For the last several months I have not been able to do a whole lot with my arms because of my carpal tunnel and now I have the fancy lateral epicondylitis, which is a super big word for tennis elbow, and both conditions have been off the hook.
And the state of my arms falls into the whole discussion about self care. It’s not unheard of that I would have carpal tunnel, right? I was a concert pianist for twenty-something years and then when I stopped playing the piano, I traded that keyboard for a computer keyboard.
I’ve now had a keyboard in my hands pretty much every day of my life. Since it seems I’ve always spent my days on a keyboard, I probably could have predicted my carpal tunnel.
But what I didn’t predict was that it would get so bad that my arms would be in such bad shape that I would need to stop using them for weeks at a time. That I did not anticipate.
Several months back I finally had to admit things were unmanageable. I was dropping things all the time, my arms were always so swollen they looked like thighs, I was in near-constant pain, and it was just not a good thing. It finally got to the point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
So, I started with those big, scary needles that I hope will help me avoid surgery. I’m not going into great detail about that because I don’t want it to haunt you. 🙂 I’m just going to say I started paying more attention to pain signals and doing what I needed to do for my arms, which meant that I couldn’t do a lot of stuff I was accustomed to doing.
Cue the sad music: I couldn’t be on the computer except fifteen minutes of every hour! I nearly cried when the orthopedist told me. That might not sound like a big deal to you, but it was catastrophic to me.
I have a friend who is a registered nurse who came to town to visit and took one look at my arms, and she turned pale and she’s usually a lovely mocha shade so turning pale was a pretty big deal.
She took one look at my arms and she looked at me, and at first I thought she was going to cry, and then I thought she wanted to hit me. Then she settled into ‘nurse face’, and all she could say was, “why did you let it get this bad”?
I had no defense, so now I’m being a good patient and going to the doctor, doing physical therapy several times a week, icing my arms and doing all the things I need to do.
After 2-3 months of physical therapy I’m getting out of the casts and the different levels of splints and braces, and starting to be able to do a couple of things. Being allowed to take the casts off for like two hours a day is magical.
Fast forward and I saw this same friend again after a month or so and she reached up and touched my arms and smiled. She said, ‘Oh my gosh they are so much better!”, and I said, “They ARE?!” You could have bought me for a dollar I was so surprised.
She’s looking at me like I’m crazy and rubbing my elbows and pointing out that she sees a lot of improvement, the big swollen lumps are gone and they look ‘almost like regular arms’.
At the time I just laughed, but later, after I had a chance to process what she said, I thought about how fascinating it is that I couldn’t see the progress even though I look at my arms all the time. Daily I’m busy fussing about things that I still can’t do with my arms. This self-pity can be triggered by something as simple as realizing I have to cook my dinner in the instant pot because my arms can’t handle grilling yet.
Grilling involves marinating, basting, turning etc. That probably doesn’t sound like a lot, but to all of us with carpal tunnel or other repetitive-stress injuries, it adds up and haunts us because we know grilled chicken would taste so amazing.
By the way, honey garlic chicken out of the instant pot is also amazing, so it’s not like I’m suffering. My bud simply suggested that I cook in a way that would protect my arms. My first response was to be a rebellious child, but then I thought to myself, if she hadn’t mentioned to me that my arms were so much better I might have missed that juicy breakthrough.
Breakthroughs are one of the joys I find in working with my coaching clients. They will tell me things that they’ve been working on, or new skills they have been trying out at work and how it worked really well for them.
When they tell me their good results, they kind of gloss over them and race past the breakthroughs that make me want to jump up and down and cheer. Often my clients miss the smaller moments of how their lives are changing and how they’re improving. And I delight in slowing them down and pointing out the victories.
So I’m really grateful today that she made me stop and think because she’s right, I no longer have super swollen arms that hurt to so bad they prevent me from sleeping. They have gotten better. And my arms do look almost like ‘regular’ arms now.
This whole story was to invite you to have that kind of joyful jolt of electricity that i got when I took the time to evaluate the changes I was experiencing. When I slowed down and paid attention to myself with a different perspective I saw new things.
I’m happy about the juicy breakthrough my arms have achieved so instead of whining about the fact that I dropped a jar yesterday and it broke it and all my lovely sauerkraut spilled all over the floor, instead I choose to focus on the fact that my arms don’t hurt today and they’re less swollen.
My orthopedist told me in the beginning it was going to take six to twelve months for my arms to heal and I’m 2 months in, and the arms are better, so he was right. So today I’m bathed in gratitude that my arms are improving and I’m grateful that my friend showed up in that little coaching moment and pointed out to me that something was actually changing so that i wouldn’t miss it.
I’m just wondering today as you’re moving through your life if there’s something you’ve been working on, or something you’ve been hoping to change that you’re still frustrated by because it doesn’t seem like you are making progress. Are you thinking ‘oh my gosh I don’t know if this is going to work’?
Maybe if you step back from it and look at how you used to behave six weeks ago or even three months ago, then you will notice a change. Perhaps with a little distance you can see that you are getting closer to your goal. I don’t want you to miss your juicy breakthrough.
With that, I’m going to go ice my elbows. Have a powerful day
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