Today I want to talk about something I haven’t mentioned on this blog. In fact, I rarely mention this in real life, either. But I have a feeling I’m not the only one with this problem–and I think it will do some good to finally speak about it openly.
Years ago, I started noticing I was in significant physical pain when I used the computer for more than a few hours at a time. I used to spend 10+ hours a day in front of a computer. Figuring it was probably just time I invested in some better chairs, I bought myself an Aeron chair (and later, a better desk.)
Except the pain didn’t stop. If anything, it got worse.
I took more action. I started seeing a chiropractor. Later, I would add a weekly massage to my list. Today, I don’t do the weekly massage (actually, upon writing this, I realize I should probably add that back in!) but I do see a personal trainer three times a week to do workouts that stretch and build muscles I barely knew I had.
If there’s one thing that is a constant in my life, though, it’s pain.
That’s what makes me indescribably angry. I was raised to believe I could do anything I set my mind to. My mental faculties are strong–I get upset with my body when it doesn’t work like it’s “supposed to”–“supposed to”, meaning, of course, spending hours in front of a computer. (I am slowly starting to understand that that is definitely not what our bodies are “supposed to” be doing all day.)
After long talks with chiropractors, physical therapists, personal trainers, and massage therapists, there’s no real conclusion as to why this happened. My own theory: In high school, and growing up, I was ashamed of my body.
I was happy to show off my intellect, but scared of being treated like an “object”, so to this day I wear virtually no makeup and don’t like dressing up in anything that would show off my body. That same reflex caused me to slouch, as I was overly wary of “showing anything off” or being looked at by boys.
The slouching–that’s what I think caused this issue. It actually caused most of my muscles to develop in strange ways. I went to a myopractor recently, and he said, “Well, you’re an interesting case.” “Interesting” in this case meaning “messed up.” My hips were so far off that it basically seemed like one of my legs was longer than the other. And my neck bones were so out of place that I actually had one set of overdeveloped muscles, on one side, and one set of underdeveloped muscles on the other side of the bone.
“This stuff has been here for years,” he told me. Then he touched my left shoulder–like you would do if you’re tapping someone on the shoulder–and I screamed in pain. “Whoa,” he said. “That’s not right.”
He rotated my arm, with me fighting back tears and biting my lip as I tried to do anything to get my mind off the pain. He touched underneath my armpit and that set me off again in a red delirium of pain.
He reset my shoulder bones as he asked “How long has your shoulder been like this?”
“I don’t know,” was all I could manage. “My entire adult life.”
Pain and Anger
I live through pain every day, but it was only recently that I finally realized that most people don’t go through what I go through…that my pain level is several notches more intense than average. That what most people go through when they have an injury is what I go through on a daily basis.
It’s not something I’ve had an easy time accepting. It makes me angry when pain keeps me away from doing something I want to do. My pain level is, fortunately, matched by my determination level. Right now, for instance, I’m working through the same left shoulder pain I described above as I write this, and I can feel that I have a rib out of place. But I’m still here–writing–because I feel that getting this out there is more important than dealing with the pain. (As soon as I’m done writing this, I’ll go home and lie down on an ice pack for the next few hours.)
I recently had the realization that I had to stop fighting the pain–that fighting it was just making it worse. Being at war with the pain was just making me angry–and angry me meant more tense muscles.
The Most Difficult Lesson
Instead, I’ve had to learn probably the most difficult lesson of my life: Acceptance.
Every part of my body–both physical and mental–does not want to accept that I am in pain. It does not want to accept, in particular, that I am in chronic pain. “I can do anything!” it says. In fact, it’s difficult to even write these words, but I know now: Acceptance of a difficult situation is the only way you can get through it. You have to accept it, and see it for what it is, before you can begin finding your way out.
For me, acceptance is the first step in a journey of figuring out not only why I am this way, but how to get through it. It will involve detangling many emotional “knots”, and admitting that I can’t do everything. That I am stuck in this human body that doesn’t always like to cooperate with my dreams of being among the stars.
But then I look back at what I’ve already accomplished, and I am amazed. I draw strength from that. I didn’t make perfect decisions in my last business. In fact, one could argue that I sacrificed a lot of my physical and emotional health in building my last company.
And that makes me more determined than ever to not do that this time around. I see so many people slouched over laptops, and I just want to go over to them and say “Don’t do that! You’ll end up like I did!” But that is their journey, not mine, and I have to focus on myself. (Another lesson I’ve neglected for far too long.)
So, I can only work 4 hours a day or so. (Sometimes less, sometimes more.) I can’t hit every party (even though my brain is screaming “YES YOU CAN” right now–my body doesn’t always cooperate.) Sometimes I just have to just lie on the floor with an ice pack for 20 or 30 minutes. Sometimes I can’t sleep because everything hurts so much, and I get exhausted and just cry it out.
But you know what? It’s been this way for years, and I’ve still managed to get so many things done in this short number of years I’ve lived so far. I have to stop fighting it. I have to show people my “weakness” and still prove to them that I can do anything. The first step is accepting myself for who I am.
So, here I am, world. An imperfect being. Maybe I can’t pull the hours others can. (I can’t spend more than an hour on a laptop in a coffee shop without being in agony.) Maybe I can’t hit every party, or write 34 blog posts a week. That doesn’t make me a bad person. I have goals, and I’m moving toward those. I’ve built an amazing support network, and I’m proud to say that everyone at Whoosh Traffic has become an amazing friend to me.
In short, perhaps I can do anything…and I just need to cut myself some slack. I’m not perfect. I’m just little ol’ imperfect “me”. But maybe that’s enough to still have a huge impact on the world.
Maybe that’s just perfect–in its own way.
(I can feel the anger slowly fading away.)
- Hitting the jackpot doesn’t mean instantly becoming happy. I wrote this post in late 2007, after I sold my business. It’s when I first started to realize that selling my business wasn’t an instant panacea.
- What Money Can’t Fix. “You can hire the housekeeper, but you’re not fixing the underlying issue. It doesn’t fix the workaholism or the need to prove yourself…”
- They’re All Going To Laugh At You. “They will leave anonymous comments on the Internet about how awful your company is, and, by extension, how awful you must be as a person.” What do you do when it happens? Read this post for my solution.