A few years ago, I was frustrated, in pain, annoyed at the world and constantly ill. I had anxiety every day and barely slept. Breathing was something other people did – I didn’t have time to, and eating was a “grab whatever’s quickest and taste none of it” experience. I lived in London and blamed public transport, my job, pollution, not having enough money, everything but the state of my health for my suffering. I cared more about the quality of the shoes I put on my feet than the quality of the feet I shoved into my shoes and my abdominals were just something that got in the way of an otherwise lovely wrap dress.
I’d trudge from train station to work, jaw tight, shoulders hiked, “I hate my job, I hate my job,” playing a continual loop in my head. I didn’t dare ask, “Why don’t you quit? Why don’t you make a change?” Because whilst I wasn’t enjoying my poor health, I was used to it and change is a big, scary thing. What if I tried to change, but failed? What if I tried to change and didn’t feel any better? What if I tried to change and was left with less money than before?
Change is a big, scary thing.
So rather than creating change, I took the safer path and hoped for change: a man, new job, winning lotto ticket, pay riseâ€¦ And, one day, just as I had hoped, change did come: packaged deep in the center of my body in the form of a back injury.
I didn’t really “injure” my back, rather my body, having failed to engage my mind in any sort of negotiation over its wellbeing, reached a point of “if you’re going to treat me like this, I’m going to complain.” And it complained. Relentlessly. But, as my ears are attached to my head where they could better hear the murmurs of my oh-so-wise mind rather than the thunder-loud cries for help from my spine, I changed nothing.
Trudge to work with flat, depressed, numb feet.
Sit in chair.
Try not to yelp when getting out of chair.
Take another painkiller.
Eat something replete with sugar.
Make cup of tea; load it with sugar.
Get coffee; load it with sugarâ€¦
You see the pattern?
Rather than having a conversation with my back, asking it “Why are you giving me so much pain?” I pampered my mind, feeding it things I “deserved”, treats that gave me instant, short-term relief; treats I became reliant on to distract my mind from the pain.
After all, my back was just a thing attached to my legs that carried my brain to work. It didn’t matter if my back wasn’t right. It just mattered that my brain was able to get to work and, upon arrival, function well enough for me to not be fired.
But, early one morning, my back snapped.
It shrieked, yelped, grizzled and complained. It hurled things at me – sciatic pain, nerve twinges, numb legs, numb fingers, spasms – it threw itself on the floor, pumped its fists and performed a tantrum so bad, so naughty even the most evil of evil doers would have been left a little awed.
In short, my back gave me no choice but to pay attention to, and look after, it and all its attachments.
I wanted my Mum (I was 28â€¦)
But there was no one to help.
My body had played a card so ruthless, so wise even my clever ego driven mind couldn’t deal a way out. It had forced me to a point where I had to make change.
I rolled out of bed.
Descended the stairs on my butt like an infant.
Googled “back pain cures”.
Rang an Osteopath.
Rang a taxi.
Crawled out the door.
Got lifted into the taxi by the driver.
Howled the entire way to the Osteopath.
Got lifted out of the taxi by the driver.
And repeated my infantile stair climb in reverse to the Osteopath’s treatment room.
“Nothing permanent,” said the Osteopath, whose genius hands worked quickly to placate my frenzied body. “Just sciatica.”
She lifted my legs, clicked a few things. Rolled me around. Pulled, pushed and twisted.
Each movement brought relief.
I loved her.
“I think you should try Pilates.”
She handed me a card. “This place is good. They understand back pain.”
I rang the Pilates studio from the taxi, and because life was eager for me to tread the Pilates path to health, they had a spot free the next hour. I diverted the taxi, and – un-showered, with bed hair and wearing the pajamas I’d been in too much pain to change out of that morning – I walked into my first ever Pilates classâ€¦
Intrigued? Find out what happens in Part 2 of ‘Returning to Life Through Pilates’ in next month’s blog posting…