I Hold the Power to Heal in My Hands
For the past five years, I have dealt with debilitating full-body pain due to the damage to my brain and spine caused by multiple sclerosis (MS). Chronic pain was something I’d learned to live with, and even expect as a constant state of being in my life. The pain was concentrated in my legs and back, and increasingly got worse over the years leading up to and after my diagnosis. Walking became incredibly difficult, and I carried the paralyzing fear that I could very easily wake up and be completely disabled. I used to call my left leg my “MS leg” because it was a barometer for the severity of my symptoms. On any given day, it felt like it was filled with live wires, completely numb, or it burned like it was actually on fire.
Blessings in disguise
Last February, I had a terrible back injury followed in quick succession by a car accident. Both sent me to physical therapy for several painful months. I can see now that those “accidents” were simply blessings waiting to unfold. I could no longer ignore my physical symptoms, and had no choice but to sit still and rest to allow myself to recover. This period of stillness helped me rebuild my relationship with my body. I learned to listen to the messages it offered me through my physical symptoms. I began to distinguish between different types of muscle and nerve pain, and studied myology, the functions of the muscles.
Moving forward through education and communication
Tracking my physical symptoms and being able to communicate more clearly with my doctors helped me become a better health advocate for myself. I had two amazing physical therapists who took care to teach me about the nature and treatment of my pain. Several times a week, they guided me through a series of stretches and exercises designed to strengthen the muscles in my lower body. I had been favoring my left leg, dragging it along carefully to avoid placing too much on it. My right leg bore the brunt of my body weight, doing most of the work to move me around. My entire body was out of alignment, and the crooked way I walked caused even more muscle weakness and tightness.
Being intentional with my practice
My physical therapists essentially taught me how to walk again. I practiced consciously connecting my feet with the floor, grounding myself into the earth. I learned how to redistribute my weight equally so that each part of my body does its proper part. At first, walking correctly was awkward and I easily slipped back into unhealthy walking patterns. My daily walks with Zuko were for me as much as for him, as they offered tons of terrain to practice and strengthen the muscles in my legs. I even bought a pair of Merrell barefoot shoes (on sale!) so that I could become even more aware of and sensitive to the ground beneath my feet.
Creating a space for me and my wellness
In my home, I have designed a wellness studio, a place where I can go to care for my body. It is a tangible symbol of my commitment to creating the time and space to intentionally practice self-care. It is painted purple, of course, and decorated with art and gifts from my loved ones. There is a hula hoop, a medicine ball, and other tools I’ve collected over the years to help me deepen my stretches and release tension in my muscles.
Knowing and understanding my body
One of my greatest discoveries has been learning how to locate and treat my muscle spasms, one of the defining symptoms of MS. I still feel exhilaration every time I can palpate (apply pressure) a spasm using my fingers or a massage ball and release the pain. As part of my daily morning ritual, I target and heal pain points throughout my body. Doing this daily decreases my discomfort and helps me maintain my mobility.
From my perspective a year ago, I would have never thought it would be possible to have pain-free days. Now, being pain-free is very much a part of my new reality. Developing this intimate knowledge of my body has made me realize that the power to heal myself is literally in my own hands.
Does anyone else in your family have MS?