I was stuck in an “I’m recovering from an injury” rut for a really long time and didn’t even realize it. I was letting my pain issues rule my life, despite believing I was doing everything in my power to not do that. (I know better! Or so I thought.). But I was still telling myself that I was injured, in pain, incapable of doing all the things I did before. And I believed it. I was still struggling with the fact that I had to medically retire from a career that I loved and had seen myself doing for another twenty plus years. I tried to look at the bright side but still thought about how I’d never find another job that I loved as much as firefighting. And I believed it.
I was negative, negative, negative. I was stuck in my box and couldn’t get out.
I was protective of my hip and fearful of reinjury or worsening my pain and told myself I had to limit what I did to prevent such things. I told myself I had to limit myself, and I believed it. Mind you – none of this was consciously done; I really believed I was dealing with my hip, my pain, my medical retirement, with a positive attitude and that I was doing a damn good job of it. But it was those niggling thoughts that I never said out loud, the “I can’ts” and “I shouldn’ts” that were really holding me back from living my best life NOW. I was ruminating on the past and worrying about the future and completely ignoring my present.
Then my boyfriend (now husband! All kinds of changes going on over here!) asked “want to go to Colorado for a couple months this winter?”. We’re incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to do such a thing; he works from home and my MS program is mostly online so we can do them from anywhere. He (and Buster, our dachshund) had never lived in winter before. It’d be a big adventure for them, because I’d lived in snow before. And I wouldn’t be able to play much when we got there, anyway, because I’m still battling chronic pain and have to be careful, so my life wouldn’t be that much different, other than the weather and the scenery. Or so I told myself. And I believed it.
Coming to Colorado was the best thing we ever could have done for my hip. Getting me out of my pain routines that I’d grown so accustomed to, without realizing it, was huge. I have been going to Egoscue for almost two years now to manage my pain, hearing their constant mantra that the body is supposed to move; that we’re built to run, skip, jump, walk, climb, and PLAY. But I didn’t quite believe it. I’d been pretty diligent in doing my e-cises; getting my body back to it’s functional design: joints lined up, muscles balanced, nerves firing, and everything working together to produce pain-free movement. But I wasn’t playing like I should. I’d still try to protect my hip when doing any sort of activity (unaware that I was doing so), which makes you move unnaturally and keeps you jacked up.
Then we came to Colorado. And I walked on snow and ice and fell on my ass a couple times. I couldn’t protect my hip – I could just react! (to not fall on my ass again – although it may have happened one or two more times). My body just moved without me (over)thinking about it. Like a freaking normal person! Who thinks about every movement all day long? I did. For YEARS after my injury. YEARS! It was a constant thought and a constant worry. Then I fell on my ass on a patch of ice and somehow survived without my femur busting through my pelvis (I’d like to say this was an exaggerated irrational fear for illustrative purposes but I’m pretty sure some part of me feared such an unlikely scenario. In my defense, my femur does knock around in the joint now and then and it’s quite unsettling! I’ll just be casually walking down the street and clunk, femur shifts unexpectedly. Weird).
And I was in a new place. I had to establish new routines. We still do a family walk everyday but now we walk Buster on a snow-packed, uneven, and sometimes slippery river trail. My hip has to just move and function and react and I can’t protect it. And it’s doing just fine! And being in a new place, I have done my Egoscue e-cises EVERY DAY but one since we’ve been here. I even did them in hotel rooms on our drive out. This is the most consistent I’ve been in years. But I’m motivated. I talked to my surgeon and my Egsocue therapist before heading to Colorado and both said I should try snowboarding again. I was terrified. But I fell on my ass and survived once – or a couple times ;) – so I was sure I could fall on my ass and survive again. And so I snowboarded. For the first time in five years. And it was awesome.
Because I don’t believe I’m broken anymore.
I’m just a person. Not a person with chronic pain. Not a medically retired firefighter. Those things don’t define me. Not anymore.
I’m just Jo. My life is different now, but who’s isn’t? Our lives are different every new moment we experience. The key is to experience those moments, each and every one. To be present in those moments, not trying to regain the past or worry about what will happen the future.
So now I’m a person that does 30 minutes of Egoscue so I can hit the mountain and another 90 minutes when I get off the mountain. But I enjoy it; the Egoscue, too, not just the boarding. I do it so I can live my best life. And I do it because I CAN. I get to do it, I don’t have to do it. I get to be active and play outside.
So now I’m a person who can manage my pain, not be managed by it. I’m a person who can define myself by who I am, not what I once was.
All it took was a fall on my ass :) Sometimes we have to fall to realize we can get back up.