This is not my first time talking about the costs and benefits of pushing through the pain. And the conclusion I am currently coming to is that it just doesn’t work for me.
Of course there is a certain level of pushing through that has to happen on a daily and weekly basis. I push myself to go to work two days a week, go grocery shopping, and go to church. But it is a carefully scheduled and carefully monitored pushing through within my current capabilities. It definitely increases my pain levels, but it is a temporary pain increase for the rest of the day or the following day or so.
But I am talking about another kind of pushing through. A pushing through the pain, when you really are unsure of the outcome.
I have made quite a bit of progress since my most recent relapse at the end of September. But I have kind of hit a wall. In discussing with my physical therapist how to move forward, we talked about pushing through the pain more than I currently do. She didn’t want me to do anything crazy, but she suggested that I do my current exercises more often, even on the days when I would typically think that it would be too much.
So this week I tried that. I didn’t do anything reckless. I simply tried to do my exercises or a portion of them most days, even when I was feeling a bit flared up. And it failed miserably.
I am lying here hoping that I didn’t set off a relapse. For me a relapse typically means three weeks to three months of barely getting off the couch, except for the bare essentials. And it means my pain levels skyrocket to miserable levels where every day I just want the day to be over so I can hopefully sleep the pain away.
I am not upset at my physical therapist for suggesting this to me. It was merely a suggestion to see what might happen. We have a high level of trust, and we both knew that it would come with some risk. And the thing is, as I have said before, pushing through has brought me out of relapse, but it has come with great cost. It comes with the cost of existing in a state of constant and unending misery for months at a time. And I’m just not sure I am willing to do that when a slower rate of improvement means a better quality of life.
Thankfully, there is a huge snow storm expected to hit tomorrow. Work will certainly be closed, so I rescheduled all my clients for Friday instead of Thursday. That means I have all day today and all day tomorrow to rest, not move, and try to wait out what is hopefully a flare and not a relapse.
The anxiety is certainly high today. The costs are high, and I am just waiting to know what the outcome will be. I am trying to convince myself that I will be ok either way. Yes, I will be ok. I will live to see another day. I will make it through minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day until I once again find myself in a better place. But in another sense, I really wouldn’t be ok.
So the lesson learned? I need to stick with what works for me. I feel pressure from myself and from articles that I read online that perhaps pushing through would work for me if I could just stick with it for long enough. If I could just endure the increased levels of pain for long enough, it will eventually bring me to a better place. But who knows if that would actually be the case? Maybe I would be pushing myself deeper and deeper into a pit of pain that I would never be able to escape from? That is a risk I am not willing to take.
The lesson is that my body responds to waiting and resting and extremely slow pacing. The lesson is that my body may be different than someone else’s body who responds to pushing through. The lesson is that I need to do what works for me. I need to stick with what works for me, and not keep going back to something that has failed me so many times in the past.
Honestly, in the back of my mind, it feels like the waiting, resting, and slow pacing is the weaker of the two options. It feels like if I were just a stronger person, I would just be able to deal with the pain to hopefully one day reach higher ground. I think that is why I feel the pressure to try something that has not worked for me in the past. I hope that, just maybe, this time I would be stronger and reach the other side.
But there is a strength in waiting. It takes strength to hold ourselves back from doing the thing we want to do when we know it would be better for our bodies. It takes strength to rest and to make slow turtle-like progress when we really want to be the hare.
I know this, but I always forget this when the pain starts to get better.