You Can Still Squat!

How can this be happening to me?

When the Body Says No by Gabor MatéI wake up to turn off my alarm to get up for boot camp and as I roll over I feel this excruciating pain tear through my upper back. I literally can not move – my first thought is “what’s going on?” my next “what’s happening to me?”

Before I go any further I will add a disclaimer. We see those NSFW warnings when a post on social media is going to show some nudity (I still actually don’t know what it stands for) This post might fall under FFCPEW standing for none other than Full Frontal Crazy Person Exposure Warning (no nudity, don’t panic), but for now I will call it FFVW standing for Full Frontal Vulnerability Warning.

Being a certified Facilitator in the Daring Way, based on the research of Brené Brown, part of her work in her book Rising Strong is about slowing down the process of feeling things, then thinking and then doing things based on the interpretation. Her work has transformed my life and work like no other and because of that I was able to slow down and be very aware of what was going on for me – which in cases like today, may or may not seem like a good thing – it’s a mess, but it happens everyday in some way or another.

As I’m lying in bed the thoughts going through my head are:

“Get out of bed; you can still go to boot camp”

“But I can’t even move”

“You can roll out and still do squats, even if your arms don’t move”

“What if this goes on? – I will get fat (insert mental pic of me in a fat suit)”

“Slow down, you’re ok”

“I’m not ok, I can barely breathe, I can’t move AND I’m in the worst pain ever”

Then medical/’logicalish’ Leona steps in

“Could your spinal tumour have burst? Oh gosh, can that happen? Where are my two tumours? Damn it – L-something, T-something? Is this the L section of my back? Where is it on the L?”

I decide I need to find my latest MRI and look. I still can’t move so that’s not going to work.
“Of course you don’t know where it is, you don’t do details”
Crap! I knew this lack of attention to detail issue would come back to haunt me at the worst times.

The pain starts between my shoulder blades and radiates down one arm,

“Could you be having a heart attack? I am having trouble breathing, but only because of the pain” I continue –
“Is my skin a weird colour?” I can’t move so I think “it doesn’t feel like it’s a weird colour” (Just an FYI – you can’t ‘feel’ whether or not your skin is a funny colour, but I was nevertheless reassured that I must look normal)

After 5 min of trying I managed to get out of bed, I was covered in sweat and so nauseous from the pain that I thought I was going to faint (and throw up on the carpet as I couldn’t move even though I was now standing – my morning squat option fading further into the back ground)

I lay back onto the end of the bed – by this time I had horrible tunnel vision and had a very loud sound in my ears, like an airplane 2 feet from my head. With the vision issue (and a clearly rapidly approaching state of psychosis) I think
“Shit, I can’t see, I’m about to barf and that noise wont go away – I’m having a stroke. I’m that lady on the TED talk (TED, Stroke of Insight) and will have to call 911, but I can’t even move to call. I’m not having a stroke, as back pain is not listed as one of the onset symptoms.” The nausea, blackness and ear ringing subside and I slowly get up.

I have a moment of clarity and text my kiddo that I wont be getting up as I’m not feeling well (AKA dying on the bed, having a stroke/heart attack/tumour bursting panic attack) so ‘I’m sorry I wont be making you a latte this morning’, text.

My next sane thought “How will I make coffee? I can’t move, and I SURELY won’t be able to twist open my stove top espresso maker” more panic sets in – Let’s be clear about one things – Coffee is my life force.

Its only 6 am and I’m leading a workshop this morning based on The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown (is there irony here or what?).

How will I set up or even be able to breathe while I lead? For the 3rd time in 20 years I have to take a day off work. I DON’T TAKE DAYS OFF OF WORK! But I do – I’m a mess (are you picking up on that yet?)

I manage to push through the WORST pain (I’ve experienced natural childbirth, lest one thinks I have no reference to extraordinary pain) to take some ibuprofen and lay back down, praying they help a wee, tiny bit.
I wait for an hour – telling myself to “go to sleep, be kind to yourself”, and then knowing that I cant even take a full breath without stabbing pain, lay there to take stock of even more of my thoughts, some of which included:
“You’re a wimp, it’s just your back, you’re fine, just roll over and get moving-you’re very healthy and strong, this is ridiculous.” (I finally gave up on the thought that I could do any squats at this point – a small bit of reality based wisdom ☺)

Tempered with, “You’re not very kind to yourself at all, listen to your self talk, and how is it that you lead these workshops and here you are literally whipping yourself, you suck at self compassion!”

Here’s the truth, I tell people all the time, we are a beautiful mess – we are all a combo of darkness and light. Being physically incapacitated is VERY vulnerable and for me physical illness or in today’s physical incapacitation is such a huge trigger for me. I was not modelled self care in times of sickness. My momma was so wonderful to me when I was sick, but when she was sick she seemed to have a legion of whipping boys/girls driving her to keep moving.

I remember her making dinner, I was eight, and her leaving every few minutes to go to the bathroom and then she oddly ended up making two dinners at once. Only when my dad woke me up the next morning he told me my mom was having brain surgery as she was very sick the day before (thus the bathroom visits to throw up from the pressure in her head) and the two meals were so that we would be left a big meal for the first day she was away.

WHO DOES THIS? We do this, I do this – to keep hidden, to avoid feeling vulnerable, to buck up and not ask for help…

After I got up, I was able to move a bit better. I could lift one arm to warm up the coffee my son had left behind (funny how people bless you if you let them)

The movement seemed to help me feel more alive (and worthy, if you want to know the bare naked truth of it all)

I started to empty the dishwasher with the one arm that moved and timed it between the breathing that was also still ridiculously painful. My daughter could hear the utensils moving.

She yelled upstairs and said “STOP EMPTYING THE DISHWASHER MOM – BE LAZY!!”


It’s so eye opening to proclaim your pathology to the world. I am proclaiming it in a hope that I’m not stand alone crazy, that I am not alone, that there maybe triggers for you that bring out the mess in you and we can rumble with this madness together.

The truth is until I’m physically stopped in my tracks I don’t know this messy part so well and until I’m in it, I laugh about that part of me, but today it smacked me in between the eyeballs.

I realized that I try to run away from discomfort, but the healing is found in leaning in and “relaxing’ into the pain, breathing deeply, even when it hurts to do so.

By getting curious I could understand what was really going on and reflecting on what the physical sensations and emotions were that need to be honoured.

I became more aware of what my triggers are and how can I can be kind to myself and furthermore let others be kind to me. Why is it I can relax when it’s on my terms and not when I’m forced to?

We so need to focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.

Dropping into gratitude helps me so much – I heard my super busy kiddo emptying the DW as my honey was trying to ease the knots out of my back, such simultaneous goodness.

Laughing always helps me. After my ‘collapse’, “am I having a stroke?” moment, I peeled myself off the bed and the book on the end of my bed was none other than “When the Body Says No” by Gabor Maté I had to laugh as the universe blew me a divine kiss and perhaps a wee wink.

I have to trust that this will pass, maybe not fast or perhaps maybe never completely, but I will find a new way of being.

I’m a recovering human doer, I am learning to be a better Human ‘being’ loved by myself and others for the beautiful intricate mess that I am.

Brené Brown, my beloved soul sister, whispers in my ear and reminds me of what I was going to talk about with my group this morning”

“Cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, no matter what gets done today, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging”

Thank you for joining me on this messy ride of life. I am honoured to be here, super blessed to be able to sit to write this (as long as I don’t move ;)) and to everyone, all of us, who struggle – I salute you.

(this was written earlier this week and I am gaining mobility and am healing – I will rise to squat again ;))

Leona deVinne