January also marks one year since my neck first locked up and I was diagnosed with arthritis. I had just finished teaching and started to turn my head when a sharp pain shot through my neck, and my head would not turn. It's been a frustrating year of x-rays, an MRI, discovering an allergy to narcotics, an intolerance of all things NSAID, and a propensity for exhibiting side effects when taking muscle relaxers. Of course, it did not thrill me to learn that the manufacturer of one drug does not know how it works. And the FDA approved it? Hmm, perhaps if they don't know how it works, there are a few other things they don't know about it?
After months of frustration, I decided not to trust my future to the doctors, the drug manufacturers, and the FDA. When we talk about sustainability, we think about renewable energy, organic gardening, and big-picture things. But really, sustainability starts right here in our own bodies. It means being responsible for what we weigh and how we feel, both mentally and physically. I can't fathom the idea of taking drugs for the rest of my life, which could be another 30 or 40 years.
What have I done about this? I've read Heal Your Aching Back by Jeffrey N. Katz, M.D., associate professor at Harvard Medical School, as well as a variety of interesting articles on the web, including The Pain May Be Real, but the Scan is Deceiving from the NY Times. The article says about the same thing as the book, but in 250 less pages. Basically, they're not really sure what to do about back pain. In situations like this, I go with common sense. If it feels better, do it. If it doesn't help, drop it. And since pills don't cure anything, use them as little as possible.
It's kind of ironic that I've spent my whole life worrying about my knees giving out, but it appears they might last longer than the rest of me. Since September, my right hip sometimes causes so much pain, I'm walking like a much older woman, limping along slowly. I had enough of doctors in 2008 though, and with my hip, I think the logical answer is as simple as it is for my knees -- lose weight.
So, here are my personal sustainability goals. If you want to call them New Year's resolutions, fine, but in my mind, they're life resolutions:
- Get down to 135 pounds by eating real food and just paying attention to what I put in my mouth!
- Practice yoga daily. (The stretching is great for my arthritis!)
- Learn to meditate well. (Most of my pain is caused by muscle spasms, which are supposedly a protective mechanism for those of us with arthritis, which is why muscle relaxers are a common prescription.) I've been trying to meditate for 20+ years, but I'm terrible at it. My mind jumps around more than my little bichon. No more complaining though, I just need to learn how to do it!