Sometimes, there are life events so powerful that everything else becomes a “before” or an “after”. Marriage, divorce, births, deaths. So, a small bit about me, and one of my big events. Back in 2007 I was working full-time, raising my then 7 year-old daughter, and was at the tail-end of finalizing my divorce which had been in the works for years already. Things weren’t easy. Little did I know they were about to get much harder. It’s amazing what happens when we’re not paying attention.
Burned-out, stressed-out, and run-down– that was me. Finally, my body delivered the ultimate message when I became stricken with a very rare side-effect from my flu shot. Essentially, my immune system went crazy and attacked a part of my body we usually don’t even think about, much less know about called the brachial plexus. It’s one of two nerve centers in the body that acts as a “circuit breaker” for the nerves controlling the mid-thoracic spine and up.
The onset was frightening and excruciating. My right arm became mostly paralyzed within a week and the pain spread into my entire body over the next two months. I had gone from being an active, fit woman who could barely stay in her seat to a woman who couldn’t move or lie still without what felt like limb-ripping pain and muscle spasms. I went to five different doctors all who would stare at me perplexed because they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with someone who looked so healthy. After awhile, I didn’t look so healthy…
Finally after testing me for everything from cancer, to diabetes, to multiple sclerosis I was diagnosed with brachial neuritis for which there is no treatment, no cure, and no current studies being done because it’s so rare. You just have to wait and pray that the pain stops and that you don’t get a brand new attack. I was hit with multiple attacks. My right arm remained weak and got weaker from the new attacks, and the simplest of tasks hurt terribly and worsened my pain. What made it even harder is that I was trying to hide it. I did my best to show up in places when I could. I’d do my hair, dress nicely, and plaster on a smile. Just getting ready was painful and exhausting. I became well-acquainted with smiling and nodding a lot while fighting back tears because the pain was so bad. I’d find ways to prop my right arm that looked natural while hoping that my smiley, noddy, propped-up , made-up self was a good enough to count as present. The truth was that the pain was so bad that it was hard to think, and at one point I was so sure I might die that I actually made peace with it just in case.
Finally, I had to give up the fight. I had somehow managed to finish my last session of teaching children’s yoga after a new attack. For hours beforehand, I would lie in bed wondering how I would make it through teaching the class. For months, I showed up for my own training when I could, trying to stay on a once a week schedule. At least it was something to get out of bed for. Unfortunately, it was making me worse instead of better. I was just too ill. For the next two years, I didn’t work out, and wondered if I’d ever be able to come even close to my former routines including just being able to do the laundry without suffering.
Eventually, I found my body was healing. By now though, fear had set in. I’d had to budget every movement for so long, being careful not to offset my malfunctioning, raw nerves that I was just scared. With the encouragement of a former athlete who had his fair share of injury, he reassured me that I could slowly begin again and that the fear was holding me back.
My right arm and shoulder were where the onset had begun, and I’d permanently lost some muscle in my shoulder blade. It had been excruciating to rotate my shoulder every day since the beginning, but it prevented it from becoming frozen. If I could just get stronger, my body could support itself again, and a lot of my pain would go away. If.
There were a lot of false starts, a lot of fear, and a lot of life getting in the way. If I could just get this arm back where it should be…
So, here I am five years later. I’ve been back in action and back in business for over two years. My right arm is strong, has full range of motion, and there isn’t much I can’t do, though I’m still careful. I no longer fret over bulking-up muscle-wise, though the Pilates reformer helps me stay streamlined. And I am so proud of my right arm, just so proud.
Wherever you are in your life, with yourself, with your old injuries, or current conditions there is a way to get better and feel good. I guarantee it. Locals, come see me.
For personal training, visit www.starpilatesandyoga.com.
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