Tag Archives: pain

Unintended blog hiatus- Sorry!

I apologize for the unintended blog hiatus. It’s been a rough semester (I’m pretty sure I say that every semester though). I’ve been trying to get to the next stage of my doctoral education (comprehensive exams, aka “comps”) while taking courses that I don’t technically need for my plan of study but need to maintain my student employment.

The other reason that has kept me from posting is me trying to think of a URL for this blog that encompasses everything that I talk about (and whether or not this would include the product reviews that I have lined up). I still haven’t come up with the best URL yet (I’ve pondered something like http://www.gimpkinesiologist.com and other things along these lines to reflect my scholarly work…I’m up for suggestions).

With these “thinky thoughts” (to hijack a phrase that I picked up from the author Tamora PIerce), I wanted to show off something I got for my birthday. I decided to make a public Amazon wishlist for my friends to be able to see what kind of things I wanted, needed, or would be really helpful. I tried to make a good mix for people to pick from, including a book about writing a journal article in 12 weeks that a non-academic friend got me, Dragon Age and Shadowrun novels (two of my favorite geeky worlds), and a gaming keyboard to help my wonky wrists. I also put a ginormous body pillow on there called a Comfort-U Total Body Pillow….which a friend of mine got for me because she knows my constant struggle with what I call “painsomnia.”

This. Thing. Is. Amazing. Seriously. Because it’s essentially the size of two body pillows attached together on one end making a large U shape, it supports both the front and the back of the body. I tend to cross both ends underneath my knees to support my pelvic alignment, plus the fact that it’s cradling both sides of me means my spine stays pretty well aligned (which is really impressive with my fall allergies & sneezes….sneezing hurts something fierce near my cyborg bits, even though I’m close to 3 years post-op).

A pale person wearing a grey fleece camoflage hat and a dark sweatshirt with her head on a white pillow that curves from the front to the back of her
A tired & cold selfie while lying in bed with the Comfort U pillow

I seriously recommend this pillow for people with pain or who have alignment issues while sleeping. It’s also been great for giving my snuggly cat a place to lie with me in bed without him lying somewhere painful. I would imagine that this pillow could also be amazing for pregnant people or for people that are breastfeeding. It’s not a cheap pillow, but it’s definitely helped me out.

Links to specific Amazon products are through my affiliate link. Not a paid review.

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Teaching and inspiration

I feel like I’m bragging a little bit when I say this, and it makes me feel a little slimy on several levels.  People tell me that what I do is inspiring.  There’s a lot that could be problematic about this (take a look at this fabulous TED Talk by Stella Young about inspiration porn and disabled people to see some of the reasons behind this).  There’s more to it though.  Even before I broke my spine, I had people tell me that my presence in physical spaces, like dance, triathlon, swimming, in the gym, made them feel comfortable to try to find a way to be in those spaces too.

Even though there’s an undercurrent of “Casey, your body doesn’t really belong in those spaces but you do what you want to anyhow,” I understand that these folks are saying that I’m giving them the courage or even permission to find joy in their bodies in whatever way they find it.  I’m uncomfortable by the attention and it’s why I never got to the point of being a professional belly dancer (one of my regrets honestly).  However, being an adjunct professor this semester has shown me that I need to get over these hurdles of shyness and introversion.

Doing tree pose on a rock in Lake Superior, 2006
Doing tree pose on a rock in Lake Superior, 2006

On Thursday, I went with R, a doctoral student friend who isn’t a kinesiologist (she’s a kick-ass education scholar and we guest-lecture for each other) to a yoga class downtown.  They were having a free class as a celebration of being open for two years and we’ve been wanting to find an off-campus yoga class to go to that we can afford.  I’ve been doing yoga off-and-on for about ten years now and she’s a beginner, so finding something that works for both of our needs has been a bit challenging (plus we’ve been busy).  As the room was packed with all levels of practitioners, the instructor reminded us to find where our bodies needed to be, even if that meant being in a restorative pose instead of holding a pose or going through a flow of movements (changing poses on the breath for Sun Salutations for instance).

Despite doing a lot of modifications, I ended up in a lot of pain part way through but I realized how much I learn from yoga practice.  Although I was crying towards the end of the class, I found myself slowly learning how to be inspired by my body and inspired by all bodies.  While my instructor that night had a body shape that people would associate with a “yoga body,” my body is also a yoga body.  My body’s limitations gave other people permission to find the sweet point between pushing one’s limits and honoring them.  I realized that perhaps this body ought to become a more formal yoga teaching body and fondly remembered my first yoga teacher and his not very limber body.

