One of Life’s Big Lessons #1
After having labored and birthed three children at home, with each one encompassing all the beauty, passion, and hormone cocktail high that comes with bringing a terrestrial onto this planet, I developed a deep passion and interest in birth. As of now, it has been three years since my last physical birthing of a child. The high intensity, inner and outer struggle and cosmic anchoring that can occur during the process of birth resounds within me from those experiences. With birth, we discover a world that comes to a halt. We find that time can stand perfectly still. Experiencing labor and birth results in a family that is forever metamorphosed. As a new family, we are then left alone to privately ponder amongst this new unit about how to function as a family. What you are about to read is a story like that. Struggle, intensity, transformation, and newness, except it didn't come with a baby this time.
It is quite ironic that this story starts with me, a Doctor of Chiropractic and one who cares skillfully for people who cannot walk due to back injuries, and myself seriously injuring my own spine. I was attracted to chiropractic because of my back problems that started in my youth. For many years my symptoms have been under control. I’d get adjusted regularly, exercise, eat live plants, avoid processed food, etc. to stay healthy. Many health care practitioners live the healthy lifestyle with goals of prevention and feeling the best they can so they can perform at the highest level serving others, I felt I was no different.
Well, I started slacking on things like keeping my regular adjustments, not caring about what I was eating, sporadically exercising, and not minding my mental state. I got in this mode of “I can do it all” and stopped caring for myself. I was striving to cook healthy whole food meals for our family daily, keep my home tidy, homeschool my eldest, care for patients through chiropractic, and coach middle school track to name a few. I was striving to be centered, happy, and well adjusted while upholding the tasks of wife, mom, housekeeper, chiropractor, community servant. Eventually, everything mounted and I didn't feel like I was keeping it together anymore on the inside.
The truth is, by pushing through my days without minding what was doing to/for myself, my body, mind, and soul were suffering. I had the suspicion I was living my life incongruently. I coach my patients in meditation, prayer, healthy eating and movement, keeping their spines aligned, but I wasn't even being consistent myself with these ways of life. The truth was that I was secretly sugar binging throughout the week, drinking too much bulletproof coffee to keep myself going, and flipping out at every little thing my kids or husband said or did. I wasn't eating right, clearing my mind, exercising consistently, taking care of my spine when it was “whispering” to me, and I thought I was getting away with it.
I was doing what I had to do. What I knew how to do. What my programming as a gymnast in my youth told me to do. Which was, grit my teeth, work hard, and bear it. I was fearful to ask for help because it might mean I didn't have it all together. Which terrified me. This was a program my brain had been running since adolescence, and it was starting to accrue damage. My fear of being viewed as weak, lazy, and not knowing everything, was taking over my life and controlling me. I was just sucking it up. Meanwhile, in my physical body, my adrenals were about to cash me out and reveal what was truly going on inside my body.
Springtime track season was starting at the middle school where I volunteer coach, and I was excited because I thought it would finally give me some consistency with my workouts again. I actually love exercise and coaching. My intentions for this track season were to be so fantastically admirable and inspirational to these young athletes that they would finish the season knowing the positive feelings exercise and competition can have on oneself. This is how my coaches had inspired me, and I wanted to give that back. Exercise has always been a great stress reliever for me. I love high intensity feel the burn type workouts. It's like I feel a lot of my emotional pains melt away with it. ( this story is about when I wasn't giving myself enough healthy doses of this obviously.)
Day 1 of middle school track practice went great until the very last set of exercises called frog jumps of course. I felt a little snap in my lower back where my sacrum meets the ilium. My muscles seized up pretty quickly. Yeah, I knew this feeling… Been there before. During my college pole vaulting experiences, I would just rub icy hot on it before practice, take ice baths after training, get it rubbed out by the trainers, and then carry on after a few weeks of this routine. This repeated every season for 4 years and sometimes multiple times per season. When all was said and done after college, I had chronic lower back pain.
