In 2011 I had strep throat that would not go away. I was given several kinds of antibiotics to no avail. I had an allergic reaction to the last one I was given and took myself to the ER just be sure it wasn’t going to get worse because I could feel my mouth and throat were itchy. I was treated for the reaction at the ER and was sent home with the following prescriptions, the antibiotic Cipro and the steroid Prednisone. These two drugs taken together caused a shockwave of pain through my body causing both nerve and tendon pain. Everywhere. After reading the fine print I found that this is a side effect that can happen with Cipro, ESPECIALLY if taken with a steroid. The pain was excruciating. I had never felt pain like that before. I actually felt it happen. It was like a “pop” in my brain and then everything went woozy and I hit the floor. I called my mom who came over right away. And there started my months of seeing doctors to try and help me recover from this damage that was done to my body. During this time, I missed out of everything in my life. My kids activities, seeing friends, driving, all of it. I was depressed and in pain 24/7. And very anxious that I would be living my entire life this way. Back then, I didn’t question doctors all that much. They told me what to do and I did it. Simple. It was an extremely long road, but with physical therapy, medication for the nerve pain, an anti-inflammatory and some gentle exercise I mostly recovered. I was told I may always have some chronic tendon pain. That was certainly true. The nerve pain went away first, thank god because there is nothing as painful as that. So, shortly after I got my life back and started working part time. I picked up where I left off. I felt good. I never did do anything about the anxiety I was feeling during this time. I moved on. On my next birthday, my husband bought me a fitbit and I started walking. A lot. Then walking turned to running. I loved it and I was excited and I started doing plank challenges I found online. Here’s something you should know about me. I get VERY excited about new ideas. If it’s something I want to do or believe in, I’m all in ( I’m an Upholder, if you are familiar with Gretchen Rubin’s work. I now know this behavior is called “tightening”). So, a few months into this new routine, my old back pain from years ago came back and I had new pain and tightness in my neck. I didn’t know what was happening. I had an MRI on my neck to find out I had two herniated disks in a row, and on either side of that, I had two more that were degenerative. I was told by the surgeon that “I had the spine of a 70 year old”. I was 45. The pain just continued to get worse and it started spreading. Everywhere. I was confused. The doctors were confused because the treatments given to me were not working well. Again I was not driving, unable to even lie down comfortably, everything hurt. I was missing out on life again. I was depressed and anxious. I thought this part of my life was over, but I was not done. I was not a candidate for surgery. What to do? Continue physical therapy and take group exercise classes at a facility partnered with my doctors. It was here where the changes started to happen. These classes were for people like me with spine issues. The exercises were safe. I walked in, basically shuffling. It hurt to even lay there. I put my body into positions it had not been in for a year or more. Everything was uncomfortable. But the instructor kept me going. She pushed me while at the same time keeping me safe. I continued going three or four times a week. I cried in class. A lot. A simple “how are you today” would set me off. I was a mess. After a few months I started feeling a change and I was getting better. I started coming to class everyday, doing two or three classes a day (remember how I said I get excited about things I believe in!). I was still anxious. And would still burst into tears occasionally and my trainer would talk me down. One day in a private lesson with her she said to me, “You are strong now. You are trying to exercise your way into feeling better, but the truth is you need to either talk to someone or start meditating” That was a wake up call. I’ve been told over the years I should meditate or do something about my anxiety. But I never did. She was telling me if I didn’t, things weren’t going to change. I was determined to get my life back completely so I made a decision right there to do whatever I could to get back to normal (or as close as possible) outside of just exercise and physical therapy. And so that was the beginning of the transformation. The other life changing piece of advice she gave me was a book called Explain Pain (which I will post about in-depth later). I felt like I was reading my own life story. SO eye opening. I started meditating and also following the suggestions in the explain pain book and THAT is when the big changes happen for me. I began taking steps to improve both my mental health and my physical health. One thing would lead to another part of my life to work on until I began to REALLY feel better. The key to all of this was becoming brave, having goals and taking action. I had never in my life given myself any kind of goals before (I am not proud of that, but it’s the truth). I now want to share all my experiences in my growth because I have found them so life changing. I feel like everyone should know how GOOD they can feel! I think some of us don’t even know how good it can be until we try a few things. It’s incredible what we think is “normal”, not knowing how much better life COULD be. Today, I have my life back with almost no limitations. The damage is there, but now I know how to deal with it both mentally and physically and it will take maintaining both to continue feeling good in my life. My blog is here to share how I did it in more detail and what I’m working on now and to share this with as many people as possible! Thank you for being here!