As I’ve been toying with taking personal trainer certification classes, this really isn’t preposterous….and is likely a better choice for my body anyhow.  As the TravelScoot has been opening so many fitness doors for me lately, I’m thinking that this might be a way to inspire people in a way that feels less slimy.  The same studio I went to on Thursday is offering a teacher training class next month and I’m thinking about fundraising for it.  I would love to be able to offer something akin to a Yoga for Queers and Misfits class that I used to attend…all levels, drop-in, all body types and abilities warmly welcomed and acknowledged.

What do you all think?  Would you all help spread the word on a fundraiser to get me certified to teach and show that even fat broken bodies can be yoga bodies?

From a t shirt that says "this is what a yogi looks like"
From a t shirt that says “this is what a yogi looks like

Quickie update

It’s been a heck of a couple weeks, which is why it’s been quiet on this blog.  There will soon be a post on Fierce Freethinking Fatties about my first week using the scooter (affectionately known as my first week as a Scooter Fatty)…let’s just say that once I pushed past my anxiety, it’s been liberating!

Off white wall and medium brown desk in background, small metal scooter with basket in back & crutch balanced on it.
My TravelScoot sitting behind my desk at work on the first full day of using it.

My next immediate hurdle is figuring out how to do appropriate spoon management while teaching so I can get back to dancing more.  A standard classroom technology podium is built for someone that’s over 5’2″ (approximately) and trying to lecture while seated in a classroom with barely movable rows isn’t working, so I’ve been standing & leaning on a rolling chair or other creative stand/sitting hybrids to be able to operate classroom technology.  I could probably fight to get a presentation remote clicker to use, but since I’m considered an adjunct professor I doubt the university would spring for that.  The other thing I’ve figured out is that the scooter is basically unhelpful in a classroom with the way I want to teach.  I’m a kinesiologist and a dancer, so I like to be in pretty constant motion in some manner, and a scooter just doesn’t allow for that.  If I can figure out how to conquer some public speaking fear to be able to teach in front of twenty college freshmen, I can definitely figure this out!

In terms of scholarly stuff in general, I’m severely struggling.  I still have my incomplete courses, but I’ve not made significant headway on my independent study for the semester either.  In all honesty, I’m barely keeping up with the one in-person course I’m in (Autism, Disability Theory, & Philosophy).  A little bit of that is from not having a background in philosophy, and a little more is from some really weird dynamics in the class that have pegged me as the token disabled person.  The rest is just from dealing with my body and what I’m trying to force it to do.  I spend most of my weekends laying in bed trying to recover.  Unfortunately, my cognitive abilities get dumped into the recovery bin as well (chronic pain is tiring on its own, even without the assortment of other bodily oddities I deal with).  I’m honestly scared because of it….I’m trying to put together my committee for my plan of study & comprehensive exams (depending on dissertation, the committee might change), but I don’t want to come across as someone that will be stuck in ABD land (“All But Dissertation”).  One way or another it’ll work itself out.

As for dance, I’m really feeling awful that I haven’t been to a dance class or a troupe rehearsal in a couple months. The combination of my work/class schedule, increasing spine problems, and tight finances have left me with doing some mental rehearsal & occasionally doing FCBD drill videos from YouTube (on my tv with my Xbox 360!  I love technology!).  It’s better than nothing, but I fiercely miss my Helix dance siblings…not only is ATS a primarily group format, but I just don’t enjoy soloing that much (which is why I never became a pro dancer…semi-pro was the best I managed in my whole-spine days).  I’m nervous getting back into the swing of it all because my anxiety disordered brain keeps spinning me tales of angry troupemates and passive aggressive garbage (the latter has happened in a previous troupe…fears with connections to reality are the hardest to overcome).

The scooter arrived just in time…for me to get a flat in one of my manual wheelchair wheels.  Since I’m still going to use the manual chair for smaller things like shopping trips and longer trips like academic conferences (I cannot bring myself to use the scooter at the upcoming Sport Sociology conference…I’m too afraid of being treated poorly and giving a first impression that will keep me from getting a job post-PhD), I’ve decided to check into solid tires that don’t have inner tubes.  They’re a bit heavier and don’t have as good of traction, but will keep me from being stuck in a random city trying to find a bike shop to pump or fix my wheels (which has happened).

In a few days, I’ll post a few OotD posts from Gwynnie Bee.  While I probably shouldn’t be spending money on it, having a guaranteed nice thing to wear once a week that I don’t have to worry about washing/drying/maintaining is absolutely lovely.  It decreases my stress, lets me have a package come in the mail about once a week, and always feels like I’m playing a grownup version of dress-up.  If I could afford upping my subscription, I would!  I could have two outfits a week for teaching in that help me not waste spoons on clothing maintenance and to help me pretend that life isn’t really hard with chronic pain & nerve damage.  Less laundry = less wasted spoons = happier Casey = I win!

