Trust the Process

May 2022

After barely making it through a summer of teaching swim lessons, I needed to have my back looked at. Although my tolerance level is frighteningly high, even I couldn’t disguise the pain I was in. I was physically crawling up my basement stairs at the end of the day, I couldn’t stand up straight, and I couldn’t pick up my kids. Now that I am thinking about it, I could barely sit without being in agonizing pain. An MRI showed some bulging and herniated discs in my lower back and I was off to a spine center to see what I needed to do.

We had a three tiered plan about injections and then surgery. When she saw my eyeballs nearly fall out of their sockets when she said surgery, she reassured me that we probably wouldn’t get to that point because the injections should work. We started with cortisone injections for the first round. After signing my life away on a piece of paper, I nervously laid on the table face down and waited for the pokes. The doctor told me I would be sore but should feel everything kick in to help within 3 to 5 days. After 10 days of absolutely no change, we scheduled an epidural steroid injection a month later. When I arrived, the doctor told me all of the things that could go wrong and told me the slim chance to none that those would happen, most likely.

So, I anxiously laid on the table face down and held on to my wrist and took my heart rate about 18 times. Sitting at a cool 120bpm, I tried so hard to calm my body down but I couldn’t. I just kept going over all of the things that could go wrong. So, I tried a different strategy. I thought about all of things that could go right. What if I could walk with no pain again to at least get me to PT to rehab this issue? What if I could walk up a set of stairs again without crawling? How great will it be to pick up my kids again? I wish I could tell you that those coping strategies worked, but it didn’t. In the back of my head, I just knew this wasn’t going to work. After the initial injection and screaming out loud because this burning sensation followed by pain traveled down my leg, I was released into my little holding cell where I sat for 30 minutes by myself in a wheelchair. 10 days later, no change.

As I mentally started contemplating spinal fusion surgery at 38, I instantly panicked. I couldn’t do it. Mentally, physically, emotionally. I decided that my last ditch effort was to throw a post up on good ol’ facebook to see if my network had any ideas. My good friend Maria sent me the name of her physical therapist and I called immediately. Sadly, she was booked for months and I decided to tell the woman my story. I pleaded for her to look at Meg’s schedule again and that I would make ANY time work. I met Meg in August and it was a match made in heaven. She was funny, quirky and extremely knowledgeable. We began to repair my back in the smallest of baby steps. There would even be times I couldn’t get up on the table. When I say baby steps, man were they fucking baby steps. I was in PT 2-3x a week from August through December of 2021.

In that same post, another friend messaged me and asked if I had my pelvic floor looked at. Other than the time my OB told me my vagina was sad (yes, that happened), I haven’t had any other opinions. Why would I need to have my pelvic floor looked at or my stomach? It was my back that bothered me not my vagina or my stomach. Ha, boy was I wrong.

I met Melanie from CoreSet also in August of 2021. It turns out that I tore my linea alba (the section that runs down your midline of your abdomen) in three places. I had what is called a diastasis recti. The top, middle and bottom were all stretched far apart and I basically didn’t have an abdominal wall. Well, I did but they weren’t close by. The worst separation was 12 cm long! This all started to make sense once Melanie explained everything to me. I wasn’t seeing any results when I was working out because I had no abdomen muscles since they were stretched too far apart. My back was in so much pain and I could barely stand up on my own because I had no support from my abdomen whatsoever.

The program that I would be put on would not have overnight results. I had to work hard. I had to be consistent. I had to trust the process. I was put in splints that covered from just underneath my boobs and my entire torso for 22 hours a day. Now, we didn’t just slap those things on for 22 hours on the first go. I had to work up to that place. I felt nauseous at first. The splints were tight. It was hotter that Haiti in August of 2021. And you can’t really sit down without the splints flying up and bending everywhere. So I stood for almost every portion of the day. I bought myself a standing desk and rarely sat down unless it was to get in the car. I hated driving with them on because it bulged up something fierce.

August 2021

In addition to wearing these splints, I did exercises every single day. Multiple times per day. Between my diastasis recti exercises and my back exercises, it took me about 2-3 hours total per day. Some days I had to give up and only do one set. Some weeks when I got my period, I would have to give in all together. And lucky me, I get my period 2x a month so some weeks I just felt like a failure. However, I continued to push myself. I was determined to do this for me and I wasn’t giving up.

So, here we are 9 months later. I feel stronger than ever. My diastasis recti is completely closed at the top and bottom. I have about 1 cm left in the middle section!! I have more work that needs to be done but my back and core are stable. I only have spasms in my back when I get my period. So yes, it does suck that it happens every 2 weeks but sometimes my back pain will last 1-2 days and other cycles my back won’t hurt at all. I am back at the gym and have been for 3 months with no limitations. I have my confidence back. So much so that I am putting up this next picture. I am ready to show my before and my work in progress pictures.

I do want to thank Scott, my sisters, my parents, my friends and my trainer for being so supportive during this journey. Thanks goodness for facebook posts and for friends reaching out to get me the recommendations I so desperately needed. Last and certainly not least, my tag team partners of Meg and Melanie who have never met one another but heard all about one another during my appointments. They gave me the tools I needed to be successful and I will be forever grateful.

Here is to a summer of teaching lessons and launching these kids so far into the air, stomach engaged, of course.

