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Post-Op Feels: Unconventional Physical Therapy Gave Me a Voice

Post-Op Feels: Unconventional Physical Therapy Gave Me a Voice


This post is part three of Emily Thorpe’s Post-Op Feels series. You can read her first post in the series here

At a certain point in my journey with Endo, I starting losing people who I loved, and who I thought loved me, too. While they were still physically involved in my life, they were no longer there for me in the ways I needed, and vice versa.

Sure, some of this is just a part of growing up and figuring out who we are. But it wasn’t lost on me how certain people’s eyes would become unfocused if I told them I had spent another night on the bathroom floor. Or if I had to miss work, I knew that I would walk in the next day and catch the vibe that I had somehow betrayed my coworkers. I’d left them in the lurch, yet again. Or, on the days that I could fight my way through my nausea and pain and actually show up, they were understanding, but resigned, that I couldn’t perform up to my usual standard.

The people in my “real” life were leaps and bounds better, but there were moments that left me feeling like a burden. While the vast majority were well-meaning in their suggestions for treatment, over time some people’s tone was just this side of vicious.

Why couldn’t I just get over this? Why did I make such a big deal over it every month? Why couldn’t I soldier through like so many others did during their period?

I responded by pulling away. I wouldn’t talk about it unless I had to, or I was asked. And even then, depending on who was doing the asking, I gave very stilted answers. You wouldn’t be remiss in calling me cold – it was easier to shut them out. And as time went on I shut myself out, too.

I ignored my body and what she needs most – love and care.

I stopped tracking my symptoms because I refused to see another terrible specialist. Fighting against said symptoms while still at work entailed just throwing up in the back bathroom when necessary (and keeping a toothbrush in my purse). I ate food that I knew would mess with my stomach as if I were on a dare and shockingly, I always lost. I was going to be sick no matter what I did anyway, who the hell cared if I had another 15 chocolates right before bed? (I do not recommend this, kids, just as an aside.) I was hopeless. Then I found a doctor who actually helped me.

Surgery brought about an extreme amount of validation: I was RIGHT.

I KNEW there was something wrong with me! I have a diagnosis, bitches! And no “cure” passive-aggressively suggested to me could have fixed it. I did the social media equivalent of shouting it from the rooftops, participated in physical therapy, started writing for DYE, and… still had a giant chip on my shoulder and a crap ton of trust issues.

This is the side of chronic illness that’s been hard for me to reconcile- I’m genuinely thankful for the people that have been there for me, but there’s anger at not just the doctors, but those that made me feel like I couldn’t adequately express myself during the worst of my Endo experience. Still, there were times that even those that made my heart hurt so badly on a regular basis stepped up and helped me in ways I can’t explain. But most of all, I was, and in some ways currently am, angry at myself for giving up. For pushing myself unnecessarily, and constantly, constantly thinking I was less than because I was sick.

Enter the circus – my unconventional physical and mental therapy of choice. What started as a seven-week physical therapy substitute that I thought my DYE readers would think was sort of interesting has quickly become a turning point in my life.

The No. 1 phrase I hear at my studio is: “Listen to your body; You’ll only get better if you listen to your body.”

“Emily! Are you okay? Do you bend that way? That’s okay, listen to your body, we’ll figure out a modification. It’s okay if you’re a little uncomfortable; it’s not okay if you’re in pain, listen to your body!”

This simple sentence, made up of four words (which I hear at least five times every Wednesday night) is rewiring my brain. It gives me confidence and trust in myself. I’m more aware of my body’s limitations, but more importantly, I’m aware of what I can do. It reminds me that I deserve to be heard – even when what I have to say isn’t made of sunshine and rainbows.

I no longer see the need for a break as a weakness.

I see it as a chance for the muscle to grow even stronger. I no longer see the fear of a trick as an indicator of my bravery or lack thereof. It’s a sign that I need to slow down to better understand how to actually do the move.

Yes, I get annoyed when something isn’t clicking. I don’t enjoy that I have a steep learning curve… Or the fact that my body that isn’t done unraveling from years of being wound tighter than a ballerina’s top knot. But I love, love, love (am addicted to even) the feeling of finally nailing a move that seemed damn near impossible for me even five minutes prior. Also the care and safety I feel every second I’m in the studio.

If you had told me a year ago I would feel safest suspended in mid-air, 10 feet off the ground, I would have thought you were crazy. But being in that apparatus brings me more comfort than some people I depended on for years. Now, I can’t imagine not having this feeling. And it’s as easy and carefree as flying through the air to express it.

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