Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I've figured out...

... what's been eating away at me through these last few days of physical therapy: the fear that I will never again be able to relax in my own body.

The adjustments that Beatriz asks me to make while she is watching me are often so infintisimal as to be virtually imperceptible to the untrained eye. Certainly, they are not movements or adjustments that you learn how to make in the course of every day life and, therefore, come naturally (you know, pull L3 and L4 forward and rotate inward - see previous post.)

Further, the adjustments are for EVERYTHING and they're for virtually EVERYWHERE. (I'm reminded of the song Daisy sings at school "Clean up! Clean up! Everybody clean up! Everything! Everywhere!")

All of this is one thing when I have the trained eye of Beatriz on me but quite something else when I'm on my own trying to figure out if I am making all the appropriate adjustments with every movement.

Tonight I went for a walk down University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto, the main drag for restaurants and stores. My goal was to eat at a middle eastern restaurant and then cruise the stores for some retail therapy. Of course, I was practicing my new postures for walking, standing, and sitting.


Both mentally and physically. I gained new pains/issues: my toes started cramping at one point, my left knee felt stiff and sore (new - usual pains were/are in my right - that's catching too, don't worry), and my left buttock started complaining. I have been told to adjust my pelvis, laterally left slightly, dropping my hip on the right side, relax my knees, align my feet forward, ground my big toe, stretch out all my other toes, and lean back a good 10-20 degrees from L3 and L4 only, basically trying to mimic the post below (except without my shoulders being back - I need to relax/round my upper back to avoid popping my ribs but, at the same time, push my right shoulder back.) Confused yet?

It's not comfortable, it doesn't feel natural, and I get tired very quickly. Further, I feel like, in trying to maintain, I'm frequently over-correcting and causing other issues.

Ditto issues with sitting except a lot of that is the result of the fact that I don't have a 19 degree foam pillow that I'm supposed to cart around with me to put on every seat I put my derriere on (no, I'm not kidding.)

Let's not even mention the mental space this occupies. 

I was doing all of this on my own, without chatting to a friend or dealing with a 3 year old. I can't imagine trying to carry on a conversation, let alone herding a toddler at the same time as constantly mentally scanning my body.

And this is only the beginning. 

It seems like every time I even breathe in Beatriz's presence, it prompts a new adjustment. The left side of my face is tight, apparently I'm grimacing on one side only and my eye won't open enough on the left (I sound like a stroke victim). When I think, I smile a little on that side and look up. I can't do either of those any more (even though they are somewhat unconscious... or at least they were: not any more.) So, there are the myofascial releases for my eyes, my forehead, and the left side of my face.

When gripping a bar during an exercise, Beatriz noticed that my left thumb's dorsal flexor is weak and so now there are the exercises for the left thumb with a pencil. To add to the myofascial release for my hands (because they're tight too) and the stretches for my other fingers (because they don't have the right range of motion.)

Take that level of small adjustment for every single limb and digit in my body and then you may be able to imagine how it has been for the past 3 days.

And let's not even MENTION the soul-destroying task of doing all exercises in a bra and tight shorts, while being videotaped and photographed, while Beatriz points out the folds of my skin, my slack muscle tone, and how I probably need to continue to lose weight.

Oh and let's not forget that my A-type personality is not appreciated in this new world. I move too fast. I talk too fast. I don't use the right "soothing, positive' words.

Hell, I am so tired of trying to remember how to behave on the cellular level that it's just one thing too many to have to make a personality 180 at the same time.

Maybe some folks can do it. Maybe I'll get there in the end. I don't know. I'm just sick of the hypervigilance and being picked apart.

What I wanted more than anything else when I walked out of that woman's house today, was to lay down on a bed and just sleep for the rest of my life. Of course, even that has to be carefully choreographed these days: pillows at certain angles, towel under left lumber at L3-4, towel under right thoracic and T5-6, right arm up but shoulder down, left knee straight at 10 degree angle away from body, right knee bent. 

