The dragon is old and always hungry—needy. Ages ago, alongside her teeth, her mouth fused splinters, blades, knives, and other strange objects—things your mom warned you. Her claws and teeth are now deep in my neck, and my muscles seize in response. I’m recovering from a recent Posterior Cervical Diskectomy and Fusion.
Pain is an annoying Dragon
Some moments I cry—weep like a baby. One morning, I was fixing my hair and make-up. While I was doing the mascara, my neck muscle knotted and seized. The pain was so intense that I went into the bedroom to sit. The tears flowed and flowed. After a few minutes, my body finally calmed, and I went to repair my makeup.
I wish I had a picture to show you how my face looked after that. It was a mess with black smeared eyeliner and mascara. I had hilarious raccoon eyes—a complete do-over on the makeup.
I chose to have a second surgery. I am no victim. My spine will heal stronger, straighter. I like this. I know this dragon isn’t going to hold me, keep me on my knees, beat me down forever.
As a second-grader, jealousy gripped me and possibly taught me a lesson. A schoolmate had a Mickey Mouse watch with the gloves of Mickey that turned to show the time. I knew that she was rich. And for a few minutes, I convinced her to let me wear her fantastical watch. It didn’t matter what else happened that day. This girl and I had bonded, and I was wearing her Mickey Mouse watch. If I were persuasive enough, maybe she’d let me wear it home. At times I had guts. Raw desire made me bold.
I always thought it was logic. Truthfully, it was about pain. Choices—which option didn’t hurt as much as the other? If I saw a new phone I wanted, I would think the process through in my mind. It cost x amount, and currently, I am in debt xx amount. But in my thinking, it was a smart purchase if I could purchase it immediately or somehow arrange it into my budget. Logic—as I was calling it—was a lie. Peel back a layer, and you see the pain.
As a very young kid, I learned how to earn money from labor. We had a farm. All pecans that fell onto the ground were mine to pick up, and I could sell them by the pound if the hogs didn’t eat them first. Back then, I made about ten dollars. I felt a thrill at having that money. My life also developed a good dose of shame.
Around two years ago, I went to a group meeting to learn how to organize my life. My expectations were too high. And I was clueless on how little the teacher knew. It was far too simple. Don’t hoard, Sort your clothes, and so on. But I was there with people who had five sets of chinaware.
There’s nothing shameful about wanting things.
The teacher, who I knew from therapy sessions, said I had a poverty attitude. I left angry. These people were downsizing and trying to throw their shame onto me. I have no reason to be ashamed. I’ve lived in her world—the money—and like her, I suddenly lost it. So yes, I want things.
People talk of spoons. You only have so many spoons a day. To some, this makes no sense. Why spoons? What about being poor with no credit cards. No cash. And your tire is busted. You don’t have $10.00 bucks and some lint in your pocket. There’s not a credit card to charge it on because you can’t get one.
The story of pain is about restrictions. Woven inside it’s barbs are reminders to go slower. Ease up on the anger. And always remember to rest.
Another way of understanding pain is to know there’s something always in your field of vision. It’s like a floppy hat you bat away but it keeps crashing on your face.
The teen who started the spoon story had Lupus, which is a limiting disorder. On the outside, everything looks normal. It’s the inside where things are not functioning as they should. It’s as if you have water in your car’s gas tank. There’s sputtering and stalling.
Most who suffer pain, try to hide it, even though it’s with them regularly. I know it’s influenced many decisions. How hard do I push in exercise? Not to overexertion. If I allowed myself to become dehydrated and too hot, it could trigger a migraine and muscle spasms. I’ve taken a lot of effort to prevent those, so moderation is better.
There’s a strange way of focusing when you have limited resources. It frees you to decide on priorities. It also lets you say no at times. Unfortunately, there have been times I desperately wanted to attend events, and I couldn’t. Understand it’s not an Ace card up my sleeve. I never play it like that for a reason most apparent. When I need it, I want it to be real.
