a work in progress

noting progress

Possibly my favorite thing about this blog (aside from connecting with all of you, obviously) is that I have a somewhat regular account of where I am at almost any moment in time. Because my progress is typically slow it can be easy to feel like I’m standing still, or even regressing. Aside from that, I have the tendency to be hard on myself, focusing on little more than what I still don’t have rather than all that I do. This blog, however, affords me the opportunity to go back in time and gain a decent understanding of my experiences rather than how I happen to remember them.

371 days ago I blogged about my difficulty with asking for helpHa, I’m still pretty terrible at this, was my first thought as I reread the post. As I combed my life for proof examples of this, I suddenly realized how misinformed I was. The truth is that I’ve made massive strides in this area in the past year. Sure, there’s still plenty of room for growth, but I’m definitely moving forward.

My favorite instance of how I’m learning to ask for help involves my newly-implemented weekly Pilates class. I decided earlier in the year that I wanted to participate in a mainstream exercise class. The last time I did this was in 2013, which ended abruptly when my surgeon begged me to stop spinning because I was destroying my already damaged hips. “Aren’t you having pain in spin class?” he asked with a bit of a judgmental tone. “Absolutely not.” “But you’re having more pain overall, right?” I was, and as we discussed my imaging and the mechanics of why sitting on a bike is terrible for someone like me, I realized that I couldn’t trust my body to tell me when something was wrong. So, I stopped spinning and excercising outside of physical therapy, either in too much pain or too fearful of unintentionally hurting myself.

Fast forward to today…I’m still lousy at listening to my body, so I decided to ask for help before even attempting to find an exercise class. The plan was to set myself up for early success rather than recklessly enroll in a class and hope for the best. By some phenomanal chance I found a Doctor of Physical Therapy who works with with patients one-on-one through carefully individualized treatment plans. She assessed me, listened to what I wanted, and together we agreed that a Pilates class would be my ultimate exercise goal.

For weeks I worked with the newest member of my healthcare team. First, we focused on stretching, then moved to strengthening, then finally we practiced the moves I would encounter in a typical class. We disected each exercise, identifying my challenges and working together to find ways to modify the movements when necessary. For the first time in my life I learned what it feels like when a joint is hyperextended, and now that I can finally make that distinction I can back off when I feel it happening. I learned that I can keep my shoulders from subluxing when raising my arms over my head as long as my palms are facing down, and that if I rotate my legs outward and engage my core I can take significant stress off my hips.

It wasn’t until I was able to work through the exercises that are often included in a standard Pilates class without incident that I was released into the world of mainstream physical fitness.

my new pilates studio

Lucky for me I already knew a Pilates instructor with whom I wanted to work. She knew me and a bit about my challenges, and she knew and trusted my DPT. The thought that I could avoid some awkard conversation about chronic illness with a perfect stranger was immediately comforting, and I walked into that first Pilates class as confident as anyone could possibly be. “I’m going to modify some of the moves today if that’s okay,” I informed the instructor before class began. And when the problematic exercises came up, that’s exactly what I did, and I made it through the hour without a hitch.

A year ago I doubt I would have even contacted my newest DPT to set up that first appointment. I would have let fear, embarassment, and past experiences keep me from trying. I have a feeling I would have attempted to reach my goal alone, struggling through a series of painful trials and errors before giving up entirely. But now it’s different (I’m different), and I think the more I see that asking for help can result in some pretty wondeful experiences, I may even do it again.

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