Oh and don't WHATEVER YOU DO suddenly decide to get out of bed. No, no, no. Take your time. Go slowly. Move with conscious effort, one vertabrae at a time....

I'm done, I can't even continue. Just writing it makes me mad/frustrated/hopeless...

It may be what I need to do but I have no idea how I'm ever going to do it all.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The endless quest for the "end of the rainbow" part... oh whatever

(Yeah, it's yet another one of those posts. You know, about my pain, the non-refundable lemon that is my body.)

For those of you who are Facebook friends (which is probably all of you who are reading this) you'll probably have gathered by now that, although it's Monday, I am not slaving away at my day job in Sacraghetto but, in fact, in Palo Alto.

Why am I here? Oy... honestly, if it wasn't for the fact that so many of you have asked, I'd not be posting this because really I don't know where to start.

Hopefully by now you're up-to-date with where we left off on my journey to rid myself from life-altering pain, discomfort, and a succession of seemingly unrelated injuries. If not, I recommend you do some historical reading on this blog for posts tagged with "pain", otherwise this post might be out-of-context for you.

Where I left off was with a sense of hopefulness after forking out $5k to a local chiropractor who was deploying a broad variety of therapies on me to try and fix my multitude of pain and functional issues - including some brain-based therapies to target what had become the black hole of my mind: forgetfulness, mental fog, depression, poor balance, and poor reactions. I had experienced some relief and things looked to be going in the right direction.

Yeah, well, my body decided it didn't like that direction after all and did a firm 180, right back to square one. Memorial Day weekend, I spent most of my time laying flat on my back, unable to so much as even sit up straight because of the pain, tightness and pressure in my neck, shoulders and upper back. It literally felt as though my body didn't want to hold my neck up any more.

And, although I know we all have bad days, the reality is that, when I go through these episodes they last weeks or months, not days, with no real relief inbetween. Knowing that, I'm not ashamed to say that my mental/emotional health sort of collapsed on me again that weekend. I was angry/sad/heartbroken/frustrated. I just didn't want to go through the process of recovering again, I just wanted to opt out. I was (am) so mentally, emotionally, and physically tired of it all.  Not just the pain but the chiropractor visits but the new diet; the constant vigilance over every movement my body makes; the inability to get my body strong without hurting myself; watching the clock until I could lay down at bedtime; realizing I was being a emotionally unavailable wife, mother, and daughter and not having the energy left to do anything about it. (And that's only the tip of the iceberg.) I was so tired of freaking FAILING at this. Failing at being a mother. Failing at being a wife. Failing at existing.  (And I don't want any shit about how it's not "failing" This is my emotion. It doesn't have to be right or rational.)  I wished there was a plane I could get on to escape my own life, my own body.

After a few days of feeling thoroughly sorry for myself (obviously), I took a deep breath and did what every good, internet-obsessed, 21st century woman does: I started Googling.

A week or so before, I had taken my x-rays from my chiropractor to my new/old primary care physician. Remember, I quit the last PCP after he told me to take some NSAIDs for my "little pains here and there"? Anyway, I went back to my old doc whose bedside manner I loved but who is in a terrible medical group. She looked at my x-rays and confirmed I have Scoliosis. Finally an official confirmation of what I suspected. But when I asked her what to do about it, she basically said I was born this way and there was not much I could do. All of which is bullshit of course because, if I was born this way then one would have imagined that I would have been in this much pain all my life - which I haven't - and then there is the inconvenient fact that my pelvis (which is now rotated and off-kilter) actually x-rayed as level back in 2008 before my hip surgery. Anyway, the point of this is that I finally Googled "scoliosis treatment".

Which led me here - http://www.schrothmethod.com/ - and to learning about the Schroth method of physical therapy, which is designed specifically to treat scoliosis sufferers.

