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My Pain Story

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Where to begin, let's start at today. These days I have very little pain, anything that does bother me is in my left SI joint and tends to flare up if I walk slowly with my dog, stand for long periods of time, and fall behind on my movement & strength practice.

Back to the depths of my pain experience... Where was it? I remember days of avoiding putting on my shoes, not being able to close my car door, not being able to roll over in bed with out using my arms to grab something and pull. Getting up in the morning, and the thought of emptying the dishwasher made me tired. I would avoid loading the dishwasher until almost all of the dishes were sitting in the sink already, and let alone trying to bend over the sink to wash something as easy as a knife.

By the end of the day, trying to keep up with my 2 little girls under the age of 3, I was a mess and to say my bucket was full was an understatement. My kids and I would refer to 'mean mommy' too often, so often they crafted me a mask one day with a babysitter, I still have the mask.

From the medical side... I started at the age fo 39 with xrays that showed disc degeneration, severe arthritis in my facet joints, and previous compression fractures, all in my lumbar spine and lower thoracic. This led to MRI's, bone scans, injections, physio, and finally nerve ablasion in 8 places in my lumbar spine. The first session of ablasion (where they go in, under xray, and burn out the ends of the nerves) seemed to make a difference. The last 2 sessions didn't seem to have the same impact.

On the pharmaceutical side... I tried many anti-inflammatory pills (usually Motrin) to manage when I needed the pain to subside. Now I am reading about how they are seeing how use of NSAIDS seem to be causing chrnoic pain due to it's effect on the immune system. I tried Naltrexone, as I learned that low dose, daily intake could help chronic pain. There was one sedative that I took when my youngest daughter was about 4 months old that left me not able to find the fridge in my house when she needed to be fed in the middle of the night... I was also prescribed Ativan that also really took me out of fully functioning for the day. One of the last Rx that I tried was Cymbalta, an anti-depressant SSRI. I know now that taking SSRI can help with neuroplasticity changes in relation to chronic pain as well as helping nerve pain. At that time though, it was creating very challenging suicidal thoughts as well as thinking of leaving my family, like literally just walking away from the car while stopped at a red light. After 3 months of that, I decided to stop... but Cymbalta is not easy to get off of either, but I did, slowly.

So what did help? I did Natural Movement, cycling, walking, Lagree and joining a choir. While they didn't help with the pain, they kept me going and were a big help mentally to be in a group or to get outside. To note, the choir was an amazing release. Singing when you would like to be screaming, is a little more socially acceptable. Sitting, then standing, then sitting made it easy to handle a 2 hour choir practice. The group of people at Cool Choir were amazingly accepting and caring... and the physical action of deeply breathing while using your voice connects your mind & body in an amazingly powerful way.

Honestly, what helped was seeing the situation, my lifestyle, that I was living in. My pain was very much due to the stress of the relationship I was in at the time. One initial key moment in this realization was watching a YouTube video with David Butler from Explain Pain in Australia. One gentleman asked at the end why he had pain when his wife was home, but not much pain when she was out of the house. Within David's answer, something clicked for me. Engaging in a disagreement with my partner at the time was not tissue damaging, therefore it shouldn't cause pain. But it did, and a lot. Once I connected these dots, I was able to manage those situations better, but I wasn't out of the woods yet.

For me, I did have to leave the relationship. It wasn't an easy thing to do with a young family. But one day, after another eventful argument, I went to my first choir performance and my path forward was clear.

Now, there is a lot more to the story, I could go on for pages, but for the sake of the story and the privacy of those involved in that time, the bottom line was my back pain was very much linked to emotional stress which took me a few years to learn about and recognize in my life.

In that time, there were many experiences in the medical system, my own pursuit of pushing away pain, trying to find balance, raise little girls, and live my life with exhausting pain. I have learned many things along the way and heard many stories.

What I do know now is that movement is very important, but so is mental health. Neither are easy to perfectly maintain. Really, there is no perfection. There is awareness and connection. And singing, singing at the top of your lungs in the car or in the shower, that is a must.

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