Tag Archives: rehab

Fall On The Wind, A Seasonal Teaser

You’ll have to forgive me for the pomp and the abundance of adjectives. I’ve been watching a little Orson Welles biopic and feeling a bit verbose.

The recent heat broke before dawn and the temperature fell a few degrees. Skies are cast in grey with a wind carrying a ominous reminder of the north Pacific chill we’ll be battered with for months once the season ends proper.

Its almost-autumnal whispers feel treasonous after the hot summery days we’ve enjoyed of late, given far too few for the first many weeks of the season.

Labour day looms, and with it an all-too-soon sense of Vancouver’s unsummer coming to a close.

***

Fraser lookout, Vancouver, by moi.

The forecast says more sunshine is to come, but many today woke with that “great northern land” sense of the oppression we’ll soon be under.

I worked on a documentary the other day, on the job, and it was about a Danish designer, and they spoke of the Danes and how they’re two different people — moody and oppressive in the winter, and carefree and awesome in the summer. I realized then it’s not just Vancouver that’s schizophrenic with the seasons, but rather most of the northern world.

So this is why I’m resisting writing as much as possible right now. Because life, and this season, are short.

This spring was one of the most disappointing I’ve ever experienced in Vancouver, and summer never appeared until August. I was on the verge of switching from being Seasonally Affected to becoming Permanently Defected, but then summer arrived. This is only the second iffy day since the end of July.

In my cold fingers and shivering bare legs, I sense the long, daunting season that may be ahead. Last year’s summer wasn’t great either, making for an insufferable wait for this past month’s fantastic weather.

The rise of Vancouver’s delayed summer was coupled with the end of my own season of discontent as well. My back is slowly getting more livable. I’ve had some really nice bike rides lately, and I’m beginning to feel there’s hope for recovery to a place where I can cycle as much as I like and have the lifestyle I long for. Not there yet, but a great ride with a couple days off to recuperate is an okay balance for me.

With present reprieve from both Vancouver’s weather and back woes, I’m trying to just enjoy the moment, embrace the season, and remember every bit of daylight I can for when those 18-hours-of-darkness-days return, where the laughable “daylight” is often under mottled moody Pacific skies or rain-forest deluge.

***

This winter, I’ll do the writing I’m eager to do. I’ll continue working a little less “at the job” despite not needing so much rehab time for the back, and I will write a lot.

Right now, there’s no guilt for taking the time to remember other things I love about life, because I had felt so little passion for anything for quite a few months there. Injuries are as oppressive as heavy weather storm fronts when it comes to living life the way you would like. Passion tends to be a good thing for writers. To be devoid of it, well, that’s a crime.

To be freeing myself of feeling trapped is a sensational page to turn.

Lately, I’ve been cooking great food, rediscovering my bike, enjoying the sunshine, lazing around with movies when I’m not doing the first three things, and that’s about it. I won’t have vacation time this year, so I’m doing the best to plant a little vacation fakery around my work weeks of late, and I’ve fooled myself quite handily at it, too. I haven’t had the money to be social, after all the expensive rehab since March, and cock-ups with the medical claims, so having at-home-and-in-the-hood staycationing has been well-timed and fantastic for the soul.

***

The end of summer has always been a time of sadness and apprehension for me, but this year it’s not. I’m not sure what the difference is. I’m normally categorically despondent at the thought of an onslaught of Vancouver’s wet, grey winter. With only a month of real summer, you’d think I’d be even more so this year, but I’m not. I guess it’s because I have plans and goals in mind already for the grey heavy months to come.

I’m hoping seasonal sunshine and warmth continues until my September-end birthday, and I will continue steadfastly ignoring the literary arts and any goals until then.

***

It’s strange. I’ve never been this at peace with what I’ve been denied because of injuries before. I have this incredible gratitude for the little things I get to go and do of late, especially when the day ends and I’m stiff and sore but not in pain or worried about what the next day will bring.

