my spine would be straight if you turned it sideways

my spine would be straight if you turned it sideways

Thursday, June 4, 2015

On celebrating your accomplishments and knowing when to take a break

As much as hollyweird would like to have us think, a momentus landmark or turning point in our lives isn't always accompanied by a theme song or cheering fans. Sometimes we have to just take a moment on our own to acknowledge and reward our own accomplishments.

I -for example- realized recently that despite being far from my goals, have come leaps and bounds from where I was only a year ago. It came to me in a moment where I was actually falling in to a habit of some negative self-talk. I was pissed at myself for not exercising and accomplishing enough and then it struck me that I was doing it again....

Awareness is a slow-building thing, and I'm grateful for every time I have a moment of self-awareness that brings me closer to balance...

Anyway, suddenly it occurred to me that for as many times as I have had the same kind of nagging, beating-myself-up kind of internal conversation, i have made almost as many small steps toward making positive change in the last year. Writing this blog is one tangible example of a step... Despite the lag between posts. (Hey, i moved! I don't even have internet at home yet!) 

I may not be very close to my goal of being able to dance (or even move) like I used to, but in that moment of awareness I got up from my yoga ball seat (which I always knew was better for me, but never really used in the past) and did a little happy dance for myself. I did it because I was relating to myself the way that I knew a close friend of mine would. Someone who has known me through a lot of struggle and would do that same little happy dance for me if they were there. :)

A little perspective:

Roughly a year ago I made an attempt to start a business during a very stressful time of my life. My health was in the pits and my mental health was somewhere below that. I was 2 years deep in to searching for a place to call home, nursing a broken heart, watching friendships fall apart and all the while dealing with increasing chronic pain and all of the symptoms that came along with it (depression, anxiety, insomnia, etc. etc.) ....Needless to say, this was not an ideal time to start a new business, but my other work options had become non-options because of my increasing pain and I saw no other way.

It took a complete rock-bottom mental/emotion breakdown and total business FAIL to have a breakthrough, but I finally realized that I was expecting too much of myself and needed a break. I let everything go and chose to swallow my pride and move home with my mom for a year to try and get myself back in to balance.... That is a much bigger break than some people may need or even have the privilege to take, but it taught me two very important lessons:

1. As I mentioned in my first post: it is VITAL to take breaks!

2. Take note of how far you've come and celebrate that sh*t!

I am writing this lying down. I do that a lot more these days. My brain likes to tell me that I should keep going because there are dishes in the sink and dinner to be made and blah and blah... But I've been learning to quiet that voice and take PREEMPTIVE rest breaks, BEFORE I get too sore to even move anymore and I'm just miserable.

So yay for me for learning (poco a poco) how to take better care of myself. :)

On my process of searching for help

I've learned a good deal stumbling through the thick jungles of the internet, trying to learn about my conditions and how to treat them (and not just their symptoms). I'm going to attempt to list some of the points here. Perhaps I'll do a "How to educate yourself about your own health without getting lost in a sea of opinions" post or video at some point... but to be perfectly honest, I'm still learning. 

Here's what I've learned so far...

Some tips researching treatment methods:

1. Always look for published medical research by the people you're seeking treatment from. 
    They may not always have it, and that's ok because it's rather expensive and time-consuming to get peer-reviewed and published... It's ridiculously boring and hard to read anyway. I'm not suggesting you try to read it all yourself -just to verify that it exists. If you don't find anything on a site you're looking at, write an email or call to ask anyway. If they do have research providing conclusive findings regarding the specific treatment you're interested in - then try to read it.... If you have a doctor or nurse who can help you delineate what it all means, even better. 

For those who are completely unfamiliar with what I'm even talking about, this kind of reading is often reeeeally dry and hard to read, or even find as a layperson. It's just the only thing that let's you know that you can for sure trust that the research has been done and peer-reviewed. otherwise, everything is hearsay. 

If you want to find out if a certain body of research exists (say, studies on the role of melatonin in scoliosis) you can start by looking here. Just type in a few key words at the top right and see what comes up!

2. Cross-reference
    Always try to find information in other places that supports the claims a given specialist/practitioner is reporting on their website. If you can't find any other information, try asking a trusted health professional what they think based on what information you have.... If you're fresh out of trusted health professionals, you're not alone... but that's another blog post. :/

3. Ask people who have tried it!
    This may require some super-sleuthing, as finding the contact information for people who have tried certain methods can be pretty tricky. Sometimes you can ask the practice directly - "are there any patients who have had success that would be open to speaking with me?" ...Never underestimate the power of Facebook groups, and I have had some luck reaching out to people who make yelp reviews for places I want to check out too.

I had one particularly amazing experience digging until I found the contact information for one Martha Hawes (rather famous in the world of scoliosis research for her challenging findings) and through that effort, I made a helpful contact AND a friend. (I would like to interview her on this blog some day, and SHE would be the one to tell you how to research, but again I digress.)

