I’ve been a little MIA these last couple of weeks, and it sure feels good to be back in the ol’ writing saddle! I sustained what is becoming clear to me a rather debilitating and serious back injury that will.not.quit over Labor Day weekend, and it’s gonna be with me for awhile. It’s been one of those processes of realizing that this isn’t a “pulled-my-muscle-at-spin-class-I’d-better-rest-a-week” scenario. It’s pretty isolating/frustrating/terrifying when the only way you can get up is if someone literally picks you up off the floor.
Anyway, I thought it would be helpful to take a break from the straight career stuff I usually write about and share my thoughts and experience with this to date, in case it’s helpful to any of ya’ll reading this. And in fact, it IS related to aforementioned career stuff, because you can’t freaking do anything productive! The Mayo Clinic website actually says low back pain is the most common reason people miss work. Say wha?
Below are some observations/lessons learned I have had for my situation. Take what you want and leave the rest:
-Manage your feelings: This is important. I tried to keep it zen over Labor Day, and I mostly succeeded, but I re-injured myself this past Tuesday and totally lost it. I’m only 32, I said! If this is 32, what’s 42 or 62? Not being able to do anything for myself for the first time in my life was isolating and scary, but also grounding. I have a newfound appreciation for what a healthy body can do.
Another part of managing my feelings about this involved talking about it. My mom, sister, boyfriend and friends have been supportive and patient in listening to me be upset. Get a support network to let out some thoughts and feelings, ESPECIALLY if you’re alone in the house all day. There’s only so much comic relief that “Veep” can provide!
Figure out what works for you in terms of managing your feelings. Is it writing in a gratitude journal or regular journal? Is it (slow) walks to 16 Handles (the frozen yogurt store)? When you’re used to being on the go and active, this setback can be emotional.
-Don’t blame yourself: I’m not going to lie. I blamed a high yoga shoulder bridge for my predicament for a few days. This was further exacerbated by people asking me what caused the injury. A logical question, no diggity, no doubt; however, I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights on the hardwood floor of my living room to think about this, and it’s not one isolated incident. It’s years and years of using my body incorrectly, tensing my back, hip flexors, butt muscles and adopting a way too erect sitting posture. When I told a couple of people that, they didn’t grasp what I was saying, and they pressed me for an incident (e.g. “Are you sure you didn’t injure it exercising?”), which led to some self-doubt about my logic. However, I found it was important to not try to find a specific explanation and carry on. Which leads me to my next point…
-Take control of your care: I got an emergency appointment for an orthopedist on Tuesday, and before I went in there, I thought about what I wanted and didn’t want for my care. For example, Percocet and epidural shots to my spine are not super high on my ‘wants’ list. I try to keep it as drug free as possible as a general life rule, but knew I’d need something. So before I went to the appointment, I decided that I wanted a short and long term plan. That way, when the doctor inevitably suggested strong meds, I was able to push back and say, “No, what else can we do?” Also, as soon as I took some forward action, I felt better. Progress, yo.
-Do your research!: Dude, explore options! When the orthopedist was like, ‘Sometime down the road, you may need back surgery”, I was like, “Hell, no, buddy, but thanks!” So, because I had all those sleepless nights on my floor recently, I decided to research other options and recalled that a friend from high school is certified and has his own practice in the Alexander Technique, which is basically a re-education program/regimen for how you use your body. It teaches people to identify and change their inefficient habits, which can cause unnecessary tension, pain of fatigue. BINGO! You can read more about it here. This is likely going to be part of my long-term care program. My point is not to run out and do the Alexander Technique, but instead to seek alternative options that work for you. There are countless healing modalities that may work, including reiki, yoga, PT (this is part of my mid-term care plan, and I begin that tomorrow), and many, many others.
-Steroids: Just kidding (kind of) here, but holy josephina, those are magic pills. Not 12 hours after my boyfriend was literally scraping me off the floor, I was upright and working. It’s a short term fix, no doubt, but it got me functional again. And with function comes productivity, and with productivity comes a sense of purpose.
-When you do return, don’t overdo it: I went back into the office on Monday and worked a 10-hour day at a non-ergonomic desk. The next day I was crying on the floor. If I had to put my “Scooby Doo” mystery solving hat on, I would say the two are connected. SO, if you’re feeling like you can take on the world after an injury, give yourself another day or two. Your body will thank you for it.
-Note to entrepreneurs/solopreneurs—if you’ve got nothing to say, don’t say anything: I can’t tell you how many times during these last couple of weeks I’ve sat (err laid) down to write a blog post or social media posts. And time and again, I didn’t have a message to put out there. It was hard to think about writing an article about ‘acing that next interview’ when in immeasurable pain. So, if you can take a brief hiatus to concentrate on health, consider saying nothing at all for a few days. When you’re back to a more normal state, your message will be clearer and more awesome-er. And again, your body will thank you.
Anyway, as I said, this will be a process for me, so I will check back in from time to time with new observations. I KNOW a lot of you out there have some sort of injury, chronic pain or physical ailment that impedes your ability to be productive and work hard, which we all wanna do. I hope some of these personal reflections give you something to consider and you move through your recovery plan.