How I Beat Chronic Pain

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“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough We must do”.

– Bruce Lee

 

We all have a nemesis. That thing that just takes you down when you’re about to do your best. That part of your life that holds you back. For me that was chronic pain.

It took me 15 years just to be able to face it. I had to work through things like PTSD, bipolar disorder and so on. Those were easy to face and look at compared to this. But 15 years ago, my body went completely numb. I couldn’t meditate, I couldn’t do yoga. I felt completely disconnected from myself, other people, my emotions; it felt like my soul was trapped in a box and couldn’t get out.

I think that we all have things that keep us from feeling life fully, from feeling refreshed in a beautiful morning or appreciating the warmth of a loved one.

The problem, for me has always been internal.. I’m very good at fighting and not so much at nurturing myself. Chronic pain was one of those things.

First I had to do a lot of research in terms of what diet I needed, and started juicing and making smoothies filled with fiber, plant-based protein and fruit. Then I experimented with jogging, yoga & weight training to see what would work best. It turns out exhausting yourself when you’re already tired isn’t very effective. Slow stretching while in burning pain is torturous. So I have to let go of some ego and accept that the elliptical is where my body needs to be.

Next I found an interesting article about the fight response and how it creates a buildup of lactic acid when we live with people we have very tense relationships with…I live with my mother. Enough said.

So I had to forgive her! I, for my own sake had to do everything that i could to fundamentally change my relationship with her. After forgiving her I realized how much I judge other people and let it go…I physically felt the anger leaving my body. I was now able to meditate for what seems like hours.

With this peace I realized that I had to change my thoughts about pretty much everything. I decided to focus on a mantra that my body was healing and I was feeling great.

When we focus on something positive we start noticing the things right in front of us that we didn’t notice before. I looked and in front of me was a bottle of pills that stop neurological pain-I hadn’t opened them because they were prescribed for something else. Long story short in 3 days I went from chain-smoking, drinking ten cups of coffee a day, being (relatively numb and bitter) to energized, exercising, living a primarily vegan diet and regularly meditating.

They say that sometimes the obstacle is the journey. This was very much the case for me. I realized that my goals in life, while wonderful, were really aimed at what I thought would make me feel the way I’m beginning to feel now.

I’m sleeping better, not perfectly, I have much more energy, it’s not perfect but I feel a hope and a power inside a renewed connection with life itself. It wasn’t about pain or numbness, for me it really was a journey of personal transformation.

It turns out that applying the things that I’ve been studying my entire adult life actually served a purpose. But in the end I feel kinda badass. To quote Bruce Lee

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough We must do”.

 

 

 

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Pain and change. 

3 months ago I set out to treat bipolar disorder. In short it seemed intractable; I had two types of bipolar, both were notoriously hard to treat. Ultimately I succeeded. 

In just the last year out of a lifetime of searching for medication I had tried 34 different medications. 

One caused me to black out and collapse regularly. One offered me a skin disease. Had I not treated it it would have devoured my skin and killed me. 

So I tried ECT. So for a month, every other day I would go to an office where they tranquilized me, knocked me out, and  induced seizures that caused short term amnesia. 

My symptoms went away. Bipolar completely went away. I succeed. 

After a week i began to feel anxiety and depression creep in. But I noticed it wasn’t bipolar. 

After investigation I learned that I had been living with debilitating chronic pain. This means I was constantly exhausted and could not do work go to school or leave the house. 

I found the cause of this. I had been meditating my emotional stress all these years with copious amounts of sugar, caffeine and nicotine, mainly cigarettes. 

After 2 weeks I had stopped smoking. I moved on to e cigarettes and cut down on caffeine and nicotine use down to 1/4 of what I used to use.

My body began to thaw out. I introduced high quality omega 3, a trinity of anti inflamitory supplements vitamins and changed my diet. 

I had cut out what was making my muscles inflamed and I could sleep. For one night in years I had true restful sleep. I was starting to feel energy again. 

I had been eliminating the source of my inflammation that was causing pain. 
But then the emotions I was coping with would flare up. Under stressful stimulation my anxiety and pain returned. 

So I’ve been teaching myself to reduce stress. I worked with a. Therapist a physical therapist and a doctor. 

I no longer needed most meds. But the depression came back, only this time situational. 

Like so many with pain I became depressed with the debilitation of not being able to do anything and its cousin demoralization. 

So I stayed taking anti depressants. Depression, much like pain increases your pain sensitivity and reduces your ability to produce pain reducing chemicals in your body. 
Short term use of pain killers is great for many situations. But long term they depress you cloud your thinking and most importantly, your pain signals get stronger so that they can make it through to your brain, resulting in more needed pain killers and continuing the cycle. I could not do this. 

So now I have quit cigarettes near bipolar and things got simpler. I have a plan that is working. 

