Growing Pains

Do you remember the worst pain you’ve ever felt?

Eight years ago, I opened my eyes in the comfort of my bed and felt something very wrong. My elbows were sore, my knees were stiff, and I couldn’t move my fingers. Later that day, my shoulders started aching and my wrists swelled.

In less than a week, every step I took filled my body with sharp pain. Driving was unbearable, having to hold both arms up and grip a steering wheel. I needed assistance in everything. I woke up in tears and only moved from the couch to microwave a heating pad.

On what I now fondly refer to as the worst day of my life, I clearly recall attending an all-day event, immediately followed by a friend’s celebration. I remember how good it felt to sit down at the party and how painful it was to try to stand and leave. I remember how humbling it was to ask my then-fiancé to borrow his much larger shoes and shuffling along in them as he helped me to my car.

Fast forward through several doctor’s visits, referrals, tests, and questionnaires, I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis – an autoimmune disorder where your body attacks healthy joints.

I’m thinking about this today because I’m in pain. And today, any instance of post-diagnosis pain is measured against that initial onset in 2011.

“My fingers hurt a little,” I’ll report. “But it’s nothing like it used to be!”

Today’s pain is good pain.

As I finished Intuitive Eating at the end of last year, I started learning more about joyful movement and gentle nutrition. The authors chose to leave those two topics for the very end, because they believed it was important to address the mental hurdles first before getting too wrapped up in exercise and food. (Hat tip to Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch!)

When I found a good rhythm in accountability at the gym, my counselor ever-so-slightly nudged me about building muscle. The mental block I’d constructed around machines and free-weights made them incredibly intimidating. Between water classes and yoga however, I’d been feeling stronger and knew this is something I wanted to pursue.

“Maybe,” I told her. “We’ll see.” (My husband always translates this phrase: “That’s Amanda for no,” he says.)

Rounding out Mile 2 on the treadmill yesterday, I reasoned through my Be Brave filter. You can do anything. Today is the day! With the Sounds Like Fun podcast in my ears, I walked over and did three reps each of chest press, pec & delt flys, biceps, and triceps. Just like that.

Feeling victorious and tired, I went home, took a shower, and made myself laugh by realizing how much effort it took to hold a bar of soap.

These noodle arms are a weird form of growing pains – where I’ve come from, what it took to get here, the many miles I’ve walked in my shoes, in my mind, in my heart. I’m reflecting on all the support, my ever-present help, discovering beauty in pain, and finding the strength I now see in the mirror.

Today, I am sore. But, man, am I grateful!

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