Last week, I attended my last acupuncture appointment and for the first time in over seven years, am therapist free. Hang on, I have to just repeat that:

I am therapist free

Did I ever think this day would come? Of course I did and I believe that’s why I am here.

I have had my moments, but what I didn’t realise through all that heat and whilst pacing like a snail, was that each flare up and pain episode was actually not an indication that pain was here to stay, but rather that it was actually beginning to leave. Although just a difference of minutes initially, eventually I felt the flare ups spreading further apart. And with recognising that change and NOT increasing my capacity past a snail’s shell weight, I began to make progress.

If you’ve been following my story you’ll know I began working part-time over a year ago. Yes, I was eager to get back into my life and back to our business, but now I can see it was all too fast and the worst thing I could do is be hasty and skip, what I hope will be, the last leg of a healing process.

So, with my heart leaping and my mind filled with the most capacity I’ve had in almost eight years and my therapist free independence, I’m thinking it’s prime time to focus even more on myself (not to mention Theo!)… I believe it’s time for a sabbatical.

The fading flare ups and lowering pain levels are signs that it’s time to reflect on the passing pain journey (yes, note the past tense), to digest it, clarify it in both mine and Theo’s head, and make plans for the next part of our lives. I know it’s also the optimum time to begin building my body back as the usual response from even a smidgen of exercise and extra activity (the flare), is ceasing to rear its ugly head. I need to increase my exercise ability, my weight limit, I need to get back to driving a little, and back to more various daily activities rather than leaving a huge bundle for Theo and avoiding everything so I can work. Time to find a life balance, my body is telling me it is!

I’d say a sabbatical is crucial for anyone, but after experiencing trauma in life, it’s even more important to plan one. It’s impossible to head back into your past life, you’re simply not the same person (in our case, people).

Lucky for us, an incredible sequence of events landed us a ‘shack’ on the East coast of Tasmania with Great Oyster Bay as our front yard. Could there be a better place to bring yourself back to life than amongst nature and some spectacular produce? Well now that I’m in it, I know the answer and it’s definitely ‘no’.

In just a few short days (that have slowed time to make it feel like a week), Collingwood’s sounds of concrete trucks and drilling have been substituted for the water sounds of Oyster Bay and wild life. An enormous emptied space in my mind now holds sublime thoughts, peacefulness and silence. I’ve changed my painful sitting position and the anxiety of not knowing how to distribute my capacity to manage my day, for meditation, yoga, walking in the sand, and riding in a car that doesn’t have to stop at a single traffic light on the way to a lovely glass of wine (or two), and the best oysters and jam I’ve eaten in a long time. I know if I do anything too much, I can ease back and take the time off to recover. I’ve given myself the permission. My eye gaze has expanded from 30cm to a few hundred km’s and I’ve been so kindly reminded what the sound of one car driving by me sounds like. I also have the time to observe the changing light on the water and mountains that stare at me all day as the sun shifts.

Do you really need to ask about my pain levels or is it not obvious they’re extremely low by now? I’m still using my implant, still on the barest dose of Amitryptaline (and coming down further), taking my herbal tablets and am wearing my cooling patches daily, whilst also sitting on my favorite cushion whenever I sit.

We are easing my workload and the mouse is traded daily for the paint brush and standing position. We will stay in Tassie for 4 months and that whole time will be led by the pace my body can manage, and much less driven by life’s demands.

In the scheme of almost 8 years, is 4 months really much more to sacrifice if it means I can rid pelvic chronic pain a little more? And the ‘get out of pain free’ card question: If I’d known PN required this sort of committment at 6 months, would I be here now?

I’ve learned so much during my pain journey and although alot of that seems backwards to what Western Medicine often instructed, I’ve discovered it’s my way that’s working most in getting me back to life. It isn’t true for all of us that you have to keep moving when you have an injury, in fact I’ve learnt with my pelvic chronic pain that it’s the opposite. It’s only been the last 6 months that I feel the ‘stressor*’ signals have begun to subside. My body is telling me now that it’s ready to move, but up until the last flare it was calling for me to listen and rest (or slow it down). The flare gives you a sign of where your limits are I believe. It’s the beginning of pain management and where you set off from to find your old self. It takes alot of sacrifice, committment, support and treatment but I believe it’s possible for all of us. And if everything hurts all the time, every day, I believe that’s a call to stop and rest for much longer, as I did for many years. You must stay hopeful.

I’m not signing off yet, it’ll be a while before I can boot PN goodbye (if ever, I believe I may have limitations all my life), but I can see there are other advocacy duties yet and one is bundling up this patient story with a new pain management tool to help others arrive where I am today (hopefully much quicker and much further though). Currently there isn’t much support for chronic pain and I understand why now, it’s not simple. If you don’t live it, you can’t possibly understand it. Pain experience is unique to everyone.

 *Thank you for that term John Quintner

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