If you’ve ever had any sort of injury or illness, you’ll know just how debilitating it can be. Last year this happened to me – and I’ve been thinking about why you should never take a healthy body for granted, and why we shouldn’t neglect ourselves if we are, at the very least, able-bodied. If this sounds like it might be you, please do continue to read about my experience. I hope it makes you stop and think – and hopefully appreciate what you have…!
Living with an injury
As many readers of my blog will know, I slipped a disc at the end of November last year. I went to Paris for (less than) 24 hours for a press launch which involved two long train journeys to get there, and then two long train journeys back the next day, with tube travel in between.
Somewhere en route, so my doctor said, I slipped a disc. This was probably caused by lugging my overnight case on and off the trains and tube trains and up and down the stairs in the stations. What it affected was my sciatic nerve, the one that runs all the way down the back of your leg. It comes out of the spinal cord, down through your bum and down your leg all the way to your foot.
So what I initially thought was a pulled hamstring in one leg was actually sciatica, which, within a week, caused my leg to be so painful that I literally couldn’t walk without experiencing searing pain. When I wasn’t trying to get around it was numb and constantly ached like the most tender bruise imaginable or burned like severe sunburn. It was all the way down the whole of the back of my leg and went right into the arch of my foot. The slightest touch to my skin was torturous, so getting dressed or even just pulling down my underwear to go the bathroom was hell.
SO WHAT I INITIALLY THOUGHT WAS A PULLED HAMSTRING IN ONE LEG ENDED UP BEING SCIATICA, WHICH, WITHIN A WEEK, CAUSED MY LEG TO BE SO PAINFUL THAT I LITERALLY COULDN’T WALK WITHOUT SEARING PAIN.
In other words, this normally active person experienced what it was like – for the first time ever in her life – what chronic pain felt like and what immobility was like to live with.
How I coped with the pain
It didn’t sit well with me. I was frustrated at my lack of mobility. I hated having to ask my husband/whoever was around to pass things to me. I could rarely get out of the house because walking (even with my walking stick) was excruciating and tiring. Sitting hurt my leg, standing hurt my leg. I was a pretty horrible, grumpy person to be around for a while.
And I cried many tears from the pain.
The reason I’m painting such a grim picture is to try and make those of you who are able-bodied and don’t have any kind of serious illness see what it is like to find yourself suddenly unable to do all the things a human being is meant to do: Walk and run and jump and just generally move around. One day I was able to do all those things, the next day it was impossible, and painful with it.
ONE DAY I WAS ABLE TO [WALK AND RUN AND JUMP AND JUST GENERALLY MOVE AROUND], THE NEXT DAY IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE, AND PAINFUL WITH IT.
I am one of the lucky ones, however: I was discharged by the physiotherapist yesterday as I’m about 95% better. I’m back to walking every day, yoga has been good for me (a bit of a struggle due to my drop in fitness levels and lack of muscle movement) and I can now start low-impact cardio. I’ll be back to full running by the end of the month if I start now with the run-walk-run method.
I will admit I was a reasonably fit person before and enjoyed my exercise, but it was sporadic at times. Several days could easily go by without so much as an early morning walk because I had “just one more thing to do on the computer” or I got it into my head I was “just too tired”.
What the injury made me realise
However, the positive thing that came out of the whole experience turned out to be a bit of an epiphany for me. One especially bad day, I was sitting on the sofa with four pillows propping up my leg and still couldn’t manage to find a comfortable position that would ease the pain. I realised right there and then that I would have given anything – anything – to be able to get up, go for a 20 minute walk and come home again. Trying to imagine what that would be like was impossible for me at that stage.
I then became annoyed at myself for all those times before the injury that I just couldn’t be bothered to get up off the sofa, put on some sports shoes and go enjoy some fresh air. If I were able, I would have transported myself back to any one of those times and shouted at myself for being a lazy so-and-so and taking my body for granted.
I WAS ANNOYED AT MYSELF FOR ALL THOSE TIMES I JUST COULDN’T BE BOTHERED TO GET UP OFF THE SOFA, PUT ON SOME SPORTS SHOES AND JUST GO ENJOY SOME FRESH AIR.
Not just any body, but my body: My fully-functioning, able body. The one that has the luck to move without pain, or to move at all. Many people don’t have the good fortune to be able to do that, and I am in awe of those who are able to lead a full, happy life despite the s**t they were dealt with where their health is concerned.
The promise I made to myself
So I’ve made a promise to myself: Never again shall I take my fully-functioning body for granted. There’s no need to go the gym every day and become a total fitness freak. There’s just a need to respect the fact that my body works properly by giving it good food, fresh air and the opportunity to move around a lot, and do it regularly.
Everyone knows that you shouldn’t feed a dog chocolate or fizzy drinks, and that it needs to be exercised every single day. If we wouldn’t neglect a dog in that way, we shouldn’t neglect our own bodies either.
So please, please, please don’t neglect your body and simply GET MOVING. Go for a 20 minute brisk walk and appreciate the fact that you are able to do it at all. You’ll regret it if one day you can’t – you’ll wish, like I did, that you’d given your body more respect when you had the chance. And don’t feed it full of junk food, sugar or tobacco, or excessive alcohol either. It’s simply not worth it.
GO FOR A 20 MINUTE BRISK WALK AND APPRECIATE THE FACT THAT YOU ARE ABLE TO DO IT AT ALL. YOU’LL REGRET IT IF ONE DAY YOU CAN’T – YOU’LL WISH, LIKE I DID, THAT YOU’D GIVEN YOUR BODY MORE RESPECT WHEN YOU HAD THE CHANCE.
Your able body deserves better than that.
Have you ever suffered an injury or from a serious illness that affected your every day life? Do you live with chronic pain or similar – and how do you cope? Tell me in the comments (or tweet me @notlamb) if this has made you think twice about the way you treat your own body: I’d love to hear your thoughts.
P.S. You might also want to read 10 Ways To Keep Fit in Your 40s (or at Any Age)