The Brain Game

In a way it seems odd to think about the fact that November is almost over. I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that I had the best powerlifting competition of my life?! Well actually that was on November 4, slightly more than 3 weeks ago now. What happened to all that time in-between?

One positive of rapidly inching towards December is that NaBloPoMo is almost finished, and so far I have been successful in the challenge of blogging every day in November. Some years this is a real struggle, whether for a lack of blogging material or an inability to remember to blog. This year hasn’t felt nearly as challenging, although I guess it helps that I have an injury and subsequent rehab to chronicle. Still, thinking of something to blog about on a daily basis is downright taxing.

My mind feels like it is going at full speed these days. This isn’t too far from normal for me, but it seems to be more of a nuisance these past few weeks. I’m not sure if this is merely the result of having more time on my hands than usual, but it is entirely possible. The injury has resulted in a reduction to my work hours for a bit, and I am unable to do a whole lot with all this unexpected free time. Housework is falling by the wayside, and my physical activity level is sorely hampered. Over the past few weeks I have had two completely sleepless nights. The first was due entirely to pain and the inability in the freshness of the injury to find comfort in any possible sleeping position. The second occurrence was just last week and had nothing at all to do with pain or comfort; it was all an inability for my brain to shut off long enough to fall asleep.

Ironically, on that second sleepless night, I was aware that my brain wasn’t shutting off; however, for the most part, I wasn’t actively thinking of anything. Of course, the conundrum of lying in bed wide awake is that eventually your mind will meander down rabbit holes for lack of anything else to do and you can seldom control which holes it dives into. My thoughts that night, or early morning, briefly settled onto a subject that is quite a few months old and water under the proverbial bridge, and yet, I felt anger as I laid there that night. My mind rehashed situations and conversations, and I felt quiet anger at the injustice and all that was wrong about that situation. I allowed myself to feel the anger, let the emotion swirl within and focus my thoughts but only for a short time. Sleep is important to me and especially right now as I am healing, so I know the futility of allowing such negative thoughts to run amok in the night. I entertained them then closed them up tight inside a box, but I still could not sleep. My thoughts did not return to those negative rabbit holes, but the brain was still actively churning, looking for something to grab hold of instead of succumbing to slumber.

Last night I lost a couple of hours of sleep to the brain once again churning and active without any traction. No thoughts to speak of. No emotions to drag about. Just a wide awake brain wanting something to do that wasn’t sleep. Thankfully I did fall asleep, even if much later than I had planned. Even during my non-busy moments of the day, I will often find my brain racing ahead, fracturing into a dozen or more pathways at the same time. It’s rather messy and problematic, and it makes me a little more emotional than I might like. That’s just the way it is right now. But all those thoughts cannot be blogged about. I’m looking forward to December 1st.


Weekend Wonderings

Yesterday was an off kind of day. There was the flare up of nerve pain in the wee hours of the morning and waking up feeling almost ill but not quite. Just off and funky. I’m not entirely sure what was up with that. Maybe it was a repercussion of not sleeping at all for 37 hours. Maybe it was part of the nerve pain flare up. For a while I thought I might be getting sick, but I feel fine today. Well, as fine as fine can be considering the herniated disc and all that goes with it.

Here is an example of how out of it I felt yesterday. My daughter and I were the only ones home most of the evening, so we watched a movie on Netflix. Thankfully it was one I had seen before, so it wasn’t necessary for my mind to be all-focused on the TV screen. It wasn’t very late, but I was extremely tired, more so than I thought I had reason to be and made me wonder all the more what was wrong with me. My husband and one of our boys got home from a hockey game around 9:30 or so. Shortly after that I suddenly realized, or remembered, that I had opened at work that morning, which meant that I had been awake since 4:40 AM. And in actuality, I had been awake since 2:30 because of the nerve pain, and the next two hours of sleep were more awake than asleep. Even when I am completely healthy and pain-free, I am generally more than a little tired by 9 PM after an open shift! Duh!

Today is a new day, and I no longer have a mild headache or a queasy, weak and clammy feeling in my body. I slept pretty good again last night without being disturbed by pain. I feel as normal as normal can be with a numb leg, milder nerve pain in the butt, and limitations in my ability to move and function properly.

There are lots of ways that I need to be mindful of how I move or function these days, but I think having a bath or shower is one of the worst. As much as I prefer a bath, sitting hurts. No baths. Standing in the shower is fine, so long as I don’t need to shave my legs or scrub my feet. Actually, I haven’t shaved my legs since I herniated my disc! Regardless of whether I am sitting or standing, bending far enough for me to reach my lower legs and feet is extremely difficult and painful.