I got to watch baseball 10 days ago. That was wonderful. I got to cycle in Stanley Park on Friday, and by the river the week before. Both wonderful things. Tomorrow, I have a cycling adventure planned with a friend, and I’m a little nervous but more excited. It feels great to not have the apprehension I’ve had. On Monday, I get to see a concert — a concert by the same band I was absolutely heart-broken to cancel seeing in May because my back injury was becoming worse instead of better.

Then a week or so later they announced a Labour Day return to Vancouver. My heart sang. The goal was to have my back healed by the gig. Well, it won’t be healed, but it’ll be good enough that I can go and bounce around… a little. And that’s awesome.

***

I’ve said before that my year of unemployment was a gift because it reminded me of simpler food, putting heart into cooking, and really learning how little one needs in life… and that I became aware I had most of what I needed.

I’ve believed for a while that my back injury was teaching me a few things. Gratitude for just being able to get around and have personal freedoms is just one of the lessons. The rest are for me to chew on a while longer.

***

It’s a bitter-sweet autumn-is-somewhere-out-there morning, and, as it turns out, that’s just fine with me.

Food: The Battle That Never Ends

One of my weekly addictions now, pun intended, is Extreme Makeover: Weight Edition.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: A person is ideally supposed to go from morbidly obese to, well, much less.

The most “extreme” episode I’ve seen spent the year with a man named James who began at 651 pounds and lost 313 pounds in 12 months. The first three months, the trainer, Chris Powell, lives with the show’s focus person. After that, the “contestant” is on their own but for the equipment they’ve been left, quarterly check-ins, and emails/phonecalls.

[Spoiler ahead.]

This week’s episode had 9 months invested in one morbidly obese man, who began at 490 pounds, lost 110 in three months, then 21, then gained 60 in the third quarter.

His food addiction came back stronger than ever.

The end of the episode had him checking into rehab 70 pounds below where he started, but 60 pounds over where he was after 4 months — and emotionally broken.

This is something I wish would shut all the cynics up who see weight-loss success on TV and go “Oh, but they had professional help, of course they lost weight.”

You know what? I don’t buy that. It works for a while, sure, but a show like this, it conveys that, left to our own devices, even with all the tools and means at our disposal, failure can find us because we’re our own worst enemies. Every person goes to bed alone in their heads.

Many people regain all their weight back, and even more, when life gets hard, because we’re usually heavy through unhealthy eating addictions that involve masking emotions or failed communications.

Enough About Them, Let’s Talk About Me

I’ve always been food-addicted, but I’m considerably less so in my old age. It’s still a problem. It probably always will be.

That I’m a pretty fucking confident cook sure as hell doesn’t help, but my ability to research and learn the science, well, that does help — a lot. I educate myself from time to time as well. Being a good cook means I take control, and I do so in an often-satisfying way with foods that are ultimately less addictive than fast food and commercial preparations.

Luckily, I somewhat like being active. If I weren’t so goddamned injured so often, I’d be unstoppable, and I’d probably get to keep eating the way I love but would continually lose weight doing it. Fortunately, I eventually battle past my distractions and usually maintain.

That’s me. And I know it’ll be a lifelong struggle. Fortunately, every year I get a little smarter about it, and have done that recently in the face of times that might’ve taken me down a more personally-destructive path in the past.

An Environment Created for Failure

The thing is, food’s an incredible struggle. It’s the hardest addiction in the world to overcome. It’s everywhere. Even skinny people drool over pictures like it’s porn. We even talk about the sexual ways we satisfy our hunger, we have “food orgasms,” we celebrate every holiday around a table, we communicate over tables, we have a national bacon dependency, and now we have sharing apps for cellphones that are all pictures of high-falutin’ drool-inducing food, and everywhere we turn is advertising showing the most sinful burgers and cookies and pastas and pizza (but read this about the dirty tricks photographers use to make that food look so yummy).

