Friday, April 18, 2014

Rode hard and put away wet: the story of my carcass

So in my youth I spent a lot of time pushing my body.  Running, Skiing, Mountain biking, Martial arts, Rugby, Firefighting, basically doing many things in which I hurled my carcass heedlessly into many situations that ended in breaks, concussions, sprains, muscle tears and other things. 

When I was 27 I was an interior firefighter who ran 5 miles 5 days a week and ate whatever I wanted.  Then one day I couldn't lift my right arm.  At All.  Nothing.

Doctor spent a year looking into why, then I started getting migraines, and chronic ankle and knee pain.

Doctor found that both my lower back, hips,both feet and knees had been cracked/broken so many times they had healed incorrectly and were covered in bony spurs called osteophytes.  He gave me a handicap pass immediately and told me I would never run again.

An MRI later he found a tear in the center of my spinal cord, a disease called Syringomyelia.  It was why I was having intermittant trouble lifting my right arm and having chronic chest pain which later turned into intermittant postural tachycardia. SUPER fun by the way, get out of your car too quickly, heart is hammering for a hour, lie down in bed and rool over to fast, heart hammering keeping you awake, Sneeze? yeah good chance your going to feel like you are running a marathon for a few hours.  Pneumonia + Stairs =  super hilarious.

I am 35 now.  I know 35 year olds who work out every day, eat 1200 calories, keep a clean house and have 40-50 hour jobs.

I am not one of those people.  I work 27-30 hours a week, and it is tough.

Over time my hips, knees, and ankles have been rebroken, without me being able to tell because of neuropathy in my legs from my low back I didn't have them treated correctly, I pulled an old karate move and "walked it off"

My doctor prescribed swimming, which I loved, until my skin started reacting to the pool chemicals and making my eczema flare up year round and put me on oral steroids just so I could drink and eat (ever had eczema on your tongue and try to drink anything but water or eat bread?  yeah not happening.)

Now before you get the wrong idea, I am not complaining.  I have the BEST memories, a black belt,1,000 ways to kill a person, can fix my own bikes and friends, and a whole new outlook on how to be tough.

I also have this lesson.  BE KIND TO YOURSELF.

i did all those stupid things when I was a young athlete:  dieting, anorexia, pushing myself to the point of injury, pills, ignoring doctor's advice.... I did all those things and I still have to mentally slap myself for the damage I did to my body and the fucked up thoughts and relationships I still have with food and exercise.

At one point I remember my best friend and I bonding over our love of trucker caffeine pills because it helped us to burn fat and calories.  We were in high school and a sports instructor gave them to us telling us it would help us to "win, because we were not there to have fun, we were there to compete"

I wake up every AM and have to do about 15 minutes of stretches in my bed before I can stand and go brush my teeth.  In the winter often my legs, back and arms are so painful I take 3 or more hot showers a day just so I am not taking deathly doses of anti-inflammatory meds.  After cleaning the house or doing exercise I spend at least an hour or more rubbing and stretching before I go to bed so that I don't wake up with cramps.  I sleep with a cut off pool noodle under my pillow because otherwise I wake up with my right side numb.

I still struggle to eat 1200 calories a day because the only thing my body craves is sugar and water.  I struggle to get enough protein to help to keep my lean muscle mass up.

It is a struggle each day to get up, get my life in order, and not do myself injury.  Sometimes I think about getting even older and I am terrified because often people with Syringomyelia suddenly go paralyzed on one side or below the waist.

So I adapt.  I plan out meals and eat even when I am not hungry.  I always set up my food to be 1/4 protein 1/2 veggies, and 1/4 whatever else I want.  I have special plates that I love that I eat off of.  I get a little crazy when other people use my plates or watch me eat...put baby steps.

I try to watch TV while I am doing my hour of stretching, hour of "conditioning" (AKA horrible sit ups, leg lifts and other exercises designed to lengthen and strengths my joints and tendons that were damaged)

I wear a heart monitor when I work out so that I don't go over my reccomended BPM and trigger my tachycardia.

I am careful, careful, careful.

You adapt.  You replace running with yoga, replace dieting with learning how to cook GREAT food, you teach yourself that pain is a sign that something is wrong, and you forgive yourself for not being a super human

No Tears, No Regrets, celebrate little victories.

Now its time for my 2nd hot shower of the day and to do my night stretching so I can sleep tonight.

Life is hard, be kind to yourself.

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