Slowly eliminate nicotine and caffeineso that I can sleep soundly and heal. Introduce chemicals that naturally reduce inflammation inside and outside of my body. Gently-GENTLY stretch and work my body. Take anti depressants that reduce my need for self medication with coffee and cigarettes as well as reduce pain and fatigue. 

This combined with therapy support and applying what energy I have to make my life support joy is the next steps I’m taking. 

I have a way out now. 

I said goodbye to alcoholism long ago. After years I successfully treated mental illness. I then treated the underlying illnesses. I have begun both creating and reinforcing pleasurable and supportive relationships. I have learned to be kind to myself and compassionate to others through my understanding of what suffering and it’s self reinforcing cycles do to people. 

I have had the luxury of automating my laundry and groceries so that I can focus my energy on what I can do. 

I have read hundreds of books on spiritual development psychology physiology positive thinking pain management and mental illness. 

I have been practicing yoga meditation breathing exercises. I have decided what I want in my future and committed to writing down and working towards my dreams. 

I have refused to give up and have dared to hope and forced myself to plan and work. 

Most of all I learned how life can take many turns but it’s our spirit that stays constant. So my life now has to be dedicated to supporting that. 

The worst part of the pain is being separated from a clear mind and a thriving soul. My priorities are now creating a foundation in which I can thrive. 

So many trivial things seemed so important. Now I see what is important and valuable. 

The most valuable thing I have outside of me is the love and support of others. The purpose of my life is creating a foundation in which I can thrive and help others do the same. 

So, in the end, as this nightmare SLOWLY begins to end and the light of day peeks through time and time again, I have learned what my values are. 

Treat others with compassion. Suffering takes many forms, compassion is powerful and abundant if we access it. 

Take care of myself. It’s easier to be nice and happy that way. The less we suffer the more we thrive and sharing that is meaningful. 

Finally, my life is meant to serve my soul. By that I mean the creative capacity to love others share joy and be in the moment. 

I also learned that impossible situations are rarely that. With the help of others the worst circumstances can create lifelong rewards. 

A letter to those moving through tough times

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I’ve struggled with some health problems for decades. They’re the sort of things that most people go their entire lives without sorting out.

I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to give up, no matter what. There were times when I was tempted but every time I had a loved one tell me that giving up wasn’t an option.

I was walking through hell with sometimes only an imaginary light at the end of the tunnel. About thirty years later I’ve turned that light into very real concrete solutions and I am building a life around that journey, extracting all of the good, throwing out the garbage accumulated (mental, physical and emotional) while healing the wounds. This is always a process but it’s made me stronger for it. And all of the spiritual truisms I’ve heard along the way such as “everything happens for a reason” “you never have more than you can deal with”, I have lived, experienced and embodied.

In the end I am the amazing man I’ve always dreamed of and have truly learned to love all of him.

The hope in this story is that we ALL have trials and growth opportunities to move through in life. Sometimes victory seems out of reach or can’t be seen at all. This is when we must reach out to others. To learn how to trust and connect. Most of all, if you’re going through helm you must keep going.

The other side of what you’re going through may not look like what you think but it will be GOOD! And you’re worth it. More importantly if you think that you can’t get through your trials, look yourself in the mirror and TELL yourself that you can.

Also if you think that you’re putting off your own healing journey, just begin now. The whole world can and will help you. I know this from experience from the bottom of my heart. And sometimes the help you’re looking for may be different than you thought. Stay open have hope and move forward.

I believe in all of us. I believe in me and in you too.

Sincerely,
Ammanuel.

What is love? My definition, my inspiration and a question for you.

I’m a big fan of self-love. Actually, love in general. While this is hard when in pain depression grief or any situation, it’s often part of the solution as well. Love has gotten me through it all. Especially love from others.

I had to ask myself “what the heck is love anyway?!”

And I learned that it is something that comes before words yet can inform them.

It’s something that I can express within my actions, thoughts and words but can only define for myself.

So let’s define! For me, love is the impulse to connect, to survive and thrive, to grow to share and to protect and nurture.

I suppose it’s analogous to the will to live but it is also life itself.

Some cultures have many different words for different kinds of love. My love of say, my iPhone is one of appreciation of an object that I relate to daily, and there is sentiment attached. I am protective of her and sometimes neglectful. I make sure that she gets recharged while I sleep.

My love of my body is in many ways different. Boy also has needs such as sleep food nurturing, care, is touch sensitive but has a much more intimate relationship with me. I’m a big fan of body too. However I would never ever return him to the apple store for a new one. Very very attached. Without him, this life would end! I’m eternally grateful for this vehicle through the third dimension :p

My love of self, the divine and the souls I encounter along the way is much more sacred to me. This connection I see as eternal. Now while my body and iPhone are very helpful for facilitating connection with other people, it is my love of humanity that is most important to me. It keeps me going. Gives me invaluable purpose that can endure any pain.