Pandemic Anniversary

I had a really shitty week mentally leading up to writing this blog. I had work deadlines up the ass, some heavy personal shit going on, lofty goals to reach and I felt like things were spinning out of control. My anxiety kicked in at full speed because why not kick me when I am down? Makes sense. As my shitty sleep continued to mount and my mindless tv, podcasts and things that I tried to occupy myself with to keep my anxiety at bay started to dwindle, I began to unravel. I have fallen into the “pandemic fine” category, myself. Basically, pandemic fine is a state of being in which you are employed and healthy during a pandemic but you’re also tired, depressed and feel like a bag of shit all the damn time. Yup, that about sums that up.

I started thinking about this past year. And since the days and months blurred together, I had completely forgotten that we were coming up on a full year of Covid. Can you believe that? An entire year of being afraid for our lives, losing loved ones, taking pay cuts or getting furloughed from our jobs and managing our sanity albeit, poorly. Let that take a moment to sink in. It has been a year being in lockdown (for those that took it seriously.) A year of not hugging your extended family and friends who don’t live in the same house as you. A year that your kids had no full time brick and mortar schooling. A year that you watched your friends and family members who were deemed essential fight for their lives and the safety of others every single day. A year when you truly realized the toll that it takes on ones self when your mental health is not stable.

This past year we were asked to do great things. So great that it has worn all of us down. It made us shells of who we once were. All of the structure of our routine days and even not so routine days, gone. None of us knowing when we will feel safe again. The days and nights blended together and continued becoming longer and longer. It made sense for me to unravel. When trauma this big goes unprocessed and undiscussed it starts to implode. I think the largest mistake we could make is to repress the trauma and pretend it will go away on its own. It won’t. Trust me.

So on this pandemic anniversary, embrace the shitty moments. Think about them. Talk about them. Even though it is hard. Try and talk about the positive moments too. I started to do it with the girls at dinner to see if it would help ease the tension in my mind. I asked them to think back when we started lockdown and to name one thing that they didn’t like and one thing that they really enjoyed. This past year was dark and shitty but there is a vaccine and a light at the end of the tunnel. As Amanda Gorman so eloquently said, “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” On this pandemic anniversary, I choose to see the light.

Changing Your Mindset

I have very high expectations for myself. Like really fucking high. And when I don’t hit my goals I am quite rocked by it. Why? Because I am Wonder Woman. I am “supposed” to be everything to everyone, help every single human around me, never say no to people and forever be burned out because of it. My mindset goal for last week was to focus on my small victories. My own personal victories and not anything I did for anyone else. I wrote a weak ass post that I was called out on (thanks ES) and was asked to write it again. I needed to write it better and with more meaning.

I didn’t want to for two reasons: I am all about helping others and because I have always been of the midset about getting to that big moment of crossing that finish line. I guess I didn’t really believe in small victories. I actually had a hard time thinking about small victories for myself. I had to google it. I know, how sad is that?! Was I really supposed to jump for joy if I found money in my pants pocket or get excited when I found an itch I could actually reach? Hey Google, thanks for those. Truly life-changing…..

It wasn’t until recently that I realized it is all about the small little victories along the way to get you over that finish line. My goal is to lose the stupid weight I put on over the last six months. It isn’t a terribly high amount but I’m unhappy and totally unmotivated. So, when you aren’t motivated everything becomes daunting and discouraging. So in fact, the small wins are what pushes you and helps get you to where that goal becomes manageable!

I was finally able to come up with small wins and victories that I will celebrate more: Friends that encourage you, blogs that inspire you, a good fucking hair day, opportunities to make a change, learning from my mistakes, a good solid deep breathing sesh, a good solid cry sesh (perhaps not in that order), saying no to someone, finding time for family and laughing.

I’ve learned that I can and will be the same Wonder Woman but just needed to shift my vision a little bit more to appreciate the opportunities of counting my blessings, being grateful and reflecting on how much I have accomplished, no matter how big or small!

Dear Anxiety…

We have known each other for quite some time. If I had to guess at specifics, I would have to say for most of my life since I was a teenager. There are some pretty amazing traits that you bring to the table, like how you alert me when there is something to warn me about. Or how you motivate me when I’m faced with a challenge. You have even made me; yes, me, the always glass half empty type of person more empathetic to what others may be going through. You have made me think about all of the things that can potentially go wrong and made me into the problem solver and leader I am today.

With all of that being said, you have held me back so much during my life. You are there when I need you and you are ALWAYS lurking in the background when I don’t need you. It is now time for us to part ways.

I am saying goodbye to being anxious about being anxious. I am saying goodbye to the racing heart for no reason. I am saying goodbye to the dizziness and my body shaking uncontrollably. I am saying goodbye to the constant pacing and always trying to be one step ahead of you.

Curating the list of tools in my toolbox to get you to go away has taken many years to create. It has been a daunting task. Taking deep breaths, writing my name one hundred times on a piece of paper, coloring, scrolling through social media to try and turn off my brain, or looking at pictures of my kids are only a few. You get smarter and try and trick me that none of these strategies will work. They eventually do though and you slowly start to fade away. Some days it’s over quick while other days it feels like it lasts the whole day because it does.

Anxiety, I want to thank you for all of the positives that you have brought to my life but it is time to start phasing all of the negative ones out. I am determined to not let you control my life any longer.

I can’t wait to start appreciating all of the little things in my life, starting NOW!