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Friday, September 22, 2017

A Most Beautiful Struggle

Psst….Where are you?
It’s no secret that for many years now I have been struggling with a very complex PTSD. Diagnosed in my early 30’s and still facing it every day in my mid 40’s, many days I don’t want to accept that this is my life. Most days I contemplate my existence on this planet, but I know I’m not alone. One thing that social media has taught me is that everyone has more than 2 faces. Just like the truth has 3 sides, people have the uncanny ability to take their shit infested lives, sprinkle some invisible unicorn dust around and twist it into something beautiful and surreal. No one has the perfect life as much as they would like us to believe something so silly. This is only one of the more valid reasons I felt a sudden and distinct urge to disengage from Facebook. It only makes sense that if one is lonely, depressed, sad, angry, vengeful, excited, happy (insert myriad of emotions here) you take it to Facebook and you vent. In the world we live in, it is also standard to sit and wait for each and every notification to chime in and validate your existence; to enable you to corroborate and check up on how the world is doing at the present with or without you in it. At any moment in time you can make the choice to occupy space on social media and there will always be someone there to help you occupy that space. It is nice to log in and see that someone has shared something funny with you. It replenishes something inside of your emotional piggy bank each time someone shares that they miss you. Whereas you were empty before you logged in, now you have billions of people to reconcile with. On the B side of that record, however, are a multitude of people who want nothing more than to bring you down to their level of misery. If they can’t force you to change your viewpoint to their own, they can at the very least, share with you some bone shattering verbage. I began to feel as if I had soaked in so much negativity not only from the interwebs, but from my own mind, that I knew I needed a break. A very real and much needed break. I could feel myself being drawn back in time and I couldn’t play the game anymore. I was too addicted to the instantaneous gratification of trying to keep up with the whole world. Back in the 70’s and 80’s there was no internet. The only phones were attached to the wall with a rotary dial. There wasn’t such a need to know back then. If you wanted to have an adventure, you simply phoned a friend before you left home then headed out into the world.
I needed to go back to a simpler time in my mind.
Disconnect.
Que Sera, Sera.
My internet detox was going very well. I was going deeper into my yoga. Meditation became something blissful that I actually looked forward to. I could feel my mind letting go of the bitterness, resentment and guilt. I stopped my sugar intake, I quit eating meat and animal fat. I increased my vitamin and mineral intake, my daily bike rides were exhilarating. My personal life took a positive turn and for the first time in 15 years I actually looked forward to waking up in the mornings. No longer identifying as an “atheist,” I found it easy to contemplate a more spiritual side of my life and it soothed me greatly. I was learning to think more positively in a new age effort to bring about universal change in my life. Everything was going wonderfully until it all came crashing down, that is.
I learned that my youngest child, my very soul, is pregnant. She will soon give life to a new person that I will never know. I’m becoming a grandmother, but the joys of having anything to do with that honor in life will elude me. I grieved the loss of her for 15 years. Now I can grieve the loss of her child for another 15?



I never thought my life was perfect, but I once thought I knew my purpose. As a young child I just knew I would grow up with some greater destiny than the one that currently stars me as a woman who gazes into her own mirror every day speculating her justification in breathing the same oxygen as the people who made something of their lives. I failed miserably at pretty much everything I tried, but at least I tried. I’ve made some really awful life decisions and am well aware. That’s part of the joy of PTSD. Even when you try to forget, it remains steadfast by your side to remind you of your fuck ups.
Pop told me once, “I raised you right, so I know you will go out in life and make good choices.”
Why, though?
Why assume that because your kid isn’t on drugs and alcohol or becoming the latest teen pregnancy statistic that they are well equipped to make some very serious life altering choices? There is so much more to existing than abusing substances and sex without protection. Even though I was raised with traditional wholesomeness in church, no one ever warned me about trust. Believing in every single person I met along my path was not wise. I should have never been so naive. No one warned me about men and the difference between lust and love. The only rules in my life were “Don’t piss off Jesus.”
I didn’t get the internet when it first came out and by the time I did get online with my dial up AOL card, I became beyond strung out. I could sit in a chat room for 12 straight hours. This new ability to talk with hundreds of people in just one night became my drug of choice and it helped take me down a dark path. I lost all self control and everything took a backseat to my habit. The variety of poorly thought out resolutions I’ve made throughout my time here on earth has had severe and long lasting ripple effects in my universe. Had I known this butterfly effect phenomenon would have taken me on this most negative of journeys, I would have made better choices. Having options and freewill to do as you wish is part of the fun in life, or so I thought. Because I was brought up with some morals, I thought everything would just fall into place in my life. I believed in the fairy tale. Be a god girl, think good thoughts, smile at the people and live happily ever after. Still unsure if my position is considered “in place” although, it has a more neutral feel to it. Not quite left of center and not exactly in right field, here on the fence is my place and it is where I sit and beg one of life’s most important questions:
Is this really as good as it gets?”
My vision was cloudy at times, but that’s alright. I am an imperfect creature not necessarily built for telling the future. More importantly, I am not my memories. Learning to live in the here and now, losing sight of that, becoming disillusioned with the process, then scraping up the remains of the tenacity stored up in my marrow to believe once again that goodness will prevail in my life and I can enter a season of serenity is all I have to keep me going. A gentle calming of the mind/body/spirit is really all I desire.
Serenity is a state of mind and since the body follows the mind, I would like to think that I can change my body by simply changing my mind. I had to take the time to stop and recognize that I was following old patterns again. I had to make the decision to squash my addiction to the internet. I had to want it. I had to want to change. Isn’t life worth it to take that attachment away? Kill just one more addiction, rip away the band-aid, and see that you will be forced to LIVE. I found my best results by forgetting about my phone, pressing down hard on my willpower, and resisting the urge to log back in to anything...social...
Tell yourself you just don’t care about one more cat meme or how easy it is to paint on those flawless eyebrows…
Convince yourself that you don’t care if the baby has your cheekbones...
...It doesn’t matter.
Repeat often for best results.



