I am in the process of organizing my emails, and I just stumbled upon an email that I wrote over two years ago. This email detailed exactly what I dealt with over the 5+ year period when I was going through my undiagnosed rib-related full body dysfunction. This horrible ordeal, which I outline below in extremely thorough detail, shows me just how messed up my body was, and just how far I've come. It also taught me some incredibly valuable lessons that will remain with me for the rest of my life. These lessons include:
1) Health, Happiness And Performance Over Aesthetics
I absolutely learned to stop focussing on aesthetics, and to make my health my number one priority. Like so many people, I spent years working out and eating to control the way I looked (I talked about this in my blog Owning It), and I cared so much about what other people thought. Losing my ability to feel good (make that normal) and be physically active made me realize what matters most of all. Health and happiness. In the initial stages, I didn't even care if I would be able to work out or play sports again. I just wanted to be able to make it through a day without experiencing the endless array of symptoms I had been dealing with for years, and the stress that went along with them. What matters to me now is that I feel strong, fit, athletic, confident, empowered, happy, and healthy. I no longer focus on my aesthetics and this is incredibly liberating/empowering.
2) Address The Cause, Don't Just Treat The Symptoms -
This is something I am extremely passionate about now as during the 5+ years, I spent over $20 000, and experienced endless frustration, anxiety and heartache until I finally found someone who addressed the root of my problems. If you are dealing with an injury, unless you address the actual cause, you will never get better. When I am working with clients, or if I refer them (or anybody in my life) to a physio or another practitioner, I always want to know WHY the issue(s) are occurring. If they just treat the symptoms without addressing the cause, run for the hills and don't look back!
3) Never Give Up -
If something is a priority, you will make it happen no matter what. I fought tooth and nail to find someone who could help me, and once he did, I busted my ass and systematically rebuilt my body and fitness level. Today is my 36th birthday, and I am in the best shape of my life.
Here Is What Precipitated The Change In My Overall Mindset, And Helped My Life Improve For The Better, Both Personally And Professionally
Here is the actual email I sent to someone who asked me to describe what my 5+ years had been like, and what my symptoms were. I kind of wrote this like a journal entry so it isn't totally planned out or organized. This email was sent just over 2 years ago.
''I've been piecing this together for a few months, and it sums up my experiences and can provide some helpful advice, and perhaps motivation for others. The biggest lesson, do not take your health for granted, and never give up. If I was able to overcome this, you will most definitely be able to overcome your issues.
I was in a car accident about 8 years ago. I was on the highway and hit black ice. My car smashed into the median on the drivers side, bounced off and did a 180 across the highway and smashed into the median on the opposite side of the highway. My car was written off. I was extremely lucky as it was about 11 at night, and due to the awful conditions no other cars were on the road. I wouldn't have gone out, but a good friend of mine had just blown her knee out when she was playing basketball and I was driving out to the hospital to pick her up. I walked away without any injuries or pain, they said because of my strength. I had to lean across the car to brace myself so I would avoid the impact, and I'm pretty sure this is when my ribs became very misaligned.
A few months after the accident, I started to experience random symptoms, ranging from severe tingling numbness in my foot and leg, severe tightness from head to toe that left me in awful discomfort whenever I was awake, unexplained muscle weakness in my legs that would come and go, joints that felt like they would go out of place for no reason at all (to be clear, joints can't ''go out of place,'' but that's what it felt like) including my low, mid and upper back, sacrum, upper ribs, neck, lower leg, and even feet. I had nerve issues that caused severe muscle spasms, and sustained two bad muscle strains in my hamstring and calf as my muscles would go from normal tension to random severe tightness in a matter of seconds. It was confusing, unpredictable, and completely stressful.
I continued to work out and play soccer (I did have to miss some time due to the calf and hamstring injury), but was in a very bad way. I played soccer for 3 seasons when I was in this state. It took me a full week between games to recover, and this recovery included 1 to 3 sessions with a specific doctor each week, and endless ''rehab'' on my own, which was obviously very financially, physically, and emotionally draining. It was also very stressful because I was always worried that I would not be healthy enough to play in the next game, and I always worried about letting down the team, which in hindsight was very stupid.
