When too much becomes too much

As you may know, I’ve been experiencing an ongoing battle with a chronic pain condition that started about eight or nine years ago, shortly after I arrived in Canada. As a sixteen year old child, healthcare practitioners didn’t take my complaints of being unable to sit for extended periods without constant pain along the entire right side of my back seriously, but encouraged me to come back and get cracked, adjusted, or whatever it may be. I stopped going for treatment several years ago because nothing was working; I became discouraged, poor from not having healthcare benefits, and resigned myself to having to live with it. A couple of years ago I had an accident resulting in a compression injury to my upper back and being couch-bound with the latest in conical fashions stylishly wrapping my neck. The injury exacerbated the ongoing pain, and for the last year and a half since, I’ve been in constant pain extending from my right shoulder to my right hip, along the entire stretch of the right hand side of my spine. It doesn’t stop. I have a heating pad strapped to my office chair and often take breaks to stretch because it gets too bad to be able to sit for the whole day. I get home and find I can’t even sit upright on the sofa, watching TV with Sweet, because it hurts too much. The only time I’m without pain is when I’m
lying on my back, face up. I can’t exercise, go dancing, or go bowling. The temperature’s dropping and I’m finding it increasingly more painful to walk home at night.

Six months ago, I finally qualified for some benefits through work. At last! Horribly overpriced benefits, but mandatory benefits, so I intended to take full advantage and try and get this thing sorted out. I went to physiotherapists, massage therapists, a chiropractor several times a week, an acupuncturist, my family doctor, an ergonomist and today a doctor in sports medicine. I was even a “case study” for ten weeks for a student at the massage therapy college. A common conclusion from several of these people: myofascitis, or myofascial pain syndrome. Huh? The symptoms fit the definition of fibromyalgia, but a determining factor in that is that the symptoms are in all four quadrants of the body. Mine’s all packed into one. So the condition was explained.

The “fascia” encases all the muscles in the body, allowing them to move together, maintaining structure and acting as a shock absorber. It’s a dense connective tissue that interpenetrates all muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels from head to toe, and in my case, has become so tight around all the muscles on the right side of my back that they are held continuously in spasm, unable to relax. This accounts for the pain being there ALL the time.

Every treatment I’ve had has done nothing. I’m 24 years old – “young people don’t HAVE these sorts of back problems”, I’m told. I’ve been sent for X-rays, blood tests, you name it, but each practitioner starts from scratch and none of them communicate with each other. Apparently “every trigger point is active”, making it difficult to withstand any pressure – massages are excruciating. Today I went to a sports medicine clinic armed with the advice of an ergonomist, who’d told me if anyone would understand it, it would be a doctor in sports medicine. Long story short, I came back from the appointment, arrived at work, and promptly burst into tears. It was the same thing I’d experienced everywhere else. Unnecessary x-rays, stretches, and a referral somewhere else.

What do you do when everything you’ve tried has failed? When you’re experiencing something so apparently uncommon that nobody knows what to do, and passes you off to somebody else?

I talked to a coworker I’m close with, who had some encouraging advice. I don’t make a habit of writing about my spiritual/religious experiences as it is something that is relatively new to me, but a lot has happened to me in the last few months that has no other explanation. A year ago I was a wreck; nervous, self-conscious, no self esteem and forever plagued by the thought of what other people must be thinking about me.  Sweet came into my life, I got a wonderful job, and everything started me on a journey that’s led me to where I am today.  I’ve read books, prayed with coworkers, had highly spiritual experiences and been part of what can only be described as miracles.  I’ve learned that I wasn’t put here to doubt myself, worry about what other people think, or be anything less than the good person I want to be.  I’ve learned to unload my anxieties and keep praying, and I’m sitting here having done presentations to other reps in the field, developing a curriculum and my very own class scheduled to start at the end of the month.  I never would’ve thought it possible before I learned all I have.  I kept trying to solve my issues myself, and failing.  When I put my trust and faith in God, I grew.  My coworker instantly posed the question to me: what if that’s what I need to be free from this pain? I’ve spent years trying to solve it myself, seeing different therapists and doctors and healers with absolutely no results.  What if I need to do with my pain what I did with my anxiety? She said her church had a “Healing Prayer” every so often, and had personal experience with debilitating pain being instantly cured as a result.  She said she’d go with me if I was willing to give it a try.  “No more tears, Grasshopper” she told me.  And it just so happens there’s one this weekend.

So, this Saturday night I’ll be experiencing something very new to me.  I’m putting my faith in what she’s told me and hoping for healing.  I never thought I’d overcome my fear of public speaking, and I’m amazed every day at what’s happened.  Maybe this is what I need to do.  How incredible would it be, to be able to tell that story, and be free to live life properly again?


How sweet the sound

It’s been over a month since I last wrote; far from lack of stories to tell, moreso being swept up in them!