Life is out there, not in my phone. I’m listening to more good music. I’m reading real books for a change. I’m writing again, falling in love with yoga all over again, finding my center in nature and learning to accept that LIFE HAPPENED and it will continue to happen with or without my participation and I’m finally okay with that.



And that folks, is where I am.
I’m in the midst of the most beautiful struggle mine eyes have ever seen.








Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Acceptance Phase Of Grief

When I first thought about writing this blog, it was to be about something else entirely. It was going to be about a taboo subject that has caused a bit of a stir on social media; a topic that many women feel strongly about, but keep to themselves because of the fear of backlash from others. I have even seen a few death threats from people who are expert at judging the walk of another person. I was going to entitle this blog, “Why I Wish I Had Never Had Children” and I was going to go over all the reasons as to why I felt that way. If you have read the meatier parts of my blog, you know how I lost my girls to their father and stepmother in 2003. 


You probably know about the estrangement within my family as well as the contempt between my mother and myself. If you’ve read much of anything that I’ve written, I’m sure you picked up on the fact that the last 14 years have been filled with sadness and hate, identity crises, grief and bitter indignation.


First and foremost, I was going to tell you about how I regretted having children because I only had them in my life for 7 and 9 years. I didn’t get to watch them grow up. I wanted to talk about the heartache, the trauma, the resentment and the regret that suffocated me for years. There is nothing worse than walking around with a heavy, toxic blanket of regret on your back year after year, never knowing if or when that pain will ease up; never knowing what you could have done differently.
After they went away, the years spent waiting for them to turn 18 were excruciating. Hearing “wait until they become of legal age and they will want to see you,” had built my hopes up so much so that once my oldest daughter turned 18 and didn’t contact me, I fell to pieces. When the youngest turned 18 and also did not reach out to me, I thought I should just lay down and die. She was my other half. She was my soul. When she went away, my soul went with her. Walking around as an empty shell for so long has been exhaustive. I have woken myself up at night calling out for them. It wasn’t supposed to be forever, but it was going to be forever anyway. I didn’t know how to accept that. I wanted to tell you how I have tried to rationalize in my brain that the amount of time and torture and internal blaming and losing the very essence of who I was wasn’t worth it at all. If I had never had children, I wouldn’t have gone through any of that.
I was thinking of talking to you about how I could have had a military career. I was young, ambitious, healthy and desperate to get away from mother’s hate. Everything was ready for me to follow that path. Instead, I thought I fell in love with a boy and threw everything away. Starting a family at such a young age was not a good choice for me back then. If I hadn’t chosen that whole 1950’s babies and housewife scenario, I might have done excellent in the military.
Then I thought I would talk about my body and what damage squeezing two big, healthy babies out has done to me. I can still remember waiting for the epidural. It was my first child and I was excited. No one could have known how close she and I would come to dying together that day on what was to be her birthday. Having the epidural almost stop my heart and then laboring to have her wore out my already tired ticker. My once smooth thighs and long slender legs became large and misshapen. Pitted with cellulite and heavy with varicose veins, I had to go get painful injections more than once and whereas most mothers have a child to look down upon to be reminded as to why they have their veins and cellulite, all I have are my memories. Learning to breastfeed was not easy either, but I wanted the best for my baby, so we forged on. 
When it came to being pregnant with baby #2, I was so tired I could barely function. I remember how she was born purple and with the cord around her neck. She lived through sheer willpower. I know she heard me cheering her on. She’s a fighter like her mama, but she doesn’t know that. I also thought that since I had had a bad experience with the first epidural I would be fine with the second one. In the end, I wound up with a spinal headache that would last for almost 3 months. I was hospitalized twice to get blood patches. I was stabbed in the spine over and over while enduring a headache so bad that I went temporarily blind and deaf. The pain isn’t even describable. The world seemed to be working against us and I could barely take care of the children I wanted so badly. Then my uterus betrayed me. I bled for weeks until I was pale and deathly tired. It was painfully falling out of my body. About a year after their father and I were divorced, I had to make the heartbreaking decision to let the doctor do a hysterectomy. I was barely 28 years old, alone, had no help and was losing my womb. I was destroyed. I was scared and I was going to tell you all about, how if I had never made the decision to have children, I would have never gone through any of that.
I considered talking about how my animosity for my mother should have stopped me from having children. For all I knew, I would turn out just like her and put my children through similar things she had put me through. She never loved me and it hurt like hell, but somehow, I knew I would never not love my girls. I was going to try to make clear how painful it is to watch the mother who hated your guts your entire life, bestow all her love onto your child. But it’s complicated and I’m not sure I will ever be able to explain that situation sufficiently. If I had never had children that circumstance would have been prevented.
I was thinking about bringing up how I promised my girls that I would always love them more than I was ever loved. I wanted to talk about how I promised them both that I would do everything in my power to see them happy. They begged to live with their father 20 minutes away. They told me how happy it would make them, so I let them go to him. After he had taken them across the country from me, my oldest child spoke to me in the words of the adults who had brainwashed her: “We have a new mom now. You are not our mom anymore. We want you to stop calling us. When you call, stepmom cries in the bathroom and we get spanked. We want you to stop sending packages. When you send stuff, it just reminds us of how much we don’t love you anymore. We throw everything away so don’t bother. We want you out of our lives. We never want to hear from you again. We want you to go away and let us grow up in peace.” Those words broke me in half. I didn’t want them to get punished because of me. I couldn’t stand the thoughts of them suffering. Although I wasn’t ready to stop contact, and although I knew this was not entirely my fault, my child made it clear to me that it was time, so I backed off. I loved them enough to stay away and let them grow up. If I had never had children, they would have never been put into a position to learn how to speak to me like that. If I had never had children, my heart wouldn’t be ripped from my chest over and over. They should have never been made to feel that way. Throughout the years, I haven’t received much information about them, but what I have seen or heard, they seemed happy and healthy. If they ended up having great lives, why aren’t they grateful to me for letting them go? They have been indoctrinated to hate me, of course.