4. Bookmark it!
    I have a voluminous TROVE of bookmarks. I hoard them like a crazy cat lady hoards tiny porcelain figurines. I keep them very organized and they serve me well. Almost as good as minions... Not quite. Still trying to teach them how to bring me coffee and snacks and build rockets. (PS: I always use "CMD+Click" to open a new tab, so I don't lose my former place. )

5. Trust yourself stumbling through the dark
     I have to admit that some of my most successful attempts at digging for answers have been when I stumble blindly onto something by being click-happy. After a year of digging, I accidentally ran across the treatment I'm now taking on... Don't give up!

6. Trust your instincts.
I think it's safe to say this is advice for any and every area of life, no matter what you're talking about. Honing your instincts is an entirely different thing (that I'm not here to blog about), but go with your gut. When you narrow it down to a few providers, interview them! ...and then go with your gut.

That's about all I've got so far.

In regards to reading about health on the internet in general:

Most people know this, but in the event that you're young and/or new to researching and you're looking for answers: 

Unfortunately nothing you read on the internet is guaranteed to be true. Even checking several different sources is most likely not very helpful, as people so often regurgitate what they find on the internet. As in any research, seek information that cites references and look at those references. Are they reputable sources? Telling that much is hard in itself, sometimes. All you can do is keep digging.

Here is the list of published research I found on the website for the Chiropractic Bio Physics website that led me to belive that theirs is the method I want to try. (It's long.) 

Monday, April 13, 2015

On pain as a crutch

Seeing as I've been procrastinating on starting this blog, this seemed like as good a place as any to start, so here we go...

Making excuses. (A pep talk.)
It's something we all do. We learn it as kids when we don't want to clean our rooms or go to school. The thing about excuses is that sometimes they are actually legitimate. For the sake of contrast, let's call legitimate excuses reasons. Only mature self-evaluation can really answer whether something is an excuse or a reason.

Now, I can't tell you how to attain a sense of mature self-evaluation but I may be able to provide a couple of useful tips on how to make that judgement call. In my best moments (god knows I have my worst), I am able to find a place in myself that speaks to me like a firm but loving parent - one that doesn't buy any bullsh*t, and sees me for my potential. From that 3rd party place in myself, I try to ascertain whether the reason I'm not doing something I know I should be (exercising/stretching, etc.) - or doing something I know I shouldn't be (slouching, procrastinating or distracting myself with internet) - is because I am making excuses, or because I am cutting myself some necessary slack. (whew! that was a hell of a run-on. stay with me.) ...In effect: "Am I escaping for the sake of escaping, or providing a necessary escape?"

Another important distinction to make in this type of scenario is whether you're feeling sorry for yourself or having empathy and care for yourself. I've found that it's incredibly important to discern. Your mood could be the first indicator:

~If you're feeling pretty low, you're probably feeling sorry for yourself. You're probably making decisions based on a feeling of unfairness and using a self-righteous sort of behavior justification. You're probably making excusesand thus allowing your pain to be a crutch...  Are you making yourself a victim so you can avoid doing what you don't want to do? It's a hard thing to look at, but it's necessary if you want to get out of your own way.... Conversely, maybe you're getting in your own way by being too hard on yourself. You can check out your self-talk to get a good idea of this as well.

~If you're feeling more calm and patient, maybe even inspired, then you're probably in a place of caring for yourself. You're more likely to make better decisions for your health and healing. You're able to recognize a good reason to give yourself a break, and to do so - which is vital

It's not always that black and white, but these markers can be a good place to start. Feeling sorry for yourself is disempowering. Feeling empathy and care for yourself is healing and ultimately empowering. 
If you're feeling the latter, you are more likely to make the kinds of decisions you will thank yourself for later (like meditating, finishing that project, or cooking a good meal at home over eating out.) You will also be more likely to give yourself rest and time to recuperate when you NEED it - not just when you want it

Living with chronic pain is HARD. It is most definitely valid to know when your body needs a break, but it's equally important to know when it needs a push. For some people it's much harder to give themselves a break, and for some it's much harder to know when to push themselves. I tend to swing both ways. 

At the risk of sounding preachy, I'll stop there. I don't intend every blog post to read like a self-help seminar, but I do hope that people find these musings helpful.

It's REALLY easy to get swept away in the rushing river that is chronic pain. It may not always be overwhelming, but it's always moving. It's always there. There are times when the eddies will keep you from moving forward in your life, but it's important to know when you're the one planting your feet in the river bed, choosing not to move. Ultimately, changing your outlook on your pain and how it limits you and finding a good balance of self care and pushing yourself is likely to make living with chronic pain more bearable. Attitude really does make a huge difference.

Here's a good article on how to change bad habits in to good ones:

And here's another article I found that i liked on getting out of your own way that takes from the principles of Aikido (something I wanna try one of these days... when I get around to it.) ;)