Thursday, February 25, 2010

Don't Look Back . . .

I don't know if it's a personality quirk, a survival mechanism, or a symptom of the fact that I spend so much time living in my head, but wherever I go, there I am and I just accept the parameters of it. I'm insensitive to being uncomfortable.

Sometimes, J comes home from work and complains that the house is freezing, and I suddenly realize I can barely feel my fingers and my teeth are actually chattering, but it hasn't occurred to me to turn up the heat or put on an extra sweater.

When I'm sick, I have a hard time recognizing that I'm sick - I'll carry on like everything is fine until I get completely frustrated with myself for being sluggish and spacey. Once I've recognized that I'm sick, I have a hard time remembering that sickness passes and I will feel better again someday in the not so distant future. I just accept it as my state of being, and for some reason, my default setting is to see my state of being as static.

Because of this, I have a tendency to be hesitant when it comes to change, but then completely able to embrace a new situation when it appears. I hate leaving home when I have to travel, but I love being away once I'm gone. I'll stress to no end about getting everything together to go on a backpacking trip, but once we're out in the middle of the woods, I can't seem to remember why indoor plumbing ever seemed all that important, or why we bother with houses when tents work just fine.

Sometimes having a high tolerance for discomfort comes in super handy. It's good to be adaptable. It's good to be able to just accept what's being thrown in my direction. It's good to not always expect things to be easy or comfortable, and I think a lot of where I am now comes from the fact that I have the ability to put my head down and keep putting one foot in front of the other, regardless of the circumstances.

But sometimes, it's just dumb. Like when an old Ithaca friend, who just-so-happens to be a physical therapist practicing in Rochester, notices my Facebook status update about having a migraine, suggests I come see her at her practice, and over the course of 3 visits we determine that I've had a major knot in my neck for YEARS, without even noticing that I had significant neck pain.

Years! And I'm not exaggerating. I had a herniated disk in my back several years ago, and in nursing that injury, apparently, I started going crooked. Even though my back is completely healed, my neck and shoulders were messed up from compensating. But in the healing process, I just got used to that being my default state, and adjusted to those parameters.

When my PT took my history, we discovered that the migraines started just after the back injury. I've never had good posture (it's always helpful when your PT can go home and find old photos of you slouching around your dorm to prove her point), but the disk injury made it worse, and started some kind of encapsulated something in my neck that lead to me getting migraines A LOT.

After my first visit, I started making an effort to be more aware of my movement and how I feel in everyday situations. I even realized that I'd stopped parking in spaces I needed to back out of when I could avoid it - because I'd lost some range of motion in my neck and looking over my left shoulder was uncomfortable.

Three visits, and a few weeks of daily exercises and stretches, and I have full range of motion in my neck again. When a migraine starts, I can get it to fade away with a few stretches. And my posture has improved SO much that I actually feel taller.

Most importantly, I've learned to stop every once in awhile to take a beat and think about myself. I'm making a commitment to allow myself comfort. I'm determined to learn how to preserve my adaptability, while I become more conscious of my ability to change the things I want to change. I'm excited about this new luxury of self-awareness and the sense of empowerment it brings. Plus, my clothes look much better on me when I stand up straight. Bonus.

How about you? Do you notice when you're uncomfortable, or are you more of a bite the bullet and get on with it kind of person? What do you want to change?


GirlWithCurls said...

I've developed this habit of trying to deal with all my problems on my own. I don't know if its because I'm afraid of doctors or because afraid of doctor bills but I fight for my health with hours of reading and attempts at natural/home remedies to cure my pains and aches with little or no relief. Two days ago I finally gave in and admitted to myself that I'm NOT a doctor and that I should stop letting things get out of control. So I made my first appointment in.... well... years. :-) Surprisingly, I'm excited. I have so many questions they'll probably want to charge me twice.

TMC said...

I have a similar habit. I'll go for hours and hours having to potty, or being cold, or hungry, and somehow I notice and yet don't notice.

I also had a similar experience to your PT example. Last year I finally put two and two together and realized that what I thought had been ADD was actually serious anxiety and control issues. It made a real difference when I learned how to address it.

Courtney said...

That is bizarre! I'm glad you found the source of the migraines and are using it to better yourself all-around. I think I notice when I'm uncomfortable, but I often don't do anything about it -- sadly, I think it's out of guilt. I don't really think I'm entitled to full comfort all the time. Who is? I spend most of my life trying to be as non-princessy as possible, so I guess I see discomfort as a weird badge of honor. I'm a weirdo, I know.

Noelle said...

I think I'm the exact opposite: my body complains all the time, and I can't ignore it. It's actually kind of distracting, and I have trouble getting things done because I'm always adjusting this or that.

I feel a little inspired now to see someone about my shoulders. I bet the pain in them is connected to other things.

Rachel Elizabeth said...

I seem to be either in the same boat where I don't even notice until its a problem or I can't get comfortable and it goes in phases.

Kirsten said...

i definitely have a high tolerance for discomfort (recent example, my knee). granted, i have a chronic health condition, so it's something that's developed over time as a means to cope. however, discomfort caused by outside sources (people making noise, etc.) I have zero tolerance for.

Reluctant Blogger said...

OH wow, that's good if it sorts your migraines out.

I guess I am a bit like that. I certainly find it difficult to imagine I am elsehwere when I am in one place. It means things that are finished always are for me - I don't kind of look back on them much, like every time I move city, I just start afresh and well, just get on with it.

I would soon get up and turn the heating on though if I were cold. I have a very low tolerance of being cold.

A Free Man said...

I know exactly what you mean about living in your head. I can totally notice my own discomfort, though. But I'm fairly often ignorant of the discomfort of those around me!

WendyCinNYC said...

Um, yeah, no. I'm nothing like that. I complain way too much!

Take care of yourself!

Moni said...

I've had aches and pains on my right side for a few days now. I have a giant knot in my back, my right foot hurts, and the teeth on my right side even hurt. Your post makes me realize that I should maybe go see a physical therapist, or at least a masseuse.

The Modern Gal said...

I'm quite the same way, and funny enough, my dad is a doctor. But he was an ER doc when I was a kid, so it had to be a very bad injury/illness to grab his attention. As such, I've learned to ignore my body in ways that probably aren't good for it. Couple that with the same live-in-the-present attitude you have, and well, not good.

But I too am trying to be more cognizant of myself, and this is a good reminder what!

Glad to know you got the kinks worked out!