If I had never had children, I wouldn’t wake up in the night, drenched in sweat, crying out their names. I might not have complex PTSD.
If I had never had children, my body might still be healthy and strong.
If I had never had children, I wouldn’t have lived with so much heartache and regret for so long.

I was planning on sharing all of that with the you…

…Then something happened. Something inside of me changed. In some ways, I now know that this change happened over the course of some time. Nothing involving true change happens overnight. A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog about not caring anymore and how I was moving on, forgiveness not required.



I was trying so hard not to, but I did still care and that’s okay. I will always care about my girls. It was a step in the right direction though and I didn’t even know I was making progress. In another way, this change reminds me of a light bulb coming to life in my mind. It is likened to one of those old fluorescent lights that flicker in the corner of a damp basement, but it is beginning to glimmer again. For the first time in years, I feel different. A couple of people have even told me that I look different. As I stared in the mirror the other day, I began to see an old familiar light shining back at me through these eyes that have dulled over time. I recognized her from long ago. She was the injured me looking back at me for forgiveness. Her eyes told me that she had done the best she could with the tools she was given. She had felt every inch of her punishment and it was time for the agony to stop. She wanted to live again. She was tired of being a prisoner of my sorrow. I wanted to forgive her, but beating her down and punishing her allowed me to stay in my pain where it was comfortable. However, I didn’t want to stay in my pain anymore. I didn’t want to be angry anymore. I don’t want to think about revenge anymore. This goes way beyond not caring.

I looked at the girl in the mirror and for the first time in over 14 years, I forgave her.

Finally, I have stepped into the acceptance phase of grief. No more time spent crying over what could have been. No more bargaining. No more wishing and waiting and hoping for something that isn't to come. No more denial. No more punishing myself to death. No more anger and resentment. No more hoping to die every single day. No more depression in regards to this situation. No more feeling as if I cannot enjoy what is left of my life because of guilt. Final acceptance.