In this highly food-pornified world, losing 10 pounds is a massive achievement for some. Losing 313 in a year, no matter who’s helping you, even on a TV show, that’s absolutely mind-boggling — if done through weight and healthy eating, that is.

Add In Being Affected by Life’s Demands…

And putting a few pounds on in any given month or year, well, that’s human. Failing utterly? Also sadly human.

For me of late, I’ve not really been worrying about food, exercise, or whatever. I’m rehabilitating a back injury that scared me more than anything has in years. I had a week in April that was the darkest of my life. All I care about is NOT BEING THAT, and paying my rent. I’m rehabbing, getting my life under control, and that’s all the achievement I require right now.

In saying that, the last 10 months has included enough chaos that all I want to do is get into a routine where being active truly IS my lifestyle, and eating reasonably IS my way. That’s it. I want something I can follow for the rest of my life. I lost 70 pounds in a year doing it that way, I know I can get back to it, too, once my routine’s back.

Anyone who says weight-loss is easy during unemployment isn’t a stress-eater.

During my year of being often under-employed, I had pneumonia followed by a cancer scare that turned into a “dunno what that was, but it ain’t cancer” dealio, followed by blowing out my back. That I only gained eight pounds in two years since my drastic loss is fucking awesome, given my history of overeating for emotional reasons.

It is an addiction, and this has been the hardest year for fighting it. Have I won? No, but if this were a fairytale and the Big Bad Wolf was trying to get into grandma’s house, then I’ve been fighting that fucker back with a big-ass stick. He hasn’t gotten in, but I haven’t gotten around to doing much else with my time, either, time-consuming as fighting wolves tends to be, and all.

It Doesn’t Need to Stay That Way: Ebb & Flow

I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks, as my stress has gone down, as my back injury has finally gotten to a livable place, that my tendency to eat excessively, and too often, has just naturally slowed down, as have my cravings. I’ve not been eating GREAT all the time, but I’ve really not had too much on the average day, either. I also find myself avoiding sweets or feeling compelled for pastries.

The effort now is to simply be more active in my food choices– making more effort in cooking it so I’m not just eating food but, if I overeat, I’m wasting my time and money. Instead of buying bread, the plan now is to make my own for a while instead of buying huge baguettes to indulge in. Every meal needs some kind of veggies with it, preferably more than half the meal being veggies. Using less fat again, I’ve cut back on cheeses, there’s no cheddar in my house (fact: “cheddar” is Canadian for “crack”). I had chocolate during my “girl time” but haven’t felt cravings outside of that.

I don’t care who might think I could’ve done more or I’ve somehow failed myself because I put a little weight back on instead of continually taking it off. I don’t think of it like that. I think of it as “success interrupted.”

What I know about myself today is, I can get through everything that’s happened in the last year (and that short “pneumonia-blah-blah” point there barely skims the surface, as we all know life’s more complicated than big talking points), and gain back only 12% of the weight I’d lost up till 2009, well, that’s not too shabby for an emotional-eating food addict when the odds are better that I should have gained it all back. I kept 88% off, yo!

I’ve been more aware, even in my failings. Now I need greater awareness. Thankfully, it seems to be rising in me, and the stressors seem to be falling.

That’s the ebb-and-flow of life. Like Rocky Balboa says, it’s about getting hit and knocked down, but keepin’ on moving forward.

When I see a man, in life or even a show like that, reduced to tears in his failures, knowing he’s let down his beautiful little girl and wife, checking into rehab and facing all those demons… well, for me, being knocked down but moving forward feels like it’s as good an accomplishment as I need.

We should all remember that. Setbacks are great, if we learn from them and treat them as practice against being defeated in the future. Welcome to life, where we don’t always get it right, but we almost always get a second shot.

Failure photo from Mindthis.ca.
Hand photo from Haley Bell Photography.

Suck it Up, Buttercup: The Road to the Cup

As the saying goes, life’s tough — get a helmet.

The omigod-I’m-bagged feeling I had last Monday sure as hell hasn’t improved this week. Let me tell you, people, if you’re a hockey fan and the Stanley Cup playoffs hits your town, you will feel like shit by the time the playoffs are over.