It was after college when chiropractic changed this cycle for me. After a year of consistent adjustments and smarter exercising, I didn't have ANY pain anymore. It had been kept at bay except for a flair up during pregnancy #2. Which my loving husband cared for me throughout and healed quickly. (Pregnancy and chiropractic are a whole different ballgame)
So, I went roughly 10 years without severe spinal/pelvic pain issues! Until life got “so busy” for me that my priorities became very “bass-ackwards” as my gymnastics coach used to say. I wasn't eating clean, I was putting off chiropractic adjustments, and was thinking thots that promoted stress hormone to run amok in my body consistently. I was living in fear and letting that fear run the show. I was not the master of my ship but rather weathering a squall and scrambling about my boat doing damage control. This was kicking my adrenal glands asses every day for months. It is not really within the adrenal gland’s comfort zone to be running in fight or flight mode for most of the day. In fact, they start to go to sleep and slack off they are so not into it. Adrenal fatigue can cause joint ligaments to become lax/weak amongst numerous other ill effects within the body. For me, I was doing exercises I had done many times before in my life, and then the right side of my sacroiliac joint just blew out and totally sprained. I, of course, carried on to run two laps around the track after practice, after I felt the pop. You know… I needed to prove to myself that I was going fine right!? *FACE PALM*
I think God must have been thinking, "What is it going to take to get this child to read my signs?” I gimped on through the next day. I even had to stand for most date night with my husband. I stood at our table and swayed my hips around for most of the meal. I thought it was something I’d deal with for a little while and be able to work through. I didn't expect it to get worse. Very stiffly the next morning, I prepared myself to take on a morning of Saturday patients. I had a newborn’s first adjustment and 2 new pregnant patients on the books for that day. I was so stoked about going in to work! But before leaving the house for work, I turned quickly to face my husband while so ungratefully making demands at him for my coffee. The next moment I had to catch myself on the kitchen island. I froze. I couldn't move my legs for fear of intense pain. In fact, so much pain stitched up my back that I had to be carried to the couch by my husband and niece. This became my new home for the next few days.
My first thought was: THIS CAN’T HAPPEN RIGHT NOW. This is the worst timing EVER. As I laid on the couch, pain reverberating throughout my body, my mind surprisingly became much clearer. There was not much else to think about besides the paralyzing pain. I call this “forced meditation, ” and it reminded me very much of the intense feelings of labor.
Sometimes in a very annoying way, when something unfortunate happens to me, my husband will ask me “What’s the lesson?” This particular time I wasn't annoyed. I was ready to figure this out. I thought to myself, "this pain is so intense it’s like being in labor." After a while on it dawned on me. Maybe, I am birthing a new Me with a new philosophy of life. Over the next two weeks of my healing, I started to see some patterns. While observing these patterns in my life, I came up with 7 new perceptions. They have to do with being a woman, a mother and being in the workforce.
I see many women in my practice struggle with these same perceptions about who we are and who we feel we have to be. I see women with adrenal fatigue and stressed to the maximum trying to be, do, and have everything while neglecting and ignoring themselves. It's like we as women kind of know this about ourselves...but why does it take a crisis for us to do anything about it? Months later I am still integrating these ideas into my life. By keeping them in mind, and having written them down I do I feel like I can be a more functional, happy, well-adjusted and nurturing person. More days, I now wake up ready to make the most of this sacred triune of life: the body, mind, and spirit. It is still a process even months later after my injury to remember these lessons. But every day gets better and better, and I feel that even writing this piece has helped me to understand these principles even deeper.
1. I don’t have to do anything.Looking around my house and living amongst the filth for 5 days helpless to pick anything up, allowed me to realize that I could co-exist even with the mess. I would be ok if the mess didn't get cleaned up right away. Being completely immobile enforced this for me. It was like I was to be the absolute observer of my family and everything going on around me. I was made to be still and know.
2. I must ask for help when needed.Not being able to use the toilet independently were more than humbling moments for me. I went from flipping and twisting on a trampoline a few weeks prior, to being bedridden. I noticed it was an arduous task for me (every single time) I had to ask for help no matter what it was. It didn't wear off quickly either. I am still working on this part of my consciousness. I was abusing myself by not even asking for spinal adjustments when I knew I needed them. I wasn't getting checked with a prevention mindset. This was another significant incongruence in my behavior according to my own chiropractic philosophy. What I was teaching my patients about prevention, I didn't even adhere to myself. I didn't want to seem weak or whiny by “complaining about symptoms” to my husband so I put myself on the back-burner thinking that I could tough it out.
