Damn, They Were Right After All

I really don’t want to admit it but perhaps I have done too much. Gone too hard for too long and my body has had enough. It seems to be in revolt, getting its own back at me and punishing me with pain.

Seems Chris, Stefan, Fiona, Dr Nario, they were right after all.

I can barely move I am in that much pain. I can feel the tears spring to my eyes. I try to shield my face so Chris can’t see. Please don’t let me cry. Not here, not in the gym with everyone around.

Last night was the first night I was woken up with jolts of pain in my hip and this morning it isn’t much better. While I feel my walking has improved a fraction I stumble during one of the exercises and am rewarded with a sharp jolt of pain up the bone. Things go downhill from there.

Chris does some massage work on my hip and the surrounding muscles. His thumb is like a knife as he pinpoints the area of pain. I try not to grimace. I am given a heatpack and told to lay still and rest. This feels like a waste of gym time but I he does know best. I can’t really argue with his five years of university study can I?

As the heat spreads and settles itself around my hip I’m not sure if it is helping relive the pain or giving it more ammunition.

I continue with the exercises on the bed and that’s when the tears threaten to spill forth like a tidal wave.  Come on Miranda, whatever you do, don’t cry. Pull yourself together. Mind over matter.

It seems to be working, at least for a little bit and I can push the pain to the side and continue on. It’s only when I am going some core exercises and my foot slips and crashes to the bed that I no longer hold up the charade. The pain is excoriating as the bone twists and my muscles lose control of the lower part of the leg.

I try to smile but who am I kidding, it is a grimace at best.

There is no way I can walk back to my room right now, not with the level of pain swarming in my leg. I feel like my leg has been slammed under a tonne of bricks.  There is no chance of hiding this from Chris, I’m not that good of an actor. He is concerned but also not surprised.

“I had expected this,” he says.

“I’m just surprised it has taken this long. I’m pleased.”

Oh good, I’m glad my pain is benefiting someone.

“I’m not pleased that you are in pain,” he clarifies.

“But I’m pleased you have found your limits and realized that it is possible to do too much. What did everyone tell you?”

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know, I know.

I hate when everyone else is right.

I’m told to sit out the next session, or at least if I am going to do it I am not to wear the leg. I protest. I argue I only have a limited time here so I really need to make the most of my time here.

“I would rather you have one good session this afternoon rather than two average ones,” he says.

“I don’t want you to push through the pain and be rubbish tomorrow.”

I nod. I feel like a disobedient school child in front of their principal.

He threatens to take away my allen key and hide the leg. I can tell this time he really means business.

I feel like my body has betrayed me. I feel like a failure and I feel incredibly frustrated with myself. It’s my own fault I will miss a session and I hate myself for it. I feel defeated and downtrodden.

But while I don’t want to miss the session I am also glad to take the leg off. The pain is incredible and I am trying my best not to cry in front of him. It’s the first time I actually want to leave the gym early.

He is telling me to keep my chin up, that I will have days like this. There will be pain and days where I won’t want to put the leg on as well as days I won’t want to take it off.

There will be days were I will feel down and flat and frustrated but I have to look at the big picture.

He offers to chat if I need to talk and while I want to the words just don’t come out. I don’t want to fall apart in front of him. I don’t want to admit weakness. I don’t want him to see me like that. I don’t want anyone to see me like that. I never have. It’s why I never spoke about my disability and pain in the first place. I’m not good at asking for help, at admitting my difficulties and being honest when I am finding things hard. I prefer to sweep it all away, hide it in the closet of my mind and disguise it all with a smile, laugh it away in jokes.

Maybe this is another lesson I need to learn. To admit when things are tough and accept the help that is offered. Right now this feels almost as difficult as learning to walk.

During my next session I feel naked and vulnerable without my leg. Ali and Daniel make a comment about me being late and ask why I am not wearing the leg and I feel like my failure is a flashing neon sign.

But it also feels good to give my leg a break and concentrate on other challenges that I can semi excel at. The pain has settled down a notch or two and Chris gives me a few fun challenges on the bars after being inspired by some crazy YouTube clip he saw.

But I still feel envious watching Daniel walk and again curse myself for my failings this morning.

It’s not the first time I have overdone things. In fact it is a common pattern for me and for my brother actually. Perhaps it is a Cashin thing. You may have already guessed it but I have a problem with limits.