Drinking, eating badly, and falling off one’s routine has never been so easy as it is right now. Praise be, we’re at least half-way through the final series. The two-plus month road is nearly at an end.

This morning, it’s evident I’m closer to 40 than I’d like to be. I call it “Stanleycupitis.” It hurts here, and here, and here, Doc.

Tonight, I’ll eat better. I won’t get the sleep I want, what with a 5am wakeup call for yet another early game day. But THIS IS WHAT WE LIVE FOR, like the Canucks’ team signage says this year. We want the Cup.

If the players can make it through, I can toughen up on rigours imposed by a gruelling playoff diet of booze and pizza.

Oh, Lord Stanley’s Cup: The double-edged sword you wield.

Given my back injury’s nowhere near where it needs to be for the longterm, I have not yet celebrated with the masses downtown. Tomorrow, I may. Depends on the back, of course. Something about crowding with thousands and thousands of easily-excitable people on city streets is a little unsettling for me, even now.

Between the playoffs, having to start work at 7am just to fit in treatment sessions on my back, struggling to keep my place in not-a-crackden status (but not doing too well at that), I’m reaching the end of my ever-aging fuse.

I’m not alone, of course. A lot of my friends are trying to fit life in with epic hockey that’s become don’t-miss-a-minute kinda gameplay. (Well, when an overtime-producing goal happens at 13 seconds remaining in regulation, or a game-winning sudden-death goal hits the net 10 seconds into overtime two games later, would YOU want to miss a minute? Not me.)

They’ll tell you that the Stanley Cup is incredible for the local economy, but I propose that any advantage the local economy’s experienced through the cash-happy hockey fan’s overzealous spending of late has been directly countered by productivity losses in all offices as employees buzz with “We’ve waited our whole lives to win hockey’s Holy Grail!” energy every day, with more hangovers per capita over a longer period than even the Olympics could’ve induced.

We Vancouverites are hanging on by a thin-but-happy thread.

Usually, we’re celebrating victories but today we’re lamenting the worst game of all the series so far. An 8-1 drubbing at the hands of Beantown’s Carebears certainly took the swagger out of the Canucks’ game.

Secretly, people like me are happy. Good, Game 5 is when we’ll win the kit and the kaboodle. We’ll take it all, baby! And, on a Friday night, at home, with sunny weather, and the whole weekend to celebrate and recover.

Yep. Let’s do THAT.

I remember that game in Vancouver’s ’94 Cup-run, against Toronto or Dallas, I don’t remember — someone whose asses we thoroughly kicked as we made our way to the Finals with New York. Some 40 gloves were littered from end-to-end on that ice, with so much penalty time handed out you needed a calculator just to get a tally of it all.

I don’t remember the score then, I don’t remember the next game’s score either, but I remember the buzz around it, and I can’t wait to see how Vancouver responds on Wednesday.

The hangovers, the antacids, the ass-dragging, the time-crunch, the flagging energy, the death-defying schedule juggling — THIS IS WHAT WE LIVE FOR. This is what the Stanley Cup does to you.

This isn’t no dinky football final where they play one game, and whoop, there it is, you have a victor. This is an all-out, bone-crunching, bruising, gasping best-of-7 fight through the injured-reserve list victory, baby. The winner’s gotta make it happen four times JUST THIS SERIES alone! Never mind the other three series nor the oodles of overtime played.

Two months, man! I hurt, and I’m tired, and I’m fed up.

But I’m not gonna miss a goddamned minute.

Because, really, this is what we live for.

Today, this week. The Stanley Cup hasn’t been held by a Canadian team since 1993. Vancouver has never owned the Cup.

But this year we will.

And I won’t have missed a minute.

Make my coffee a double. Maybe a triple. And get me a bigger piece of thread to hang onto, buddy. 31 hours to Game 4. I’ll be glued to it. You?

