This isn’t the blog post I wanted to write – this isn’t the life I thought I’d be living. That said I’m not intending to be a victim, and see my own body and symptoms as my teachers and healers. Understanding how to make the best of a bad situation is important to me, and going deeper into the process is my path and choice…
It all started at the end of January, 2020. I had a severe flu like illness, but nobody was talking about Covid yet. I, like many others, kept thinking “this is really the worst flu I’ve ever imagined” and the fatigue and aches and pains were intense almost leading to hospitalization but not quite. There was one night, when I had to sleep propped upright so I could breathe that I thought “if this gets any worse I’ll need to go to the hospital” but thankfully that was the worst moment for me – not for many others, though.
After a month in bed with crippling fatigue, and all kinds of strange pain, mostly focused in my legs – I knew I needed to get some exercise and start moving. I felt 85 years old (I’m a couple of decades younger than that) and could only walk bent over, and shuffling… a return to yoga, or sitting cross legged or just about any physical activity was impossible. After several practitioners didn’t understand what I was going through (they actually said “you’re fine, get going”) I found a chiropractor who understood that I had “frozen hips” or “adhesive capsulitis”. which is a condition that is comes and goes mysteriously – usually after prolonged inactivity…
This was the true beginning of ongoing and extended healing journey which has led to uncovering other major issues that continue to plague my life. I somehow tore a muscle in my thigh (OUCH!) and ruptured a disc in my low back. I’ve never had back trouble, or torn a muscle and I can honestly say i do not recommend either experience….and oh yeah, the muscle pain in my legs continues to baffle and trouble me. I get stiff when I’ve done too much, I can’t walk too much without a lot of pain the next day. I asked the practitioner how to know if I’m overdoing it and he said “because it hurts the next day”. So, caught between a desire to be active and a desire to heal completely I drift… wondering and trying to be more in touch with my body. It’s hugely challenging.
I was pretty active much of my life – bicycling, hiking, running, whitewater rafting, snorkeling and ocean swimming… then I got into extreme gardening (really!) and singlehandedly propagated thousands of plants to start a nursery. I can’t even dream of such activities these days. Walking to the mailbox is an ordeal… it’s about 50 yards up the hill and that takes all I’ve got. It’s been more than two years, almost three… or so…I have to constantly remind myself of the progress I’ve made from barely being able to sit up… not able to walk at all… to walking with a cane. I’m only 67 and this just isn’t how it was going to be.
Sometimes I find myself wanting to tell others about my challenges and when I do it usually elicits a response something like this “oh, me too I have _____ (you name it, back trouble, some other kind of trouble or maybe even cancer) and I realize that in this life there are many challenges, and health challenges can surely top the list. I took my own health for granted, and complained mightily about things that upon reflection clearly just weren’t that bad. I’m sorry to whoever I complained to.
Coming on 3 years life has been redefined for just about everyone on planet Earth. Lockdowns are common, fear of disease is rampant and it seems we’ve all become infected with PTSD, since life is traumatic. What is the cure? There is only one real direction to look and that is towards the big questions – what is the purpose of our lives? Is it happiness? Connection? Work? For me the only answer is creativity and inquiry. I’ve been mostly practicing the Wim Hof breathing method in the mornings and I found that when I am thinking of the challenges of my life and am overwhelmed by them I have a very short breath hold during that part of the session. When I wake up to that and replace the negative thinking with the picture of a sunflower then instantly my lung capacity increases and I feel better. Is it really that simple? I’ll let you know, or better yet, give it a try yourself and let me know.
Life is a dance and when my legs don’t work I dance with my arms. I’m not trying to belittle the experience just reflect what works when I start the rapid descent into self pity or am overcome by the pain and refusal of my body to cooperate like it used to. Looking around when I go out into the world I realize that I never did feel enough compassion for all the people walking around with canes, or crutches or in a wheelchair. They are most likely in some discomfort and pain, or they wouldn’t be using the crutches…and I want to send them some compassion and now I feel a sense of sisterhood with all of humanity that doesn’t have full health and can no longer do a wide range of yoga poses. This is how we learn, the hardest lessons of life come through experience.
And after regaining some mobility and finding ways to reduce the extreme pain I can only turn one way for purpose and that is to creativity in any of its forms. I bought watercolor paints, I chose some sewing projects, decided to learn to play bass guitar and I hired help to revive my overgrown gardens… One step at a time back into a life that feels good, that functions well and continuing on whether or not I can ever walk a mile again…this is how it goes.
Please let me know how you have coped with your extended illness and physical disability. I’m wondering if I can get the handicapped parking sticker! Surely I can find more benefit in this day’s possibilities even from my living room chair…