“He who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything.” ~Proverb
As I start a new day, grateful that I am pain-free, healthy, and strong, I reflect on the true meaning of health and how I ended up in this wonderful place.
An outsider looking in might say I worked hard in the gym and spent thousands of dollars on treatments and services.
I would simply say that I believed and continue to believe—and that is all.
Four years ago, I was defeated by a diagnosis called Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction. What this means is that abnormalities in the joint which connect the spine to the pelvis were causing pain.
This was the Webster’s definition I needed to describe why I had been suffering for years with low back, hip, and leg pain that prevented me from living—truly living.
When the doctors told me there was no cure, it was the excuse I needed to stay trapped in depression and pain.
As a stay-at-home mom of two young children, I spent my small amount of free time feeling sorry for myself and taking a variety of pills to cope. I rang in each New Year with a new doctor, physical therapist, and plan that failed before it started.
Sadly, by the time Valentine’s Day rolled around, the hope I placed in others to fix me quickly dimmed to sarcasm and disappointment. The reality was I was getting worse and more depressed with each failed attempt.
It was not until I understood that my focus needed to change that I was able to make the strides I needed to get better.
You see, I was the perfect mom. I felt that my worth came from doing everything for everybody else, in spite of my physical condition. I was a volunteer addict and a perfectionist when it came to everything except me.
Despite the pain, I made gourmet caliber dinners, and my house was spotless. Every second of my time was committed—on purpose. My phone rang constantly with people wanting my opinion and my help, and I never said no.
Overcommiting myself kept me on a hamster wheel of activity, leaving no time to address my unhealthy, unhappy life and lack of self-worth. It took a significant change to break me loose of this continual circle of self-deprivation.
In June of 2008, after much debate, my husband and I decided to make a move. I was not in favor of this decision, but felt somehow compelled to oblige. And mechanically, as if someone was moving my limbs for me, I packed up and went through the motions of leaving my incredibly involved life behind.
After the excitement wore off, I found myself in a neighborhood where my children and I did not fit in. And after many failed attempts and closed doors, I was resolved to the fact that we were alone.
I now understand why. It took physical distance from all of my activities and commitments to realize I needed to say yes to myself.
Confused about what brought meaning to my life in a place where I felt unimportant and unneeded, I was forced to turn inward and do some serious soul searching. My body was declining with the stress of the move. The pain had increased, making it difficult to drive, sit for long periods, and do household chores.
By January 2010, it had become apparent to me that I had to prioritize myself. I had to believe that I was worth it and could overcome my physical pain. I threw myself into self-help and inspirational books and blogs. I became intrigued by attracting better health.
Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of my situation, I began to visualize a healthier, stronger me.
I started stating intentions of physical health and strength, even though I did not believe them at first. This went beyond the pain, as I also needed to change my negative focus in all areas of my life, including my current living situation.
I strived to stop dwelling on the past and looked for things to be grateful for. I began to appreciate the little things about my new home, like a beautiful path through the woods directly behind my lot.
Once I believed I was ready to heal, all of the resources I needed showed up for me.
- I was referred to an outstanding Pilates instructor and Personal Trainer who specialized in corrective exercise and changed my life.
- Instead of using finances as an excuse, I realized that even though the family budget was tight, I was worth spending the money required to improve my health. I made the decision to cut back in other areas to prioritize hiring the help I needed to strengthen my body.
- Not only was my instructor on board with my new personal beliefs about mind over matter, he referred me to many more spiritual and inspirational sources, that I was more than ready to delve into.
- My trainer was also the source of many referrals to other professionals that were key in my recovery—an incredible nutritionist, a neurologic chiropractor, and a massage therapist.
- I was inspired to meditate and try acupuncture, both highly beneficial in relieving my stress, pain, and inflammation.
The combination of these resources was the exact prescription I needed to overcome my physical pain and regain control of my life.
It didn’t take long after I decided to exercise my personal power that my half-hearted intentions transformed into hope, and eventually, strong beliefs.
As I experienced small improvements in the gym, I held on to them so tightly that they became huge successes in my mind. This attitude also helped me to stay focused when I had set backs with pain.
Keeping your mind straight, when it loves to go crooked, takes practice. When the pain returned, I used to think, “Here we go again! I knew this would happen!”
But I saw that my mind exercises were paying off when that changed to, “Oh, I remember this. Look at how far I have come! I am grateful my body recovers and will feel better by tomorrow!”
And it always, always does.
Focusing on what was important required me to let go of my need to be perfect.
I started by leaving the house in the morning with unmade beds and a few breakfast dishes still in the sink. Now, my house is not perfect and sometimes we have burgers for dinner, without the buns.
I have prioritized spending time on myself which makes me happier and allows me to be more present as a mother, friend, and neighbor. Giving someone a smile, unexpected gift, or uplifting text is far more fulfilling to me than chairing a committee.
And a spontaneous dance session in the kitchen with the kids might make us late for swim lessons, but we laugh a lot more.
Then one day, as I was bounding up the gym stairs for a training session it hit me—I was pain free. Not only that, but I was happy and my true personality had come back. It had been hidden so long under the doubt, sarcasm, sadness, and anger of chronic pain that I believe I forgot who I truly was.
The comfort of being me now over-rides any physical pain or limitation, in all areas of my life.
Chronic pain is just one mountain to climb. There are so many others.
When you find you are not ascending toward your goals, perhaps looking at your beliefs is the first step to positive change. There is no doubt in my mind that it was for me. Changing your beliefs has the ability to carry you upward, far beyond the summit.
Photo by dari mcmanus