Not wanting to purchase a voluminous book without really understanding what that was all about, I emailed the publisher to see if he/she knew of anyone in Sacraghetto that was qualified in this type of PT. Of course, since there are only a handful of Schroth qualified physical therapists in the U.S. (incidentally a heck of a lot more in Europe) and there was not one in Sac (grrr on the whole b-market frustrations again). However, the publisher said that he, personally, had scoliosis and had been treated by a lady in Palo Alto who "cured" him with one set of sessions.

Dubious about the whole "cure thing" (I mean, hell, your spine is curved, that sounds like a tall order for anyone) I emailed Beatriz Torres (http://www.scoliosispt.net/) of Palo Alto and she responded within minutes. $2k, 4 days, 20 hours, to teach me how to manage my scoliosis and reduce my pain. It's an indication of how desperate I was that I agreed on-the-spot, took the last 4 days on her calendar, and arranged time off work to be there - no questions asked.

Hence, why I am here in Palo Alto.

I just finished day 2 of treatment and I don't know how to summarize, to be honest. It is just... so much. It's overwhelming how much is out-of-whack in my body. From LITERALLY the tips of my fingers to the tips of my toes and everything inbetween. And I mean everything. I am even learning to massage the fascia of my face because, apparently the left side of my face is tight and grimacing while my lower jaw is moving to the left.

I'm re-learning to sit, to stand, to walk, to write, to drive, to sleep, to breath... to just... be. It's exhausting. Not because it's physically hard work, not like a heavy workout or something (which would be welcome), but it's mentally frustrating and exhausting to retrain your body to do basic things. And then to realize that this is not just something you do for a few hours a day, this is now your life.

To give you some indication of how alien and hard some of the things are that I'm being asked to do, I give you this example:

Try to move the left side only of your lumbar region - L1 through L3 - forward. Without moving anything else - your shoulders, your hips, your head... NOTHING. Feel like a string is pulling the left side of your vertabrae toward the front of your body and rotating it a little inward. Now, if by some magic hand you've figured that part out, it's time to isolate your T6 and T7 vertabrae on the right side only and pull those forward and rotate slightly inward. But don't let your right shoulder roll forward, in fact, pull that back at the same time. Oh, and don't forget your pelvis, move it to the left a few degrees. Now lean back at L4, just L4 mind you, to create a curve in your spine. Wait! Wait! Don't let your sternum pop up. Relax that part but without anything else changing.

Yeah, right. Good luck with that.

I'm sure it all works but I just don't seem to be able to open up the brain or emotional space to embrace it all right now.

Plus, there's the fact that these treatments always come with these therapists who promote things like relaxation, meditation, slowing down, and all other kinds of woohoo-mojo. Why, in the name of God, can I not find an a-type personality who does this stuff? Being lectured about slowing down or meditating, only makes my heart accelerate and my stress increase. I. DON'T. WANT. TO. STAY. HOME. AND. EFFING. MEDITATE!!!!! Ok? I am already bored stiff with the ordinariness of my life. I am just craving something more. So, no, I don't want to take 15 minute naps throughout the day. I want to fix this body so I can live life. Not in a plastic bubble of "untroubled and peaceful serenity". I am not the Dalai Lama!!!! Bottom line: I already feel like I am "losing me" in all of this. And I liked me, I really did. What I need is to figure out how to be me with this body. What I don't need is the kind of advice that says "Don't take your daughter to the grocery store any more because of the stress on your back." Yeah, that's right, this is the level of guidance I'm being given: to get up at 6am so I can find the time to go grocery shopping alone. I. DON'T. WANT. TO. GO. GROCERY. SHOPPING. ALONE.

And let's not forget that I'm supposed to forego all other kinds of exercise: my beloved weight-training, pilates, yoga, biking... how the hell am I supposed to be fit?


Since I am learning to walk like a catwalk model (don't worry if the next time you see me, I appear to be auditioning for America's Next Top Model), my homework for tonight is to go to Victoria's Secret and observe the posture of the mannequins.

So, I'd better get on that.  Until tomorrow...
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