This past weekend, I got to do something SO unbelievable that I’m still pinching myself.
I was a bridesmaid in my beautiful cousin Kate’s wedding…and…
I got to walk down the aisle.
You’re probably thinking, “um, duh, bridesmaids always walk down the aisle”.
What if I told you that for three full months this summer…I couldn’t walk. Period.
Yep. I couldn’t freaking walk.
Perhaps you recall that story about mom & my left butt pain? I thought my “butt feeling better” was the end of the story.
But it was just the beginning…
On April 20th, the morning after THIS pic… —>
…I woke up with a stiffness in my lower back.
By April 26th, I was hunched over and leaning to the right.
There were “pins and needles” down my left leg.
As each week went by, I kept thinking, “this is the last week. I’ll be all better soon.”
Those “pins and needles” turned into burning that kept me up all night.
It hurt to lie down, it hurt to stand, and hurt to sit up. I stopped working and just sat there watching TV in the fetal position for weeks.
By Memorial Day Weekend, while everyone else was barbecuing, I was borrowing my grandfather’s walker to get from the sofa to the bathroom.
Even though I was so uncomfortable, I kept hearing this voice “your body is meant to heal itself.”
From my training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, to Louise Hay to Deepak Chopra to Dr. John Sarno, I kept learning about how physical problems could be links to emotional issues…or repressed emotions.
Even though I hated feeling feelings, I journaled my ass off. I cried. I punched pillows. But no matter how many “emotions” I tried to let out, I was still in pain.
I felt like my body had betrayed me.
Finally, in June, I caved and swapped my homeopathic muscle relaxers for prescription anti-inflammatories and prednisone, got an MRI, and saw a neurosurgeon who thoroughly scared the crap out of me with talks of spinal injections, permanent loss of strength in my leg, and almost “certain” need for surgery.
My MRI showed a herniated disc that looked like a s’more…the disc was like the melted marshmallow that bulges out the back of the sandwich after you take the first bite. Yikes.
As I stepped out of the neurosurgeon’s office I ignored his advice to schedule an injection and thought, “see you never.”
“My body can heal…my body can heal…it’s what it’s supposed to do”, is what I kept telling myself in between freak outs.
A Wee Bit of Progress
With a wonderfully patient physical therapist and a few weeks of prednisone I made gradual but slow progress. I still couldn’t walk or stand up straight but began sleeping through the night. Phew!
Then, the progress halted. I felt weaker.
My doctor started regretting letting me try this whole “patience” thing and thought I should have had surgery like, yesterday. A second opinion proved the same.
I was terrified. While I know some people who are grateful for their back surgery, I heard countless stories of people who get it and end up in the same exact place in a few years.
I did not want a knife near my back, but was starting to accept I had no other choice.
BUT THEN, something happened…
Two weeks later, at the end of July, I started standing up straight.
By August, I was dead-lifting kettlebells.
I was talking long walks with Peter after work.
At the end of August I got back on that spinning bike with my mom and finally sweat my buns off without pain.
And on September 28th, not only did I make it all the way down the aisle at Kate’s wedding…I shook my ass on the dance floor.
The very same dance floor where this all began in April.
How Did This Happen?
I’m still healing, so I’m sure I will continue to learn more as I go.
But, I’m clear that three major things helped me get from “can’t grab just a coconut water at Whole Foods without using the shopping cart as a walker” to shaking my ass on the dance floor in less than 2 months…without needing surgery.
1. LISTEN TO YOUR GUT
Throughout the entire process, I kept hearing my intuition say “your body should know how to heal itself.”
Even when the docs said I need surgery lickety split, even when everybody recommended injections, even when I’d be unable to sleep for days…
I kept hearing it. So I kept waiting.
Ask for Help
When my progress slowed, I also kept hearing the voice say, “reach out for help”.
I knew people in my network had access to wonderful practitioners who believed in the same “healing magic” that I was trying to believe in.
It turns out I hate asking for help. It feels so damn vulnerable.
But the voice kept telling me I should reach out to certain people.
Finally, after weeks of thinking “oh no they’re too busy, I don’t want to sound pathetic”, I asked three people for help. One of them ended up recommending the practitioner who completely changed the game for me.
It was a chiropractor who, after examining me, assured me that it was absolutely possible to heal myself without surgery.
Within 24 hours of hearing this, I was moving a little bit better.
Within two weeks, I was finally able to stand up straight and walk normally!
It’s amazing how much of an impact fear has on our bodies. Thank god I got over myself and asked for help.
Which leads me to this reminder…
Your doctor is not god.
Let me be clear, I SO appreciate my doctors for everything they have done. I know their advice and care was given with nothing but my best interest at heart.
But like my friend Jess reminded me, “your doctors are still limited in their expertise.”
Or, as my little pixie body-talk practitioner Laura Hames Franklin put it in this video she made for me, “your doctor is not trained in miracles.”
This inspired me to do my little stretches and remain patient, despite all the scary stories.
So, if you get some professional advice that makes you feel uncomfortable, do yourself the favor of listening to your gut and getting a few more opinions before you move ahead.
2. SLOW DOWN
I realized that leading up to my injury, I had been putting a LOT of pressure on myself. Doing crazy things like checking email before I even get out of bed or staying up super late to meet unreasonable self-imposed deadlines.
The week I hurt my back, I had three major events happen within five days and I didn’t build in any recovery time.
But when my pain was so bad that I couldn’t get up or sleep, I decided to forget about my business – ignored email, took a few weeks off from writing my newsletter, put a product launch on hold, etc. And the craziest thing happened — I had more money come in that month than any other month so far that year.
Hmmm. I’ll take that message.
So take a breath, rest, surround yourself with laughter, and weed out everything that isn’t 100% necessary. You’ll be surprised at how many things DON’T matter.
Next week in Part II, I’ll share the third and MOST important part of my healing. The one thing I had to do before my body got better.
How About You?
If you have a friend or family member who is struggling with an injury, please forward them this post if you think it will help.
If you healed or are working on healing yourself through a tough injury or illness, I’d love to hear about your experience and what you learned in the comments below.