Information Overload

Have you ever realized just how much information is available on the internet? So. So. Much. Maybe too much.

Since herniated a disc five weeks ago, guess what has been on my mind a lot. If you said herniated discs, you’d be correct! For being so smart you get nothing more than a pat on the back and a glance into the chaos that is within me.

I like knowledge and knowing and understanding and learning. I herniated a disc, so what exactly is that? How does it happen? What are the symptoms? How do you treat it and manage the symptoms? The list of questions is nearly endless. For all the information on the internet though, sometimes clear answers are hard to come by. Sometimes too much information muddies the waters and makes things more confusing. Clinical answers to medical questions aren’t always easily understood by someone without a medical background. The answers aren’t always black & white, and yet finding answers to the questions living in the shades of grey isn’t always easy either. It is confusing. It can be frightening to read about worst-case scenarios or the problems encountered by others in a similar situation. Finding a few answers might alleviate fears or inflame them or both. Or create more confusion.

Five weeks into my herniated disc and I feel more fear now than I did at the onset. Even though I have more knowledge and answers now, there is still so much that is unknown, so much to work through and fight for, especially in terms of persuading my family doctor that I need to pursue next steps. Should I be successful in my quest that will create new sources of anguish and frustration, because waiting is part of the medical system around here and I don’t want to wait anymore. I want to heal. Like yesterday.

 

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Chaos

“It was her chaos that made her beautiful.” ~Atticus

2017 is rapidly drawing to a close, which turns my thoughts both inward in reflection and outward in anticipation. I like to give myself a theme and a bunch of goals for each year. My theme for 2017 has been Powerfully Beautiful, but I’m afraid that I haven’t felt like this has been applicable for most of the year. The year has been full of various struggles and challenges, many revolving around little injuries and a big one, most recently. It is this recent injury that has the potential to cause the most chaos in my life, and I cannot imagine that chaos being beautiful in any way, shape or form.

Although the pain is generally tolerable now, it still fluctuates quite wildly. I had two good night’s of sleep, then last night happened. I slept well enough, but I also experienced more aches and pains in my back than I had the previous two nights. I went to the gym this morning to do my rehab exercises, but the pain in my back was enough to make me cut some exercises short or out completely. For the most part, I’ve been able to do these exercises without much discomfort in my back, and really these rehab exercises are supposed to easy on my back. Most of my pain or discomfort while exercising has been in getting down on the floor or up off the floor, so today was disheartening. Since I cut the exercises short, I thought I’d spend some time on the treadmill. I could only manage a speed of 2 mph. I tried 2.5 mph but could barely handle it for just over 50 metres. My initial goal was to walk for 10 minutes, but then I changed the goal to completing 2 laps or 800 metres. My hands had a vise grip on the handles for almost the entire walk because of the pain in my back.

My mood feels as fragile as my back these days. Grumpy. Moody. Liable to dissolve into tears. Frustrated. Dejected. Hopeful. Resigned. Weak. Pathetic. Useless. Not powerful. Not beautiful.

For all the progress of the past month, it is still incredibly slow. The ‘surgery’ word has now been uttered, although that does not mean I will require surgery, only that I should get a referral and begin the waiting process in case it is. The physiotherapist made a point of saying that they generally like to see more progress by this point, and I can’t argue that, especially when he re-tests the reflex in my left Achilles tendon and finds none.

I just feel broken. In more ways than one.

It Is Well

“It’s okay if you’re scared about endings and new beginnings. But remember, you do it every single day. All will be well.” ~Nanea Hoffman

Four years ago today I walked into a private gym to meet with a personal trainer for the very first time. I was absolutely scared that day. Stepping into a gym was like landing in a foreign country where nobody speaks English and the food is unrecognizable. I felt awkward and out of place. So far outside of my comfort zone. My only real hope was that I might finally lose some of my excess weight, but even then I was doubtful.

The journey of the past four years has been incredible and life-changing. I am not the same person today as I was then. The road has not always been easy or free from potholes and roadblocks. There have been ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments. I have reached goals that far surpass my original goal to lose 20-25 pounds, goals that I could never have even anticipated setting for myself. I went from someone who was finally beginning to consider herself a runner to a competitive powerlifter. Four years ago, I hadn’t even heard of powerlifting. I changed jobs. I found myself.

As I reflect on the past four years and where I am today, I can see the road before me disappearing into a shimmer on the horizon. It is very true that every day is a new beginning and you cannot always see what is coming your way. The path of my journey veered slightly this summer with a change in training venue and coaching. Dealing with injury made the road bumpy for most of the year. My husband had major surgery and an ongoing heart issue. Changes at work. Relationship trials. The day-to-day stuff of life. I’ve continued to do it every single day.