I spent the last couple of days of this week at our annual company retreat.  I say annual because they’ve been doing it for the last eight or nine years, but this was definitely my first one and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  We were given a sheet of paper about a week before we left, saying “my dream is to…” followed by a big empty space.  We were instructed to dream big, really big, something bigger than we could achieve on our own.  And then came the retreat.  It started off hilariously – every car was a different team on the “Amazing Race” to Cedarwood Camp out by Lac-du-Bonnet.  We received a series of envelopes with about 5 tasks to complete in each set of 20 minutes, ranging from taking a team picture with blue tongues, to pumping gas for a complete stranger, to having a picture with real policemen, to finding the closest 70-year-old and posing with them and their ID.  It was a frantic, wonderful morning full of adventure, coffee and running around, and we finally arrived at Cedarwood… about an hour and a half later than everybody else, thanks to the quiz we got so focused on in the car that we missed our turning! The next few days were filled with an interactive lecture from John C. Maxwell, an accompanying study guide to his latest book, Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions that Will Help You See It and Seize It – something that caused a great deal of personal reflection, analysis, encouragement and tears.  Not a lot of things have changed my life, but I can safely say I was moved so incredibly much by these two days (including a very personal spiritual experience in a devotional led by our boss) that I came home with a new sense of purpose, and a new drive, determination, and most importantly belief that I really am on my way to achieving my dream.

I realised this weekend that everything and everyone I hold dear in my life today have come back to me within the last year or so; people have been placed along my path to help guide me along my way from where I started, lost and so scared, to where I want to be; confident, unafraid and able to help and inspire other people.

I’m in a really good place right now, and I want to thank those people in my life that have helped get me here, and I can’t wait to put everything I learned into practice, and see where I go from here.


This is your life (are you who you want to be?)

As this week comes to a close, I find myself with a compulsion to write about it. I feel as though this entire week has been satiated with sign after sign of things really and truly changing for the better. I’ve had such difficulty in recent months with finding my place, believing in myself, pushing myself forward and I’ve spent much of the time writing and dreaming about how things will be different one day… and I truly feel this week has been the turning point.

I was supposed to start a second job. I went for the interview and was offered the position on the spot, with training to commence the following week. This, however, was a month ago – the training was postponed until this upcoming week, and yesterday I had another call saying they’d hit a work shortage, and would have to put the training on hold indefinitely. I’d been pondering the effects of having to work 13 hour days and how it was going to affect my everyday performance, health, and general well-being, and lo and behold, I get a call telling me I don’t need to be there. Again. Hard not to see it as a case of question asked, question answered. I’ve asked Sweet to help me budget, and with summer days looking ever more scarce, I think I’ll be doing a whole lot more staying in anyway, so hopefully I’ll not need that second job after all.

Another issue: my constant, paralysing fear of speaking in front of people. In meetings, in classrooms, anywhere. I’ll psych myself up so badly that by the time my turn to talk rolls around, my voice has been overpowered by a thundering heartbeat and trembling limbs. But interestingly, this week I had opportunity after opportunity thrown at me to overcome this. I got offered a photoshoot gig for a New York clothing line, with a proper photography company, selling real stuff. I was terrified – standing in front of a camera, having to be good enough to sell product, never having taken coaching or anything of the sort. Why did they want me? I was the short girl whose missing inches spoke louder to agencies than she ever could. I was the girl with the unruly hair, the small chest and big hips. The girl five years older than 90% of her competition. Why did they want me? Still, it was a chance to go in there, wear beautiful things, get pampered a bit and spend an evening in the ever-elegant Fort Garry Hotel. And it went amazingly! So wonderfully so that I was informed excitedly the next day that I “looked like I’d just walked off the cover of a high fashion magazine”, and they wanted to book me – and pay me – for the next two weekends. To be in a fantasy “women with weapons” calendar to be sold across the states, and to sell an enormous, beautiful black gothic wedding dress. I’m incredibly pumped, but my self-doubts are finding it hard to keep it up with things like this happening. Maybe I’m not as awkward and unappealing as I’d always thought.

The third sign came in the form of a project I’m helping organise at work. Over the last month, I’ve arranged scheduling and worked with a film crew for a couple of documentaries we’re doing. I’m fine being creative and setting things up from behind the scenes, but on Tuesday they hit me with a proposal. They wanted me to be the voice to narrate the entire finished product. This meant speaking, and being very good at speaking, for 50 people a week to hear my voice promote our services. I was given the (extensively long 12 page) script, sat in front of a microphone with two media guys and their camera equipment, and told to go. I was terrified. My whole life, I’ve allowed my nerves to get the better of me. Always speaking too quickly and too quietly (and in an accent, too) for people to be able to understand. So when they told me to slow down after my first read-through, I went into panic mode. My skills were being tested and I was failing miserably, just like I always had. I went upstairs to grab some water, promptly burst into tears and sent one of my coworkers to do it for me. I proceeded to go home and beat myself up about how stupid I was, what a bad impression I made, etc… and then went back to work the next day. Where I was told they’d called and said they wanted me to try again. They said I had the voice that was “perfect” for this, and sent me a big long supportive email empathising with my anxiety. As I was talking with my boss, a student walked by with his young son, and informed us that the “only reason he brings the boy is because he likes her voice”. It was pretty hard to ignore all the signs around me pointing to the idea that maybe I could do this after all. So the owner came down, set me up in a little room, and we did a read through. It was fine; encouraging, supportive, and he even asked me to read a script for another video they were doing – and to be an “on file” voice for their company.

This was ridiculous. I’ve had a week of facing my fears… and being shown very loudly and very clearly just how unfounded they really are. I can’t express my amazement at how I’ve just been shown that my thoughts aren’t reality… and the support of everyone surrounding me has just blown me away. The inside voice that’s always told me I can’t do it has finally been silenced. I’m ending this week on a total high, and ready, really ready, to face whatever comes up.

Next week I’ve even volunteered to facilitate a weekly workshop. The girl of 2 months ago would’ve cut a hole in the ground and thrown herself hard into it at the very thought. As Switchfoot put it, this is your life. And if I can pull this one off, I think I’m well on my way to being who I really want to be.