My last season and a half was particularly bad, and at the end I was taking between four to eight Ibuprofens before each game just so I would not feel some of the discomfort, and I took muscle relaxants at night so I could sleep. At times I was also playing while wearing a back support, had kinesiotaped myself from head to toe, and had doused myself in heat rub. While this was so abnormal, I had convinced myself otherwise as I wanted to keep playing, mainly because I love soccer, but also because I am very stubborn and don't like being told that I'm not able to do something. Plus, as messed up as it was, I was playing the best soccer of my life. I have an extremely high tolerance for pain, which is both a blessing, and a curse.
In over 20 years I hadn't as much as strained a muscle, but before the beginning of my last season I slipped on wet grass when I was sprinting on my own and tore my calf. I heard a huge pop and feared the worst, but fortunately it was just a 5 week injury. I was told that this injury was due to a nerve being pinched by my L4 and L5, which caused my calves to tighten up on the spot. Who knows if this diagnosis was actually true as I was fed so much bullshit by many of the doctors, but didn't know any better at the time.
A few months later, I thought I had torn my hamstring. It was a weird sensation which would come and go. I went to this moronic physio who told me that it was definitely a hamstring tear. I knew to myself that the symptoms were so strange, and asked if it could be referred pain. He actually made fun of me and told me not to go on Google. He stuck needles in the so-called spot that I had torn, and it left me in agony for days as I think he had needled a severely irritated nerve. Right away, as I didn't know any better, I went to a chiro. Apparently my L4 and L5 ''were out'' (total BS) and that was causing a nerve to be pinched and was mimicking a hamstring tear. Once the chiropractor cracked me back into place, my symptoms were better for a few days, and then of course they were back again as most chiro's (and most physio's, etc) do nothing to address the cause and chase symptoms, hence why most people are lifers. This trend continued for about a year. I was very naive and thought that most doctors were competent and would be able to help me. Clearly I was wrong.
The final straw occurred during the first seconds of the final game of my last season, a cup game. I miskicked a ball and heard a huge pop, and immediately felt excruciating pain in my lower hamstring, right on the tendon. I was barely able to put any weight on the leg, but due my crazy tolerance for pain, the 8 Ibuprofens I had taken before the game, my stubbornness, and because I didn't want to let the team down, I played the full game, including 2 overtimes, on one leg. In my mind, I knew I was done playing for good, which was both sad, and a relief. After the game I could barely walk and my hamstring was black. It ended up being a 12 week injury, and I had to miss our final cup game. I was very fortunate that I didn't rupture anything as playing after I had torn it was incredibly stupid. 3 months later, I played in a tournament in the summer and felt a bit better, but still horrible.
After our final season, our team unexpectedly folded, and I was planning on taking a couple of months off just to get better. I figured that time away from soccer was all I needed. I continued to see several different doctors but was still a disaster. Endless rehab, endless money spent, endless discomfort, and no progress. After a few moments of false hope when I attempted to play soccer again and had major setbacks, I figured that it was the soccer that was ruining me. So I stopped attempting to come back. During this time away, I experienced severely inflamed facet joints in my lower back, and I was stricken to the couch for three days until I was able to be seen by a doctor. Rather than being told why it had happened, I was told to do no exercise for a couple of weeks, and I even wore a back brace to work as the spasms were so severe I could barely move and could not bend over/move. On other occasions I was told that I had SI joint dysfunction, issues in my lower back, severely tight hip flexors, weak glutes, tight erectors, I could go on forever. I felt like a total fragile fuck up which was totally disheartening, as for most of my life, being fit, strong, and athletic was a huge part of my identity, and I had lost that. I was severely depressed and this impacted all areas of my life. I was also going through some very intense yet self-inflicted internal conflict that is pretty well known now and fortunately has been overcome for quite some time. Aside from a few close friends and some of the soccer world, very few knew about it back then, so I was not in a good way. I was living a lie and had been since my late teens. Working out and soccer were my outlets, and I no longer had that, so I plunged in a deeper depression.
