My Grandma Was Right: Take Care of Your Eyes, Ears, Knees and Toes

My Nani (maternal grandma) always told me when I was young that I'd grow up to have aches and pains if I didn't take care of myself. She knew all the gymnastics and cheerleading stunts I did in grade school through high school would probably affect me in my future. I listened to what she said, but didn't really know how to go about preventing the aches and pains I would have as an adult due to the choices I made when I was younger.

She was right. I did, in fact grow up to have aches and pains in all the areas that I most used in my youth. My back hurts sometimes, which is probably from gymnastics, being dropped in numerous stunts in cheerleading, the horrible shoes I wore and more. My wrists hurt sometimes, which I'm sure stems from doing lots of tumbling on a hard gym floor. My right knee hurts sometimes, which is probably from a bad car accident I had in my early twenties.

Despite these aches and pains, I don't let them stop me from living my life. I accept what I did in my youth and now deal with it. Instead of wasting time complaining, I do something about the pain.

Here's my story of how I deal:

My back pain started flaring up when I first started teaching. Being on my feet all day on a concrete floor was probably the instigator. I went to a chiropractor. He did an x-ray of my back and saw a small crack in my tailbone. He asked if I ever broke it and I instantly remembered a cheerleading mount where I was dropped from way up in the air, onto a girls head, then onto the floor. I couldn't sit straight for weeks. My parental figures told me the doctor wouldn't do anything for me except make me sit on a donut all day, and also said I'd be made fun of. (Nice, healthy encouragement, right? My parental figures were very cheap and hated for us to ever go to the doctor, so I'm sure that had something to do with their lack of empathy.) Both things didn't sound fun (I was a teenager) so, I opted for pain instead. I finally was able to sit straight again after about a month.

I connected the stunt accident to my broken tailbone in seconds and told the chiropractor. He made some adjustments to help me with my pain, then gave me a series of back exercises to do with an exercise ball. To this day, I still do these in combination with yoga. I should have opted for the donut, let people make fun of me and insisted my parental figures pay for me to go to the doctor. Not that a doctor could have mended my tailbone, but maybe I could have been given some tips on how to ease the pain healthily instead of sitting sideways in my hard school desk. Hindsight, right? 

My knee issue came about because I never received treatment for a lump that was floating around in my knee after the bad car accident I had in my early twenties. Like I did as a teenager, I tried to tell my parental figures I needed to go to the doctor. I even called the car insurance company myself to see if a doctor visit would be covered due to the accident. They told me it would be. Somehow, someway, my stepmother found out about me calling the insurance company within minutes after I called. She called me to reprimand me, but also confessed they would get back some kind of bonus check on their car insurance if we didn't make a claim, blah, blah, blah. Seriously? Money over health? Nice....... To alleviate my knee pain now, I make adjustments to my high impact aerobic activity when I feel pain. (I don't want to make it worse). I also wear a brace from time to time, get massages, and again, do yoga.

One thing good I will say for my parental figures is that I was able to get my teeth cleaned every six months. Their insurance plan for that must have been decent. Because of that, I only have one cavity today. Now, they wouldn't pay for me to have braces (I had a severe overbite and my teeth were so tight, they were causing me pain) nor for me to have my wisdom teeth pulled when they started causing me a lot of pain too. However, my Nani stepped in and paid for my wisdom teeth to be pulled (good thing because one had a cyst on one) and I waited until I could afford braces myself. Yes, I had adult braces, but oh well. My teeth are where they should be now. My dental hygienist was very impressed with my teeth when I went for my six month cleaning recently. That made me happy and proud of myself.

My eyes? Yep, I was taken care of by my parental figures on that one too. More light and love to them for that. I needed glasses in the fifth grade, so I was taken to LensCrafters and got some. Looking back, they were completely ugly, but I picked them out. Thankfully my mom started working for an eye doctor when I got a little older. That helped me have more fun with my eye wear. I got cooler glasses and she provided me with all kinds of samples of colored contact lenses. A girl in high school used to call me Elizabeth Taylor when I wore the purple ones. I loved it.

Throughout all the aches and pains I feel from my past, I realize now more than ever how important taking care of your body is. I go to the dentist every six months, the eye doctor once a year, and get a physical once a year. I have learned to truly listen to my body. If I'm in pain, I try to deal with the pain in healthy, natural ways. I also know when it's time to go to a doctor. If I am really not feeling good and it goes on for several days, I either take myself to a doctor's office or use Doctor on Demand. Doctor on Demand is a cool program that connects you virtually to a doctor 24/7 from the comfort of your own home. My current insurance makes it be about $40 a visit and I think without insurance it's about $70. I'm not promoting the program at all, it's just something cool I like to use from time to time. They have mental health doctors too, which is awesome.

I know there are a lot of people in the world that ignore their aches and pains and keep pushing themselves. If you learn anything from what I've written, learn this: Stop ignoring your pain. I ignored pain in my younger years (mostly due to how I was raised) and now I am dealing with it. Luckily it's not that bad and I can do plenty of things to manage it in healthy ways.

If you have back pain, knee pain, foot pain, can't see well, or more, you may want to start finding healthy ways to deal or manage pain. Visit your doctor, adjust your workouts, footwear, food and even the volume on your headphones. That's something else I've been thinking about lately. I love my headphones blasting loud danc-y music during my workouts, but I've had feelings lately that I should start watching the volume levels. I'd like to be able to still hear well in my older age.

As my birthday is nearing, I am starting to realize I am about to enter my final year of being in my thirties. I've done a lot of thinking about how I've treated my body during my thirties and I must say, I did a much better job in my thirties than ever before.

While I did have fun cheering, exercising, and driving myself everywhere in my late teen years and my twenties, my thirties made me realize that I should slow down a little and take it easy on my body when it needed it. I also worked harder at eating even better (all organic and Non-GMO) because I know that food is very heavily connected with our overall health. I also omitted large amounts of alcohol over 5 years ago. I'll have a glass of wine or two every once in a while, but really try to maintain as much abstinence from it as I can. When you are in your thirties, a hangover lasts an entire weekend and that is not fun.

I plan to keep learning more about myself and my body as I age and hopefully can help others in the process. Something I know for sure now: I will thank myself when I am older for truly caring about myself and my body now.

Reflection Questions:

  • Are you experiencing any pain in your eyes, ears, knees or toes (or elsewhere?)
  • How did the pain start?
  • What could you do to manage your pain in healthy ways?

 

 Art by Carolyn J. Braden

Art by Carolyn J. Braden