For a long time I had a love hate relationship with suffering.
I thought a lot of the best things in life came with a heavy dose of pain—workouts, marriage, motherhood, pretty eyebrows, a graduate degree, a successful career, the list goes on.
My story went something like this: all things worth having take hard work, and hard work can hurt. In fact, if it’s not hurting, it’s probably not working. Sound familiar?
It’s the classic no pain, no gain mentality, and for a long time it was my personal motto. But last weekend, I realized that’s no longer the case. It all started with a pain in the neck. Literally!
This Sunday, I woke up with pain radiating from my neck into both arms. Instead of telling myself that this was the result of the new workouts I’d tried this week, or scolding myself for forgetting to bring my pillow with me on the trip, I reached instead for my phone and made an appointment with my acupuncturist, Karen Kraft. Sounds easy, right? Should it be harder?
For a long time, I thought it did have to be hard. Even after I met Karen, it took me months before I accepted that maybe I didn’t have to suffer to be worthy. And I sometimes wait to make an appointment until my body rings its alarms, because I feel too busy.
But having someone I trust to make me feel better has completely changed my outlook on what I’m willing to suffer. It’s taught me to acknowledge my pain, and seek healing as often as possible.
I first went to Karen when I was overdue with my youngest son. I had one goal and one goal only: to go into labor without being induced. Karen asked if there was anything else bothering me, and I said, “Well, I have had this pain in my hip for the past six months, but there’s probably not much that can be done about it.” I prepared to feel some pain before I felt better. Needles hurt, right?
An hour later, I left the office with no pain in my hip and a dumbfounded look on my face. The needles didn’t hurt, and I’d never felt so relaxed! Later that night, I went into labor. With the pain gone, and that time to relax, I had an amazing, and memorable birth.
Even then I didn’t rush back to Karen. It seemed like such an extravagance to get acupuncture. We couldn’t afford it. I didn’t have time for it. I made a lot of excuses.
But a few months later, when I had neck pain so bad I could barely hold my sweet baby, I went back. One session left me feeling like myself again. I could hold my baby without feeling crushing pain! While she was at it, she asked again if there was anything else bothering me. I told her I had insomnia, but it was probably just a factor of having a baby. Karen worked her magic once again, and that night, I slept for the first time in what felt like years.
Over the past four years, Karen has continued to surprise me with the power of acupuncture. She’s treated me for everything from forgetfulness to P.M.S. rage to a hacking cough.
And she’s also taught me that our faults and pains are not always flaws or things to suffer through, they are the body’s way of telling us we need healing. I wish it was a message I would have accepted sooner!
So my charge to you this week is to seek the healing you need. Don’t wait until your body and mind are ringing their alarms. Whether that’s acupuncture, or a massage, counseling, a long walk, or your favorite yoga class. Make a plan, and make it happen!
Step 1: Acknowledge Your Pain
Checking in with my body and mind regularly helps me. An evening body/mind check before bed, or first thing in the morning can be a great practice.
Step 2: Identify Your Healing Method
What would make you feel good again? What’s made you feel good in the past? If this is completely foreign to you, then what makes your friends feel good? Ask for a referral.
Step 3: Budget
Look at your budget and see what you can afford. Better yet, see what’s in your health plan. Some massage therapists and acupuncturists take health insurance or comply with Flexible Medical Spending options.
Step 4. Plan
It might seem like you have no time to fit in an appointment just for yourself, but consider taking a little sick leave, or making an evening or weekend appointment. If you’re a stay at home mom, maybe you could trade time with a friend? If it keeps you healthy and functional, it’s worth it!
Do you already have a great healer or self-care practice? Post it in the comments below. Have questions about acupuncture or anything else? Reach out! I’d love to hear from you. And, as always, if you think someone you love would benefit from reading this post, please share it! If you try acupuncture or any other healing practice this month, post a picture on Instagram and tag me @organizedbyheart.