness, both terrified of what my future would now be and the security of the knowledge that there was no going back.
The day before had been a "bad back" day. I'd gone for a walk to get myself moving hoping the pain would subside. I remember finishing the walk side-stepping, taking short steps with my left leg leading, but I'd had many days of worse pain so I didn't think much more about it.
Rock bottom left me with an MRI, a host of prescription drugs and a shift in perspective. I couldn't go on just managing, something had to change. The recurring advice was was 'use your core' and gentle exercise (although I was very aware of the patient asking, physician answering just to fill in the space senario, people are just doing their best!).
I started daily Pilates and regular swimming, moving with a lot of caution and really focusing on doing the exercises correctly. Along the way I discovered my true core - my Base-Line muscles.
I stopped taking meds as soon as I could (very aware of opiate issues). The MRI was comforting, evidence of damage and that the pain wasn't just in my head.
Every day brought pain, I had never known any different from being a small child. The seemingling random pains of 'fibro' were just normal to me, curiosities that I thought everyone suffered from. I didn't realise life was not meant to be painful.
My knees from age 7-8, my 'bad back' from my early teens. I found a diary from when I was 14, every entry started with "back bad today" and it was bad - every day..
Various treatments (manipulations, massage, acupunture) over the years had no lasting effect and I'd pretty much resigned myself to that was just the way it was. When my depression kicked in my final year of veterinary school, it became the all-encompassing influence on my life. Overwhelming. Negative thoughts and stress about everything - me, my job, the world, the stupidity of humanity ... I had no hope of ever feeling better, my mind consantly buzzing, then getting stuck on worst case scenario, everything was my responsibility/I was to blame/it was my fault. I hated myself and the way I was. I had no excuse to be depressesd.
I didn't make the association between my depression and the chronic pain because the pain had always been there, and I had been 'mentally OK' - until I wasn't.
Self-doubt and self-loathing. I felt lazy, was all the pain my head, was I a hypochondriac?
By the time I was a teenager I had come to the conclusion there was little that could be done for my pain. Early experiences of knee and back pain investigations left me with the option of NSAIDS (which didn't help so I didn't take, andthankfully opiates weren't used like candy in my world) and physical manipulation for my 'bad back' as the only treatment options. I've done lot of research, very aware that healthcare involves a lot of guesswork, bias and bs...
If I'd sought medical advice for all the symptoms I've experienced over the decades I would have been constantly visiting, had a file too big to carry, and would have probably classified as a hypochondriac (at best) or (at worst), as an attention-seeking time-waster.
I had severe DIS-EASE. I was not at ease with myself, with the world, with anything.
I struggled with so much self-doubt and lack of worth. The chronic pain did that. It changed me into something I didn't like. I could see no good in anything, I felt no joy or happiness. Everything was tainted and I hated myself, blaming myself for everything. Until one day the blanket of depression lifted and I started to heal.
I think my self-doubt started when I used my pain as an excuse to not do things I didn't like, (cross country running -thank you Mum for a note about my knee-pains. And after after a neck incident in the school gym and an ambulance to hospital, I didn't have to participate in anything I didn't want to (trampolining, gymnastics)! looking back they were also the things that hurt the most or involved a "core" strength to curl the abdomen and I just didn't have that. (but they were also the things that we had to wear hideous gym shorts to as well).. so no wonder I wanted to get out of doing them. I felt like I was making excuses because I managed to do the things I wanted to do (horse-riding, hockey and other team sports) despite the pain.
Self-acknowledgement of my pain and self-forgiveness for things I was too self-critical about. A growing acceptance and self-belief.
I did pick and choose what I could and couldn't do - activities I loved doing -sports - hockey, netball, volleyball, badminton, (all the sports that I got to wear a P.E. skirt and cover the top of my chicken leg thighs!). I was OK at sports, enough to play for the school teams - being tall, tactical and tough rather than natural athletic ability. I kept horse riding and working at the stables each weekend, doing all these things through the pain. I fought. I battled. I was strong - I should give myself credit for that.
When I first gave up....
Feeling bad about feeling sorry for myself...
I used to think the human 'machine' was a poor design, but I was wrong.
It was poor usage that made life so painful.
Let today be your rock bottom.
© Copyright Leigh Blyth BVM&S 2017-2019