This means that the polish on my toes hasn’t been touched since I herniated my disc, which also means that my toe nails are looking rather sad. My daughter has a thing about feet and will not touch my feet with a 20 foot pole or a bribe so hefty that I cannot afford it. I could go for a pedicure, except for the whole sitting thing, and I don’t know that I could handle someone handling my left foot in its current state of numbness.

One benefit of heading into winter is that I can get away with not shaving my legs for an extended period of time now. The cold weather could also force me to wear socks all of the time and hide my raggedy polish; however, the process of getting a sock (or shoe) onto my left foot is not so easy or painless. As much as I can withstand the cold, I’d prefer to make my life easier by being barefoot and wearing flip-flops, which means I’d prefer to have pretty looking toes. Where there is a will, I will find a way or endure some pain to achieve it.

And speaking of pain, I have another physio appointment tomorrow. I fully expect that I shall be turned into a hedgehog again. Hopefully it will hurt a bit less this time!


Not a Victim

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” ~Nora Ephron

You can say that you’re sorry this happened to me, I guess. Herniating a disc does suck. It sucks to be in pain and to not be limited in your regular activities. It royally sucks to watch goals and plans evaporate before your eyes. But I am not a victim.

I herniated a disc. It could have happened at any time and anywhere. The fact that it happened at the end of a powerlifting competition doesn’t make my sport hazardous or something I need to give up permanently. People herniate discs all the time. Even people who don’t do powerlifting!

I will heal. I will overcome these temporary difficulties that I am experiencing as the result of a herniated disc. Why? Because I am stubborn and determined and I want to return to the platform. I don’t want to be a victim but a heroine. Life is an adventure, and I want to enjoy the journey. I do not want to curl up and give up because of an unexpected derailing and delay. Why wait for the train when I can continue the journey on my own two feet? Sure, I might be hobbling for a while, but I’ll get there eventually!

A couple of days ago I sat down with my owner’s manual and made a plan of attack, because I am all about my lists. I have my rehab exercises to do, and I am doing them faithfully. My diet basically tanked over the past couple of weeks, so I need to rein that back in since a good diet will help reduce inflammation and improve overall health. I need to ensure I’m getting adequate sleep, since rest is important for healing and overall health. While I cannot always control how well I sleep, I can do what I can to set myself up for enough sleep. The good news is that I have generally been sleeping better lately. I need to make sure I am more consistent with taking my beneficial supplements, like Omega 3 and vitamin E. DO NOT SIT! I am so conditioned to avoiding sitting as much as possible…have been doing that for well over a year already. Listen to my chiropractor. Listen to my physiotherapist. Listen to my coach. Listen to my body. Ask for help when necessary, even when I think it isn’t necessary but it really is. Just because I know I should be capable doesn’t mean doing so is a good idea. Nourish my soul. Be thankful. Be happy, because having the right attitude is so important!

One Forward, Two Back

I know that healing my disc is going to be a lengthy process complete with stops and starts and hiccups. There might be really good days, maybe even a string of them, and then I might have a bad day.

The challenge for me will be to not get too frustrated by the perceived setbacks and to not get too hyped up by the perceived positive progress. This isn’t as simple as throwing a cast on a broken bone and having it all healed up in 6 weeks, and I know myself. I will get frustrated. I will get hopeful. But either way I will get there eventually.

Monday night was probably my best night of sleep since herniating my disc. I spent the entire night in my own bed. That sounds weird, I know, but the pain has sent me to the living room floor in the middle of the night up until then. Not only did I stay in my own bed, but I also slept rather well and through the night. I counted that as progress, especially since I had also cut back my pain-killers that day in order to ration the remaining capsules as long as possible.

On the heels of that great night’s sleep came last night’s not anywhere as good night’s sleep. I did manage to stay in my own bed all night again, but I lost hours to a brain that would not shut off. There was nothing on my mind, but I was wide awake. I could actually lie on the left side of my body for a while without excruciating pain, but then again, my body was also rather restless all night. Hitting the snooze button is not something I ever do, but around 6 AM I shut off my sleep app and set the alarm for 8 AM. I had planned on waking up at 7 this morning but needed the extra hour.

As I am rapidly nearing the bottom of the little bottle of pain-killers, I have cut back on my doses. Last week I was taking 6 capsules over the course of the day. As of Monday I have been taking only 2 a day, which leaves me enough for another 5 days. The fact that my level of pain has decreased so significantly is another positive.

Of course, my overall pain level may have decreased, but the degree of numbness in my leg has not changed. Not that I can discern anyway. And there are still movements that are guaranteed to send shards of pain down my leg or through my pelvis/lower back. Putting my left leg into a pair of pants. Putting a sock or shoe on my left foot. Sitting. Moving my left leg in just the wrong way or too fast or too much.

