“The Fear Factor.”

This week’s in-person PT session was a real eye opener. As my physical therapist was reassessing my issues and reevaluating our progress, he had me doing a few things to test my current range of motion. I was bent forward as far as I could go, indicating to him exactly when and where discomfort turns to pain. As I brought myself back up out of that movement, I instinctively guarded my back by bending my knees to a squat before using my legs to return myself to a standing position. There was a palpable pause to the conversation, as his hand froze in its extension towards me, and we locked eyes.

“What was THAT?”, he asked. And we both smiled, almost knowingly.

“That’s how I get up.”

“Because you have to?”

I hesitated. Thinking. Did I really HAVE to?

He shook his head, “Try it again.”

This time I lowered down, almost able to reach my toes and, as I slowly brought myself back up to standing, I engaged my core and controlled the muscles in my back, forcing them to work together.

It did not hurt. Pain did not grip my spine. I did not drop to my knees, nor did tears form in my eyes.

It makes me wonder exactly how many other movements I modify – not so much because I need to anymore, but because I have grown so accustomed to pain that this guarded “fear factor response” has simply become my habit now?

On June 5th, 2021, I became so seriously injured that, even now (nearly a year and a half later!) it’s like I still expect every day and every movement to hold some form of discomfort or pain. Even though I’m doing every possible thing to heal, it seems as if the biggest hurdle that I am now facing resides inside my own mind.

I’ve been chomping at the bit, so to speak, constantly asking my Doctors when I can physically do more – all the while not even realizing that, in a lot of ways, it is actually myself that has been holding me back. Who knew that physical therapy would bleed into mental therapy and literally start teaching me to get out of my own way?

It makes me wonder exactly how much more is buried beneath these layers of perceived pain? And I am no longer afraid to grow.


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