What ended up being a blessing, and led me to find the physio who finally determined my cause, I decided to do a plyometric workout. My body responded so poorly and my lower legs basically felt like I was severely drunk. This lasted for a couple of months and would not go away no matter what ''rehab'' I did, or what doctors I saw. My legs were weak, wobbly, and I was unable to balance on either foot which was SO strange. I was also experiencing very bad nerve pain down both of my legs and it was constant. I ended up going for a massage and totally ended up losing it and started bawling because I was so frustrated. I rarely cry, especially in front of others, but I guess I had reached a boiling point. My awesome massage therapist referred me to Jason, the physio who was finally able to help me. He said that Jason can basically help anybody.
I booked my session with Jason. Right away, he determined that my ribs were severely out of alignment and compressed on one side. My ribs were compressing a nerve(s), and were causing all of my drunk-like symptoms, and had caused my leg on the one side to tighten up so badly so it seemed like I had a leg length discrepancy. I was told that I had a leg length discrepancy by another therapist, and for a short while had been wearing a heel lift. The second Jason realigned my ribs and taught me how to do so on my own, my legs were both the same length, and all of the weird symptoms/alignment issues went away. I saw Jason two more times, and for the first time in years, my body felt ''normal.'' I was weak as fuck, and was starting from scratch, but my many symptoms were gone.
It has been just over a year of feeling normal. Jason gave me the tools I needed, and then using my own knowledge and expertise, and doing a tremendous amount of self educating and learning from the best in the industry, I started training my body very systematically. It's pretty clear that I have taken my fitness to a new level. That being said, it was all done very progressively, and I put in a lot of work to make sure that I mastered the basics, and didn't skip from A to Z, something that is so easy to do.
This year has been a wonderful year for me in terms of my fitness and happiness. I started playing soccer again in September, and my body has responded wonderfully. Other than dealing with some discomfort in my feet and Achilles because they were not used to the turf, and were not used to having to wear ultra flats cleats (so they are getting used to being in a lengthened state), all of the issues that I had experienced in the past are behind me. I am playing well and don't feel like I've lost it, which is very satisfying, and a huge relief.
In the five or so years that I was dealing with these issues, I have spent well over $20,000 on trying to fix myself. It makes me really angry because if I had found somebody who had actually addressed the cause right away, it would have saved me so much financially, but more importantly, emotionally and physically as those 4-5years were a living hell. The only relief I got was when I was sleeping.
My lesson to everybody, is to never give up. If you are not satisfied with how your body is feeling, don't quit until you have found a solution. I think I am a pretty good example of how hard work, educating yourself, and applying this knowledge (or paying someone competent to do so) will help you get to where you want to be, no matter how screwed up you are, or how hopeless you feel. There is always a solution.
I am also blessed because due to my past issues, I have learned SO much, and this knowledge has greatly improved my ability to train myself, and help others get extremely fit and feel great, the right way. This has been reinforced by the fact that over the past couple of years, some highly renowned physio's, osteopaths, and other doctors have been referring clients as they have seen my work on both myself and these people, and know that I will be able to help them.
Most importantly, I used to take my athleticism, being able to do things, and simply feeling good, for granted. Now I am so grateful that I am able to move my body how I want to, and feel good. I no longer focus on working out to look a certain way. This hasn't crossed my mind in years. When it comes to my workouts, 100% of my motivation is to feel good, to be able to do cool things, and to feel strong, fit, and athletic. It drives me nuts when I see people (or work with people) who take this for granted, and accept being in a state of pain and dysfunction when it is so unnecessary.
This is my story, and while it was actually quite therapeutic to write, it was also very challenging as it dredged up some memories that I had forgotten. The greatest lesson of all and one that I will never stop expressing, is to never take your health for granted. Don't be a passenger, make sure that you are along for the ride and do everything in your power to feel good. It will benefit all areas of your life. I didn't mean for this to be so long, I just didn't realize how much I had experienced and overcome.''