Facing down "normal" pain after years of chronic pain

I feel like I got hit by a truck.

Earlier this week, just after our sweet housekeeper finished mopping the kitchen floor, I returned home from a massage. I'd booked the massage to give myself some self-care; I got Invisalign braces a week earlier, and my jaw and neck muscles were screaming for some love. Without noticing that the tile floor was wet, I reached for the recycling bin and *whack.* My feet flew from beneath me and then my low back, shoulder blades, and head hit the ground in rapid succession. I think our housekeeper thought she'd killed me.

 I wasn't quite this graceful as I slid through the water on my kitchen floor...

I wasn't quite this graceful as I slid through the water on my kitchen floor...

I hopped off the floor, shook it off, and took some Advil. I knew I'd feel it the next day, and I did. I woke up the next morning stiff and sore, and I turned around in the mirror to examine the bruises... but there weren't any. As I walked out to make coffee in the kitchen, my adductors were tight, and my low back was cranky with each step. It felt like my muscles were those too-tight hairs in your ponytail: you can't quite work out what exactly is so tight, so you have to shake out the whole thing and try again. 

I took more Advil and carried on with my day, but I had a nagging feeling of, well, feeling like crap. I couldn't find a position to sit or lie down that wasn't uncomfortable. The tight adductors were also sending some shooting pain around my hips. 

It was time to email my physical therapist. I wrote something to the effect of: "I went splat on the wet kitchen floor. No concussion. No broken bones. I hurt. I know it's normal, but can you remind me?" Since recovering from my pelvic pain and not experiencing "chronic" pain in a few years, I still hate experiencing any pain. It makes me nervous. And this incident freaked me out as I considered that it's the sort of injury I can imagine people describe to their physical therapists when explaining the source of some long-existing pain issue. She always knows the right words to reassure me, and her response went something like this: "Ouch. It's going to hurt." She went on to suggest ice or heat, constructive rest, and self-care. Those things seem obvious, but when you've experienced chronic pain, your brain can start racing and leave logic in the dust.

I cleared my overly-ambitious social calendar of pilates classes, meetings, and aerial yoga. I decided that it's not world-ending to take a four-day break from exercise. I cancelled movie plans (sitting in a seat for 2+ hours sounded uncomfy), ordered delivery for dinner, and drew a luxuriously long bath. I snuggled my dog, took Advil religiously, drank lots of water, and got lots of sleep. And 48 hours later, I'm feeling so much better. If I'm still stiff next week, I may see my physical therapist for help returning to my regular activities quicker. I do plan to stick to my plans in the morning -- a yoga class and brunch to celebrate a girlfriend's birthday. 

It's so hard to accept any bad days after suffering so many bad years. I think that, as my pain continues to recede in my rearview mirror, that will become less challenging. With time, I expect that I'll even come to appreciate the occasional "down day" with some minor ailment. But for now, I'm desperate to enjoy my still-fresh health. I have so much I want to do, and I feel like I'm still catching up after all those years of hurt. And because of that, I think it's totally normal to freak out when an injury lands me on the couch -- it makes me feel like the things I treasure so much now are being threatened, and that's terrifying. But alas, I try to remind myself that my body responded astoundingly well to something that could've caused broken bones and bruises. And next time, I'll be a bit more careful when traipsing around my wet kitchen when my feet are slick with massage oil. ;)

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