 

One Step Closer

It feels like I’ve hardly done anything these past few days, yet somehow I feel exhausted. A good portion of my time has been spent at the hospital, which isn’t exactly the most energizing place to be. I sat far too much Monday and Tuesday, which may be why my back feels slightly achy today, but the achiness is within reasonable limits. I think. My husband was released from the hospital this afternoon, so hopefully my extended sitting periods are over.

One thing that I did do today was my Wednesday morning training session. It was an interesting session, mostly good. Internally, the session was good enough for me to let loose a sigh of pent-up hope. Thanks to the disc/SI joint issues, many aspects of my training have been put on hold, because I couldn’t do certain things. With Provincials less than 5 weeks away, I am acutely aware of how long it has been since I’ve deadlifted or even been able to hinge my hip with any kind of load. We tested a little this morning, and I was able to do kettlebell swings, a set of super light deadlifts, and some barbell rows. The back was achy before I even started at the gym, so I think I’m safe in saying that my back is no worse for having done these things.

warm-up with 3 sets of:

16kg kettlebell swings x 10

5 medicine ball passes

5 medicine ball slams

Tested my ability to deadlift with 65 pounds for roughly 6-8 reps. There was a slight sensation of tightness/pulling similar to what I have felt at the bottom of the squat, but this was minor. Of greater concern to me was whether I’d have any pain when I’d create tension throughout my body before lifting, but there was only slight discomfort. Now normally I would begin deadlifting with significantly more weight than 65 pounds, but I was happy with how it felt to go through the motions once again.

1a. barbell rows

65 lbs x 8?, 85 x 10, 95 x 10, 95 x 10, 95 x 10, 95 x 10

I generally don’t get too excited about rows, but being able to do these put a huge smile on my face.

1b. close grip bench press with feet on bench

45 lbs x 6, 65 x 8, 85 x 6, 105 x 6, 105 x 6

1c. banded monster walks with blue band

2a. seated side laterals, front raises, and clean & presses, 10 lb dumbbells

-2 sets of 10 for the side laterals

-2 sets of front raises with varying reps that I cannot remember

-2 sets of clean & presses, averaging 5 reps, because I could barely press by this point

2b. double kettlebell curls

8kg x 4 + 6kg x 8; 6kg x 7?

2c. kettlebell triceps extension

12kg x 12 x 2 sets

Hips, Knees, Benches & Bretzels

My husband had his hip replaced yesterday. It seems to have gone well, and he’s already been up and taking short walks down the hall of his hospital ward. Assuming that everything continues to progress as expected, he will likely be sent home tomorrow morning and that’s when the real fun will begin. Found out that we will need to switch sides of the bed, which means I now need to make some adjustments to the furniture layout in our bedroom so he can get the walker between the wall and the bed on that side. I will also need to move my alarm clock to the other side. Although it will be quite a few weeks before he is able to do a lot of things, at least his recovery should be fairly smooth. I hope.

As for me, I definitely feel as if my back is finally seeing more progress and fewer set-backs. It’s still not normal or without varying measures of pain and discomfort, but it’s exciting to realize how much more I can do. This morning at the gym, I sat on the floor to put on my socks, knee sleeves and shoes, which is something that I haven’t been able to do for a long time! Although I still avoid sitting as much as possible, I have had to do more sitting over the past two days than I am used to, and the back has held up fairly well. Okay, so for a while yesterday I was mildly concerned that I was about to take backwards steps again. The SI joint was a bit achier than it had been for the previous few days, not too bad but not quite as good; however, it seemed to settle back down by mid-afternoon. One of my biggest questions these days is always how far can I push myself without negatively impacting my back/SI joint. Unfortunately, I cannot always answer that question until I try to see what I can do. My coach often has exercises that he would like me to do in the gym, and he will ask me if they are okay for me to do. There are a couple that I am reasonably certain would not feel good on my back at all, but most of the time I simply can’t say until I try it. There is also no guarantee that what felt fine before will always feel fine and vice versa. Ab wheel roll-outs were fine early on in this ordeal, but the last time I did them a couple of weeks ago they were more uncomfortable. I couldn’t do hanging leg raises at all a while ago, but I managed to do some leg raises last week using the dips bar. One thing I am fairly certain would not be a good idea is sit-ups on the glute-ham device, so I’ve rejected that option every time Michael has presented it. The biggest tests will be once I get heavy enough weight on the squat bar and when I get to try deadlifting again.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 7

