The theme for June is apparently talking about my personal life a lot! Apologies for those who prefer more of the bookish content (promise that’s coming later this month, too!). But, today I wanted to talk about dealing with a new chronic pain I’ve developed, coming to terms with it and the importance of reframing my mindset to adapt to this.
In the summer of June 2019, we moved. Admittedly impatient, I encouraged us to pack, move across town and unpack within the span of 72 hours. Unbeknownst to me, this triggered an injury in my spine, causing a herniated disc. The pain was so intense, I become immobible, unable to walk, stand and could barely sit or lay down without excuriating pain. I was on bed rest for two weeks.
In the two years since, that herniated disc, thanks to its placement, has developed into sciatica. The sciatic nerve is pinched within the herniated disc on my left side. It causes intense, sharp radiating pain that centers on my lower back, before shocking down my left leg. Walking hurts. It’s often hard to sleep. Doctors have been…not exactly helpful. Physical therapy was helpful until I couldn’t afford it anymore.
Without a lot of answers, but dealing with this for a long amount of time, I think it’s safe to say this is a new chronic condition for me.
My current mindset is not…positive. I often feel a lot of guilt that ties into my eating disorder, wondering if my weight gain caused this new condition. I feel shame and embarrassment that something as simple as walking has become a stresser for me. Frustration plagues me often, since I have no idea how to manage this condition; with the broken American “healthcare” system, I can’t get proper support due to being unable to afford the recommended 6 weeks of physical therapy at $200 a week after insurance. And I feel a lot of fear: fear to move too quickly and suddenly become immobile; fear that I won’t be able to hike again or go on vacations doing what I love; fear that this will be something I live with for the rest of my life.
Obviously, this mindset is not only negative, but for the very possible reality that this is a chronic, lifetime condition, it’s completely unhelp.
So, I’m working to reframe it.
Reframing My Mindset
It’s always hard for me to remember not to focus on the things I can’t control (like the American healthcare system, for example). But, in something like this, I need focus on things I can control. To start, I need to accept that this might be a lifelong condition for me. Yet, that doesn’t need to be a negative reality. Instead of viewing it as this horrible, guilt- and shame-fueled condition, I need to remind myself that this a manageable condition.
I think I get caught up in worrying about what others think of me (story of my fucking life). Instead of fearing what others think, if I need to take a break and sit so my back stops spasming, I should do that. If I need to start incorporating daily stretching into my life, I shouldn’t be ashamed. And if my weight gain did somehow cause this? Okay? Beating myself up over it does nothing for me.
Instead, I need to be kinder to myself (a common refrain I hope I actually listen to, one day). I need to learn how to better take care of myself so I can continue to do the things I love, like talking my dog for a walk. Yet, I also need to accept that sometimes, my limits will be reached and, to take care of myself, I might need to do less; alter things; take more breaks; ask for understanding or help. And that’s okay.
But, regardless of whatever happens with this condition–if it gets worse or better–how I’ve been mentally treating myself isn’t helping. So, going forward, I am going to try reframing my mindset to focus on the positives. I am going to put self care first, leaving guilt and shame behind. I am going to learn to life life managing this condition, instead of beating myself up over it or worrying what others think.