Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Not Listening to Our Bodies

Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with Daisy's veterinarian, Dr. Dave. A few weeks ago, Daisy injured her knee so that her knee cap repeatedly--and painfully--dislocated. After we did our best to keep her from running and jumping for a week, she was doing much better and hadn't dislocated her knee cap in more than two days. I called Dr. Dave and left a message saying she was doing fine.

The next day, I let her out in the yard, and when I looked out, she was racing at warp speed, a picture of golden enthusiasm and energy. She changed directions suddenly and continued her sprint, ears flapping and fur rippling from the speed in her four furry paws. After staring for a moment in sheer awe of her unrestrained dog joy, I remembered that she should NOT be running. I called her in, and later that evening, she dislocated her knee again.


When I called Dr. Dave yesterday, he told me that dogs...goldens in particular...do not have the cognitive ability to understand that they have to take it easy. As soon as they start feeling better, they go full speed. We humans have to do the thinking for them. He was saying, nicely, that I have to be smarter than my dog, which, clearly, I was not when I let her out unsupervised.

So now Daisy must spend two more weeks on rest and anti-inflammatory medications.

As I was contemplating her stupidity and its consequences, it occurred to me that George, my crazy endurance-athlete husband, understands Daisy's impulse to run perfectly. You see, he has, for many years, repeatedly injured himself, rested for too short a period of time, reinjured himself, and suffered the consequences. In short, he has displayed the same cognitive limitations in this area that Daisy has.

This past weekend, however, he demonstrated a remarkable restraint heretofore unseen in the annals of his triathlon career: he went out for a short run and returned almost immediately because his knee hurt. He had run over 9 miles the day before, and he realized he needed to rest. He limited his activity in response to the thought that pain was trying to tell him something and he ought to listen to it.

He's learning. Daisy, on the other hand, can not.

Since George is, in all other ways, cognitively blessed with a well-developed frontal lobe, I have to assume that his slow learning curve on the matter of injury recovery is a glitch in our evolution. After contemplating George's challenge in this area, I reminded myself of the principle that if you point a finger at someone else there are three fingers pointing back at you. Oh, yes. I'm guilty of this stupidity, too.

I've been living with some pain for a while and have not done anything about it, mainly because I don't want a repeat of six years ago.

You may be asking, "What happened six years ago that would make you stupid, Susan?" Let me tell you.

Six years ago, I had pain and went to the doctor. What followed was a year of medical testing hell, multiple misdiagnoses, and enough test radiation that I had to carry a card explaining that I wasn't making dirty bombs but had been tortured by doctors, in case Homeland Security scanned me with a geiger counter. Good times, man. Good times.

In the end, only two tests proved positive. As a result, I had surgery to remove my gall bladder and started taking prilosec for gastritis. The gastritis was caused by my taking too much ibuprofen for joint pain, which was caused by my insomnia.

Life-long insomniacs, it turns out, have a high incidence of joint pain because the human body repairs daily wear-and-tear in our joints only when we are deeply asleep. We insomniacs don't get enough deep sleep, so our joints don't repair themselves, and we have pain.

I've barely been back to the general practitioner since, though of course I've kept up my annual visits to the stirrups and boob squisher. You know, just for the fun of it. And I've done my level best to get at least six hours of sleep a night, with mixed results.

Lately, I've dismissed some new joint aches and pains as the natural consequence of being a middle-aged insomniac, and when a list of perimenopausal symptoms included joint pain, that seemed like enough reason for my joints to hurt. But the truth is, I don't know. I am not a doctor. And even though doctors practice medicine (wouldn't it be nicer if they did medicine?), they know more about how my body works--and how to fix it--than I do.

I made an appointment yesterday to see my primary care doctor about the pain. Hopefully, she'll simply order me to start doing yoga, which, I've read, is helpful for joint pain and doesn't involve medications that damage your gut or your heart. Because without a doctor ordering me to do yoga, I simply won't do it.

I'm stupid that way.

In what ways are you stupid? How do you ignore what your body tells you it needs? What, if anything, makes you listen?


  1. I ate a pound of circus peanuts in under a week. I think that qualifies as stupid (but I'd do it again).

    I have a real tendency (this past weekend being exhibit A) to stay up late when it is quiet in my house. I love be alone - I love the quiet. So I got almost no sleep and am still tired from it. I knew I was doing it while I was doing it, but that did not stop me even a little bit.