OOTD: colorful leopard dress with crutch & wheels

Gwynnie Bee dress shown both standing with crutch and using wheelchair
Gwynnie Bee dress shown both standing with crutch and using wheelchair
Same dress, using wheels
Same dress from Gwynnie Bee, using wheels

I apologize if the formatting on this post is funky…Wordpress and I had a disagreement about putting two photos next to each other, and I didn’t have the spoons to combine them into one image.  I even tried to mess with the HTML!

Before the blog moved from Blogspot to WordPress, I had a follower ask me to post more OOTD (outfit of the day) posts with my wheelchair.  Well, I finally had the opportunity to do so (partially because I rejoined Gwynnie Bee), and even got a picture with my crutch to show how the same dress looks both wheeling & standing.

The pic with my crutch is a work bathroom selfie (sorry it’s not cropped…I was trying to blast out a happier followup post to yesterday’s melancholy one), the second is a photo my partner took at the grocery store.  The dress is a multicolored animal print faux wrap dress from Flor (through the Gwynnie Bee plus size clothing service).  I had summer teggings from Re/Dress underneath in eggplant.  The fabric was pretty clingy and a bit heavy, but it was overall a comfy dress with a funky pattern (that wasn’t too wild for my office).  I don’t like how it looks in the wheeling photo, but at least it wasn’t getting caught or rubbing against the tires.

Although money is tight over the summer, I’m glad I restarted my subscription (they gave me a half price discount for two months if I rejoined, which helped).  I’m in pretty desperate need of work clothes as I keep staining my shirts, and Gwynnie Bee lets me try all sorts of things out that I wouldn’t normally (especially because I like to dress up in comfy femme when I’m in a lot of pain)….and they dry clean the clothes when they get returned, so I have one less piece of potentially temperamental clothing to try to keep clean or unwrinkled.

Cyborg Dance Projekt: Failing, but not actually failing

I remember when I first got back to belly dancing post-surgery.  That was the birth of the Cyborg Dance Projekt.  When I started that journey, I wasn’t sure if my body would be able to handle it.  It was around 6 months post-op, and I was still in a lot of pain that still necessitated opioid pain medication.

As I reflect on this almost-year long project, I’ve been beating myself up the past four or so months about dance.  My pain level has been creeping up again, and I found out that my L4/L5 vertebral joint (the one above my fusion) is having physiological issues.  I’ve known this symptomatically since a month or two after surgery, but I couldn’t get a doctor to listen to me or to take my concerns seriously.  

I’ve been beating myself up because I’m signed up for ATS Homecoming in January including General Skills & Teacher Training, and I’m afraid that my body can’t handle it (it’s 4 days of GS, 3 days of workshops, then 2 days of TT, each with about six hours of studio time).  I’m not comparing myself to my semi-pro dancer days (which, in retrospect, would have been pro if I wasn’t so shy and socially awkward), but I am comparing myself to last summer.  I would sometimes take three classes back-to-back.  I would take classes several days in a row.  I had a better home practice routine.

This fear was really eating me up until I realized something while talking to my partner.  The difference between the past few months and last summer is that I’m in classes for my PhD.  I have six hours a week sitting upright in a classroom on top of my 20 hour a week assistantship (along with the other meetings and whatnot that are unpaid requirements for getting a doctoral degree).  I have things that eat up my energy and my time, and I’m not a supercrip.  My body is just telling me that I can either have my academic work or my dance work, that something has to flex for the other thing to fit in my life.

This realization isn’t giving me any peace like I hoped it would though.  It’s making me realize that if I want to dance more while working and going to school, I need to figure out where I can conserve spoons (time/energy units).  I really need to get a mobility scooter for campus so I don’t waste my ability to be upright on things that don’t contribute to my goals.  Heck, I’ve been so bad lately that I haven’t been doing any extraneous walking….it’s to and from my car, from my car to a close building, back to my car.  I don’t go to the library for any reason unless it’s an absolute requirement.  I will go without eating for 12 hours so I don’t hurt myself going to the student union for food.  Pain is jacking up my mental health, and I need to figure out a way to get my needs met as a student, as an employee, as a spouse, as a pet parent, as a friend, and as a dancer.

So, I’m back to fundraising for a scooter that will help me be able to have the time & energy to dance, be a fully functioning doctoral student, and a happier individual that is active.  Here’s the GoFundMe link if you can help out….most insurance companies won’t pay for mobility equipment if it’s not used all of the time, including inside the home, so I’m forced to figure out how to pay for this on a grad student stipend…which means I’m fundraising.

TL;DR- Dance isn’t going as well because school is wearing down my body…but it’s ok, I’m figuring out how to cope