Sometimes in life, we have to stop listening to what other people say and listen to ourselves. In most cases, our intuition leads us in the right direction. But sometimes, society or even our own sense of adventure tells us otherwise, leading to internal conflicts.
I’ve noticed messages from my body in two main ways lately and am trying to take heed of their warnings: pain and food allergies/intolerance (digestive issues leading to eczema, hives, and other physical issues).
This is not the first time I’ve written about chronic pain. I never experienced daily pain until my NOLS Semester in the Rockies (1989), and I’ve never gone a day without pain ssince then. Perhaps I strained muscles and other soft tissues on my 95 day exploration and adventures in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. CT scans show some arthritis and bulging discs in the neck and low back, a hemangioma on T5, and signs of old compression fractures on T8 and T9, but they say nothing that should cause daily pain. In 1997, I had an osteochondroma removed from underneath my right scapula, and the doctors thought that would relieve most if not all of my thorascic pain. After five abdominal surgeries (two ovarian cysts and a dermoid tumor, appendix, and two umbilical hernia repairs) and seven surgeries on my right leg (five on the knee for torn meniscus, and two on the ankle for torn ATFL and tendons on both sides in the back) my body is not quite what it used to be. I’ve become accustomed to feeling stiff, sore, and achy and have changed my exercise regimen to include more physical therapy, yoga, biking, swimming, and other low-impact activities. Yet, I still have pain day to day. I seek the fine line between strengthening and conditioning and injury.
Yet, my spirit longs for more, so occasionally I get tempted to push my limits and challenge myself. The most recent example of this is back in May when I decided to join in the #handstand365 challenge. While I knew I couldn’t do a handstand every single day for a year, I thought I’d try doing them when I felt I could and still try to get to 365 of them. I made it to 29 so far. And now my neck hurts more than it used to, so I’ve been taking a break from it for a couple of weeks. I remember doctors and physical therapists telling me that becaues I have three bulging discs in my neck (C3/4, 4/5, and 5/6) that I should avoid lifting weights over my head. In fact, my physical therapist also told me to stop doing shoulder shrugs with weights and to start pulling resistance bands DOWN toward the floor to encourage those muscles (the levator scapulae?) to lengthen. I thought doing handstands would be ok since they are considered “yoga” moves and ignored earlier warnings not to do inversion exercises like headstands, handstands, and shoulder stands because of neck issues.
I learned how to do handstands as a child when I was a gymnast. I didn’t realize that doing them “yoga” style was different, but I finally figured that out when one of the #handstand365 teacher posted a video of her handstand instead of just a still picture. I noticed she went into it from downward-facing dog. I was going into them from a standing position. I noticed the yoga handstand was more fluid, slow, and easy on the body. When I tried to do them that way, it was much harder for me. I wasn’t even doing them right, duh! And I wasn’t always doing them as part of a yoga practice. handstands here and there in cool places and sometimes after having drinks with friends (not very yoga-like). I started noticing from the pictures that in almost every one, my body leaned to the left (my left leg is shorter than my right, maybe that’s why? I don’t know but check out the pictures). And what the pictures don’t show is that I land on my right leg every time (and that’s the one that’s had seven surgeries). My leg is getting more sore, and my neck is hurting more these days, so I hate to say it but I must listen to what my body is telling me and put my #handstand365 challenge on the back burner for a while. Maybe one day I will get stronger and be able to do them better, but I’m worried that putting my body weight on my hands like that is just as bad if not worse than lifting weights over my head. After so many surgeries in my past, I know that the consequences of getting hurt again are serious!
Since May, I’ve removed gluten from my diet again. A couple weeks ago, I also started eating a paleo diet. That means no grains, dairy, refined sugars and oils, and legumes (including peanut). I wrote another entry about getting diagnosed with gluten sensitivity. My dietician told me to go ahead and experiment with gluten-free products that include corn, hoping to open up more options for me. Based on past results, corn and sugar (they are in the same family) do not agree with me. I react and get sick every time I have them. I tried to tell her that, but she urged me to try it and see. So I did. And I got really sick; I call it ‘corn poisoning’ because that’s how it feels. After following up with my chiropractor at a natural wellness center, I took his advice to completely eliminate grains from my diet for a month and also try the paleo diet to give my digestive system a break. Apparently, my small intestine was spasming, and my stomach was irritated. For weeks, I’ve had a bad stomach and back ache, so I can tell something is very wrong. Having a diagnosis helps me keep a strict gluten-free diet, and hearing that my guts are as bad as they feel is enough to give me the self-discipline it takes to eat a paleo diet. I need to listen to my gut, literally, and eat the foods that make me feel healthy not sick. Apparently, the proteins in grains are difficult to digest, and dairy products are also inflammatory. Although it’s very difficult to eat paleo, after a month I will reassess and hopefully be able to introduce some brown rice and cheese at the very minimum. I really miss those two things! I’m definitely not going to reintroduce corn again. This is the second time I’ve eliminated it from my diet, and the cause/effect relationship is clear, so I am going to trust my instinct and away from it altogether. I don’t really feel the need to get a corn allergy test because I definitely react when I eat it.
Over the next months and years, I look forward to feeling healthier with less pain, and will focus on taking one day at a time.