I’ve been stuck – both literally and figuratively – for a couple weeks now. It started with the ginormous blizzard that kept me inside for three days, and kept me from walking around for over a week thanks to icy conditions, cold temperatures, and blocked sidewalks.
I’m effing done with winter already. Winter is like family now – you know, the family you only want to visit once or twice a year because they drive you crazy and make your back hurt from all the stress of putting up with them.
I went into full-on hibernation mode. The world was covered in a white blanket, so why shouldn’t I be as well? Not surprisingly, my back muscles didn’t care for the inactivity. But I was still…ok. Then February rolled around, and I happily launched the 10,000 Crunches challenge. The next day I saw my physical therapist and he almost went into a conniption fit when I told him I was doing crunches.
So crunches are terrible for your back. I left PT, my mind swirling with flashbacks to all of the crunches I’ve done over the years: 50 every single morning before crew practice. The crunch-like motion of rowing. Crunches I would do during commercial breaks when we all got together to watch “Friends”. All of those workout DVDs with ab-focused sessions with crunch after crunch after crunch.
The mind-swirl soon plummeted into complete self loathing. How could I do that to myself? Who knew how much damage I added on to an already delicate situation thanks to my ignorance? Less than twenty minutes before, I had been completely sure that crunches were a great way to tone your abs.
What else was I completely wrong about?
So I stopped moving. Not intentionally, but the fear of doing the “wrong” thing outweighed common sense: that your body is most comfortable when you…well…use it. If I was in full-on hibernation mode before, now I was subconsciously playing the part of a cryogenically-frozen millionaire stored in a warehouse somewhere waiting for science to perfect reanimation.
Needless to say, my pain went up. Pain every day. A nagging, lingering, pulsing pain. Not so much that I couldn’t function, but it reminded me it was there often enough throughout the day. I knew I had to do something about it. My PT knew I needed to do something about it.
He counseled me that I have to do “whatever works”. For me, that’s usually a combination of Advil, tramadol, and movement. But I was completely resistant to taking tramadol every day. I don’t even like taking Advil every day. When I searched my mind for why I had such a strong dislike for it, the truth came crashing in on me:
I don’t want to turn into my mother and sister.
My mom and sister are both completely dependent on medicine. Pill after pill after pill line their handbags and countertops. They are also both not mentally well – classic co-dependents who will self-destruct before letting the ones they “love” get away or get better or do anything else to rock the boat. I don’t talk to or see either of them if I can help it; it’s too tempting to fall into the patterns of my childhood that I’ve worked so hard to break free from. It’s an entirely long and convoluted story that I am still reading and annotating as I understand it more clearly.
My heart has broken over and over again because of it. No one wants to say goodbye to their family.
My ultimate fear – the fear that I’m realizing is at the root of most of my unhealthy behaviors – is the fear that I will not, in fact, be able to break the cycle. That taking tramadol every day is proof that I am weak and a step down the slippery slope of fulfilling a destiny I don’t want to acknowledge. That my chronic back pain – have I mentioned that they both had back surgery, within a year of each other, on the same faulty discs that plague me? – is just another indication that there’s no hope for me to escape.
My need to control is based on my need to get away. To break out. To be better than. To think (and think and think and paralyze myself with thinking) my way around it. It’s an obsession. And it’s killing me. Because you can’t really control much in life, can you? And when you try to control it, it ends up controlling you. You end up caught in a trap of your own design.
That’s no way to live.
My PT reminds me almost every time I see him: I’m not my mother. I’m not my sister. I’m Me. I’m not my past. I’m not my future. I’m Now.
If I need a tramadol every day in order to get me in a position to get better, then so be it. Because the fact that I am even trying to improve means I have already broken free. Making peace with myself is more important than ever. Being kind to myself is more important than ever. Trusting not only myself, but – here’s the rub – others. Knowing that not knowing is ok.