I am in pain.
This thought has consumed a lot of my life. When you’re in pain all the time, it makes everything else seem colorless and far away. That sharp pain or ongoing ache is always on the forefront of your mind. You can’t relax, focus, or appreciate the present moment. You become the pain and the pain becomes you. You start to wonder what it felt like to not be in pain, or to just relax fully and enjoy the moment.
I suffered from extreme back pain after 15 years of pounding on my body in gymnastics, but it wasn’t until my bike accident this past June that I experienced excruciating, life-consuming pain. I was riding my bike (RIP Motobecane – stolen 9.24.11) one block from my house on the way to the pool for a swim and then dinner party (with 2 bottles of red wine in my backpack) when
WHAM, BAM, WOOOOO, KURPLUNK
I got doored by a particularly large door that a man whipped open right in front of me while going down a hill. I had a couple seconds to decide whether I should slam on the brakes, in which case I would have gone head-first into the door but at a slightly slower speed, or attempt to go around the door. I opted for the latter and ended up side-swiping the door with my entire right side and then flew over my handlebars to land flat on my back on the asphalt
like a flapjack.
At first I felt a jolt of pounding pain all through my body, and I was FLOORED (by the door, lol). I curled up into a ball in the middle of the street in a state of delirium and shock. It seemed like my body was a ball of pain and my mind was going to explode. The man came over and apologized for being an idiot, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to go home and die. I got my bike (which hopefully put a dent in his stupid door) and walked away, wailing down the block to my apartment with red wine spilling out of my backpack looking like blood. I couldn’t breathe.
I called my friend, Han, to tell her I couldn’t make it to her dinner party, but she couldn’t understand anything I was blubbering, so she came over and rescued me from hyperventilation, and helped me clean out the broken glass from my backpack. Then she went to get some much needed Vicodin. Ironically my boyfriend was at the hospital waiting to get an MRI of his injured shoulder, but he did his best to decipher my phone calls and calm me down. My friend Armin also came over for support and ended up having to drink a beer to deal with the situation ;-). Thanks for all the love!
Black and Blue all over
These pictures were taken 2 weeks after the accident, which is why the bruises have migrated to a yellow-ish color and I can manage a smile!
After the bike crash I basically couldn’t move or function for a week. I was in a haze from the pain and the painkillers. When I finally made an appointment to see my doctor a week later, he just prescribed more painkillers (no recommendation for physical therapy or alternative medicines!!). For the next four months I was always in pain despite the painkillers (which messed up my body and digestive system), and I was depressed from not being able to workout and train properly for my next half Ironman, the Big Kahuna in Santa Cruz.
I trained through the pain and finished the race in 11th place out of 35 in my age group with a total time of 6 hours and 5 minutes (37 minute swim, 3h:08min bike, 2h:5min run) thanks to my dad, who ran the running portion with me. Also thanks to all of my friends who were there to support me.
But this did not mean that I was healed. Only that I had built up an unusually high pain tolerance.
Thankfully, this post is not about suffering; It’s about discovering a way become healthy and balanced after years of living with constant pain and over-medication from traditional Western physicians.
About a month ago I got a Groupon for 25 Bikram yoga classes at Funky Door Yoga on Polk Street. I had previously practiced yoga frequently and loved the flow styles, like Ashtanga and Vinyasa, but wasn’t a huge fan of Bikram because it seemed too simple and repetitive. Unlike flow yoga where you flow through the sun salutations and warrior positions, Bikram yoga consists of a series of 26 postures developed by Bikram Choudhury which you perform in the same sequence at 90 minute classes in a 105 degree room.
It has been proven that these 26 postures systematically work every part of the body to give all the internal organs, veins, ligaments, and muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health and maximum function. “Each component takes care of something different in the body, and yet they all work together synergistically, contributing to the success of every other one, and extending its benefits” (Bikram yoga home). I’ve definitely found this to be true.
After practicing Bikram every day for the last month I’m proud to say that I’m off of the array of pain medications prescribed by my doctor and experiencing much less pain. In fact, I believe this is one of the reasons why I could take some of that mental capacity previously being focused on the pain and use it to start this blog. During every yoga practice I learn something new about myself, and it creates space for me to grow both inside and out.
Pain killers versus Bikram yoga
How do you deal with pain (either emotional or physical)?