I just finished something that I set my mind to do at the beginning of the year. It was this huge looming thing that I knew I wanted and had to do. However, I was afraid. This would be a totally different experience than anything I had experienced before. It was that and more. Hands down one of the hardest things I have had to do in a long time but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
For those of you who know I am a pretty big girl (yes, I meant that both ways ;) and I have been one for most of my life. Some of the same things that went on with me as a big girl happens to me as a small girl. Doctors are trained however to contribute most if not all medical problems you have while being overweight to being overweight. So as my numbers crept up, of course, most doctors and everyone else thought that I should get the weight loss surgery (Gastric bypass.) I didn’t want to do it at first. Then I started to see the faces when I would say I wasn’t getting it... So I decided to get it. I went through the whole program. Got cleared and was waiting to set my day for surgery. Then I decided not to do it. I figured if I was risking my life then it had better be for something I wanted to do.
(Side Note: I have a huge problem that I am working on, involving putting other people’s needs, wants, and feelings, above mine. I know I need to get it together. )
Luckily I was presented with this wonderful opportunity...
On May 30th, 2017 I started the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s Pain Management Program (SRAPMP.) I completed the program on June 22nd and it was one of the best decisions of my life. I worked with Doctors, Nurses, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Psychologists who helped guide me on the right path. The first thing that they said to us was, “I understand what you are going through.” The big shocker? They meant it! That is one of the best feelings in the world! After being told by many different people (doctors included): “That it was all in your head” (I am not crazy,) “You’re too young for that to happen” (However it seems to be happening,) or (My personal favorite) “It’s all due to your weight.” The healers at SRAPMP debunked all of those myths. They explained to and assured all of us that our pain is indeed real. Then they showed us why the pain was there and why it’s so intense. They then took it a step further by showing us how we could improve or lessen the pain. We took several different types of therapy, classes, had an individual session with a doctor and a psychologist, worked out at the gym and in the pool.
Physical Therapy (PT)
Worked on our bodies teaching us different techniques to use to strengthen the parts where we had problems with. They also gave us things to work on at home.
Occupational Therapy (OT)
Helped us improve the actions that we have to do or want to do on a consistent basis like doing laundry, cooking, or dancing.
(Both PT and OT helped us along every step our journey. They gave us things to do at home, taught the classes, supervised at the gym, and even took us on a field trip.)
Chair Yoga, Tai Chi, Core Strengthening, Stretching Class
We did chair yoga, core work, stretching and my favorite Tai Chi! These classes showed us to start where we are and push ourselves (without overdoing it) we could do things we thought we couldn’t.
Their main purpose, however, was to teach us more ways and techniques to make our pain better. Doing the exercises we either decrease pain or stress strengthen muscles or improved flexibility.
Psychology, Mindfulness, Boundaries, and Relaxation (Biofeedback) sessions
Psychology group sessions were awesome because that brought everything full circle. This is not only where we learned the science behind what we are feeling but it is also where we bonded the most as a group. It was where we heard, maybe for the first time, “I understand because it’s happening to me as well.” As we went around the table sharing, we all had similar feelings because we all are dealing with chronic pain and yes it’s a real thing. We learned how to be mindful of what we are doing, the pain we are feeling, how to change the way our brain interprets pain and our reaction to it.
Boundaries group is just what it says we learned how to set up boundaries. Not just the physical, “three feet no pressure!” but no. No, that’s not an incomplete sentence that’s what we learned, how to say “No.” Which should be one of the easiest things to say, but to me, it is the hardest lesson to learn. If I can’t do something for whatever reason I should feel free to say no but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. So I learned the phrase “I wish I could, but I can’t.” Another thing I learned was not to give an explanation, it will only give people an opportunity to talk you into doing it.
“Can you watch my kids, I have to work?”
“I have to work.”
“Well, can’t you just call off of work?”
“I wish I could but I can’t. Bye!”
Biofeedback or relaxation sessions could be group or individual. They were basically where we learned different ways or techniques to relax. Let’s face it, stress contributes a lot to pain so when faced with extreme pain you should definitely try to relax. Have you ever been in extreme pain? The hardest thing to do in that situation is to relax! So we practice ways to stay calm more often because if you are calm most of the time it’s not that hard to get back there.
( I would like to clarify I mean calm on the inside as well as the outside. If you appear calm but there is a storm on the inside that’s not good for anyone.)
Doctor, Nurses, and Mental Health:
I met with my doctors and nurse twice a week. They checked me out and made sure that I was healthy. And we had some hiccups. My first time on the bike the handles were cutting into me and I rubbed a hole into my thigh. Yep, A hole a deep hole too. One that needed dressing every day. I also got salmonella while in the program. The doctor quickly got in touch with my primary doctor and got me an appointment that same day. My chair is broken and they got me an express appointment with their wheelchair clinic. Who are working on getting me a new wheelchair and a loaner in the meantime.
My mental Health doctor was just wonderful. I was able to be open and honest with her about my feelings and what I was going through. She was understanding of my issues, unafraid to tell me when I was wrong, and unrestricted when it comes to giving praise.
You know how when you were in grade school and gym was your favorite subject. Well, I can honestly say that I did not feel that way about this gym. The gym was lovely don’t get me wrong very posh but friendly and inviting at the same time. I didn’t like it because I was afraid. During the rest of the process, I wasn’t afraid, I was like bring it on. When it came to the gym however it gave me pause. I didn’t think that I could do the machines. I was afraid that people would look at me funny, that I wouldn’t even be able to get on the machines, that I would fall, of all sorts of things. But you know what I decided to do it anyway. I decided to stand up to my fears and insecurities and just do it!
Working out at the gym as well as completing the SRAPMP were the best things I could have done. I love both of them immensely. The program has changed my life for the better. It has equipped me with the tools to better myself and that’s what I plan to do. To think I could have missed out on this opportunity because of fear. I have a big problem with fear. It’s one of the things I am working on during this year of me. ( I am taking this year to work on me.) Now I workout 5 days a week; I go to the gym three days a week, chair aerobics once a week, and I have started teaching Tai Chi once a week and it’s great! I feel better after I workout. I’ve been
losing weight (From 395 lbs. to 367 lbs.) and have also gone down some inches (from size 36 to 24) which is an added bonus. The best part, however, is that I am feeling better and being able to do more.
So that’s what I’ve been doing people. So sorry it’s been keeping me away. On this journey, I have been growing, opening my eyes and focusing on things. So I see that one of my priorities is this website and posting great things. Well, I am on the job and I won’t disappoint.
It was also because of this process that I came up with my new mantra, "One Breath, One Step, One Day At A Time." #oneatatime It keeps me going.
I have great things happening in my future. Please join me.