Maybe now you can understand why the title of this story had to be changed. If it had not been, it would imply that I regret bringing my daughters into this world. Sure, I only got 7 and 9 years with them, but I now choose to remember the beautiful moments instead of crying about time lost. I am learning to be grateful to them for coming into my life. I feel privileged that I knew those precious girls even if it was for only a short time. Instead of mourning not being present for their prom, their first boyfriend, college or a first job, I will relish in the memories of the first time I felt them kick in my belly, the first time I swaddled them in my arms, their first word, their first steps or even the first time they threw up in my hair.
I choose to be grateful for those treasured moments where I knew the complete joy of holding my sweet, happy girls in my arms and chasing them through piles of leaves in autumn. I choose to reflect on how much they loved mommy to push them in their tire swing under the apple tree that showered us with pink blooms in the spring. I will choose to remember the cherished glimpses of babies in bubble baths, and the sweet sound of innocent laughter with pure, trusting little hearts.
Sure, my body was ruined by two little girls who may or may not be grateful in the fact that I gave them life, but I cannot control that. I will relinquish that to them now. It cannot rest on me anymore. Maybe I would have done just fine in the military and had a great career or maybe I would have barely pulled off 4 years then limped back home with my tail between my legs still not knowing what to do with my life. I could be upset with my girls for not contacting me when they turned 18, but I don’t know what has been put into their minds. There is no way to know what they think. They have been conditioned to not remember any of our precious moments, but we had a bountiful of them and I choose to honor that. The legs, the veins and the cellulite are not their fault. I am the one who chose to bring new life into this world and if that means living and dying with some varicose veins, so be it. The devastation put on my body by epidurals and a hysterectomy had nothing to do with them either. I made those choices and now I must come to terms with the aftermath of my decisions. The hysterectomy might have been a "blessing in disguise" for all I now know. I can think of a couple benefits to not having a uterus. It isn’t even my girls' fault that they see this whole situation differently than what it really is, even if both of them are now over 20 years of age. Why, just look at me only now finding the light in the dark at 45. I need to reflect on how big and scary the world was when I was their age. I thought I had all of the answers, but was completely clueless.  
And so, I finally found acceptance within myself and the girl in the mirror finally found the forgiveness she has deserved for so long. I’ve been watching her this entire time and I know what she has lived through. Her heart was always in the right place. At first, I didn’t want to give her a chance at any form of happiness. I wanted to punish her relentlessly for allowing things out of her control to happen. Now I look into her eyes and only feel empathy. She has received more punishment from me than any other human could punish me and she doesn’t deserve to carry all of the guilt and the shame any longer. 
None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. No one knows when their last heartbeat will thump. We have no idea how many more breaths we will draw. We are all guilty of taking things for granted, be it time, missed opportunities, or people we love, so take my words to heart. The consequences of the decisions we make in this life are ours alone to carry. Even when savagely wronged, it is our responsibility to walk through our grief and come out on the other side a changed person. We cannot leave our happiness on someone else’s front porch and we cannot truly move on if we are not willing to consider forgiving ourselves first. Every day brings a new opportunity for change if we will only make our minds up to grow through that change. It does take time though. Let yourself heal. Love yourself. Remember, you are worth it. 

Acceptance has never felt so sweet.

*This story is dedicated to my sweet friend, Chris. Thank you for reminding me to live from the heart.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Working At Advanced Magnetic Research Insitute