3. Taking care of my inner fire must be obligatory.When I asked my extended family for help with the kids, it allowed me a lot of alone time for my body, mind, and soul to come together and heal. I spent many hours in meditation, prayer, visualization, and reading. I contemplated next steps and decided that I need to be very clear about my family’s future and intentions. This allowed me to realize the importance of goals. Which leads to my next realization.
4. Making up my mind is powerful.I made a goal for myself that I would be walking in 3 days and able to ride in a car to Atlanta for a seminar by 7 days. I believed in myself and my innate healing ability. I monitored my mind carefully. When negative thots crept in I would clear my “mind field” by maintaining a mantra of “I am better, I am better, I am better.” I carried around my affirmation cards everywhere I went and wrote out new goals and affirmations that were very specific for each facet of my life. I found that the goals I had written before weren't inspiring or positive enough for me. They weren't spizzing me or getting me excited. I changed the language to words I felt were more poetic, full of light, and uplifting for me. I want my life to be full of mysterious, exciting, adventurous, and revolutionary experiences centered on a positive observation and enlightenment. I decided that I want more miracles big and small! The process of my back healing has in fact given me that experience and much more. I find myself savoring more moments of bliss and gratitude for smaller and smaller things.
5. Self-neglect and self-punishment are ineffective.By toughing it out, I was neglecting myself and punishing myself. I felt like I was never enough, even though I was busting it as hard as I could. Realizing this showed me that I at a base level I didn't value myself. I had a lot of time in my quiet healing space to reflect on all the positives and accomplishments in my life. By steadying myself in a state of gratitude for a period of time longer than a few seconds sporadically, I became able to value my soul and this body again even with it in pain. I eventually came to a conclusion; to respect myself, I needed to come up with some boundaries in my life. By putting limits in place for taking care of myself and telling others what is ok and not ok with me makes expectations clear for everyone. No more silent brooding about not getting what I want. I had some gnarly self-judgment to contend with too. Which went along with monitoring my “mind field” and paying close attention to my thots.
6. Act immediately or literally postpone joy.Act on it when things need to be changed. A wise mentor of mine says, “Do it now!” Many of us have a vast freedom of choices that we can act on. Sometimes we choose the easy and less painful things on our list and avoid the annoying stuff. By not getting the important things crossed off of our lists early, it's hard to feel that real freedom within our mind. An example of this is paying bills. Once I could stand up on my own again, I was so excited to pay my bills! Dealing with finances became a blessing because I could appreciate the things I needed to pay for more, being where my physical state was. When too many big ticket to do items build up, it can become suffocating and overwhelming. This tends to cause a paralysis in my case, and then I end up blowing things off. Physiologically speaking, when the adrenals are running on high continuously, critical thinking seems harder, reactionary defensive behaviors ensue, and everyone involved responds less intelligently than normal. Becoming involuntarily beseeched to find my stillness, solutions started coming to me because I got clear and stress hormones began to clear.
7. Keep growing, evolving, transmuting and accepting.I figure hard times can be catapults for growth. How I saw this situation was up to me. I had to choose it. It allowed me to define things in my life that needed clarifying and find life philosophies that better served me. This experience has taught me on an another level that blessings can come in prodigious packages.
Next time you find yourself in distress, question yourself humbly: What is the lesson? Am I ready to listen, learn? What is God/The Universe/Whatever trying to tell me? And there, at the bottom of your pit, your squall, your misery may you find the blessings you haven't been able to see and the blessings that are to come from what is now a state of discord.
Chiropractic Works Miracles!
Above is the picture of me Friday, the day before I couldn't walk. An untrained eye can see my body doesn't look right. The picture below is me a few pounds heavier from lack of movement and no core utilization, but a pain-free and a new me! The x-ray above is me on Sunday after an excruciating ride in the car to the office for this film. Final xray is my correction. Many tears were cried and words exchanged between husband and wife during this time. However, I owe so much of my healing to my wise, skilled, and caring husband. For you Michael, I am forever grateful for all that you bring into my life.
Notice the difference in ilium lines at the top of the pelvis compared to the x-ray above. The curvature in the lumbar spine is also significantly reduced in the post x-ray. Millimeters of movement in the spine the right direction can mean miles of improvement functionally and physically in the way you life your life.