Pain in the neck: Gratitude List

So while Lightening in a Bottle was amazing/life changing/spiritually orgasmic, I was left with one horrible horrible side effect: awful neck pain from passing out like a pretzel in the tent while camping the last night. (camping < glamping < moteling < hoteling < my bed.. this is my new hierarchy in my sleeping preference I’m realizing). And now I can see what people mean when they say “[fill in the blank of something really annoying] is such a pain in the neck.

I literally (not to exaggerate, and not to sound like a baby) almost died. It was one of the most painful, excruciating pains (have I said the word pain yet?) I’ve ever felt. I even pulled out my 3.5 years old pain killers from when I got my tonsils out and took them because every time I turned my neck in ANY direction (which the painkillers did nothing by the way because the pain was so bad), and still I had a shooting pain that traveled all around my spine, my head then the rest of my body (again not to exaggerate) that felt like dark forces were trying to take over my body and my soul and then break my neck. I’d wake up and I would want to scream it hurt so bad.. and (wow just realizing this is the longest bitching session ever) after a WHOLE 24 hours of it and being in a haze from all the pain (wow if I say pain one more time), and in a pretty negative space (I started to panic, what if I never escape this pain and I become one of those pain killer addicts and I end up in rehab and I will lose my job and… WHOA ok you get the point), I realized that until it healed, there was nothing I can do about it and bitching about it in my head or otherwise was not going to help. So I decided to take a different approach and decided that I need to be proactive about fixing the problem and using this experience as an opportunity to grow, rather than just being upset about it.

So the second day after work, I turned on some yoga music in my creative room (yes I have a room that I call the creative room.. lol) and some candles and started doing really slow flow of cat/cow poses to slowly stretch out my spine and my neck… slower than I have ever done those poses. I’ve heard my yoga teacher say during my classes something like, “now pretend you are moving in a jar of jello and move really slowly and gracefully” and my ADHD ass would never really fully understand what that meant. Yet, this restorative flow I was doing, I felt what it would actually feel like if I were to move slowly in that jar she always referenced to. I tasted the graceful and extremely conscious side of yoga that I was never able to full enjoy before – really really slowing down and listening to every breath, joint, muscle, and movement of my body in attempt to be really careful not to hurt my neck more. 

Then while doing this, I was randomly inspired by my yoga music, which was comprised of simple piano melody. So after 30 minutes or so of physical stretching, I impulsively got up, then I found myself in front of my keyboard, and I just started jamming. I even recorded my freestyle piano sesh on my phone, then started freestyling to that beat and base melody I created to create layers of different melodies. This was something I have never done before. In the midst of getting in the flow of my yoga practice and being creative with music, I forgot about time, I forgot about my surrounding, and most importantly I forgot about my pain. And this moment,  I realized that no matter how painful or “awful” any experience that may seem, there is always something I gain from it. In this case, it was my graceful yoga movements and my creative flow on my piano!

The next day, when I woke up, my neck hurt even worse. I even went to get a massage, went to get a chiropractic adjustment and get acupuncture (which was something I’d never done before because needles scare me but I got desperate and didn’t want to take any more pain killers) and it still hadn’t healed completely. At this point, I was almost in tears every breath, bite, or sneeze I had because of the level of pain. Even just staring at something hurt. Existing hurt. It was like a really bad hang over where your existence hurts, your entire being hurts, your hair hurts, but all that pain was concentrated just in your neck. I was thinking about going to urgent care and just asking for pain killers.. I was really running out of patience and running out of options. 

But instead of whining and bitching about it and resorting to that (and not just externally, but internally as well) I decided to try this… intentionally steering my internal dialogue into a positive flow of mind. I wanted to find something good out of this.

So a creative way I thought of doing this was.. taking out a piece of paper, and I started to write down all the things I’m grateful for from this experience. At first, I didn’t think I’d find any. How could being in pain be something I could be grateful about? But don’t I often turn other non-physically painful situations into something positive? Can’t I try this?!

So then I had a flashback of driving to work this morning, and I just started writing.. 