It’s this love that has given me the strength to see myself through disease, addiction, hopelessness and despair.

Because I love you guys. And even after years of feeling isolated and disconnected I persevered because I wanted to feel connected to you again.

So thank you, humans for being so wonderful that I want nothing more than to hang out and be a part of the coolest pack of mammals in town (sorry dolphins)

🙂

What does love mean to you? How has it play a role in your life?
– with love, Ammanuel

The Tao of Alcoholism: How To Be Awesomely Proactive & Propassive

Pre-gaming is a great concept that often gets a bad wrap, because of its roots in binge drinking culture.

Once upon a time I was the master of this form of pre-gaming, drinking before going to the bar or party, to better “prepare” oneself for upcoming fun. I matched this proactive approach to my alcoholism along with the positive expectation that everything will work out and my night would be great.

This practice accomplished two things: Taking action ahead of time to ensure desired results (Proactive Awesomeness) as well as expecting things to fall into place (Propassive awesomeness).

It was around this time of my life when I first encountered Taoism, which is all about taking action when necessary and just chilling when there is nothing to be done. This creates a serene relaxed life that is also productive.

It’s occurred to me that these are pretty much the same thing.

I no longer drink but I apply these principles (as well as possible) to all aspects of my life. I tell myself “I’ve already won and everything falls into place.” It works so well it seems like magic but here’s how it actually works:

When I walk into a situation well prepared and expecting the best I am open to every opportunity for things to work my way and I accept them with grace. By expecting things to fall into place I allow myself to NOT interfere with things that area already working in my favor.

The opposite of self sabotage, I’ve now created a positive self fulfilling prophesy!

This is also an age old Taoist teaching. Knowing when to act and when not to interfere. This creates an effortless “non action”, meaning that my actions are in harmony with the moment and thus with the universe.

And then there is passivity, which is knowing when not to do a thing. This allows me to not worry and be fully prepared and relaxed for when things have to get done.

All of this allows me to be in tune with spirit and get what I want at the same time! (Having my cake and eating it too is Awesome!)

Try it out! Tell me how it works for you!

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Punk Rock, Chakras & Liberation

“You can have my body but not my obedience”

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Sometimes I get lost in the shiny haze of New Age Bliss and I have to remember where my dedication to personal and social liberation comes from.

And then I listen to some great punk like The Clash, or Leftover Crack, and remember being an teen finding my voice and the power of a megaphone. This is where my roots lie.

Spiritual awakening for me was and is inextricably linked to a rise in social awareness and participation in national and global movements. We’re all tied together in physical social and spiritual dimensions. These are all words that are used to describe aspects of the underlying unity (or chaos or both) of life.

When I appreciate the intimacy of these worlds I feel most alive. My hatred of injustice and inequality, isn’t sustainable without an optimism rooted in my spirituality, which in turn is ungrounded when taken outside of the context culture that i’ve been raised in and so on.

So when I’m on top of the shiny Crown Chakra of Universal Love, Unity and bright White Lights but something is missing, I always have to bring it back down to my gritty Muladhara.

Where do I come from? I found life being dead broke and well fed with people who were fully alive and fighting for what they believe in. If i’m not involved in this, and am just reaping the fruits of my ancestors, slaves, who learned to read and write at the threat of death, then I’m not taking responsibility for myself. And I don’t feel alive. And something seems wrong.

So of course, while being awesome, I’ve already started taking action to rectify this. I needed to take a break to sort out my life and now I know what I’m going to do to fulfill this part of me. But the specifics aren’t important for this space.

Can you relate?

To Whine or To Win Part II

I felt it necessary to write a follow up post clarifying the point of Deciding to be Awesome: it inspires others to do so. When we surround ourselves with other Awesome, Empowered, Inspiring people, we can then spread that to the world. Winning not a journey for the self, yet it is a journey about the self.

When we are at our lowest points, we often need friends and family to help us get into a position to be able to offer our highest potential to the world around us. Especially in these times we are doing no favors to anyone by being around draining or discouraging people.

Also, it is no good for us or the world around us to carry its burdens on our shoulders. Life is a group project and the only person that we have true control over is ourselves. This is why it’s so important that we take care of that person, love that person and then spread like an infectious light to those around us.

Everybody Wins. True winning is a Win Win proposition. The better you feel, the more you take care of yourself, the better the world around you gets. It’s a true honor to be in a place to be able to be there for a friend who is having a rough time, because you’re moving in the direction you love in life and are standing on solid ground.

So let there be no confusion, Winning is something that we have to do for ourselves, but I’ve found that the logical next step to having access to my power is to shine and then effortlessly i attract other shiny people and we create a synergistic energy that explodes out of control.

Thanks,

Ammanuel Ravi Santa Anna