Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lessons from Silence

Tail between my legs, I left the office of the pain management clinic. It was my first visit, and I'd expected to leave with a plan for mitigating long term narcotic use against the ill effects. Instead, the doctor saw with new eyes what my others had missed. Despite an MRI report that diagnosed just moderate arthritis, he saw the signs of a ruptured disc. His prescription was so radical I broke down in his office

He sent me to bed.

His advice was to stop blocking the pain with drugs and fighting through physical therapy, and simply to rest while we puzzled over things. I wrestled with the idea for days, frantic about the financial burden at home and the management of my shop. I knew he was right and had reached the mindset of trying anything long before. (Recall my vegetarian vacation when my holistic guru thought meat protein might help a suspected andrenal gland problem.) So, I figured things out with my (amazingly supportive) director and obediently parked my ass in bed.

The first few weeks I was wracked with guilt and had to face a strange realization that sometime since college I had become the total opposite of a slacker and had absolutely no idea how to relax. I've never been organized enough to be very effective, but I'd become a highly-pressurized control freak. Read back through the first couple of years of the blog and marvel at my supermom-wannabe stress. I found it impossible to relish downtime. If the baby was away, I had to cram art projects or cleaning into those hours. Then I took the management position at the shop and didn't turn off the ringer on my phone for at least a year straight. And when my back pain worsened, I started accumulating a debt of guilt about calling in favors with my staff and losing pay. These worries gnawed at me, and (because making myself sick with worry is my specialty) I spiked the mix with dread of surgery.

Between the order for bed rest and the surgery, I settled and relaxed into my reality. Surrender is probably the best description- it was certainly a result of duress. The long days camped out in my bed forced me to reconcile with my only company: My crazy brain. I found a peace with the fact that my life was in a period of rest because that peace was absolutely necessary. If I'd continued to feel guilt and stress about it, I'd surely have imploded. I've been trying to force myself to relax for years, and the obvious contradiction in that wasn't at all clear to me. I think the medical rest time taught me something about flipping that impulse- that I can't tackle my brain to bring my body relaxation. Instead, physical peace comes first, and the mind listens. (Shane and I are reading about mindfullness and this realization ties into these practices very well.)

My challenge is to take this idea really into myself. I've already rushed back into my habits of pushing too hard too fast, but I'm pulling back and remembering to be easy with my body. I'm making progress with healing my mind/body relationship. I think I'm happier in my head and body than I've ever been- and my body's still housing some pain, so I think that's remarkable.

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