Sticking with the stick

I am still having to use a walking stick to get about, I have found out that I┬áhaven’t done any major damage to my knee, just worn away a bit of the cartilage, but it is not something which can be fixed. I am going back to the physio next week, but they have told me I will not be able to run distances again, probably only 5 or 10Ks and certainly not on the road. My dreams of doing Ironman cannot happen. And that is ok, I can find other ways of keeping fit. My dog means that I am walking a great deal and it is certainly kinder to my joints. Which really, I do need to start thinking about as I am hypermobile, and not invincible.

But it does not give me the all out high that running does, when my knee is a bit better I am going to try cycling again, but I only really took up cycling proper because of doing triathlons. I suspect they are not going to happen now, although in a few years time if I find ones that run off road then I might be able to. I guess it is a case of patience something I am really, really not known for at all!

In the meantime I will carry on using my stick, because when I let vanity or pride get the better of me and I spend a day out and about without in by the end of the day I am limping and shuffling along at half pace and in a lot of pain, where as using the stick I am able to keep going for longer, with good posture and with only a little pain.

As it looks like the stick is going to be around for a while I have decided that I am going to get a funky one, so I have found the one I want, it is just out of stock for a couple of weeks, so I will have to wait that little bit longer. I have been putting off buying one as I was hoping it was a temporary thing, and it still might be, just kind of longish term temporary – not the few months I originally hoped – it has already been much longer that a few months.

It is hard adapting to using a stick, it is a very obvious declaration of a problem, but when you have something like a plaster cast people seem to be able to process it as broken leg, that’s ok. Whereas I get stared at by people. I am still relatively young to be using a walking stick and when I am using it there isn’t much of an obvious limp, so I guess people don’t know what to do with the information, so they look at me strangely. That’s ok, I can cope with it, but sometimes, when I am feeling vulnerable for using a stick, it makes me feel bad.

I have noticed I keep saying to people, when they mention the stick, ‘but this time last year I was training for a marathon’ as if I need to justify that this is only temporary, its not who I really am. Which is strange and it is teaching me a lot about identity.

I am also deeply uncomfortable using my stick when I am meeting new clients or have pitches, it feels like a massive weakness to be admitting and putting out there. And of course what does this say about my attitude to disability, or societies attitude? I am rubbish at being ill – even just a cold, because I do not like showing weakness, this is something I am working on and its ok to be ill and to need rest. I think in my head it is ok for other people to be ill, just not me.

I have done a lot of work with people with disabilities – I volunteered when I was a teenager at a playcentre for handicapped children and I never saw them as ‘weak’. It is just me I am seeing as weak. I think that also links in to depression too. I have never taken time off of work because of it, even when quite frankly I really needed to.

A lesson in patience, kindness and identity, all symbolised in a stick.


Yoga acceptance

Yesterday I went to a yoga class, even though in a bid to get well I have cancelled all appointments, meetings and even seeing friends. This yoga class is different, it is a relaxation and restorative class and my teacher has trained in yoga for MS, CFS and cancer. She also knows me well as I have been going to her classes on and off for about 4 years now, since she started up.

As I have said before, yoga around here tends to be done in village halls, with everyone is either see through leggings or track suit bottoms, no lulemon here!

So, it is in no way a pretentious class.

During tree pose I did my usual highly wobbly practice on my left side – hypermobile ankles mean that I can be as still as possible on my legs, but my ankles will not stay still at all! But I couldn’t stand full weight through my right knee. So I did mountain pose instead.

Then we came onto doing equestrian pose, with an extended practice here. This was too much for my knee, so I went up into a full lunge, again fine until I had my bad knee at the front, then I couldn’t do it at all. At this point I started to get cross and angry. This is not particularly hard yoga, and I can’t do it. I then did the rest of the work sitting down, sobbing quietly into my forward bend. My teacher noticed and came over and touched me on the shoulder and said I was too hard on myself and I know it. She is right, I am and I do. But it was so frustrating not to be able to stand and do the yoga moves.

But then something shifted. I accepted my body for what it can do today. Not yesterday, or three years ago, today. I went through the rest of the class feeling sad, but yet deeply embracing where I am. Up to now I have been fighting using a walking stick to get around, pushing myself to get well and to carry on regardless. On Monday I find out what is going to happen with me knee, if it is something they can fix, or if I need to live with it. If I need to live with it I am getting a purple and silver stick.

By the savasana at the end of the class I felt such a deep relaxation, my body felt heavy, but in a good way. I didn’t listen to the visualisation, instead I took my awareness around my body, listened to the pain in my back and the sharp pain in my knee and embraced it.

I slept well last night, deeply and I have woken up feel like I have rested, for once. My body still feels deeply relaxed, although I am sure that will change as the day progresses.

I also feel like something has shifted, that maybe I am beginning to accept my body for where it is right now and that feeling might even stay around for a while, before I find something else to rail against!