I went to the gym after work today to do my rehab exercises and walk on the treadmill. <gag> Doing the exercises felt completely fine. Getting up from the floor or down onto the floor sometimes hurt. A lot. Walking on the treadmill was itself an exercise in frustration. I cannot remember the last time I was on a treadmill, but my old runner’s brain instantly wanted to crank up the speed and break into a gallop. Unfortunately, my best walk right now is a limping hobble on a numb left with weakness that prevents me from doing a simple calf raise, and physio’s instructions said to walk holding onto the handles and maintaining an upright posture. I started out at 1.5 mph before annoyance had me jacking the speed up to 2 mph. That lasted all of a few seconds once I realized that the shuffly leg wasn’t going to keep up very long. I dropped it to 1.8 mph, because I’m stubborn and determined. That lasted a minute, I think, and then I had to drop it back to 1.5 mph. <sigh> And there I stayed. I challenged myself to walk for 10 minutes, and I did. Barely a quarter of a mile but I know I will see improvement.

The ride home from the gym, all of 5 minutes, was pure torture. I hurt. There are a lot of variables at play, and I don’t know how much weight to give to any of them. I went to the gym after being at work for the previous 4 hours, on my feet, walking, and squatting/trying not to bend to lift. Sitting in the car because sitting is death. Physio did IMS (think acupuncture on steroids) on Monday, and I think there is some residual stiffness/soreness in the muscles from it. I didn’t sleep well last night. The treadmill probably did it because treadmills are death!

I’ve been applying heat and reclining for the past few hours, and the pain has decreased quite a bit. Tomorrow is a full work night, which means I will likely be hurting by the end of it. However, this pain is still an improvement compared to what I experienced the first week and a bit. One step at a time.

They Told Me to Go to Rehab

This morning I went to the gym. It was my first time back in the gym since my competition ten days ago. My husband started to question my sanity when he found out I was planning on going to the gym today until I explained what I would be doing. No squats. No deadlifts. I wouldn’t even be looking at a barbell. Instead, my coach has programmed some rehab exercises: 90/90 breathing drill, bird dogs, standing lunges, hip hinges, one arm dumbbell floor presses, and standing cable facepulls. Hardly the stuff of a powerlifter’s dreams!

Yesterday a friend asked if I might be up for a bit of a day road trip on Saturday, and I optimistically said that I could handle it. Then I left my house this morning to go to the gym. I hadn’t even backed my car out of my driveway before I was in agonizing pain. My drive to the gym barely takes 5 minutes, but it felt much longer today. By the time I got to the gym, I had to peel my hands off of the steering wheel, and I’m surprised that the steering wheel was still in one piece. Sitting is pure torture. I had to text my friend to say that there was no way I could go with her on Saturday.

So, I was in a lot of pain by the time I got to the gym. Putting on my gym shoes resulted in more pain. I feel like my husband did prior to his hip replacement surgery…unable to put on a sock or a shoe or trim my toenails without great difficulty and pain.

The exercises my coach programmed for me this week are not overly difficult, but the purpose isn’t really to challenge me physically. As easy and basic as the exercises were, I did experience some pain from the positioning of my left leg, even when the leg wasn’t doing any work. It seems that just having that leg passively bent is enough to cause pain to flare up, which is something I have noticed at home already. The left leg also fatigued quite quickly during the standing lunges when it was doing the work. I should point out that pretty much all of the exercises were to be done quite slowly and methodically for a small number of reps. The lunges were 3 reps per side with a 5 second descent, 3 second hold, and 5 second ascent. The right leg had no trouble at all doing the work, but that left leg was burning by the second rep. My only other struggle was getting in and out of position for some of the exercises, like the breathing drill and the floor presses. Getting down onto the floor and back up off of the floor were tricky to do without sending shards of pain through my left hip and butt.

Waves of self-pity are battering against the shoreline of my confidence and self-control. I have no regrets and wouldn’t change anything about my performance at the competition. I had no reason to suspect that this might happen, and chances are that it would have happened sooner or later even if I was doing something seemingly innocuous. My other back issues had been doing very well leading up to competition, and my training had also been going well. No, I do not regret a single thing about the competition, at least not the things that I could control. It would have been nice not to have herniated a disc, but that wasn’t exactly in my control.

But seriously, who enjoys being in constant pain? I know I don’t. Pain clouds your judgement and colours your perception. It wears you down physically and emotionally, and it can paralyze you. This is true of any type of pain.

“Pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly. And if left unresolved for very long, you can almost forget that you were ever created to fly in the first place.” ~William P. Young, The Shack 

I was at the gym for an hour doing my rehab exercises. For the first half hour, I struggled. My body felt a bit shaky and weak, as if the 10 days of idleness had stolen all of my strength and flexibility, and my thoughts, as few as they were, castigated me for struggling. The work wasn’t difficult, but 10 days ago I was breaking all the records and now I couldn’t even get myself onto the floor without whimpering.  I had tucked myself into a corner to do my exercises, out of the way and out of anyone’s notice, as if I should be ashamed or embarrassed. My attitude wasn’t much improved by the time I finished my exercises, although I wasn’t even aware of having an attitude until now.