_______________________

Photo: Canadian Press. Baby Sign: No idea–bouncing around Facebook for a few weeks now, anonymously.

Not-so-Confidential To Boston Fans:

After last night’s game, you don’t get to whine about “dirty” play. Enjoy losing the series, Beantown.

Getting it Wrong Means Knowing How to Get it Right

The older I get, the more I see the adage of “darkest before dawn” being a truism.

A certain Zen-master sensibility takes over as I age whenever the fit really hits the shan.

“Oh, wow. A gnarly wave of suckage cresting on the right. Head down, hang on, and pray, woman.”

When I had that almost-a-major-setback with my back the other day, I went to some pretty fucking dark places. It’s been one hell of a rollercoaster week for me, and I’m done, man.

Done on a few levels, that is. I think I’ve hit a major turning point with my back. The almost-major-setback, it turns out, was that I had been doing a very important stretch wrong. Ever so slightly wrong, too.

There was a miscommunication in having the stretch explained/digested, and as a result I was extending backwards instead of forwards, causing a minor  compressing of the spine — but after a week or so of the compression, kaboom. Yowch. Something slipped as I started to pedal my bike and I went to That Dark Place.

And this stretch, the difference in placement of my tailbone is all of, say, 1 horizontal inch. It’s really not a lot, but that angle changes shoulder-level by about 30-degrees, just enough to fuck a girl up.

For me, this incident is a reminder on a number of levels.

  • Close often isn’t good enough. Which is, you know, not good enough.
  • When you’re doing yourself harm, it’s not always apparent until it’s too late.
  • Know the result you want, and how to recognise it.
  • Attention to detail is time well spent.
  • Attempt to undo damage all you like, but if you ain’t gettin’ it right, then you’re makin’ it wronger.*
  • Solutions tend to reverse tides in a hurry. Step 1. Act. Step 2. Worry only if it motivates you to do Step 1.
  • I am a tough bitch.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t working for wellness. I was. Daily rehab and stretching.

I was just doing it wrong. One small part of it. No good deed goes unpunished, as the cynical old bastards always say.

And this too shall pass, say others. With stretching apparently down, it seems like the mix is right and it will settle.

Life comes with interruptions and setbacks. If we can’t take them for what they are, an opportunity to adjust our thinking and try another tack, then we’re destined for a pretty bumpy journey.

What solves other lives ain’t gonna solve mine. It’s not a one-size-fits-all dealio, so there’s a lot of bump-in-the-night that we each need to do to get there.

I’m coming up on three years with this back injury, and it’s the first time I’ve ever nailed this particular stretch that releases this particular combination of muscles. That other old truism, never too late to change, appears to be indicative of my rehabilitation, too.

Believe? Why not. Sure, I believe.**

It’s fitting there’s sunshine today. I could use a little basking in the light.

*If you’re a grammar dork who wants to point out that “wronger” isn’t a word, well, duh. Go back to satire school.
**By the way, not for nothin’, hockey fans, but I hope Vancouver’s Canucks can learn a little of what I’ve learned this week, that a lack of success doesn’t mean failure, it means it’s time to adjust strategy. Getting outcoached is a shitty way to lose a series.

Not a Surf Bum, Just Bummed

I won’t be windsurfing.

Instead, I’ll be walking around in the post-acupuncture blissed-out haze I’ll be fortunate to have. Someone cancelled, and this back of mine that has been wonky since last Wednesday will be getting much-needed treatment. Lucky.

I’m bummed. I wanted to windsurf, but I won’t take the chance when I’m getting these warning twinges.

What’s happening? The same stuff that began a month before my back injury in 2008.

Basically, I’d lost 50 pounds that year via mostly cycling. With the wrong cycling posture, and with zero ab-work, the pressure on my lumbar built the entire summer.  It began with excessive tightness and tension twinges. Then the shit came down and crippled me for about six weeks, affecting me for nearly a year.

