I joke sometimes that I am constantly falling apart.
It’s nothing big or life-threatening, and I’m definitely grateful for that, but I feel like I just keep accumulating health issues- some more debilitating than others- and it’s because I’m for some reason “weak” or prone to them.
Just some examples of my maladies include cystic back acne (which I tempered with oral contraceptives, which then caused random bouts of vomiting for a while), hypothyroidism, mood disorders, poor circulation in my hands and feet, something red and itchy on my face for the past five months, etc.
I joke about it but over the past two years, I think being “weak” has become ingrained into my self-identity.
Just this past week, I finally went to the orthopedist to find out what was going on with my throbbing tailbone, which has been a painful, frustrating mess for about four months now despite my best efforts to assuage the pain with a special butt pillow and NSAIDS.
The orthopedist said I have an idiopathic condition called coccydynia. A condition usually suffered by women after childbirth (? not me?)
There is little relief to be had by a diagnosis of an idiopathic condition because that usually means treatment is more difficult/uncertain. Well true to form, the best preventive approach to keep my tailbone from making my life miserable is a *special* type of physical therapy. Like in my butt.
She said this type of physical therapy is so painful, she felt it necessary to prescribe me a mild narcotic to use after the sessions.
I was also supposed to start physical therapy (a less scary type) for my crazy wonky right knee that decided to stop working last August literally days before my planned departure for Peru. Patellofemoral pain syndrome isn’t exactly idiopathic, but it doesn’t make sense for me either. It’s when the patella, or kneecap, isn’t tracking correctly while walking and is most common in women who run a lot. Again, that just isn’t me – at the time I probably ran no more than 3 miles a week and I’ve taken that down to 0 miles a week – but whatever.
Clearly falling apart for no reason is my thing.
But so…I decided after the coccydynia diagnosis last week that I don’t want it to be my thing anymore. I may or may not be writing this while under the influence of [very effective, thankfully] steroids which sometimes make me feel super powerful and excited about everything, but I’ve definitely turned a corner on this whole Humpty Dumpty identity thing.
It all comes down to this new book I’m reading called The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking (brilliant book, highly recommend):
Stoicism: nothing is inherently good or bad (aka weak); it only is because of my judgment that it is so. It’s a fact that all of the above-mentioned things have, at times, caused me distress or frustration, but I don’t have to feel a certain way about that and I DEFINITELY don’t have to label myself as a certain type of person because of it.
That being said, I recently decided to take up weight lifting every now and then at the gym (yes, this decision was also made while I was on steroids) to build strength because it feels good and I want to. I’ve learned from this book that Stoicism is not about forcing yourself to endure something awful without reacting; what it is, is having “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Maybe lifting weights – and I’m talking like 5 lb weights just FYI – is about a strength identity metaphor, but it’s also about pure physicality for me. I feel like if I at least build some strength, my muscles and ligaments will stop freaking out about everything/nothing? At worst, I’ll get some muscle tone.
With the coccydynia, it causes me chronic pain and affects my ability to live my life normally (sitting, driving, laying down), so I need to stay vigilant about scheduling physical therapy even if it’s kinda terrifying that they’re going to do stuff in my butt.
How have you overcome a time in your life when you’ve felt weak?