I am not good at living moderately. Grey is not my friend. I thrive on the black and white of extremes. If I am going to do something then I will throw myself into it completely. I will go and go and go until, well I generally collapse in a heap. My approach to work, relationships, exercise, socializing is very much, sprint, sprint, sprint and then collapse.

This is all great and well during the sprint phrase, but really it is not a sustained pace. Life is a marathon, and if I constantly exert all my energy at once I will never make it to the finish line. I need to learn to pace myself.

I read a great article last year by journalist and blogger, Sarah Wilson, about the importance of rest. She explained resting is not just putting our feet up on the couch when we collapse in a heap, exhausted. Resting is a responsible way of living.

Not too dissimilar to today it wasn’t long ago all my sprinting caught up with me in my regular life. My body decided it had enough and it literally stopped me. I lost my voice due to laryngitis and was forced to stop, to rest, to slow down.

It was hard. I sat on the couch all jittery like a caffeine addict denied their fix. I was so used to being continuously on the go, busy, busy, busy that I didn’t know what to do in the stillness.

Wilson wrote while sprinting is fine, resting doesn’t have to be about going at a balanced, middle speed, but it only works if, like interval training we balance it with sustained rest periods.

It’s not about just resting when exhausted or when forced to, but planning for it, actively structuring time or otherwise it won’t happen.

Furthermore it is about honing your focus, (the rifle approach) rather than spreading yourself too thinly (the scattergun approach).

She made the point  fear of missing something causes us to use the scattergun approach, and do too much. Most of what we do will miss, but we console ourselves that something will hit the important target. But the problem is we never truly learn to aim or realise the true target.

Slowing down, resting a little and taking the rifle approach means you’ll be forced to figure out what’s important. You’ll be forced to get good at aiming, with practice and then you will hit the target each and every time.

As much as I hate to admit it Chris is right when he tells me I need to rest. I need to commit to getting it.

No more sprinting until collapse.

This revelation while an important one unfortunately does little to lift my spirits in the afternoon. I try my best to turn my attitude around, listen to upbeat music, look at my quotes, watch a funny show.

I am determined to walk back into that gym and give it my all, leave this bad grey, drizzly mood behind me.

I try my best I really do but it doesn’t last too long once the pain sets back in. My hip is sizzling hot with fiery pain and Chris sternly tells me this will be a short session.

“We need to take a step back,” he says.

My eyes widen in horror. A step back? This is quite possibly the worst news.

He sees my panic stricken look.

“It’s not a step back in terms of progress we just need to step today’s session down a level. You have done too much and I want you to rest. Rest is just as important for the bone and muscle growth.”

I nod reluctantly. Yes this rest business is proving to be more important than I would ideally like it to be.

I apologize to him for today’s events, for letting the pain stop me.

Again he tells me he had expected this.

“I knew it would happen. I’m not being mean but I hoped it would have come sooner,” he says.

“Then we could have gotten it out of the way and got back on track. But you kept rocketing along. But it’s ok, it’s happened, you discovered your limit and there’s no surprise what caused it.”

I nod guiltily.

“I just need you to be honest and open with me about your pain and how you are feeling,” he continues.

“I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what is going on.”

I explain to him my struggle with admitting weakness and that for 25 years I have never talked about the pain of my leg. It’s a hard habit to break.

“I know you have only known me for two weeks so it’s hard to trust me but I am here to help.”

I feel terrible. It’s not that I don’t trust him. I hope he doesn’t feel that he has failed in this area. I don’t think I could have asked for a better more caring physio and I hope he knows this.

“I haven’t had the surgery so I really can’t begin to imagine how hard it is or what you are going through but I am on this journey too and I’m here if you need me.”

I thank him earnestly. Right; patience, honesty, asking for help and embracing rest. Gosh I have a lot to work on.  Turns out cyborg walking school is about far more than just learning to walk.


2 thoughts on “Damn, They Were Right After All

  1. Chinese proverb – “Be not afraid of moving slowly. Be afraid of standing still.” Moving slowly is allowing your body to heal–surgery is a horrible trauma to the human body and pushing it too hard will cause permanent damage, even nonstop pain.

    Nerves and muscles and tendons grow slowly–you are now training them to grow and strengthen in the area you will need them later. Allowing them to grow at their own speed will ensure the greatest strength and equilibrium in the long run, as long as you keep training SLOWLY.

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