I try to live optimistic, thinking of my dreams, but I have to keep my limits in view, to know how much I can accomplish each day.
Don’t be stigmatized. Shake it off. Be free of traditional labeling.
With the new Federal regulations, there is a tightening on pain medicine, even for those with chronic pain. The label I feel stamped across my forehead is Addict.
Yes! Pills. Give me drugs. Stop the pain. A friend’s mom is a pain med junky, according to my friend. It’s been a driving force for keeping my friend away from the treatments. Maybe. There’s the ex-boyfriend who called my friend a druggie when she took her pain medicine. Ironic since he once lived in the tunnels of Las Vegas because of his illegal drug use.
I’m uncertain of how to help since there is the of money. If the insurance paid for the medicine, it’s great. If we pay for Ayurvedic or other Holistic treatments, then it is all personal money. Most of us aren’t wealthy. I asked my new pain treatment physician what other alternate treatments meant since the Federal guidelines state doctors are supposed to phase out opioids into different types he said they include physical therapy, surgical interventions, and steroid injections. But these come with copays and deductibles. We are talking about $300.00 to $1000.00s of dollars per visit with no guarantee of any success. Thank you Federal government for your love and concern!
It seems that every TV show and podcast topic lately has a splash of bias, making anyone who needs medicine appear to be a drug seeking criminal. Honestly, if all the answers were found in nature, then our bodies would damn near heal themselves. Even on my favorite show, Joe Rogan Experience, it’s one I can listen to while I work, it’s long and doesn’t need constant visuals. The one I was listening to, #1301-Laird Hamilton, was a health-conscious episode. Mr. Hamilton and Joe were bandying back and forth about people they knew who did outrageous marathons such as 125k. Quite impressive. My annoyance came at their assessment of their source of health. With much pride and enthusiasm, the guest kept repeating that people wouldn’t need medicine if they would exercise (as he does?) Seriously? In all cases?
Be Lucky Like Him
Yes, these big, God’s gifts to the world, do irritate me. There’s a blind spot in their Narcissistic vision. Humility. Mr. Surfer needs a reality check. Genetics smiled upon him. But….
When you have all of the answers, why bother looking anymore? I work in medicine and see the opposite side of the mirror every day. There are babies born without a chance to every run 125k marathon. Babies don’t do a damn thing right or wrong. Many times neither did their parents. Life happens, and we pick up the pieces. It is a fools arrogance to assume we have such control.
I want to be grateful for the gifts I was given, for each day, each person in my life. I want to create a better world for tomorrow. And love my people today.
Richard Grannon is a therapist and speaker I’ve followed for several years on YouTube. He has multiple courses on trauma recovery and offers a free course if you sign up for his emails. Spartan Lifecoach
Mom says I cried a lot when I was a baby. Ear infections. I don’t remember. I was too young of course. I wonder what would have happened to me if I would’ve been that easy babe who plays and could be placed on the floor.
When I was two weeks old my family, mom, dad, and two older brothers stacked the truck full of the Sapulpa house’s belongings and moved to Collinsville. Dad got an opportunity to buy some land, and he took it. He’d been driving to his business there in downtown Collinsville for a while, and this was an excellent opportunity.
I’ve often felt sorry for my mom over the years. The move from a house in town to a small travel trailer to what seemed a long ways from civilization is a time that would have been difficult for any woman. There was also the dirt road and the river. When it rained the long dirt road became a muddy mess. Like quicksand, the mud would suck the tires and root them into the rutted path. It was a hike past the cattle gate, up the long road, carrying groceries or laundry home. I don’t know if she asked dad for help, but she never quit going.
What we say might not come out openly. The words trip over our emotions as we try to get them out. But, if we keep them to ourselves no one wins. Speak up. Babies can only cry. And it’s their healthy way of getting their needs met. You can do more. Sing, make art, do poetry, dance, show love to someone, craft a meal, be with someone or read a book to a friend. Make it a way of life to share your thoughts and needs.
