What Pain Teaches Us

For the last three weeks I have been plagued by severe sciatic pain, growing a little worse with each passing day. Getting out of bed in the morning takes calculated effort so as to avoid any sudden movements that could send a crippling pain throughout my body.

This isn’t the first time I have dealt with leg pain. I’ve seen several doctors regarding a nagging pain in my right knee and hip. I always chalked it up to a running injury since I have flat feet and don’t always wear the most supportive sneakers. I continued to run though.

During my anorexia period I experienced “foot drop” which caused a lack of feeling and movement in the top of my left foot. I walked around gimping as though my foot was too heavy to lift. Climbing the stairs at college was painful and embarrassing. Again I saw a doctor but since it eventually resolved itself once I began recovery I never thought much about it again.

When we are feeling good and healthy it is easy to take our bodies and movement for granted. Only when faced with pain, disease, or injury do we begin to take our health seriously and decide to really check in with ourselves.

Having to be aware of nearly every movement I make and any tension in my body has forced me to really pay attention to my body.

I knew I needed to get back into exercising consistently, eating better, and reducing stress. The reality of the urgency didn’t hit me until I went for a deep tissue massage the other night. It turned out to be more painful than pleasurable. The pressure and pulling of every muscle was almost too much to bear. It nauseated me. But it wasn’t until the realization hit me, that this is all caused by stress and a lack of real self care, that I was brought to tears.

The stress of everyday life – a so-so job, not making enough money, not being happy at home, raising my niece – coupled with the lack of time I devote to having fun, exercising, socializing, and doing things for myself are taking a gross physical toll on me.

The time to make a change is now.

As the pain escalates so do the self care tactics I employ. I force myself to get up and move around more both at home and at work. I commit to walking a few times a week. I started doing yoga again regularly. I am more mindful of the foods I put into my body. And I have been meditating every night as I used to do. So far there haven’t been any significant physical changes or improvements aside from feeling somewhat normal and mostly pain free during the day (too bad the mornings and evenings are killer!). However I have noticed major mental improvements as a result of these conscious efforts. The depression I had been hit with for weeks has subsided. I feel more optimistic, energetic, and capable than I have in weeks.

I know (or at least I hope) this pain is temporary. I know continuing to take better care of myself once and for all will yield great and long lasting results. And even after the pain (hopefully) subsides I am resolving to keep going because I can now see and feel the fruits of my labor.

This situation had me questioning why it took me so long and until I was in pain to start listening to my body and treating it better. I have had the tools tucked away all along but took my body and all it does for granted.

I am choosing to see the lesson in this – even if it hurts a lot! When our bodies and/or minds are off, it means something in our daily lives is off. Something needs an improvement or an adjustment. It definitely shouldn’t be ignored. Answer the call while you’re fully able!

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