As a kid I was really active. I played all sorts of sports and played outside from the moment I got home until it got dark. I was constantly moving and playing. Rainy days just meant play inside with my brothers!
When I was 11 years old I played softball, which I adored! Early one chilly Saturday morning I stepped up to the plate to bat. My body was feeling a bit strange and as I went to swing the bat, pain started in my lower back and I began to feel sick, like I was going to pass out. I managed to hit the ball before my “third strike”, but ended up barely making it to first base. I was crying and barely able to walk. Needless to say, I was subbed out from running and my coach gave me some exercises to help calm my screaming back down. They didn’t help, but bless her, she tried!
That Saturday began a cycle of pain that would define most of the next 15 years of my life. I was 11 years old, in year 6, and I couldn’t tie my shoes, carry my school bag (thanks Mum for carrying into school every day for me!!), sit on the floor, run, climb, jump, play… I even had to get my physio to teach me how to get out of bed in the morning.
Learning to deal with pain
Thankfully after a few months it calmed down enough that I could get back to a vaguely normal life – however, I was never the same. Throughout my teenage years I learned to clean my room with my feet (I couldn’t bend over, so I had to pick things up with my toes), deal with regular bouts of depression, and live in agony every morning when I would have to carry a school bag full of books, a sports bag (for sports I could barely play!), laptop bag, and a musical instrument or two (hello private school…). I had to deal with being “different”, being called a “faker” and “weak” and to just “get on with it” from peers and teachers, all the while not knowing what was wrong with me, what my “condition” was – I was simply in pain 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for 15 years.
Search for a solution
I went to many different specialists: GPs, physio, chiropractor, Bowens, massage… no one could actually tell me what was “wrong” with me. I learnt to deal with the pain, to soldier on, but it effected all areas of my life, especially since my pain was intricately connected to my emotions: when upset or stressed, I felt more pain, the pain caused more stress which caused more pain and on and on it would go until I ended up screaming at someone for no reason and/or falling into a sobbing mess.
Sounds fun eh?
Thankfully at 19 I found a great osteopath who gave me long lasting relief (meaning I only had to see him every 3-6 weeks as opposed to 1-2 times per week). Regardless, things still didn’t seem right with my body so I was referred to a rheumatologist at 21 who, after asking me a couple of questions, determined I had fibromyalgia (a pain condition that causes the brain to misinterpret pain signals and amplify them), prescribed an antidepressant and sent me home. I reacted horrifically to the drugs: I was tired all the time, reduced to tears at the slightest thing, and practically suicidal.
After two weeks of this, I realised it wasn’t going to change so I flushed the pills and decided that what was wrong with me wasn’t medical and doctors weren’t going to help me (needless to say, that was a scarring experience…) That said, I didn’t know an alternative – if doctors couldn’t help me, who or what could? From the ages 18-23 I relied on ibuprofen to get me through the day, often taking 4-5 doses a day just to function (just imagine what that did to my insides…). I also tended to rely sometimes on alcohol – a shot of vodka would often relax my muscles enough to find blissful relief. These tactics were clearly NOT sustainable!
My osteo’s (easily provable!) theory was that I had hyper-mobile joints (fun for party tricks, not so fun for daily functioning…) which causes my joints and spine to essentially “fall out of place” causing the muscles to stiffen up to support them which obviously caused pain and required regular adjustments to reset balance. This, combined with the fibromyalgia, meant I was one sore body!!
The real solution
It wasn’t until around April 2013, at the age of 25, that I started experimenting with my diet and exercise. I finally got up the courage to try yoga after wanting to for years and fearing I wouldn’t, like most forms of exercise, be able to do it. I bought a juicer, went into a health food store for the first time, and began exploring the weird and wonderful world or whole foods, superfoods, buying organic. Although I had always been interested in healthy eating, I quickly discovered the diet I thought was healthy was in fact making me chubby, miserable, tired, and sick.
Since then I have lost weight, gained energy, improved my mood, and, as a very happy and unexpected side effect, helped my pain! The movement of yoga helped strengthen my (extremely) weak support muscles, the mediation and breathing calmed my moods and also helped my sleep. The foods I was eating gave me energy I never thought I could have and I felt strong for the first time in my life. I even started jogging – something I always thought would be impossible for me (I once went for a jog at age 19 and ended up practically bed ridden for 2 weeks from stiffness and pain. My osteo’s reaction once I was finally able to go see him was “Yeah…don’t do that again..”)!
The road to recovery
Though I am by no means pain free now, I like to believe I am on a road to recovery. I still have bad weeks and times when I become complacent and don’t exercise enough or eat as well as I should, but that’s ok, because 15 years of pain has made me extremely aware of my body and I know when it is trying to tell me what. I am no longer angry at my body for “betraying” me – I am now working with it, listening to it, and open to understanding what it is trying to tell me.
Today, I am experimenting more with anti-inflammatory and “healing” foods. I realise now that I must have done severe damage to my gut from years of too much ibuprofen, sugar, gluten, poor quality foods and alcohol, so I am eating healing foods like high quality meats, bone broths, fermented foods and eat mostly organic.
This blog will chronicle my journey towards better health and less pain and will hopefully inspire and help others like me to do the same.
Please feel free get in touch or comment on my posts with anything that has or has not worked for you, suggestions on things I might like to try or explore in a more in depth post. Pain is a fickle beast and those experiencing chronic pain need a lot of support. I hope you will find some of that here