Of all I have written, Dancing with Chronic Pain has received the most attention from dancers and non-dancers alike. My chronic pain will never leave me, and winter weather almost always makes it worse, but I am now long experienced in dealing with it. And to everything I’ve said in that article, I’ve realized there was a very important part to “Know Your Limitations” that I forgot to say.
Your limitations are always changing. And it is so frustrating.
For those who didn’t read the previous article, my chronic pain comes from my back. Some of which can’t be reversed. Because of that, no matter how well I’m doing, flares happen. Like a few months ago, when my back decided it didn’t like the way I bent down, resulting in taking an early lunch to see my doctor and a string of texts to my teacher. With my doctor’s okay and warning him to “go easy on me” I still went to my lesson. At the time, we were getting ready for another in-studio show. I was ready to be pushed and challenged. There was so much I wanted to try. And instead I had to scale back so my flare didn’t turn into a serious re-injury.
Sometime after that, when I was feeling much better, we were trying one such challenging step. Technically and physically. From the moment we started, I could feel my muscles shaking, struggling to hold the pose. Then I felt a streak of pain down my spine, my frame collapsed, and I fell to my knees before I could hurt myself worse. And for the first time, I said the forbidden phrase: “I can’t. I can’t do it like that. We have to do it another way.” I sounded angry. I felt angry. But not at him, or even at myself. I was angry at my body.
Sometimes, sore and aching from a particularly long day at work or grueling dance lesson, I can’t practice. But I want to. I have so much to learn and improve, but sometimes my body just won’t let me, and if I want to keep this going, I have to listen to it. All I could do is put on my music, close my eyes, and do mental run-throughs.
To all these incidents, my teacher was amazingly understanding. When I came into lesson hurt, he asked what I could and couldn’t do, and kept that up all throughout. When I fell, he seemed more upset than I was, constantly asking me if I was in injured despite how many times I told him I was okay and “had left lesson in worse pain than this before.”
But that doesn’t help the sheer frustration of being forced to stand still or step back when all you want to do is move forward.