Back to Me

Back to Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Back Pain!

Back to Me

I went down like a brick right after I grabbed for my morning cup of coffee. The pain sheared through not only my back and legs but through the core of my spirit. It was searing, like white-hot electricity, and like nothing I had ever felt before. I had been bothered with flare-ups for the past fifteen years, but this was different. Thankfully my husband was home that day to call for an ambulance, because I had “fallen and couldn’t get up.”

The first thing they did when I got to the hospital was schedule an MRI for me. The dark, narrow tunnel that enveloped me for almost an hour was like a tomb that would come to symbolize the end of one life and also the womb that would give birth to a new life. “You fractured a disk,” the surgeon said. “You’re going to need back surgery.” He said it the same way my butcher says I need to try the veal. He was so nonchalant that it took me a moment to understand what he was saying.

My super busy life flashed before my eyes: my business, my family, my friends, my home and my pets. But I reassured myself. “I’ll be fine. I’m healthy and in good shape. I walk three miles every morning before I go to work in my hair salon. I’m always on the move.” I believed that someone in such great shape would do well after surgery. And most importantly, people depended on me. My clients needed me. My husband needed me. My parents needed me. My friends needed me. But what I wouldn’t realize, until years later, is that I needed me. My life had become so out of balance that my body had to break to get my attention. Furthermore, my body wouldn’t recover after the surgery.

It’s called “failed back surgery.” I wasn’t sure if I failed or the doctor did, but that didn’t matter because I had to try and figure out what kind of life I could make for myself while spending most of the first three years after the surgery bedridden. I couldn’t stand, sit, or walk for more than five or ten minutes at a time. All I was able to do, for those first few years, was think and pray, and if I was lucky and had a good day, dress myself and make dinner for my husband. “What good am I like this?” I asked anyone in earshot. “Maybe you could use me as a doorstop because I’m not good for anything else.”

The emotional suffering of not being able to do my normal daily tasks was unbearable. I had to give up my business as well as anything else from my previous life. I couldn’t be depended on by anyone and that was the hardest part. I had gone from being very active and social to being alone most of the time, with no one to listen to but myself. So, I started to write my thoughts in a journal.

Everyone always told me that I was a good listener, but I realized I had listened to so many other voices that I could no longer hear my own. That is until I started journaling. Writing opened a channel within me that allowed me to hear my own truth, to hear what I needed. After losing so much of who I was, or thought I was, writing gave me a new freedom and sovereignty that I hadn’t know before. Struggling with unrelenting pain made me feel powerless, but reading the words I had written gave me back a stronger sense of me — of who and all that I was, even though my body was being assaulted by pain.

I would start my journal’s pages with things like:

My purpose is…

I have learned…

I trust in…

I have no limits because…

And then I wrote until I exhausted all possibilities. This is where my healing began. It didn’t matter that I had lost most of my physical abilities, because I was onto something new — a new way of thinking, a new way of “moving.” What used to be merely a physical experience was soon becoming much deeper, more meaningful, and divinely insightful. Before my surgery, I lived out of habit, playing the role of a woman on the move, never having time to go within and give thought to anything other than what I was doing at the time. I was completely out of balance. Running from one thing to the next, for everyone else, left me depleted of my own life force; I was out of gas and broken down. It’s no wonder I ended up with chronic pain. While at a pain clinic, a nurse once told me, “People with chronic pain tend to think more of others than they do of themselves. It’s a balance issue and something has to give. You need to be there for yourself first.”

Journaling was a gift I gave myself. I had read studies about how it can help ease chronic pain, clarify your priorities, and even boost your immune system, but I didn’t believe it until I experienced it firsthand. My journal has become my counselor, my friend, and my savior. It’s the wisest voice I hear. It keeps me in check and in touch with what I’m feeling. I can tell when I’m out of balance by what I’m writing. I can tell when I’m pressured and when I’m pushing myself too hard. I know that when I get stressed, it’s usually a precursor to a flare-up, which I can see coming through the written thoughts I pour onto the page.

I always had carried the weight of the world on my back. I felt that I was on call, so to speak, for everyone else. There are still days when I struggle with that mindset, but I understand now that I need to show up for my own life. I have to slow down and pay attention to my needs, because it’s truly the only way I can be there for others. Writing in my journal shows me how to do that, in the most surprising ways!

~ Marijo Herndon ~

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