Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Honesty: Always the Best Policy?

This post will be long and rather personal. If you do not like long and personal, feel free to click on the label "humor" and you will find some funny stuff. Normally, I prefer funny stuff.

I tend not to share a ton of my personal self with the world. Not the really deep things that I struggle with. This is partly just my personality, but also my choice. While I am true as to how I present myself online, there are things I keep back, intentionally. I hate it when people whine on social platforms, and I am not a whiner. However, I realize that sometimes holding everything back isn't a wise thing to do. There is strength in sharing struggle.

I've needed to write this post for a long time, but I didn't because I wondered how people would see me. I also worried whether I should share in case any potential literary agents or publishers look at my blog, but you know what? The few things that are most important to me include my writing, and I'm rearranging my life to fully incorporate that career move. I think that's something to be proud of and would be a plus to anyone in the industry. So, here goes.

I found out a couple of years ago that I have a grade three-nearly-a-four spondylolisthesis, or in other words, a slipped vertebrae in my back. I was quite the celebrity around the chiropractor's office for that one. They were amazed that I was able to move as well as I have. Apparently, my mobility is quite miraculous. (For reference, a grade five means the vertebrae has completely slipped off the spinal column.) My L5 vertebrae is longer than the other ones, and somehow it slipped forward and down. A bone hook grew up to support it. After many x-rays and an MRI it was discovered that the bone hook is naturally doing the same job spinal fusion would do, but giving me a little more mobility than I would have with surgery. I also have some abnormalities in the bones around, which, along with the double hernia I had repaired when I was a young infant, suggests that this spinal problem was set up to happen since birth. I found this x-ray example online. This will give you the general idea. Picture a bone hook surrounding the vertebrae, ensuring the vertebrae won't slip any further, and it's close to what mine looks like:


Because of this, I am always in some kind of discomfort if not outright pain. The arrangement of my spine means that if I jump around a lot or sit on hard surfaces for very long, it causes a chain reaction of pain from my hips to my neck that takes a few doses of ibuprofen and a good deal of rest to ease. Sunday, for example, I forgot my cushion to sit on the piano bench at church (I attempt to play for the little kids), and we had a prolonged singing time. I was in pain for two full days after that, until I got a massage to help release the muscles. I had to take ibuprofen to lessen the pain enough to be able to work out even mildly, and I try not to take it since ibuprofen sometimes hurts my stomach. No other medicine works for me, though. One little thing affects another. Right now, the biggest thing I can do to help myself in this area is physical therapy to strengthen my core to give stability to my muscles, which helps support the vertebrae. Deep tissue massages to help break up muscle knots from the way things pull abnormally, etc. I'm doing workouts such as the stability ball, which is easy on the joints; ballet workouts, which stretch and lengthen as they strengthen; yoga, Pilates, strength training, etc.

The other aspects of my health are something I won't go into detail about right now, but in order to feel better and not like I've constantly been hit by a truck, I desperately need to reduce stress in my life so my body won't be continually in fight-or-flight mode. That is something that was made extremely clear to me. So I've come up with some ways to decompress, some time to take care of myself. I need to take the time to prepare the food I need to prepare to help my body heal, the time to recover from the workouts that stress my body, but are needed to heal. I am not looking for advice or recommendations; I know what I need to do (both from experience, medical advice, and from my AFAA fitness certification which at least is good for something now) to feel a good deal better, but I need to back off of everything so I can do it.

In this world, taking care of yourself is considered a luxury by many.I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "I wish I  had time to exercise, or take care of myself." Sadly, many who say this do so with pride, as if they wear that sentiment as a badge. I am not immune to this feeling; part of me still is trying to convince myself that it's okay to say no, to slow down. But I have to, because my family needs me. Due to some incredibly stressful happenings in the last few years, I have realized that I need to cut out the unnecessary, to slow down, to focus on the important things. If' it's not important, out it goes. And by important, I mean that which contributes to healing my body so I can continue to teach and raise my family, write books, and tend to a very few other things. We are hoping to move this summer, so I also need to focus on getting my house ready. Undue stress is very much my enemy at this point, and I can no longer ignore that fact.