After you raise your hand…
Show up and keep showing up.
Show up with at least as much enthusiasm as you had when you first raised your hand to volunteer.
The volunteering part is easy. Making promises is a fun way to get someone’s attention.
Keeping those promises is often unsung, but that’s how you build something.
I’m looking through 18 pages of X-ray films from my MRI on Thursday. I’m to hand deliver them to my doctor, when I have my follow-up. The brain films make no sense to me it all. The one that starts from the back of my head and progresses through to the front of my face is either funny or slightly scary. I look like the angel of death in the last frame. A specter. But I still see nothing that makes sense. I almost didn’t do the MRI. My insurance has a deductible and on top of that is the 30% for diagnostic tests. So hello payments. Saint Francis and I will have a nice arrangement.
Through all of this ordeal, I thought I knew who I was. Some of that is a topic for another blog, like the fact that I’ve denied my chronic pain for years. My health issues have been completely overlooked in my mind. It’s surprising the things we don’t see of ourselves.
I’ve found surprisingly also that I’m more than that person. I’ve taken this in stride better than I expected I would. I haven’t panicked. I’m not afraid of some dire diagnosis. Really I just need a direction. Because I know it wasn’t what I had believed it had been for so long, migraines. Yes, I have migraines. And have had them since I was young. Sometime in my 30’s a different headache started. I felt similar, but different from the migraine, so I had no idea how to explain it. And when it recently didn’t go away, even after treating it for 3 months, I thought I might go psycho.
When I was in the MRI machine, the tech had asked me if I’d been in a wreck and twice he asked me if I had any pain running down my arm. This caught my attention. When I went through the neck scans I had an idea what I was looking for. And I think I’ve found it. I’m no doctor and I haven’t been in to have it confirmed, but the tech highlighted an area. There’s a narrowing in the spinal canal that looks like it’s the source of my problem. So BINGO. On a bad day, a long day, there’s tightness, swelling, and pain. Lots of pain. Make my head pop off, pain. Next step – follow-up with the doctor.
My unofficial self diagnosis is Cervical Spinal Stenosis. Let’s see how close I get. Oh, and one of the symptoms of this is clumsiness. Well anyone that knows me, knows that I stumble over ants. When I tried to put the X-ray’s away they all fell on the floor. They’re crazy to read and slippery to sort. I’m glad they’re numbered or I’d feel I was in a Lucille Ball episode trying to put them in order again. Embarrassing. Hello Nurse.
I’ve talked a few times about Dynamic Equilibrium, our bodies’ ability to adjust and re-balance after it notices changes in environment or its own status. It’s a constant balancing act.
I recently learned a new word. I read a book called Antifragile, which equates the opposite of being fragile with hormesis. The opposite of fragile isn’t just unbreakable. The opposite of fragile is strengthening with each blow, breakdown or fall.
Hormesis (from Greek hórmēsis “rapid motion, eagerness,” from ancient Greek hormáein “to set in motion, impel, urge on”) is the term for generally favorable biological responses to low exposures to toxins and other stressors. A pollutant or toxin showing hormesis thus has the opposite effect in small doses as in large doses. A related concept is Mithridatism, which refers to the willful exposure to toxins in an attempt to develop immunity against them. Hormetics is the term proposed for the study and science of hormesis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hormesis
In the book, Nassim Nicholas Taleb mentions how he observed a bodybuilder to learn from him the best way of building muscle. The body builder lifted weights to the extreme, but didn’t do it every day. He would push himself beyond tired, beyond his normal limits, because he knew that his body would rebuild. His body would become stronger than it was before.
This is how our brain learns new patterns. It’s also how our bones become stronger. Our bodies harden and strengthen from use. We have to use it or lose it as the old saying goes. So today, I’m going to go just a little longer on the run. Give myself a challenge that I probably can’t handle and even if I don’t reach the goal, I still will have gone farther than normal.