Many moons ago, I  visited a massage therapist named Mike.* To this day, no amount of brain wracking will allow my mind to remember just how or when or even where I met this man. He was a good therapist and a kind person. However, this story isn’t about him. It is about the randomness of letting a new person in and how that one action can change the course of your life. I don’t know if you believe in destiny. I don’t even know if I believe in destiny, but the longer I live, the more I want to believe there is indeed something to that whole idea.
It was a beautiful day and I was at Mike’s for my weekly massage. As we sat in his living room looking out the door at his flower garden, we discussed our health, our goals, our relationships and just life in general, I mentioned to him that I needed a decent part time job. My knee was giving me hell and I simply couldn’t do a job where I had to stand for hours. He told me that he had started working a part time job some months before and was pretty certain that they needed one more person. As he talked about the place I quickly became intrigued. 
It was called AMRI—short for Advanced Magnetic Research Institute—and it would turn out to be one of the most bizarre experiences I’ve endured in my life and I’ve lived through some weird shit. The job was 3rd shift and required no standing or hard work. He described the only requirements as making sure the "patients” stayed safely in their rooms at night under their magnet, cleaning the communal kitchen after meals, answering any calls, making sure the laundry stayed caught up and keeping the doors locked at all times for safety. That seemed easy enough. I would even be allowed to sleep in the facility overnight while on duty so I asked him to put in a good word for me, got directions and in the next couple of days, I drove out there to apply for the job.
“They are very strange people though,” he warned me.
“What do you mean?” I was curious.
“They are very religious and they expect everyone else to be as well.”
“Oh, that,” I chuckled at him. “I was raised like that. This will be cake.”
The first thing I noticed about the place was its extremely rural location. It took me almost an hour to get there and it was only one county over. Their long driveway was easy to miss on that endless country road. It wound its way up through the canopy of woods, seemingly into nowhere, until suddenly an odd looking, yet interesting building appeared. It had two floors, but if you didn’t know beforehand that there was a basement you would never see it as it was in the back and extremely private. The basement, by the way, was where the job was. Next, I observed the windows. They were ceiling to floor all the way around and very large. Even the basement walls were mostly glass windows in the living area and in all the patient rooms. Before I saw the small woman sitting on the sofa, I wondered about all those windows at night. Would it be like a horror movie? Would I look up one night to see a creepy face looking in at me?
“Hello! Come in!” the lady on the sofa greeted me. “I’m Elaine and you must be Mike’s friend.”
As I entered, I could see that they had pushed several pieces of cheap furniture into the living room area with a TV against a bare wall. Off to the left were those massive windows that looked out into the forest and nothing else. To the right was a large kitchen and a small desk with a phone. There were no decorations, the floors were cold and hard and the lighting was migraine fluorescent. We chatted for a few minutes as she walked me through the place.
“I want to show you around and talk to you about the job before I even get an application from you.”
That was fine with me even though I knew I wanted the job. It didn’t pay much, but it was 4-5 nights a week from 7pm to 7am. I was a full time paralegal student at that time. Classes began at 8am so this was the perfect match for me. I would babysit the patients and the magnets at night, go to school during the day and my life would be awesome. Well, it was a nice thought anyway. She gave me the application and told me I had the job before I had even filled it out. I would start the next night.
As we toured the basement facility, the next thing I observed was a long dark hallway that led to a few rooms on the left-hand side. The first room was designated as an office where her husband could pretend that he was a chiropractor. There were a couple of desks and a computer with dial up that looked very much like 1997. Of course, they had put in an exam table to make things look more official. Jesus was hanging on the wall staring at me through Kenny Loggins’ eyes. Bibles were everywhere and if I listened closely, I could hear the faint hum of something I did not recognize.
Each subsequent room was rather small and had a single bed in the middle of the floor. Hanging above each bed from the ceiling was a colossal, round, metallic thing unlike anything I’d ever witnessed. At first, I thought I was looking at a scene from Donnie Darko where the jet engine falls through Donnie’s ceiling. That’s where the hum was coming from.
“Those are the magnets,” Elaine proudly announced when she saw the look of ‘what the hell is that’ on my face. I wasn’t sure if I should ask what the magnets do, but I didn’t have to worry about that for long. She was eager to brag about their life saving abilities. The magnets were invented for use in MME, or Magnetic Molecular Energizing. The whole concept was invented by a dentist, in the event you were wondering. According to Elaine and her nameless quack of a husband, those magnets were nothing short of a miracle. I was told they can get rid of everything from chronic pain and sports injuries to multiple sclerosis, stroke injuries and could even stop seizures.
“These magnets have been proven to heal torn ligaments and tendons. Even torn cartilage grows back after so many hours spent lying underneath one,” she told me.
I was trying very hard not to ask for said proof. I just wanted a stinking job.
“They can also cause stem cells to regenerate,” she kept bragging.
“These babies will also reverse any damage done to the brain by a stroke. We have many stroke patients who have told us that after only a few hundred hours under the magnet they are all better!”
When she said that I could feel my eyes glaze over. In my mind, I immediately began forming the opinion that they were either bad scam artists and liars preying upon the sickly, or they were mentally unstable. Maybe both, for if these magnets worked miracles as they claimed, why wasn’t this on the evening news? Why weren’t people shouting about this from the rooftops? Why had I never heard of this phenomenon?
