Whether you have a chronic condition or returning from an injury, it can be frustrating to say the very least. When I was being diagnosed with CRPS I definitely found it hard to see the positive in the situation. The pain itself wasn’t actually the problem; yes the pain was excruciating and terrible and wouldn’t wish it on anyone. However it was the effects of the pain that had a lot more of an impact on me. The pain made me feel like I wasn’t me anymore and that was more soul destroying than any of the symptoms or pain I was in. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, there will always be things that make you feel like you, things that you love.
I always defined myself as a runner that’s what I loved and what I was naturally good at and when I couldn’t even walk cross the room or stay conscious I certainly didn’t feel like me anymore. I wanted to give up, what’s the point if you can’t do what you love, what makes you happy whether its dancing, going to the park with your kids or just making the dinner it definitely gets you down.
So here is my top tips from my experience and what I have learnt to try and help and see the silver lining:
Write a Diary or a log:
One of the things I wish I had done, that actually I have found out recently has been really helpful is writing a diary or log. It may seem like an odd suggestion and a bit of a faff but stick with me on this. I’m not taking about a long-winded Bridget Jones type thing where you go on about feelings and the journey of finding Mr right. My inspiration is actually from my Training diary.
Get a diary or a notebook and write the things you do down. Looking back at my recovery from CRPS there was months where I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, I was doing exercises and rehab but I was still in the same amount of pain and couldn’t really do anymore. It may seem meaningless and silly, if its only I was able to walk to the kitchen or cycle for 30 secs but write it down. I truly believe the way I recovered and got better was the build up of all the little baby steps.
It’s the same for recovering from an injury or just trying to progress at a skill in general. If I look back through my runs on my Nike app from August they aren’t even comparable to what I can do now. So when you have had a rough day, your feeling low and just want to curl up in a ball.. DON’T! Get out that book and look back yes it was tough and felt crap but the chances are you still have progressed it may not be much but that doesn’t matter. The thing is people always remember the negative you remember the bad run or when you struggled to walk 5 minutes to the shop, when before it was never an issue. You don’t remember the little triumphs, the better days cause as soon as that pain hits you and you cant do what you love anymore that’s all that seems to matter. If it is a chronic condition compared to just getting back from an injury or a long niggle it often difficult to see the progress when it is so small but doesn’t mean its not there!! You can also look back and think well I did this last time, why can’t I do it again?
Furthermore write down things like the weather or other external conditions like you didn’t sleep well the night before. There a lot of things that influence your pain and it is rarely just as simple as just being in pain, it can be influenced by all sorts of things. These extra little details might be why your struggling more that day, it might not be cause your not getting better or your going backwards. Therefore its important to add the little details that could be why and actually struggling more. Then when you reflect on it, that session or day might not have been that bad after all.
The rule with recovery is that you should always build it up slowly no more than 5% at a time that counts for all aspects such as distance, speed and weight. You want to do it slowly and you should also only increase each aspect by 5% not all at the same time.
Make a list of things you want to do and do them!
Ok so you need to be realistic you’re not necessarily going to be able to just go out and run a marathon. Figure out what do you want to do or what you miss doing and then break it down. It’s all about the baby steps, one step at a time and you’ll eventually get there even if it takes a while. If you like swimming, what is it you like about it? Figure out what it is you like about the activity you like doing and break it down so you can still get what you love even if you cant fully do it yet. If you like swimming fill up a bath or a paddling pool and have a dip just walk in it, or have a soak or go in a Jacuzzi or sauna. In too much pain for a swim why not try just walking in the water in the pool or just put your feet over the side. Also try the activity while your distracted you maybe surprised how much more you can achieve if your not 100% focused on it.
Yes, maybe it will flair the symptoms or pain up but if it is going to make you feel better about yourself then in many cases it’s worth the extra pain you may feel. Don’t let the condition stop you from doing what you love completely cause that’s letting it win.
I remember when I started to run again, I couldn’t go far but I could do it! So to cheer me up and show how far I’ve come, I went to the track. put on my spikes and ran one lap, that’s it. My boyfriend came with me for support, he brought a camera and took pictures of me running round the track. Yes it was only 400 meters and before it wouldn’t have been a warm up and yes it couldn’t have been more than 4 minutes of running max but that didn’t matter. I had my spikes on for the first time in years and I was at a track again. I printed the pictures off and I put it on my wall to show how far I had come. It might seem silly but it meant a lot to me, which was the important thing.
Find a community:
Many people may go on about social media and how it’s taking over the world like it’s a bad thing. One of the great things about social media and something that wasn’t around when I was diagnosed was platforms like instragram or twitter. There are loads of people out there that will be in a similar situation to you and will be able to help and support you through it. It’s easy to think that your on your own and that its only you that is experiencing these symptoms or problems but the chances are you not alone. Use hash tags like #spoonie or #(the condition you have) look through them and it wont take you long to see other people that are in the same situation. If your recovering from an injury, every sport will have people that have a similar thing or have been there and come out the other side. There will also be health professions that like that sports that might help out and give you some advice. I have had message and comments from people saying they have this pain when they run and I will always reply back and try and help as such as I can. That might be just me but I’d hope to think I’m not the only one.
I have meet so many different people from all around the world who have CRPS, some who are worse off and some who are better off than me. Just having someone else to talk to that knows exactly what you’re going through and what your thinking can make a huge difference. Your friends and family might be amazing and the most supportive people in the world but sometimes you need to talk to people that actually knows what you going through.
Don’t be too hard on yourself!!
I know for me especially my worse enemy is myself! Yes there were numerous people that told me I couldn’t do something and I would always be too sick to do it, unfortunately there will always be people like that. However I was often the first to think what the point I can’t do it, or so what I can walk round the supermarket now big deal. Self-compassion is something that is easily forgotten and almost always overlooked. This is another reason to write done what your doing so you can go ok so I can walk round the supermarket but actually before I couldn’t even walk without crutches. When you’re recovering or getting back into something again it’s all right to have a rest day! To say you know what today that’s enough, it’s ok, your body needs to rest and recover. Resting and recovery is just as important as your hard intensive workout, which I admit I am the first to forget but it is true.
It’s not always the easiest, and too easy to get caught up in it all but take some time out to reflect, tomorrow is a new day. Does that job or activity really need to be done today or can it wait till tomorrow? I your exhausted then do the rehab or session tomorrow you’ll get more out of it if you do. It’s all right not to be full steam ahead all the time, its important to listen to your body and respect it.
I hope that has give you some ideas and a lot of it is about reflection. If I look back on my journey and recovery from CRPS, I wouldn’t change it. I would definitely tell myself its going to be ok and not to give up but it has changed me and for the better. I am stronger because of it and it has made me who I am today and despite the suffering that isn’t something I would want to change.