In the world of nature there are two known familiar states. Balance and imbalance. We humans are a part of this, teetering back and forth. Even if you just look at the last few hundred years, you can see how trends are on or off. Long hair is in style. No, long hair is out of style. Expansion and regression. Destruction, regrowth, and calm.
The other night I decided it was time to give my cat a bath. I got the comb and cat brush out and started brushing her and rubbing her head. She likes this. Then I get more serious, getting to the areas that really need some work. Before I wet and shampoo her, I try to remove as much fur as I can, so I brush her hair against the growth. Suddenly all of this attention is not fun for her. She protests and glares at me, like I should already know not to brush her like that. Don’t rub the cat the wrong way.
With everything going for us, all green lights, regular paychecks, no sickness, no cavities and all of those things, you would think we would be happy, like my cat. And maybe some people are. It does seem though that it’s not the case for most people. With all the drama in the government and all the drama on the job, I’ve come to believe that people get bored when things are smooth. When people get bored they stir up drama. Like a dirt devil in Australia, the dirt starts swirling and soon everyone forgets what started it all. The cat’s hair was rubbed the wrong way.
Life is about balance. Every so often a whirlwind needs to come along and stir things around just so we know we’re alive. It also has a cleansing effect. After the stirring, when things resettle, we can easily make the changes we want to make to our lives. Does that make sense? When things are in a pattern, if you start changing your normal way, people notice. They will protest and demand you fall back in line. When the cat’s hair and the dirt is flying around, if you change, no one notices. You’re not the drama.
The easiest time to make changes in your life is when everything is changing. Grab your chance. Freebie here – also, boredom is a sign to change your pattern in any little way. Do a different hobby. Change something in your routine. Change your hair. We need the balance and we need the imbalance.
When is it too much? How do I know if I’m over-correcting?
I have had Migraines since I was a girl, elementary school age. Very much like the commercial that says “If you have migraines, then you know pain.” I hate that commercial by the way. No amount of aspirin and caffeine or acetaminophen and caffeine will take away a migraine. You might as well go sniff a jar of vapor menthol or rub it on your feet. Seriously? I’ve tried many home remedies, vitamin therapies, acupuncture and herbal remedies.
Yesterday I found something new. At least it seemed new at that moment. It’s the neck theory. The cause of my suffering is because my head is big and my neck is weak. According to the Texas Migraine Clinic. My headaches don’t exactly fit the profile that he describes, such as starting around 2:00 in the afternoon, but I can sometimes lessen the pain be lying on my stomach and turning my head to the side. I’m game for trying new things, so I did one of the exercises that he suggested. OOPS! I strained my neck. I’m an overachiever.
But migraines aren’t the true point of my post, just the digression. Over-correcting is my point. In my effort to make improvements or even to adjust my life, I sometimes make things worse. It throws me into a panic sometimes when things go wrong. I’m still learning to let things gradually adjust. How do I know when something needs fixed verses needing an adjustment. Or when do I leave well enough alone?
If I’m in a panic, even if something needs correction, I need to wait. If I’m in a panic, my view of life is skewed. Distorted. Warped. Waiting a while is my better choice. Breathing and sitting with the fear of falling all the way to the bottom. What if I allowed the horrible bad thing to happen? Life should come with a warning label saying, Trying too hard could break something. It’s like the nail head that you hit just one more time so it’s good and hammered.
If it feels forced it probably is
Steady effort is effective also
Youthful exuberance has it’s place
So does sound advice from the experienced
Live and learn
If you don’t get it right the first time, do it again.
The only time panic serves me well is during a true crisis. If action needs to take place immediately or someone needs an ambulance, I’m your huckleberry. The rest of the time, I need to calm down and sit down. Thinking clearly is using all of your instincts for the best benefit. Too much hammering breaks the nail. Cranking a nut too tightly can break it. Tight is good enough.
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