But there is an attitude. It is an attitude of frustration, of despair, and maybe even resignation. I feel stuck. It’s been 10 days of intense pain and a leg almost entirely numb from butt to toes. I am not having fun. I cannot even see fun on the horizon. But despite all the negatives, I am still determined to hold my head up (because I can’t imagine that drowning would be very pleasant) and rise above this injury (because I don’t think I can sink any lower).

There is one positive for today. I slept quite well last night. In fact, it was the best sleep I’ve had since before the competition. It was also the first night I spent the entire night in my own bed since the competition! Of course, I still woke several times with pain raging, but at least I got some sleep.

Choice or Compromise

“If you limit your choice only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” ~Robert Fritz

Nationals are 14 weeks away, and I have been striving and working towards my goal of competing there in February. I have all the prerequisites necessary to take part in the National competition. I have a qualifying total within the 24 months prior to Nationals. I competed at Westerns last year. The only thing I don’t currently have is a healthy body, and that is something that could wipe out my Nationals goal.

Although it is highly suspected that I have herniated my L5-S1 disc, there is still so much yet to be determined with this injury. Physiotherapy and X-rays are looming in my future. I wish the X-ray appointment was sooner than it is, because I really do want to get this injury figured out and dealt with. Even if Nationals weren’t on my agenda, I’d still want to hurry this process along. I do not like taking medication, but doing so now is paramount to my sanity. The medication is helping me to get some sleep, even if it is still in short segments. I do not enjoy the pain I am still experiencing…the pain that rudely wakes me from my slumber and cannot be ignored. I do not enjoy the permanent state of numbness that ranges from the tips of my toes all the way up to my buttock on my left leg. At work yesterday, there were many instances where I had to squat or kneel. Doing so felt incredibly weird on my numb left leg. It made my leg feel like a sausage bursting out of it’s casing, fat and swollen. My leg isn’t actually swollen, but the numbness is driving me crazy. I limp when I walk, because one leg is numb and the numbness in my calf makes walking that much harder. I want to feel normal again.

With all the uncertainty surrounding my injury, I have to consider the impact it may have on my goal of competing at Nationals in February. Part of me would be devastated if I had to pass on it, but that is a reality that I need to acknowledge. My health is ultimately more important than a competition. I think the fact that I am silently acknowledging the possibility of not going to Nationals is an important step. Call it maturity or sanity or wisdom or whatever. Nationals may not be possible or reasonable this time, but I am not prepared to give up on my dream quite yet. It’s too soon to say it won’t happen, so I will listen to my body, my coach, my chiropractor, my physiotherapist and see how things progress. However, I do also need to make room in my attitude for the worst case scenarios.

I apologize if this post seems disjointed. Even as I am laying down while typing, I am squirming in pain, unsuccessful in finding a comfortable position. My morning dose of medications is finally making me drowsy, which means I might manage to get a nap in before I go to work. I thought I knew where I was going with this blog post, but the more I type the more I realize I don’t have a clue. Except for this…I recognize that this is my most significant injury in my short powerlifting “career”. I don’t yet know what that will mean for my powerlifting “career” or my goals. After months and months of struggling with injury and rehab, the process continues. 2017 has turned out to be the year of struggle and pain, but I’ve walked through the fire before and come out stronger. That’s my ultimate goal right now.


Back to Work

I am back to work this afternoon after having the past five days off. I hadn’t planned nor expected to have all of those days off, but I am thankful that I was able to unload a few of my shifts in order to begin the process of healing. During that time I have been doing very little. I sleep in short bits. I stand and walk. I take my medication. I sleep in short bits some more. I stand when the pain prevents me from laying down. I lay down when I am weary of standing. Sounds exciting, right! Mostly I am waiting…waiting for my physio appointment, waiting for my x-ray appointment, waiting for the pain to subside, waiting for the numbness to disappear. It’s not exactly fun.

I expect that returning to work will not be all fun and games. Standing is less painful, but it isn’t pain-free. Standing and walking on a numb foot and leg isn’t fun either. My medication makes me drowsy, as in I can drink two cups of coffee and then immediately take a nap.

Still I am looking forward to being back at work. It will be nice to be doing something after all these days of doing so little. The hardest part may be remembering to ask for help to do the most basic of tasks that involve bending and lifting, which I am not supposed to do right now. It is never easy for me to ask for help, but doing so becomes all the more difficult when it is asking for help for something I can normally do quite easily.