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How Pushing Through the Pain Hurts Caregivers

Slowing down is a slow death whether you are athletic or not. Being accustomed to a flexible range of motion or simply getting up to walk is something I took for granted until my injuries forced me to limit my range of motion. Reflecting on the weeks after the thoracic spine (C6) ruptured, the depression that crept in felt like a slow death.

Even though my body had not aged significantly, my mind felt decades older. The older I felt, the more I also felt death in my dreams of changing the worldview of Dementia. Traveling to speak about Mom’s story and my lessons learned from Dementia and becoming a real-life role model was sucked out of my dreams the moment I heard the disc pop and felt my body constrict immediately.

The body’s reaction of stillness and my mental response to deny what was happening were all natural. I had to tell myself to keep going, make it back home, ice, and slow down, but not stop. Just keep going. I tried to convince myself that this injury may have been God’s way of reminding me to slow down, but it more so was a reminder to respect the temple I have been blessed with.

Athletes are known to self-medicate, push through the pain, and fulfill contractual obligations to perform. Caregivers may feel contractually obligated to their spouse, parent, or child, but we are not invincible. We all are programmed to take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to maximize performance when it comes to pain. We are taught to ignore our pain, keep going, and avoid having to go in for a doctor’s visit. Especially when we know the doctor will more likely say, “Just go home and do the R.I.C.E. regimen.”

Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation.

I heard that throughout high school sports. Each injury during volleyball was taped up (compressed) and iced, then elevated when I was off the court. Later, when I told my Mom that walking hurt, she would respond flippantly, “Then don’t walk. Just sit there.” The idea of resting for an overactive mind and high-energy-fidgety child is torture. It’s not any easier as an adult.

If we do not learn to listen to our body’s pain signals as caregivers, then we contribute to a different statistic. Rather than growing numbers of those living with Dementia, we see increasing numbers of caregivers that pass away long before their loved ones. It is challenging to be in good health mentally when our body is always in pain. Self-medicating to avoid the pain and a doctor visit is only planning for an early grave.

We need to care for the machine we live in and learn what that looks or feels like individually. Even if we can avoid a doctor’s visit thanks to a home remedy or alternative holistic approaches, we still need to be curious to learn. Most doctors are gifted with the ability to memorize information. Even those who are passionate enough about helping others are broken by the industry standards of creating high billable clientele and reducing insurance payouts.

We must try to learn better solutions than drugs, injections, or unnecessary surgeries. At the least, we will know what questions to ask to challenge the quick-fix mentality. Illnesses related to Rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and many other forms of Dementia are contributory illnesses. That means if we know better, we can contribute to our health rather than accelerated aging.

Mom used to tell me that I was a stubborn child. I have not outgrown my stubbornness, and I am grateful God made me this way. I used to feel insecure about not understanding why stubbornness was so bad for Mom. Now I embrace it because being determined has driven me to find alternative ways of healing and living. Had I listened to my spine surgeon, I would have had another surgery and aged even faster. I would not have met the team at Moench Method Bodywork to learn how to heal the injury and prevent more from happening.

Aging is a blessing. How we age is a choice.

Be Proactive!

Special thanks to Jordan & Ken.

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