Listen to Your Body

It hurts. But they told me to ignore it and just keep going, it’ll stop.

I can’t anymore. It hurts. It hurts so badly. I want to cry. But I have to just push through it otherwise they’ll be annoyed with me again…

I almost fell down. So strong was the sensation of pain that just ran through my body. But I must go, go, go.

Are you a wuss? You don’t need a break. Push through it!

Oh shoot. I can’t… I can’t move. It’s like if somebody stuck a knife in my hip, right into the joint… and a second one somewhere between that and the middle of my lower back… I can’t, I can’t even stand straight or sit down. And they’re all watching. And… oh my, what if this is it?

These events/thoughts occurred throughout quite a few years since my childhood until I was 17 years old. In that seventeenth year of my life, shortly before turning into adulthood (in Czech you’re considered an adult once you hit 18 years of age), the last one came and… I was really, really scared. But let’s start from the beginning.

As a child, I’ve already started feeling slight sensation of pain in my hip/lower back when walking and laying in my bed. This slight discomfort gradually grew into pain – and into strong waves of pain shooting through my body here and there, pain so strong that I had to grab on things or I’d fall down.

I don’t blame my parents for not taking me seriously when I told them: “My legs hurt,” – every child complains when they have to walk a bit farther then they want to. Probably. They thought it was just this; me not wanting to walk.

But because of that, I learned not to only keep my mouth shut but to keep up the pace, too, even when it hurt.

My brain convinced me that I’m a wuss when I feel pain. It is said that pain is weakness leaving the body but in this case, it was the ability to walk slowly taking one step after another farther away from me.

And then it has decided that it was time to stop this childish play of tag and just… just stopped playing.  I was having dinner with a few friends from my student’s house where we lived during our high-school years. The diner was full of people – other students – when I decided to go return my tray with plate and other necessities for executing the dining process successfully, and pushed my chair away from the table, getting up – only halfway.

And there I got stuck, half bent over the table, half standing, unable to sit back down or stand up over the pain.

That’s it, I thought.

And it might as well be.

Somehow, they got me in a hospital. I don’t really remember how I got there, the only memory is of me helplessly laying down seeing all the needles they had there ready to be used. I’m scared of needles. No I’m terrified of needles. The one thing I pray for every time I have to get a vaccination or when they take my blood is sweet unconsciousness. And as always, it didn’t come. Instead, I was just trying hard not to cry out of fear – both of the needles and that this really might be it.

Now, when I look back, I know many people will probably think that I was overreacting a bit. It just sometimes happens that one cannot move suddenly, the get some medicine or whatnot, rehabilitation. And then they can walk again. But when you’re as terrified as I was, you just can’t think clearly.

The next morning, my father had to arrive all the way to get me and bring me to a hospital nearer our home. More doctors. More needles. And so it went for the next… about six months, I think.

They checked so many things that I can’t even name them. And, mostly, I really couldn’t name the tests even back then. How is the thing when they put some radioactive stuff in your veins so that they can see better through you called? Well, whatever it is, I might have as well glow in the dark after it. Couldn’t come nearby any child for a few days.

Rehabilitation didn’t work for me. The skin on my lower back got burnt quite a few times – either by electricity or the hot towels or all the other whatnot the put on me. I quite enjoyed the pool exercise. Although, it felt a bit strange – I’ve never met anyone younger than people in their sixties. And that surely didn’t help my morale because a) even they were getting better (or, at the very least, they weren’t getting worse like me), and b) something is just very wrong when you’re in your teens and have to get rehabilitation with people who could be your grandparents. Although, they were generally very nice. And yes, we had quite a few good laughs together.

To make it short, after about half a year we both – me and my father – have had about enough. Knowing that doctors somehow didn’t know what to do with me (and that any kind of tumor wasn’t at fault), and after one of them suggesting a surgery where they’d cut some part of my feet (I think it were feet) off, we were just simply done with it all. My father said he wasn’t going to have my legs cut at my age and sat down, did some research, and found me a physiotherapist.

And she helped me to be able to walk and enjoy it again.

Now, physiotherapy isn’t something you get. It’s not like you enjoy massages, it’s not a medication.

Physiotherapy is something you do.

And, yes, I have to admit – sometimes I didn’t want to do. Sometimes, it was kind of hard, sometimes, I couldn’t do it. But every time that happened, I had my physiotherapist on the phone, could ask her any question and she’d come up with an alternate exercise.

She got me custom-made shoe inserts to fix my feet and make my legs get the way they were supposed to grow. (Yes, they weren’t very comfortable. Yes, I wanted to just throw them away sometimes. Yes, I couldn’t wear shoes I’d like to wear.)

After about six months, I could walk half a mile without feeling any pain. After a year, I could walk three miles – with these three miles being quite enjoyable.

It was like a miracle. No, it wasn’t like a miracle – for me, it was a real miracle.

But why am I telling you all this? Think about it. It might be because I don’t want you to make the same mistake as me – please, I beg you.

If you feel pain, if it feels like something is a bit off with your body, take a break. Get an advice. Get help, if it keeps coming back. Don’t call yourself a wuss when you feel pain that’s coming back or getting worse.

You’re NOT a wuss for feeling pain.

Now, I’m not talking about when you are in the mountains and need to push through the usual muscle pain. I’m not talking about you losing your breath in that hill. I’m not talking about your child complaining when they need to walk one flight of stairs.

I trust you that you can use your healthy judgement and recognize when it’s just a general pain or tiredness (yes, TAKE A BREAK!) and when it’s something more.

Anyway.

When your body REALLY NEEDS A BREAK, then GIVE IT A BREAK.

When you body literally screams at you that SOMETHING IS NOT ALL RIGHT HERE, then, please, LISTEN TO IT.

For this life, you’ve got this body and none other. Take care of it.

And one more little piece of advice;

Be patient with your body.

I myself sometimes still struggle with this one but it’s as important as listening closely to it.

When I was seventeen, the privilege of being able to travel on foot left me.

A year after that, I could walk half a mile.

In one and a half year, I could walk 3 miles.

When I was twenty, in December 2016, I got to the top of my first peak since the incident – Anthony’s Nose in NY. Then came Popolopen Torne. Both of them were quite short hikes (The Nose 3 miles and Popolopen Torne 2 miles). But it was something to begin with.

In July 2017 I hiked in Yosemite. Vernal and Nevada falls, Then Glacier Point via Panorama Trail.

In August I failed to get to the top of Clouds Rest.

In May 2018, I got to the summit of Mt Diablo and back. 14 miles.

And a few days ago, oh god, I did something crazy. I signed up for a 10K race. I know it sounds almost like nothing, especially to the ones of you who do marathons, 50Ks, 100-milers… But believe me when I say, I’m going to join you one day on a 100-mile race.

Yeah, you can get far when you’re patient with your body and listen to it. I know I said it many times already but I feel like this needs to be said time and over again because we don’t hear it enough.

And remember, people;

“It won’t get better, if you don’t stop hurting it.”

 

Love,

Pina

 

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