My Health Journey
I was in agony for over a year. At one point, I could not sit, lie down, nor stand for very long. I was at loss at what to do. Whatever position I was in I had throbbing pain. I could only sleep on one side for a half hour, before the pain would wake me up. I would switch sleeping sides and start all over again for just a half hour of sleep. Throbbing pain in the low back, shooting pain down the legs, these were my nights. During the day I was a zombie, I would fall asleep in the chair or on the couch, and my head would drop to the side or down on my chest. I would wake up with a stiff neck. My neck got so bad that I could not really stretch out at night, and if I didn’t stretch out to the maximum my back would give me fits. I would ice at least six times a day, and I would take lots of very warm showers too.
I came to the College of San Mateo walking so gingerly, shuffling along like a ninety year old man. For six months I would stretch out, so slowly that it would take me over 3 hours to get loose. Sometime I would come back for another three hours. One time among the weight trainers in a corner, a concerned exerciser thought I was in trouble and called the staff to check on me, as I was moving and stretching so slowly, it looked like I was dead, with my hands covering my face.
By January 2013 I was ready to start working with a trainer. John Nava had me start at the beginning, like a child, learn diaphragmatic breathing and learn to walk correctly—moving correctly became my new challenge; most important was correct form in all exercises, correct structural alignment of my spine.
Mentally the challenge was even greater, especially in battling the anxiety of not knowing if I ever was going to get better. Month after month I would get a tiny bit better and then one wrong movement and I would fall off the knife edge, and be back in the world of constant pain. The pain became chronic. I had to learn to meditate, and affirm to myself just before sleep each night, “I am well; my back is strong and healthy”. I had to believe—believe I would get better. With belief came better sleep, with better sleep came healing.
I learned from John that the nervous system has memory and that I have to retrain my responses, so that normal movement would not trigger the fight or flight response, tighten my muscles so much that they would pull on my spine and cause pain. The pain would cause more muscle tightening and this in turn would cause more pain. I had to learn to break this cycle, physically and mentally.
It’s has taken persistence and lots of dedication. I only missed one day at the gym between October 10, 2012 and February 15, 2013 and only then because I was sick. I was a Winter Warrior; I still respectfully wear the arm band. I have changed my diet, my movement, my mental approach to life. I am completely engaged now; I am not that person who was cocooned away from the world, living in constant pain. I am using the water to get stronger and healthier now, because it’s easier on my joints. Soon, I will learn to swim and breathe in the water.
I know that this is my life now. I must do this and make this journey. In reality, as strange as it might seem, it has been a blessing, because I am a better and humbler person, and now I am willing to be vulnerable, open up myself to others, to dare greatly. Realizing more than ever that time is precious, and that I must live in the moment and treasure each second of life to the fullest. Most of all, I mustn’t let my music die within me. I must photograph the beauty of the world before it’s gone and create images that sing with beauty. This is my passion; I must share it with others, so they too will be inspired.
I could not have made this journey without all the wonderful people I have met here at the San Mateo Athletic Club: the staff members, management, the trainers especially John Nava, and all the people who come to exercise. I believe in hope, if I can come from hell and back so you can you.