with belt: 135 x 3, 165 x 1, 185 x 1, 205 x 1, 215 x 1

215 lbs for roughly a 10 second hold, twice

Squats didn’t feel too bad today. A few reps felt a bit deeper but probably still not quite deep enough, although I honestly felt like at least one rep might have been legal depth. The single at 215 felt a little heavy, tough, and ugly, so Michael had me do a couple of holds with the weight to get used to having it on my back again. The first hold felt super awkward, because he didn’t even want me to walk the bar out, which meant I couldn’t have any forward lean to make the low bar position remotely comfortable. For the second hold, we raised the safeties and I was allowed to walk the bar out. It felt a bit better but still not nearly as good as it should. This is one of those areas where Michael has ideas that he wants to incorporate but isn’t always certain it will be good for my back. Obviously I need to re-familiarize myself with having heavy weight on my back, and I don’t have a lot of time to get to that point. He thinks doing some holds or walking with the yoke rack would be good. I don’t disagree with him, and I’d be willing to try. He just wants to be careful with my back.

1b. bench press-competition grip, with feet on the bench and small arch

47 lbs x 10, 67 x 6, 87 x 5, 107 x 5, 112 x 5, 112 x 4

Benching with my feet on the bench allows me to better keep the arch in my back small, which should help me to avoid aggravating the SI joints. It’s akin to deadlifting from a deficit. It will make me stronger, but I do miss being able to use my leg drive. My butt came off the bench on the fifth rep of the first set at 112 pounds. That is not typical of me, but I suspect the need to use leg drive was too strong to resist on that last rep. Oh well! In powerlifting, only the first rep matters. 😉 As for the final set, there was supposed to be 5 reps. Shake it off! I know I am stronger than how my bench felt today.

2a. Spoto presses-with feet on the bench still

97 lbs x 6, 97 x 6, 97 x 6

I think the first set felt a bit tougher than the next two. Sometimes that’s just how it is…as if my body needs a set to remember what it is supposed to be doing.

2b. back extensions-holding a 20 pound dumbbell

x 20, x 9, x 10

This is another one of those exercises that is hit or miss for how it makes the back feel. Actually, today these were completely hit and miss. The first set was horrible. I felt so much strain around the back of my knees that I had to drop the dumbbell midway through and repositioned myself before picking up the weight to finish the set. Honestly, I have no idea how I managed 20 reps that set.

Michael told me to keep my knees slightly bent to avoid the strain, so I did that on the following sets. It alleviated a great deal of the knee strain but not quite all of it. I was wearing my squat shoes for the first two sets and took them off for the last set, thinking that might be part of the problem. The last set wasn’t a whole different than the second. Maybe the pad was set a bit too far? I don’t know. Also, although the extensions didn’t make my back feel worse, I could feel some discomfort while doing them, which between that and the knees made me cut the reps short. However, it did feel sort of nice to carefully drape my body forward over the pad so my head was hanging down, stretching out the lower back in a way that it hasn’t liked to move for a while.

Yesterday my chiropractor gave me a new stretch to do…the Bretzel. If that makes you think of a pretzel, then you’re thinking in the right direction! If I’m not careful, this stretch will threaten me with a cramp and it doesn’t feel too pleasant on the quads, but I kind of like it. Not the unpleasantness, of course. I can see why my chiropractor says this is one of his favourite stretches, and I think it is one that I will continue with for a long time.

The F Word

My husband needs a new hip. In fact, he is tentatively scheduled for hip replacement surgery for next Monday. I say ‘tentatively’, because he was originally scheduled for last Friday…until he was bumped. Even though he is now a week out from surgery, there is always the potential for being bumped again. I sure hope that doesn’t happen for several reasons, but mainly for his own health & well-being and then so that he might be recovered enough to come to Provincials with me. It’s more important for my husband to get his new hip in order to get back to living without the pain and physical limitations he’s lived with for the past several years, but I’d be presented with a bunch of logistical complications if he weren’t able to come to Provincials. But I can’t worry about those details yet!

I had a chiropractic appointment about an hour ago, and I was in a fair bit of pain once again. The pain drags frustration and despair along with it. My face was long as I stood in the waiting room (standing because I cannot sit), and my gaze was boring a hole in the floor in an effort to keep tears at bay. Has there ever been a time that my chiropractor hasn’t made me laugh when I’ve been in the depths of despair? I don’t think so! As he pushed and poked and determined that the left SI joint was the problem more than the disc, he made a comment about me never being as f’ed up as I think I am. I laughed. Even now, replaying the comment puts a smile on my face and makes my heart feel a few pounds lighter, despite the fact that the SI joint is seriously throbbing.