It was during that initial meeting that she began to talk about her love of Jesus. She told me that they were very strict Christians and boldly began to needle into my own beliefs. They weren’t solidified yet and I had no real answer for her.
“I don’t know any more what I believe and I don’t attend,” I explained to her when she asked me if I was a believer and where I went to church. 
That last comment got me a dirty look with pursed lips.
Since it has been so many years that I worked there, I cannot remember the total number of hours recommended under one of their magnets, but it was a lot. The patients were expected to lie under there for no less than 2 weeks depending on the severity of their injury or illness. Months were recommended though because of the money of course, even though I was told the more hours put in yielded better results. If they were unable to stay for 2 solid weeks, they were expected to come back as much as they possibly could and lie there for as many hours at a time that they could. This therapy was not cheap. The cost was in the tens of thousands.
After touring the basement, Elaine then wanted to show me the upstairs. We made our way to the very back of the building where a dark staircase went up two short flights. It opened into a small room that they called their physical therapy department. The smell of mold and mildew hit my nose immediately. There was a small heated pool in the center of the room and a few pieces of cheap exercise equipment pushed up against more ginormous windows. I took note that everything in that place was old, dirty and cold. There were no warm vibes coming from that “place of healing.” I didn’t get a good feeling in my gut, but again, I just needed an easy job.
Leading from the PT room was a very dark hallway. My curious antennae were up.
“What exactly is this place?” I asked Elaine.
“This is a pain clinic,” she told me.
Back then I hadn’t a clue as to what a pain clinic was, but I surely know now. Pain clinic docs are given huge incentives by Big Pharma to get folks hooked on their drugs. In some parts of the country, there is a pain clinic on the corner of every city block. In most other parts, they are in or near other offices, not out in the middle of the forest, in the middle of a void county that most people have never even heard of. If you are a doc in search of opioid junkies, it just makes good sense to practice in a spot where they can at least get to you. The location struck me as odd, but being naïve about certain things, I just went along with everything my new boss told me. We then made our way through another dark hallway with offices on both sides. Every single one of them had a glass window that took up the entire outer wall. I was really beginning to creep out over all the glass in that place. Any pervert could be staring in from the trees. I would soon learn that perverts in the woods should have been the least of my concerns.
“We don’t mind if you use the computer in the office,” both quacks told me, “but we do extensive history checks all of the time, so don’t go to any websites that are offensive because you will be reprimanded.”
I figured they were looking for porn and the like and since I didn’t watch porn I thought I was safe to read up on whatever I liked.
I began my first evening with enthusiasm. I packed an overnight bag. They did not provide food for anyone, including their high paying clients so I brought food and drink as well. I was welcomed to sleep in the office or I could sleep on a bed under a magnet if I chose. Choosing the office, I threw down some old tumbling mats that I found in a closet, covered them with some blankets and waited for nightfall. That first evening there was only one woman in the whole place and she was in the very back room. I was told that unless the patients came to me I was to leave them alone. Privacy. I get it. I made myself some food and went into the office to play on the computer. The first few nights were an adjustment. I had to get used to all the glass and I had to adjust to the hum of the magnets. Other than that, there were no sounds in that whole building. I got on Yahoo Messenger, which was popular before Facebook and Twitter, and talked to a couple friends before lying on my mat and falling asleep quicker than I thought I would be able to. I had my alarm set for 6am. I wanted to check on that one patient, eat something, shower then head off to school. For the first few weeks, everything was going quite expectedly. A couple of times in passing, I saw Mike come in either to get his check or to look at his schedule.
“Have they asked you about the computer yet?” he wanted to know.
“No, but they told me not to view porn,” I told him.
“It isn’t just porn they’re looking for,” he advised. “They did a history search one day after my shift and found where I had been reading some New Age articles and they were very angry!”
“What is a New Age article?” I sincerely had no clue.
“You do realize I’m not a Christian, right, but do NOT tell them that!”
“I don’t think we’ve had that conversation yet. I just left Christianity, so I’m confused about everything. I don’t understand what New Age means.”
“Suffice it to say that it pisses them off and we shouldn’t look at things like that on their computer,” he kindly counseled me.
“Not a problem,” I laughed at him. I didn’t know what I was interested in yet, but I didn’t want to piss off the bosses.
About a month into my new job, Elaine announced that we were going to be hosting a celebrity. I knew celebrities were really into off the wall treatments. This could be exciting! She didn’t want to tell me at first who it was.
“Pleaseeeee tell me who is coming Elaine!? If I must look out for them, I want to know who it is!?”
“Alright,” she relented, “Have you ever heard of Judge Mills Lane?”
“Um, no.”
“Okay, did you see the fight where Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear?”
“Yes, actually I did watch that fight.”
“Alright, Mills Lane was the referee for that fight. He also had a TV show. He has suffered a massive stoke and they are coming to AMRI for magnet therapy.”
They had built the whole idea up until I thought an A-lister was on their way and even though they weren’t, I was still excited to meet some new people. People who had lived some form of an exciting life. People who weren’t from my small, close minded neck of the world. Maybe I would learn something new. Maybe I would make a new friend.
“We are going to pick them up at the airport in a limo!” Elaine was giddy.
