Herniation

I was an extremely active and athletic child leading into my teenage years.

With 7 years of basketball, 4 years of soccer, 2 years of flag football, and 9 years of competitive horseback riding. On top of that, I frequented the skate parks on my rollerblades.

I was always climbing trees, fences, baseball dugouts, and running free with the neighborhood children. We often played games like red rover, capture the flag, man hunt, etc. 

Needless to say I was always getting hurt.

Jammed fingers, skid knees, chipped teeth, bumps and bruises, splinters, scrapes, weird animal bites; you name it and I probably experienced it or something similar.

And while most of these I’ve healed or left minor scars, one lingers on. 

I was 12 years old and warming up my horse before we got in the ring for a competition. Hershey wasn’t usually very skittish. But on this day someone popped open their shade umbrella a couple feet from his face and he was frightened.

He bucked and crow hopped and twisted and I did my best to hang on. It felt like an eternity as I clung to the saddle horn with both hands.

I fell off his back and landed on the floor sitting upright.

When I recall this memory I feel sharp, dull aches travel down both of my legs starting right at the base of my spine.

The pain was unreal. I let out a large scream, a loud cry, and needed assistance with my movements.

For a couple weeks after the injury, we thought it was just a fractured tailbone. I was assured that there wasn’t anything to be done about that kind of injury and that rest (and time) would eventually heal the injury.

Time went by and nothing was getting “better”.

Turns out, I herniated 3 discs in my low spine…

At 12 years old, I was too young for surgery. It was recommended to me that I should stop riding horses and playing sports that would be hard on my spine. I scoffed at this recommendation considering sports and movement had been my entire life and there was no possible way I was going to slow down.

Pain like this forces you to slow down, even if you don’t want to. And in those moments I was learning how to cope with this new lingering sensation. When the lower back flares up, your entire body is affected. Sciatic nerve gets irritated, legs get numb and tingly, shoulders tense up as the rest of your spine works to stabilize and nurture the area of injury.

There were times when I needed a wheelchair, a back brace, medications, physical therapy. And there were days where the pain was debilitating and movement felt far too painful for me to do anything at all.

Over the last 17 years, I’ve been learning how to stack my bones, engage different muscles, stretch certain muscle groups, sit properly, move more intentionally. I’ve been establishing limitations and understanding what works and what doesn’t work for this body of mine.

In 2021, I herniated another 3 discs (the three on top of the old injury that were compensating and weakened) and found out I have 2 degenerated discs. This was hard news to digest. Just when I was becoming comfortable and familiarized with my body, I am returned to being a student and here to learn all sorts of new lessons.

There is pain everyday, whether my spine is flared up or not. I receive a constant reminder to move mindfully and listen to my body.

When I pick up my daughter or sit on the floor with her for too long, I feel sensation shoot from my low spine.

And when my spine gets tense, I can feel my entire behavior and attitude shift. I am tense.

In the eyes of my daughter, I am a superhuman. Some days I sense her frustration at my slow pace and inability to do what I can *sometimes* do. And though she really does try to understand and show empathy, the fear of seeing mom in pain causes her emotions to get all frazzled. 

In many ways this makes me want to shield her from any injuries that can cause lifelong pain, but I know that would mean to shield her from life. I cannot keep her from pain or hard lessons. I will not take away experiences because of personal fears and traumas. I can only inspire, nurture, embrace, support, encourage, and care for her in all of her decisions.

For now I’m learning how to find acceptance, rest, and comfort and she is learning compassion; both good lessons of patience and love. 



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