Writer at the Daily Path Adrienne McGuire joins us to share her story of living with Ehlers-Danlos and the healing she’s found through mindful living.
As far back as I can remember, I have lived with chronic pain and many physical difficulties. I just never felt “well”, even as a child. It was a very hard thing to explain to my parents, although I tried. I was taken to a number of specialists and given a variety of tests – to no avail. I recall having chest and shoulder pains in my adolescent years that were so severe that I was taken to the Emergency Room on several occasions. When I was 18, on a trip to the beach, I awoke every morning with a back so painful that it was hard to breathe. Since then, I have spent 19 years trying hit-or-miss therapies to alleviate my chronic pain. Over the years, the pain has waxed and waned, steadily growing in intensity until it peaked a few years ago, when I had small children. I couldn't even bathe them most of the time because bending down to wash them was far too excruciating.
At the age of 36 I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Type III - Hypermobility Syndrome, which explained my life of pain but unfortunately did not come with a cure. In an attempt to alleviate my pain as much as possible I took many drastic steps to allow my body to become my priority. I quit a well-paying job, completely changed the way I viewed exercise, dramatically limited my activity level, and most importantly, I began the process of living mindfully.
At the recommendation of my therapist, I purchased several books to aid me in my quest for mindful living, one of which was Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. I began to put many mindful practices into effect in my life after learning that everything that we sense in our body and all that we become aware of in our mind is food for our sense consciousness. This concept really resonated with me, and I had a revelation. Although I have a genetic syndrome, I still have the free will to decide much about what direction my life will go. I could either head toward misery and pain or toward peace and happiness. I figured that the path toward peace and happiness surely would lead me to a life with less pain, and so my journey into mindfulness began in earnest.
I now draw on mindfulness to bring me relief from my pain as well as fear of the intensity of the pain. Instead of watering my mind’s seeds of pain and fear, I constantly nourish and tend to the seeds of mindful energy that ultimately help to free me from the pain. This works by allowing my mind and body to become one. My mind acknowledges and embraces the parts of my body where the pain is present and notes that I am not separate from the pain. By regularly observing my entire body and my aches and pains, I do not allow my thoughts and feelings about them to escalate. I also began to practice progressive relaxation and mindful eating.
By putting all of these practices into place in my life, I have seen a real improvement in my pain levels. I have gone from being bedridden to being able to walk short distances. I used to suffer from constant high levels of all-over body pain. Through mindful living, eating and moving, I now live with a much lower level of all-over pain. Before living mindfully, I frequently had excruciating, mind numbing hip pain that brought me to tears, and now I only get rare twinges of mild pain in my right hip. My entire adult life and teen years I have lived with constant highly painful and disabling spasms in my multifidus back muscles and thoracolumbar fascia. These are now controlled through mindfulness practices, physical therapy and osteopathic approaches to medical care.
My back used to be so distorted due to malfunctioning vertebral joints that I stood like this:
And now, 8 months after becoming mindfully aware of every aspect of my body and what goes into it, I stand taller and stronger than ever:
Adrienne McGuire is a writer and wellness enthusiast who abandoned the corporate world to create a life that worked for her. To read more about her experiences with mindful living, visit her at DailyPath, where she is now an integral part of the writing team.