At the time, they were the only ones who knew that the limo was from 1979, had a blown gasket, leaked oil and spit clouds of black smoke as it rolled down the highway. I laugh as I remember this detail. I was on duty the night the Mills first arrived. By the time I got to work that evening, Mr. Mills was already in bed under the magnet. Mrs. Mills was stirring around the living room and kitchen area familiarizing herself with the place. She was a very kind and friendly woman who I liked immediately. Somehow, I felt comfortable talking to this lady. She intrigued me. She laughed her ass off as she told me how the limo sputtered and spit and barely made it from the airport, much less up the long winding driveway. She talked to me about past lives, reincarnation and being a light worker. She even gave me a book called The Lightworker’s Way. I read it from cover to cover. That book still sits on my bookshelf as a welcomed reminder of the person who gave it to me. Each day I absolutely could not wait to get back to work to talk to Mrs. Mills. We connected on a deeper level, at least in my mind, and I found I could talk to her intensely about anything. She welcomed any subject. My mind was opened to so much just by meeting her. When I told her I wanted to get out of NC, she offered me their home in Reno. She said I could stay there for as long as I wanted to. Thinking back, I should have jumped at the chance to get away, but I was so unworldly that I was terrified, plus I was in the middle of my degree. Out of respect for their situation and my adoration of this kind woman I will not go into any more detail other than to say the stroke made Mr. Mills a very angry man. He didn’t like me much at all, but the poor guy had suffered so much and had lost his ability to even speak. I completely understood why he was grumpy and held nothing against him. I have since Googled his name and discovered he is still alive and was glad to read that. I genuinely hope they are well and happy in life.
Over the months, I met a lot of different people. It was rare that just the patient came to AMRI. It was usually also the spouse and/or another person from the family. Most of them were religious. I tried to sit in the common area and watch TV with them, but being asked about Jesus over and over grated on my nerves so I began to retreat into the office as soon as the bosses would leave each evening. I was not there to babysit the family of the sick, so I found myself closed off in that office with Kenny Jesus and Yahoo for hours at a time.
That is, until I met Abby* and her family. The day they arrived at the facility was a good day. It was Abby, her 3 children and her sister. She had the biggest most friendly grin I’d ever seen. She immediately hugged me tightly as soon as she met me. They were from a little town in Massachusetts and I adored their accent. My time spent with them was full of laughter and for the first time in a very long time, I felt genuinely loved by that room full of new found friends. She was eager to tell me her story and was equally as anxious to talk to me about the magnets.
Only a couple of years before finding AMRI, Abby, her husband and their 3 children were traveling down a highway in Massachusetts when a man who was drunk as well as high on cocaine crossed the median and hit their minivan head on. The husband and father was decapitated immediately on impact. Abby said she blacked out from the crash and was awakened by the cries of her youngest child who was in the far back of the van. Abby’s left arm was severed nearly completely from her body. The child riding in the seat behind her was hit so hard she had a permanent stutter. The child riding in the very back had to be put into a full body cast for months. The saddest part of her story was about the child riding behind the driving father. He was crushed by the impact. Being a healthy child before this incident, he was now crippled to the point that he was permanently in a wheelchair. His body was so injured that his spine was ever so slowly curving into a “C” and his internal organs were literally being crushed. He had to wear a brace to keep his spine straight. The hope was his body would stop going into that C curvature. He had the biggest most beautiful smile in spite of the fact that only one of his arms worked. He still had his mental capacities and not long after meeting this kid, he became infatuated with me to the point he would grab my butt or my boobs every time I tried to give him a hug or even walked past him. There was nothing to do but laugh about it. I couldn’t be angry at that kid. He was the one lying under the magnet. I watched many times over as Abby, whose arm was only held on by bolts and screws and other hardware, lovingly picked him up to move him from chair to bed. My eyes would mist over as I knew the pain she was living, not just from the wreck, but from watching her spouse die and almost watching her children die. She did everything for them and with that big, wide smile. I don’t think that woman stopped smiling the whole time with exception to the one time she cried to me in the night. We were up late that evening talking as usual. She took me gently by the shoulders and begged me to tell her the magnet would heal her son. By that time, I knew fully that AMRI was a loaded crock of shit, but I absolutely couldn’t find the right words or the heart to take away her only hope. Tears streamed down both of our faces as I promised her everything would be alright. As desperately as I wanted her life to turn around for the positive, I just couldn’t tell her my thoughts on that place. She had taken out a 2nd mortgage on her home just to pay for the treatments. It simply wasn’t in me to crush her world.
