Now that you've learned a bit about me, my past, and journey to becoming a yoga instructor, I thought I would turn the blog over to present day. And, it seemed fitting to share a recent challenge I've been working through with you all. If you didn't get a chance to read my first two posts, head over to read about my journey into yoga and my path to becoming a yoga instructor.
Last summer I began to have random pains in my left foot. When it first started I thought, "Oh, it's probably just overuse. I'll be gentle on it and it'll pass." After a couple weeks, the pain still hadn't passed and it started to become pretty painful just to walk. Worried that something might actually be wrong, I scheduled an appointment with my doctor to get her opinion on what might be happening. When I went, she thought it was likely a case of tendinitis and told me to take it easy and ice it. Another few weeks passed and nothing improved, so I scheduled a second appointment. Being stumped, she sent me to a podiatrist to get checked out. I got x-rays and scheduled the appointment. As soon as the podiatrist walked in the room, having already seen my x-rays, he asked who else in my family had bunions. I was very confused. First, I didn't even really know what a bunion was, wasn't that something old people got?, and I didn't know if anyone in the family had them. As we continued talking, he told me that I had a pretty severe case and would need surgery. What!? Why do I need surgery? Can't it just be fixed with physical therapy or something like that? He explained to me that it was an actual structural issue with my bones and I had about five years to get the surgery done before it became a big issue.
Now, before I continue, you might be thinking, "Okay, it's just a surgery, not a big deal. Just get it done." And, I would agree. I had that thought too - "Just get it over with and move on." However, the avoidance and secondary thoughts started to overtake my brain. "Well, he said I have five years; I've got time. It doesn't need to be done right this instant." I also was planning on beginning yoga teacher training in just a month, and my husband and I were planning a huge trip to Alaska right after. So, I told myself, "We'll wait until after all that, then schedule it."
Once teacher training started, though, those intrusive thoughts about my self-worth and abilities crept in. As my pain increased the more yoga I did, the more walking I did, the more my frustrations raised. "Why do I have to have genetic issues with my foot that requires surgery? If I just push through, it'll be fine." Sometimes, it was even denial - "I don't feel any pain. Yoga can fix my foot." I started to view my feet as a huge flaw about my body, one that held me back and defied the belief that I'm athletic and have a fit, healthy body. I second guessed my body and saw it as betraying me. Crazy to think that so much turmoil grew out of a seemingly minor issue.
As yoga teacher training continued, I realized how much of my identity had become wrapped up in my body and its abilities. Realizing the flaw in this thinking, I tried to fight those negative, self-defeating thoughts and replace them with compassionate thoughts. Thoughts that included taking care of myself and practicing listening to my body's limits, not out of a view of weakness but as a challenge to learn new ways of practicing with an injury. I learned that I needed to go through my own process of learning acceptance (again) and that an injury does not define who I am. I could use this as an opportunity for defeat or gaining insight into useful modifications for a body that needs some extra loving kindness. I get to choose my fate and have far more to offer than my body.
After teacher training wrapped up and we returned from our trip, I found myself continuing to avoid the surgery. This time it was out of fear of the unknown. I started to use work as an excuse - "I don't have enough sick time saved up. Now's not a good time; we're really busy." I work in a residential substance use program; we are never not going to be busy! What really lied underneath was my fear of what might happen after the surgery. What if something went wrong? What if my foot is never the same again? What if I couldn't run or do yoga anymore? But, I realized that there's no way for me to control what happens or doesn't happen as a result of the surgery, and that regardless I will be able to overcome whatever happens. Knowing that, just like having the injury in the first place, having some kind of limitation or injury doesn't define me as a person and there are ways to live a valuable life in spite of my body's abilities.
I'm happy to report that a year after being told to have the surgery, I finally decided to have it. I still had reservations and fears about the surgery. Mainly, as a needle phobe, getting the IV and being put under sedation. However, I went through with it in spite of the fears I felt and focused on doing what my body needed. With still being in the recovery phase, I don't know what or if I'll have issues as a result of having the surgery. But, I was able to just accept that my body needed help and that I'll go on no matter what happens with my foot. Regardless of how I heal, the things that my foot allows or doesn't allow me to do can't define who I am as a person, not if I don't allow it to. The thing I do have control over is taking care of myself during the recovery process, and I can focus my energy on helping my body heal in the best way possible. I'll have to keep you all updated on how I heal, and hopefully I'll be able to hold on to my stance of acceptance throughout the process.
No matter what you're facing, small or huge, know that you are more than your body, you're abilities, your thoughts. Where you are is exactly where you should be and is your best self in this moment. There is so much you have to offer the world, and you get to decide where you go from this point. Place your energy in building the courage to face your fears, not eliminate them. Walk into this world with strength and fierceness.