Since the end of January, I have had an SI joint problem on the right side, a disc problem, and now the left SI joint problem. The pain has ebbed and flowed in intensity and in triggers, but pain has been present every day since the end of January. Quite frankly, my dear, I’m sick of it! I want it gone. I want to get back to being able to do whatever I want to do without pain. Like seriously…tying my shoes? Eating dinner at the dining room table instead of while laying on the floor? It shouldn’t hurt to put on shoes or sit for more than a few minutes. Anything and everything that I have been told to do to help the SI joints or the disc, I have done. When it comes to rehabbing, I am one of the most consistent and committed patients around. I want to be healthy and mobile and active. Being in constant pain sucks. Not being able to move your body the way you want to sucks. I’ve been living the past three months in pain, frustration, and restriction, and I do not like it one bit.

Perspective is important though. I’ve been living in pain for three months. My husband has been living in pain for more years than I can even accurately recall. He needs a new hip. While I might wish I had a different back in this moment, the truth is that I am not as f’ed up as I think I am. Discs heal. The SI joint will heal. One day this will be a memory. These past months will be footnotes in my scrapbook, challenges that I have overcome.

Today’s training session wasn’t all that I hoped it would be; however, despite the pain I experienced in the process, Michael said it was still a decent session.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5

with belt: 135 x 5, 155 x 5, 175 x 5, 175 x 5, 175 x 5

The back started to feel quite achy when I started at 175 pounds. I think my bar path was generally good and consistent. Bar speed might have slowed a bit on various reps in the final two sets due to the back not being too happy with me.

1b. bench press-competition grip, last rep paused

43 lbs x 10, 73 x 6, 93 x 5, 110 x 5

Then Michael decided to stay at the same weight but slow the eccentric to about 3 seconds.

110 lbs x 4, 110 x 5, 110 x 5

The first set with the slow eccentric felt a bit tough, but the following sets were better.

2a. Frankenstein squats

93 lbs x 8, 113 x 7

These were less bothersome on the back but very chokey on the throat.

2b. flat dumbbell presses-for speed, touch and go

25 lbs x 25, 25 lbs x 22

The second set was done with my feet on the bench, because the back was not happy with arching. My chiropractor thinks the left SI joint might be cranky, because I recently resumed arching during bench presses after not arching for most of the past three months. Sometimes it feels like I just can’t catch a break…

But at least I’m not f’ed up!

Hello December

Can you believe that it is already December?! It seems as if 2016 has been flying by at warp speed. While it is not yet time to recap my year and look ahead to 2017, I have to say that this has been a very full year with twists and turns, some hoped for and others most unexpected. But the year isn’t over yet! With one month yet to go, I am suddenly feeling crunched for time. December feels almost overwhelmingly busy, although I am sure that is merely perception rather than reality.

I have an annual girls’ bake day this coming Sunday, and I still don’t know what I am going to bake.

I have barely begun to do any sort of preparations for Christmas, and my desire to go shopping is rarely very high. My daughter is pushing to get a tree soon. We always get a fresh tree, so it didn’t make sense to get one sooner.

My youngest son has a birthday right before Christmas. I already know that I will be working that night, but I still need to figure out how best to celebrate him. Because I will never hear the end of it if I don’t!

I want the opportunity to spend time with some friends over the holidays, but finding dates/times that work for all may be tricky.

Housework. I feel so behind on housework. There are also little details that are still not finished from our kitchen reno at this time last year. Right now though, I’d just like to get caught up on the day-to-day stuff.

My husband is in need of a hip replacement. Over the past couple of weeks he has had a couple of appointments which indicate that his time will soon be here. It could happen within the next few months. While it will be good for him to finally have the surgery and hopefully see improvement from it, the nature of surgery and recovery mixed with being self-employed presents a great deal of stress.

Some nights I sleep well; others not so much. Like last night. I went to bed at 11:00PM with my alarm set for 7:30AM. Out like a light and into deep sleep…wide awake around midnight and basically awake, tossing and turning, until after 4:00AM. Thankfully every night isn’t like this, but I am always glad when the bad nights come the day before an open shift. Since I open tomorrow, last night’s lack of sleep should mean that I sleep very well tonight! Or at least I will be in bed early.

I don’t feel ready for December, but here it is nonetheless.