Heart of metta stone

This is the last in my flurry of metta series and is what prompted me to post all the series.

I have tried to do the metta bhavana today and my heart feels like a lump of stone. I try to imagine it softening and opening up like a lotus flower and it just isn’t working. Part of my brain sits there and says it is a muscle, it does not have capabilities of this sort and as it is a muscle you do not want it opening and softening. I then have a mini argument with myself about how it is a metaphor, a poetic image and surely I can cope with that.

Arguments with my brain aside I am not sure why I am so resistant at the moment. I think part of it is that I have fallen into a depression and it is hard to get out of that. It is difficult to be anything other than mildly self obsessed when it comes to depression. The first stage of metta bhavana is developing kindness towards oneself. And of course when you have depression this is the hardest thing in the world to do. Your brain is not in the place to accept loving kindness of any sort. Well, mine certainly isn’t.

I seem to fight the metta, even as I am trying to open myself to it. My brain sits there and shouts nonsense as I am trying to develop a still and kind mind. During my class last night I tried opening to my brain and asking it what was wrong and what it wanted. Turning to myself and trying to be open through kindness.

I was not prepared for the barrage which opened out to me, of all that was wrong. As well as being in a depressive phase I am also in a great deal of pain due to a bad knee, but other joints are also hurting a lot. I am worried that my hypermobility, which up to now has just been a pain and left me prone to dislocating my hip, is becoming worse and taking a bigger hold in my life. Of course, I don’t know and I could just be worrying about nothing, but of course that is part of depression, catastrophic thinking.

Of course I said there and listened to myself, it is hard to do otherwise in a room full of people meditating. But it did not make for a peaceful session of metta bhavana.

I am being brutally honest here, and I think that is important. I had a family weekend this week and my aunt said she really enjoyed my writing about my running and the struggles I was having (on another, now defunct, blog). She said that many people struggle, but no-one talks about it. And so I thought I would be more open on this blog about my journey with Buddhism, and all that it entails. It is not easy, I struggle a great deal. I am not sure if this is my personality type, because of my depression, or if actually everyone struggles and it is just not shared much. I was rather disheartened when an order member came to my meditation class and said how once he had heard the precepts he found it easy to align his life to it and who wouldn’t? I do. I struggle a great deal. Of course the precepts are wonderful things and it would be great if we could live our life according to them, but I find it hard going.

Not on a basic level – obviously I don’t go around stealing, obviously I don’t go around with the aim of being a nasty person to everyone, but I am so aware of my imperfections. I suspect this is an aspect of the depression, most other people wouldn’t expect themselves to be perfect – for goodness sake the Buddha only managed to follow them when he was enlightened! These are guides to live your life by, to continually aspire to, rather than rules where you will be beaten if you don’t follow them.

But none the less I do find it difficult and the metta bhavana for me, at the moment, is a constant struggle.

Rat Race

This weekend I completed my first ever adventure race – the Capital Capers – Rat Race.

It was set in London & unlike normal races there wasn’t a route set out – it was across the whole of London.

It was good- we got given a map, some checkpoints and set off for 2.5 hours of running. The checkpoints that I stopped at included having a bucket of water chucked over me in a car wash, climbing a wall, throwing and catching an egg with my partner (it mustn’t hit the floor, or it’s a fail), karaoke singing, finding little chip readers and other strange stuff.

All of these are great, but a climbing wall, in running shoes, when you have just run 10K is seriously hard work!

I ran with a friend, and we did ok. We both decided that we were doing this for fun and were not fussed about getting as many points as possible. Which is good, because there were some people who were taking it seriously – I mean, really seriously.

A good example of this is when I was crossing London Bridge someone had already got to the checkpoint before me and they were charging back across the bridge – I didn’t see them, looked down and the next thing I knew I was on the floor. Their shoulder had hit me on the cheekbone and knocked me to the floor. They stopped for a little while (about 10 secs) and then charged off again. Other teams stopped to help me up and make sure I was ok (I hit my head on the floor as I went down too). My OH and I worked out it was a 16 mile per hour collision! On bare skin!

I was ok, but when the adrenaline wore off at the end of the race I was in a lot of pain, so I went to the ambulance which was there. They told me to go home and head to A&E. (ER). I was not amused and wasn’t going to go, but my OH made me. Still, I got the all clear – with no breaks. However I do have a nice black eye, which is going to be a great impression to give for my first day at university.

It was a great day and has really whetted my appetite for these things! However due to my hypermobility I easily bruise/damage and heal badly. My catalogue of injuries for the day is: bad cut on my knee, twisted ankle, 3inch square (literally – it looks like a space invader) bruise on my back and a black eye! Still, that is why they make you carry a first aid kit!

I am challenged now to increase my fitness, so that next year I can do the all day version of this, with a mixture of biking/running/kayaking! Whoop!