I sit in the florescent lit room staring at an anatomical drawing of the shoulder. I fixate on the chart posted on the wall of the doctor’s office anxiously awaiting my MRI results. From a life filled with gymnastics, volleyball, Crossfit, and yoga, I am no stranger to discomfort and pain, and despite years of gained body awareness, I haven’t always been great at distinguishing between the two. Last fall I found myself with some discomfort in lifting and arm balances. Slight discomfort for my Type A personality was still a green light to keep going. Without seeing discomfort as my body's warning, sensation took a violent shove into pain, as I was unable to turn the keys in my car to start it nor open my hand to receive a pile of almonds without shooting pangs down my arm. As you'll learn, my timing is often impeccable, and in this case I had a yoga teacher training in Mexico in two weeks, and went into panic mode. What good is a teacher training in Mexico if I can't handstand on the beach or do crow pose on ancient ruins in Tulum?! Oh hey Summer's ego, nice to meet you. I don’t like taking pills, but I was convinced I had to get my arm to get better to make the trip worth while. I needed to get better the American way: fast and now. Embarrassed to admit now, I reluctantly took the doctor's prescribed oral steroids to suit up for the trip, and by golly those suckers not only made my arm feel like nothing was wrong, but turned me into a 6 foot tall blonde hulk. I was sweaty, agitated, and for lack of better verbiage, “cracked out.” Lesson learned on that one. The trip was wonderful for the first few days I felt like a rock star, until I pushed and re-injured my arm as the roids wore off. I was forced to take it slow, easy, and sit out some activities. While I was bummed to have to do a lot of "watch-asana," to allow my arm to heal, I started to absorb two important lessons:
1. No one gives a shit if you can do arm balances
2. Discomfort is your body trying to tell you something. Listen.
Fast forward to this year when my shoulder started to ache. My husband and I played paddle ball on the beach, and the next day I was SORE. Despite my embarrassment from being more sore from paddleball than a pull up WOD in a Crossfit competition, I ignored the pain and just assumed that I probably needed to practice my paddle ball game more often. I started to take it easy lifting, but continued my handstand and arm balances in my yoga practice. Obviously lesson 2 was not fully absorbed yet.
It wasn’t until after a 3 day yoga festival, Wanderlust, of doing yoga all day every day, that I found myself in a 7 hour car ride home in debilitating pain, unable to sit, lay or lump myself into any bearable position. Something was wrong... duh... but it took me 9 months of perceived “discomfort” to call the doctor.
The doctor walks into the room with a smile and I anticipate the wonderful news-- that I overdid the chaturangas and arm balances at Wanderlust festival, and I just need to chill for a hot minute will my shoulder goes back to normal.
“Welp, Summer, you have a torn labrum.”
Labral tears don’t heal. They are permanent. You live with pain, or you get surgery. There are some out of pocket and super expensive options like PRP or stem cell injections, but with little to no blood flow in the labral area, its not much more than a craps table gamble.
This may have been a too long explanation leading up to the fact that this news was bestowed upon me exactly one week after leaving my career as a special needs high school teacher and entering into a new career as a yoga and fitness instructor.
<Enter Alanis Morisette singing, “...and isn’t it ironic”>
Or is it? I am also leaving one month from tomorrow to India for 5 weeks to complete my 300 hour teacher training. Just sayin'.
The thing is, I am a month into this diagnosis, without any clue as to how I’m going to handle it, and I have yet to get upset. People told me they were so sorry, and I’ve continued to wait for a random break down, where I start crying in Costco because it hurts to pick up a jar of pickles, but there hasn’t been one. I notice discomfort, I notice pain, and I stop.
I wholeheartedly believe that this injury has been strategically placed in my life path for me to learn to slow the ef down, to listen to my body, and soften. So, I am embracing the softer side. My practice is slow, with purpose and intention to feel what is stirred within me. I'm meeting new parts of my soul along the way as I'm steered into new spaces within my body.
So while the blatant irony of discovering this injury in the first week starting my new career as a yoga instructor may appear unfortunate or saddening, I only feel acceptance and curiosity as to how this will guide me on my journey. I am finding the space between discomfort and pain and concocting a decision to act on upon arriving home after India in October. I may or may not secretly hope there is a witch doctor who can heal me there, but I’m sure that’s material for a future post.
Moral of the story, listen to your body. It's got shit to say. And when irony pops up, wave back because the Universe is just saying, "supppp!"
***I intend to continue to share my journey here. Posts may be disjointed, stream of conscious, or just plain weird, but I want to share with you. In this new life path I am to teach people how to move and find themselves within their bodies, teach people to find the best version of themselves both inside and out. I’ll share this journey here, and we’ll see where it goes.