Eight people asked me this past week how I got over the excruciating daily pain of a broken back, much less learned to walk again. Each of them have family that are veterans with lingering mobility problems who know nothing of me, so I thought I’d tell the story one last time on the blog (though it’s in the book), and put it down for posterity both as a teaching tale and part of my bio.
After graduation, matriculation and Masters degrees, I headed to San Francisco to work as a psychotherapist. There I met my first husband. He was from England, and we lived in Cambridge, London and York after we married. While in Cambridge and working as a Social Worker for the Blind, I was hit by a drunk driver which broke my back.
Paralysis gradually set in, creeping down my legs for two years…
I was told by my British surgeon to go home, that I would be on a two year wait for a diagnostic MRI and by that time I’d be paralyzed for good. Back in the United States I was given an operation to remove the shrapnel shards of shattered vertebra from my back muscles and spinal cord, but doctors said I’d likely never regain my mobility.
They also said I would probably progress to paraplegia, and to accept a wheelchair and get used to the idea. What, are you kidding me? How dare you tell me what I can and can’t do!
Though in tremendous pain & having gained over 150 pounds, I was bedridden ONLY three years.
I can be stubborn when pressed.
If you’re in a pickle like this, and everyone around you is forecasting doom.
The only sane answer to anyone telling you you’ll NEVER walk or NEVER do…(insert your own dream here) or that what you want is IMPOSSIBLE is –
The display of your middle finger.
I used this answer several times in refusing a wheelchair, refusing to listen to my nay-saying doctor another moment as I fired him, and refusing to give up, give in and become even gimpier than I already was.
I became a Refusenik for Health’s Sake.
Even More Important, is what I said YES To:
I knew the doctors had given up and wouldn’t help me, and I was going to have to help myself. I come from a long line of pioneering women, where pulling myself up by my own bootstraps was seen as the accepted thing to do.
So I did.
I sought out and learned every single alternative health therapy I could, and specialized in what are called Energy Therapies or Energy Psychology – methods which move and change the energy present in the human body to end pain or bring about beneficial psychological changes.
Historical models are acupuncture and acupressure. More modern variants include Applied Kinesiology, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Touch for Health, Therapeutic Touch, Zero Balancing,Â Reiki, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), and good old laying on of hands.
I love these because there are no drugs, gizmos or external aids necessary and anyone at all (even very young children) can easily learn and practice the energy therapies successfully.
I said yes to taking complete responsibility for my health and wellbeing.
I said Yes to some short-term pain for longterm gain. But no going over the top. Pain is a sign your body is not working correctly and you should stop doing whatever you’re doing to cause it, most of the time.
I said YesÂ to having total mobility again no matter what it took. I’ve been back fifteen years now.
One of theÂ things that helped tremendously was Balance taught by veteran Iyengar yoga teacher Jean Couch in Palo Alto, California. Balance comes from a French system known as L’Aplomb, and a system of positional reframing of the way the body interacts with its environment. How you sit, stand, lie down, carry a backpack, drive a car, etc.
With simple positional shifts, I eliminated about 70% of the pain I was in, immediately. Jean and her staff quite literally got me walking again from lurching wall to wall as I was in those days. Profound gratitude to them! If you have pain or joint messup, click the link and either go there or at least get the book and dvd.
I also said Yes to sharing the wealth – teaching the valuable pain relief, weightloss and belief-change techniques I learned in the trenches to folks who really need them.
It took nine years to become fully mobile again. And much of this time, before I got myself together, I was a horrible, unmitigated Brokeback Bitch.
I was absolutely evil to people I loved and cared about and even worse to those I didn’t. Pain will make you not give a crap about anyone else but yourself which is why, if you’re in pain, do EVERYTHING IT TAKES to end it now. (if you’d like me to help, go here).
Several years after I said “Yes” to taking responsibility for my body’s comfort, its mobility and my general health, I was walking again – gingerly, but still. A year after that I skipped for the first time in over a decade. Six months later I hiked in the woods and attended an all night dance party and had a blast.
I was back, right at the turn of the century.
The Blessings of a Broken Back
After that I began cleaning up my act. I apologized sincerely to everyone I’d been a bitch to. I started helping people get past their own pain and suffering first as a continuation of my psychotherapy practice, then after I’d retrained as a coach and developed the profession of Energy Coaching.
Looking at why the energy therapies have notable failures, I developed The ETHOS Method to address this problem and inculcate a field of living consciousness that actively maintains health and wellbeing in the individual and society. I taught my methods to several thousand helping professionals who took my Certified Energy Coach Program and special continuing education classes.
I chilled out the hot mess that I was, and I owe it all to having broken my back. In a certain sense, it’s been one of the key blessings of my life.
Just a few years ago, I began to be able to be active enough to lose the weight I’d gained lying in bed all those years. And when I was finally able to get up and go using the special skills and techniques I’d learned and developed, the pounds slipped off with ease.
So far I’ve lost 117 pounds. I’m teaching that too.Â 🙂