To say I’m alarmed to feel ANYTHING similar is a bit of an understatement, since it was only in about Sepember 2009 that my back began to feel normal again.

Right now, everything revolves around my back. The unfortunate reality is, I don’t have extended medical, so any money that gets spent is gone for good, and I’m really not in the position to afford more than “basic maintenance” right now.

Luckily, I bought two  (6)-packs of acupuncture in the hopes I’d get the money refunded from my last medical claimed. That failed and I’m out the money, but you can’t go wrong investing in health, and I still have the treatments for use.

So, it could be worse.

This morning I called and no appointments could be had. I pleaded desperately for first place on the waiting list.

Desperation, for the win! Got The Call at 1:12.

4:20 is when my road to wellness goes VrRRoom.

If I’m lucky, I’ll get cupped too. (Neat Eastern treatment that leaves one with huge welt marks but is amazing for muscle issues. OMG. I hope! My only real experience with it had me with better shoulder/neck-muscle loosening than a $90 massage would give me.)

Yep. Acupuncture. So, no windsurfing for me.

This summer is ending with a whimper, not a bang. It’s pretty anticlimatic that way, but…

It’s still a time of monumental change. Last Thursday, I submitted my application for a program I’m so wanting to get into. I got the call for a personal interview within a day. Tomorrow I go in.

Big things going down in Steffville.

We’ll see.

The back? Stupidity. Mine. I’m angry. I’m resolved. Sort of hit a mental bottom about it, because I remember how bad things got with the back and I can’t believe I’ve let myself slip to this point. I’ve been in a heady place about it yesterday and today.

The back problem’s mostly from overdoing it last week — I’d have been fine with overdoing it had I been maintaining my rehab work, like I’m supposed to, for the rest of my life. But totally have NOT been doing that. Last week? Two insane days of lifting boxes, climbing stairs, bending, etc, followed by 110km of cycling over the next few days, well… oops.

Note to Self: 40 isn’t that far away. Don’t be a dumbfuck.

Despite my freak-out at times this weekend, I’m cautiously confident this will pass pretty soon. The acupuncture appointment? Made me so damned happy. Nicely timed, my friends.

So, I kinda have missed out on the last great weekend of summer, and have had to cancel the thing I was looking forward to all summer as a personal check-point of sorts, but… it could be so much worse.

It’s a reminder, these lines we have to toe in order to keep ourselves safe, of just how important our bodies are. And balance, Grasshopper, seems the most important thing to attain for one’s body.

Stretching, a variety of exercise, posture, mindfulness — one without the others, for me, tends to be as harmful or more than not doing any at all. It’s like trying to live on only one kind of food. I could, but there’s no telling where it’ll lead.

A reminder, indeed.

A little fear of god and a very real threat of slipping back to a life of chronic pain is all one needs for motivation, if one has any brains at all.

Fortunately, I’m smart like dumptruck. Smarter, even.

So, then: Pincushion time. Yo, fix my Chi.

There’s A Post-Injury World I Live In

And it’s somewhere in between Uncertainland and Hopeville.

Most of it is of my own doing, too. Having burnt out with EVERYTHING last July, I just walked away from most of my obligations, organized  fitness, and social life. It’s been EXACTLY what I needed to do, but my back has been iffy from time to time as a result.

Fortunately, I’ve always sort of maintained my core to the bare minimum, and have had a lot of improvement with my back. It’s better, FAR better, now than it was last July when burn-out hit me.

I’m back, baby, and my back’s considering coming back too. I began last week with the simple goal of being active daily — not much, just enough. I’d started inconsistently the week before, but last week did honour my commitment to doing something physical on each day — even if only for 15 or 20 minutes. By the week’s end, I seized the day and had an 80 minute cycling adventure.

The last three days have been filled with uncertain moments for my back, though. Twinges and tightness, pricks and pains. I’ve been so looking forward to chiro. I’ve also been torn — do I rest this, or do I work it out? Resting wasn’t really working out for me, so I decided to pick up the weights. Continue reading