Gratitude list for my neck pain:

  1. I passed by a homeless person sleeping on the concrete side walk on my way to work in the morning, and I thought, wow that person must have back and neck issues all the time. How lucky am I that camping in a tent was a conscious choice I made for leisure, and that i have a bed to come back to where I can start to heal, a house to come back to, and resources for medical treatment so I can get my spine adjusted. I am going to bring that guy a pillow next time.  
  2. And now that I think about it.. my mom always had really bad neck issues, and I always wondered what she was feeling when she would seem like she was in excruciating pain. How blessed was I that I get to experience the same exact pain as her, as if I am in her body, so that I can not only share compassion for her when she has her neck pains again, but also I can practice restorative yoga poses in my own body so I can offer her healing and pain relieving techniques for when she hurts again to help her. Hmm.. that’s pretty cool. 
  3. With my pain in my back and my neck, and my joints crackling everywhere, I felt like I was 85 years old. And come to think of it, I’ve always wanted to teach a senior yoga class but never knew what it meant to have a body that was in pain or inhibiting in anyway. I never understood why senior yoga classes even had to be different. But now I knew why those movements needed to be slower, why it’s even more important to help them listen to their bodies when they practice yoga. I even found myself doing slow stretching movements on a chair as I was desperately trying to stretch and feel better.  Now I can utilize all those techniques I found to be effective in relieving pain and discomfort in my body to help them one day. 
  4. Because of my neck pain, I went outside of my office often to stretch during my work day.. I would do forward folds and twist and all that yummy stuff my body felt like it needed. I realized at that point that I sit too much at my job any way and the importance of getting up and stretching regardless. 
  5. When I expressed my pain to my co-workers (earlier when I was in my bitching mode), I learned that I was not alone in this type of pain – in fact half of the people I spoke to had also experienced regular pains in their back or neck  (also reminding me that we all sit too much for too long). At this moment, I realized that this neck pain was not only allowing me to connect with my other co workers through similar experience but also  how lucky I am to not usually feel this type of pain chronically usually. I couldn’t wait to also tell them about my yoga poses I tried on my own and refer them to my acupuncturist after this experience so that I can help them from relieving their pain!
  6. How good will I feel when I feel better because I know what it feels like not to feel good! 
  7. How lucky am I that my other parts of the body aren’t hurting! The fact that I’m not always aware of my body parts working properly and optimally without pain means I am healthy and strong for the most part! Although this part of my body is causing me pain, compared to how much of “no pain” I feel in the rest of my body, this is a very very small fraction!
  8. I taught myself how to meditate pain out of my body. It goes something like this (for your practical reference): Close your eyes and get in a comfortable position or slow movement (such as cat/cow for my spine) where you won’t feel pain moving. Then slowly inhale and imagine a bright blue or pink light (I just like pink, but you can choose whatever color you like as long as you visualize it being bright and sparkly!) and visualize that light going to the part of your body where you feel pain and loving it, nurturing it, warming it and kissing it. As you exhale, visualize the “pain” (I used the imagery of a dark smoky mass leaving my body through my mouth as I breathed out) leaving your body. Repeat until you get in the flow of it for about 15-30 minutes until you feel relaxed. I made this technique up, and it totally worked for me! 
  9. I got to receive acupuncture and chiropractic love for the first time in my life, and learned that it is absolutely AMAZING! With no drugs, I felt so much better! 
  10. As I was getting to a long list of my gratitude list from my neck pain, I realized this offered such an insight and learning experience that I never thought I’d get. I got to reflect, turn something negative into positive, and now I get to write this blog post and share my wealth of epiphanies!

Around this point in my gratitude list, I was not only so focused on creating this list that I had forgotten all about my pain in my neck, but I was (drum rolls), smiling! 😀 

And instead of hearing my internal (and external) dialogue go, “Ugh my neck hurts so bad, this really sucks” I started hearing myself thinking, “I can’t WAIT to feel better and move my body in every motion I want in my able and pain free body!” or “I can’t WAIT to help people get out of pain too from what I learned!” or “I can’t WAIT to wake up and not feel any pain in my neck!” It was honestly even surprising to myself. I know I tend to be a pretty optimistic person but I am a little cry baby with super duper low pain tolerance, and the fact that I was able to relieve my pain from my mental strength and positivity was so exciting!

And regarding my pain, after my chiropractic adjustment and the needles poking me (acupuncture) I feel much much better today, and I can’t WAIT to feel better tomorrow!

I am thankful that the Universe offered me this learning experience and so thankful for my otherwise healthy body. I am bursting with gratitude! 

OH and most importantly… definitely will be bringing that air mattress next time when I go camp!

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