Forget “permission” to rest, I’m being forced to rest.

diagram of shoulder impingement from

Four weeks ago, I had shoulder surgery; no rotator-cuff tears, thank goodness, so I’m healing fast. I was trying to rest before the surgery, but my idea of rest was organizing 8 months of paperwork and staying up late editing manuscripts. Then came my surgery and suddenly, I was slammed hard into bed, wacked-out on pain meds with my shoulder in an ice machine. My body demanded rest, or else! So I lay there and slept.

Four days later, I was out of that bed and working my butt off in PT, pushing the limits of pain. “What pain is bad pain?” I asked.

“Let the pain be your guide,” my PT said.

“It always hurts, so when do you know to stop?”

“If you feel a sharp, jabbing pain, stop.”

Oh, that kind of pain, I thought. But if I push through it just a bit, I can get past that being-stabbed-with-a-stiletto-blade-pain and stretch further and get well faster. How else will I get strong again?

Which is how I ended up back in bed with my ice machine, crying like a ten year old girl with a broken arm. “But I need to get better! I hate being so weak! I hate asking for help! I want to do it myself!”

For some insane reason, I was forcing a year’s worth of PT into 3 weeks, thinking that if I worked harder and ignored the pain, I’d be back to normal faster than anyone ever has been before. I am that psycho in spin class who will work so hard she throws up just to prove that she’s the fastest person on a stationary bike.

Yes, I’m an idiot.

My body is forcing me to rest. “Relax”, it says, “Lounge. Listen to the pain, and slowly do your exercises. Give it three months before you push it so hard. Or else!”

Or else what? I ask my defiant body.

“Or else I will shove you back into that bed where you won’t be able to do anything but watch reruns of General Hospital and beg for mercy.”

Ok, ok… I’ll listen. I promise.

When the body commands, the ego must obey.

I know I’m not the only person who pushes herself so hard (I’ve seen you other crazy people at the gym). How do you make peace with an injury, or your physical limitations? How do you care for yourself? What does your body do if you don’t?