DON’T LET CHRONIC PAIN CRUSH YOUR PASSION: THE POWER OF CURIOSITY AND CHOICE
I feel very lucky to live in an era with such advanced medical technology. It has helped me in many ways overcome several health problems I have endured for which I have immense gratitude. I have also suffered many additional health problems from side effects of medicine. I’ve always believed the saying, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Don’t get me wrong, I worked as a nurse for many years and loved it. I don’t necessarily blame the system (although it has it’s downfalls). I blame my challenges on my approach as a consumer of health care. I ignored the voice inside me saying, “wait a minute...I’m not sure this is a sustainable way to treat the problem.” I didn’t think about how I wanted to approach these problems and what my goals and values were.
It’s easy to take a doctor’s suggestion as the only option because doctor’s should know best, but in fact, doctors are human too and they typically only have a few precious minutes with each patient. They don’t have the time to get to know you and your desires. They lay out the facts and treatments as they were taught in medical school. They are medical doctors after all, not yoga instructors or acupuncturists.
About four years ago I would wake up every morning at about 3 a.m. and start dry-heaving from excruciating heartburn as a result of taking high doses of ibuprofen. My digestion and immune system were not working well so I would be bloated all the time and get infections easily. I wasn’t enjoying life, I was merely surviving. I wanted my vitality back. I wanted to pursue my passions in life, but my body was deteriorating and letting me know it needed a different approach. I will always remember what Joshua Rosenthal, the founder of my nutrition school, once told us: “Health is not a goal, but a vehicle for living your dreams.” We want wellness because of how it makes us feel and what it allows us to do which is ultimately to share our most sacred talents with the world.
I was at a cross-roads. What I was doing was not working and I didn’t exactly know where to go. I started by listening to my body when something sparked my interest and began trying alternative therapies that felt in alignment with my values. This process eventually led me to enroll in a holistic health coach training program. I desired to help myself and hopefully in the future be able to inspire others by sharing my story. I have been helped not by having others tell me what I should do, but by observing those people who achieved the results that I wanted. I learned by watching others who walked their talk and really paying attention to how they lived their lives. I would like to share with you the aspects of healing that helped me achieve success and take back control over my body. Keep in mind, this is what worked for me and each person’s healing looks different. The most crucial thing is to develop an awareness and respectful relationship with your body. Getting mad and numbing will only delay your suffering. Trust me, I’ve gone this route many times and the effects of anger at yourself or others will only lead you down a path of self-destruction. Anyway, here’s what got me on my healing path:
If you don’t know what your passions are or have not yet thought much about your values, it may help to do a little exercise. As you go along with your daily routines, notice what sparks your interest and go with it. For me it was nutrition. We grew up growing our own food and my parents brought us up to value the natural world. I became very interested in nutrition becoming my medicine and took that a step further. I didn’t go on any crazy diet, but allowed myself to eat what I craved and once I started feeding myself better, my body wanted whole foods over the sugar and caffeine that got me through my first couple of years as a nurse. For you it may be something else. Maybe it’s acupuncture, massage, or physical therapy (all of which I have incorporated at some point in my journey). Move where your desire takes you and start researching more about that very topic. Maybe it could be a new hobby or mabye it could be your new career. I knew early on that the hospital environment was not for me so I made my new found interest my new career. Easy, no, scary, yes. Trust me, I had loans hanging over my head and a sense of failure to get over, but little by little, I accepted my new reality instead of fighting it.
FEED YOURSELF WELL: MIND, BODY, AND SOUL
When you numb one emotion, you numb them all. You can’t selectively numb, my friends. I fought this demon for years. It doesn’t work that way. If you numb anger or pain or shame, you numb happiness and joy as well. You start to slowly put that fire out inside your soul that is your very purpose for living. Yes, the pain goes way, but those medicines often work too well and we forget about what was ailing us in the first place and push our bodies to the extreme. Pain is a warning signal from the body. It’s trying to say, “Hey up there, you need to make a change because I can’t sustain this!” Pain is actually a healthy thing to feel. But it also sucks. It hurts. We want it to go away. Giving your body the proper nutrients is the first order. The majority of people in this country are starving for nutrients and you can’t heal without them. We were designed to eat a whole foods diet and whether you want to incorporate meat is totally up to you. We are a species who can survive with or without it. Our diet is highly individualized so what works for me may not work for you. That’s why it’s important to know how to communicate with your body. Yes, nutrition is important, but one of my frequent sayings is this: you can drink organic green smoothies all day, but if you’re unhappy or stressed, it won’t make a damn difference. Feed your soul-whatever that means to you. Maybe it’s meditation, religion, yoga, art, dance, and so on. Also, challenge your beliefs. What you believe about yourself may not even be true! It may be that you’ve accepted the story that everyone else has made up about you. Challenge it. Fake it til you make it, and don’t accept it just because. You are in control.
BE PATIENT AND EXPECT ROAD BLOCKS
Healing is a learning experience that never ends. If you have an injury from years ago your body has been compensating for a long time. Healing will take time and go through it’s ebbs and flows. Allow your body to accept the new things you are doing to it and give it time to adapt. I often get frustrated when I’m practicing a yoga pose that I don’t quite have the flexibility or strength to master yet. Even if I’ve been chipping away at it daily for months, I get upset if I get stuck. When this happens, I’ve learned to return to my curiosity. What is keeping me from moving forward? Where is the pain and could I be doing other stretches to support the area that needs it the most? This usually sends the anger out the door and I can attack the problem with kindness, not force. There are times when I need to take medication to improve my quality of life and that’s okay, but I’ve weaned it down to the lowest dose possible (which is about ten times less than what I was taking a few years ago). Accept that that may be your reality, but that if you’re doing all the right things most of the time, you probably won’t need much.
MOVE YOUR BODY
This has become my most favorite part. I learned that moving my body in all directions supports the bones, muscles, and soft tissues. If you are always doing constricting exercises, you are creating imbalance which can make the pain worse. Make stretching a part of your everyday activities. There are all different types of yoga. If you’ve tried a class and didn’t like it, give another one a try. I believe that finding the right fit can be so beneficial to anyone’s fitness routine. Yoga opens the body up in ways that no other type of movement does. You are also connecting your breath to movement which can help alleviate stress, anxiety, and you get more out of your workout. I grew up playing sports and the type of yoga I do now fills that void. I can no longer do some of the activities I loved to do, but it’s not the end of the world as I once thought it was.
In conclusion, I encourage all of you who struggle with pain, chronic or acute, to look at your options. Try them out. See what works for you. There is a better way to live even if your ailment is not going away anytime soon. I’d love to hear your story so feel free to comment above or give me a call at 570-317-2999. I’d also love to have you come in to check out our studio or sit down with me for a free 30-minute consultation. No obligations, no pressure.
Thanks for reading!
Shawn Clavelle earned her bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of Vermont. She earned her certification in Holistic Health Coaching from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Shawn’s vast clinical experience and knowledge of the healthcare system makes her proficient at helping others design their own treatment plan through structured goal setting and continuous evaluation of progress. Using a holistic approach with a focus on nutrition, she helps uncover the obstacles to good health and provides simple options for making better lifestyle choices.