Lessons from Two Herniated Discs
Over my family’s winter break two of my spine’s discs decided to step out of line. It’s either a genetic issue from my mother’s side of the family (according to my Aunt) or years of bad posture at a computer workstation or both. Whatever the cause, it was the suckiest thing that could happen halfway through my vacation with Bob, my daughter, and two adorable Goldendoodles. With our home in Memphis far from my mind… all I wanted was to relax, read fiction, shop, and pack on some pounds to shed after 2018 started.
Here are a few things I’ve learned from this painful condition:
- It’s okay to slow down – It’s challenging to move when your nerves are pinched, and the slightest shift sends shocks down an entire arm to a hand that is partially numb. That said, I still had work, family, and personal commitments to attend to during the weeks I battled with this pain. Guess how many duties I let drop? Two. Guess how many of those were non-elective? Zero. One was an aesthetics appointment, and the other was a party at a friend’s house. During my time of slow-down, I did not miss one meeting, one deadline, or one responsibility. It is possible for you to “do life” at a slower pace.
- Take breaks and move – Whether my Aunt is correct is immaterial. It’s unhealthy to be sedentary. If you have an office job, set reminders to move. Doctors recommend changing postures four times an hour to prevent injuries like the one I developed. Pay attention to ergonomics, and get fidgety. Forget the mean Catholic School nuns who would rap your knuckles with a ruler if you moved during Mass! Fidget away! Get up, shift, and make known your practices so when you need to stretch your legs in the middle of a long meeting folks know what you are doing.
- Say no. – That’s simple! …but not easy. It’s difficult to say no to people, but if you have limited abilities (which we all do regardless of our health!), you have limited capabilities. Say no. Do not let other people’s momentary issues become your priorities. If it’s their emergency, that’s too bad for them, but it does not have to be your problem. Do not own it. Let them own it. Do not make it your problem. They already own it.
Recently there was an issue in my office that in no way had anything to do with me; however, I am the senior member of staff; people look to me for answers. There were two helpless faces looking at me asking for
- Be sick – I do not mean pretend to be sick and play hooky. I mean that when you are sick or injured, take time off that is given to you in the case of illness or injury. Let yourself be sick. I’ve heard people say “I don’t have time to be sick.” Well, guess what, sweetheart? You might just be sick because you have worked and played and not given yourself a break, so your immune system is making you take one.
- Ask for help – With my injury, I was told: “Do not lift anything heavier than that bottle of water you’re holding.” It was a 16-ounce bottle. Confession: I don’t like needing help from other people. Confession addendum: I really hate asking for it. This was the biggest lesson of them all. It even hurt to pick up my tiny puppy who, yes, weighs more than a 16-ounce bottle of water, so no, I should not even know that it hurt to pick her up. The hard way, I learned that it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help, but a sign of strength to realize (and be able to admit) that you need help.
- Have a +1 – Whether it’s a buddy, a mentor, or a coach, during a time like this you need what a dear friend of mine from Louisville calls a “plus one.” This is the person who is going to shine the truth of your situation back to you and support you when you’re going through it all, and help keep your eyes on the prize. The plus one is that one person who you know is investing energy walking with you through the journey.
I hope that you gain something on behalf of my pain. As I type this, I am still experiencing pain even after a medical procedure to alleviate it. Though I’m not excited about needing help, it’s teaching me humility, patience and is expanding my practice of gratitude. There is beauty in all things; what is necessary is that we look for it.