    As to what makes me listen? Geez, I can't think of anything. Certainly not common sense.

  2. Susan, I hope Daisy feels better soon...I hope George feels better soon...and I hope YOU also feel better soon.

  3. what IS IT with human beings, why don't we listen? i have known for years how bad soda is, my children (and grandchildren) lecture me every single time i take a sip, do i stop? no! do i want to stop? yes! i will go about 10 days without one, and then fall off the wagon all over again, sigh! i have such a love/hate relationship with coke, grrrrr! i am even afraid of pancreatic cancer! but do i stop drinking soda, nope! i am a dummy! but i am still cheerful, so that has to count for something.....ack! lol! please be smarter than me, your dumb soda-drinking reader!

  4. I'm with Nicole . . . staying up way too late because it's the only time I get . . .
    the quiet,
    no interruptions.
    Last night in point - 2:00am! . . . creating . . . reading . . . but am I tired the next day! And then it's hard to do the things I need to get done.
    And what makes me listen? Sickness (when I take it too far, God just PUTS me in bed!)

  5. I hear you sister, on so many fronts. I can see my husband in George re pain (he has just had knee surgery and hoping to do an Olympic distance triathlon in November - leading to another Ironman.... somewhere). I am attempting to lose some weight but without someone telling me what to do (read spending alot of money) I won't do it. STUPID

  6. As a fellow insomniac I sympathise with you whole heartedly. Even when I manage to get some sleep my dreams are always so busy I wake up more tired than I was when I went to bed. I am also stubborn, self-opinionated and bloody minded, which means I’m incapable of accepting good advise, my own or anyone else’s. Add to this my outspokenness, my severe lack of tact, my distrust of so-called experts and my habit of questioning everything and everyone and we have one very messed up person, who is almost always in hot water. It’s not my intention to offend or upset, nor do I need to practise this dubious skill; it comes naturally, unfortunately. I’m essentially a night person, when I have more energy, am more creative, more sociable and more alive than at any other part of the ‘day’. This I hope answers all three questions; I’m my own worst enemy. One day the medical profession will accept that this is an illness of some kind, until then I suffer, not so silently and severely misunderstood.

  7. On a lighter note (Hey, it's what I do.), your post reminded me of Hyperbole and a Half's post today, Susan.

    Daisy = Simple Dog

    Now I need to hit they hay; it's what good for me.

  8. Susan
    I'm certainly no doctor but this is what I've deduced (first I asked God for His wisdom and this is what I discovered)...caffeine and carbonation destroy vitamin B6 which is necessary to create the lubricant which prevents your ball and sockets from grinding (pain) I have eliminated all caffeine (including chocolate ouch!) and finally began taking a B complex vitamin (didn't take any vitamin til 2 months ago)My sister had knee replacement at 52 and I didn't want to succumb to that (at 59 the knee needs to be done again)
    I presented my facts to my primary and he did not agree...however when I forget and drink coffee I am whincing in pain by the next day. Hoping this clicks with your frontal lobe and it works for you
    patti moffett

  9. Susan, your blogs make me smile. I love the way you look at life, the way you express it, and the way you create. It's beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing, and for talking about stuff that so many don't/can't talk about.

    And thanks for reminding me to make an appointment tomorrow with the stirrups and boob squisher!

  10. Thanks for the smile. Yes, our dogs teach us so much about ourselves. That's one reason we love them. They are so uncritical even as they hold mirrors up to our behaviors.

  11. I'm late getting on here. ... You asked what makes us listen to our bodies. A year ago in January I heard the message loud and clear, after my heart went out of rhythm and I found myself in an ambulance for the first time in my life. Turns out that the vital organs were extremely stressed due to severe sleep apnea. Who knew? I thought hormones and sinus problems were the reason I slept so poorly and popped any pill that would relieve my daily headaches. A couple of nights at a sleep clinic (thanks to an alert cardiologist)and it was confirmed (I stopped breathing 95 times in three hours). One need not snore (although that is common)or be overweight to have sleep apnea. Thanks to treatment, I can now say I feel like a new woman!

  12. Sharon, that is an amazing and very scary story. I will mention that to my doctor next week. I don't snore and am not overweight, plus I've had insomnia since I was a toddler. But you never know....


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!