It's difficult listening to the spoken and perceived thoughts of other people, and I admit to thinking or saying these on occasion myself--"Well, others are doing a lot while they have health problems" or "she should do this to fix her problems," or "does she really have those problems in the first place," or "I do it despite XYZ, why can't she?" Those are incredibly difficult voices to tune out. I've been straining to do everything I'm asked to, not wanting to come across as having a hard time myself--but the time has come for me to admit that I have to back off. I have to focus on my own health, or I'll be useless to my family, as I was much of the time over the last years. 

This has been a very serious post, and I thank you if you read this far. I think my littlest boy summed it up for me nicely after a workout the other day: "Mommy, I'm so glad you exercised so you don't die." Seeing me in  pain and not feeling well overall has made my children afraid for me, and that is not okay. Not if I can fix the issues by taking the proper steps. I've reassured my little guy that I'll do my best not to die. In order to keep my promise, I need to take care of myself. I've ignored these issues for too many years, and I can't afford to do that any longer. In order to have the strength to take care of myself, I need to take it. No one is going to give that to me. This will be difficult, but I am not nor will ever be a quitter. It's not in my DNA.

On a happy note, I'm excited to share my other blog with you soon, where I share what workouts I'm doing. I also intend to keep up my AFAA certification, and I'll keep that updated as well. I'm hoping to get all of that released this weekend, but I need to finish up my first ten manuscript pages and query to send for that workshop. 

The last thing I will share with you is something I posted on Facebook recently. I've pondered this a lot, and I've really taken it to heart in my courage to share this post with the world. 

 Photo: Some days, you just need to remember this...


Karen Hoover said...

No words can adequately describe my feelings right now. I am in that world with you, minus the exercise and, well, all the good stuff you do for you. You're awesome, Becca. I admire the heck out of you and wish you all the success in the world.


Sarah Dunster said...

Amenti the quote, and good luck to you in this change you are making. Self care is important.

Sarah Dunster said...

Amen to...not amenti...

Kimberly VanderHorst said...

You are so lovely, and there is so much truth in what you're sharing here. The world teaches us to carry our stress as a badge of pride. "I am overwhelmed and overworked, therefore I am awesome." And it is SUCH a false perception.

When I see women who put self-care and through it their families first, I am full of admiration, and a quiet feeling that I should find a way to do the same. Listen to the quiet voice that tells you that you are a worthy individual. Worthy of health, and happiness, and all the other blessings available to you. That's the only voice worth listening to in instances like this.

So proud of you and so glad to call you my friend (and my example). ((hugs))

Shannon said...

Thanks for sharing. While I don't have the same health issues you do, I could relate to a lot of the emotions you were expressing. Good luck with your fight for your body.

(As a random side note, my father has the same spine condition, and his body has built out a shelf of cartilage to hold the vertebrae up. I'd never heard of anyone else's doing that before; his doctors were stunned by it. It's kind of fun to see another example of that happening.)

Suzanne Warr said...

You are soo right, my friend! This world would cheerfully see people rush after the many good things until they snap and the better things are not possible. I have learned that for myself, and if you ever need a pep talk or sympathetic ear, I can give you that without any fear of judgement or equivocation! Bravo being brave on the toughest front, and keep up the good (peaceful, wisely timed) fight!

Danyelle Ferguson said...

You are amazing. I love it reading posts like this. Thank you for sharing something so personal.

I've gone through (and continue to) go through similar emotions of trying to find the right balance for me and my family. And that's what it all comes down to - what do YOU and your family need to do. Ignore everyone else. I've had to cut, cut, cut - and I still feel like I say yes to too many things. When I can't sleep at night because of all the things rumbling in my mind, stressed out that my to-do list is too long, then I look at what I committed to and don't commit to it the next year. It's a hard process to figure out.