During their stay at AMRI, I wanted to pick up as many shifts as I possibly could. I wanted to be around this family all the time. The girls were so sweet and very smart! It was like talking to two mini adults. They told me of their plans to adopt a baby monkey and all about life in Worchester. Their aunt, Abby’s sister, suffered from severe migraines, so she had her own room with her own magnet. She too was a beautiful soul who smiled the smile of an angel. I thought these two women must be made of stone to endure the things they had lived through and were still able to carry on with love in their hearts. My evenings were spent tumbling on the mats with the girls, trying not to get pinched by the boy (lol), and having some real heartfelt talks with the two sisters. When the day came for them to pack their things and leave, I cried like a baby. I absolutely did not want them to leave. Over the next few months we stayed in contact through email. I missed them all so terribly. Life had to go on though. I needed to stop getting so attached to people who were not going to be staying in my life, but I had just lost everything and everyone important to me. My heart was raw and aching for somebody to accept me and love me. A few months after I lost that job—which I will explain, I had the opportunity to travel to Massachusetts to visit them for a week. I met Abby’s new husband. We went to her sister’s house in Connecticut and I met her new grandbaby. We spent countless hours talking about anything and everything. I played with her daughters, watched movies and visited her handicapped son in a group home for children. When he wasn’t there, he was at home with all of us. I cooked dinner for them one evening. It was wonderful to feel a part of a family unit again. I was still in mourning over my own children though; my mind wasn’t right. Without going into many details, it is sufficient to say that I fucked everything up in the end. I didn’t mean to. I was on Ambien and if you’ve ever taken Ambien you know that it makes you do things to humiliate you later. That’s exactly what happened on my last night there. I completely freaked her husband out and I’m sure after he told her what I was doing, she freaked out as well. I flew home from the Boston airport the next afternoon knowing that those people would never want to see me again. I cried for weeks. Indeed, they never contacted me again. Now, I have the mental capacity not to give a shit about being liked or not, but back then I was still reeling from so much rejection. Losing their friendship was likened to the pain of that sad day I had to put my dying pet down at the vet.
Time kept ticking and a few months came and went as did the people. Winter at the facility was breathtaking. To look out those big windows at the falling snow was so enjoyable. I folded the laundry, cleaned the kitchen and kept watch over the locked doors. I never saw any improvement in anyone who came there for treatment, but it was fun meeting all the new faces; except for the ones who only wanted to preach at me. One morning I had awakened earlier than usual. Sleeping on the floor was hurting my back. So, I picked up a book on philosophy that I had been studying and settled in the living area to read on the couch until the bosses came in to relieve me. Elaine had not been in the door for more than 30 seconds that morning when she quickly walked over to see what I was reading.
“Philosophy?” she balked.
“You are NOT allowed to read that trash while on OUR property!”
She yanked the book from my hands and threw it on the floor with disgust.
“YOU NEED JESUS!” she was yelling at me!
Her husband, who was religious yet not so outspoken, looked sad that she was yelling at me. He asked me why I was up so early so I told him my back and neck hurt. BIG MISTAKE! BIGLY HUGE MISTAKE!
“Come into the office and let me do an adjustment for you,” he offered.
“To be honest with you, I’m scared of chiropractors. I have watched my friend get her neck popped and it looks just awful.” I was trying to think of any reason possible for this man NOT to touch me.
“I have been doing this for years and I promise not to hurt you. You won’t feel a thing. Now come on into the office and sit on the exam table.”
Reluctantly, and in spite of the fact that I’d never seen a patient in his office, I did as I was asked. He positioned himself behind me and wrenched my head so hard that I felt something snap in my neck. At that time, I had no idea that I had a bone spur growing on my spine, protruding in to my spinal cord. Immediately, I felt heat rush from my neck all the way down to the last vertebrae. Big tears welled up in my eyes and I knew letting him touch me wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I knew something was wrong, but it would be many years before I knew exactly what and that day, that fucking quack could have paralyzed me! I couldn’t move my head for over a week!
“You just need to pray about this,” he told me as I bawled in pain and held tightly onto my neck. He wasn’t even going to take responsibility for hurting me.
That was the moment I declared war. I was fucking sick and tired of people telling me how to live my life, what to think, how to feel, what to study, what to believe in. Enough was enough. I would rebel. From that day forward, I made it my personal vendetta to do just whatever in the hell I felt like doing while there. I began to go upstairs during my shifts. I swam in their little pool and used their old equipment. I roamed the hallways and offices. I went through drawers and rummaged through cabinets. I didn’t intend to take a thing, but I was going to nose through everything I could possibly find just because I wanted to and because I could. If it wasn’t locked up, I looked at it. If it was put away, I got it out and studied it. I started going for walks into the woods and found a creek that I could sit by and be alone with my thoughts. I wandered all over that property just picking flowers and listening to nature.
Within another week or so, I was told that the staff upstairs in the “pain clinic” needed another receptionist. At the time, I was getting paid to roam around like a free bird, so I wasn’t keen on taking that job.
“We will work with your schedule so that you can do both jobs if you want,” they said. It was summer by then and school was down to part time.
“Well, if I can still go to school and work, I’ll give it a try,” I caved. It would be an adjustment to be there 3rd shift some days and 1st shift on others, and college classes some mornings, but I needed the money. I would be there every morning that I wasn’t in class and then on some nights.
The following Monday morning I was upstairs in the reception area bright and early waiting to be trained. The way they did things up there was surreal. I could find no rhyme or reason to their habits. Patients would come straggling with gaunt eyes and stick thin bodies looking for their next fix while the staff sang hymns and prayed out loud. The “doctor” was pale and hollow looking; his dark and disturbing eyes gave away the secret that he might be a psychopath. Not once did that man greet me, speak to me or welcome me to the staff. He was far creepier than the windows were in the beginning.I was informed that they held a bible study every Wednesday morning before work and I would be expected to attend.
“I don’t read the bible,” I told my new co-worker and trainer.
“This is expected of you so even if you don’t read the bible, you still have to be here an hour early on Wednesdays.”
“Then don’t schedule me on Wednesdays,” I told her.
“Don’t you believe in god?” She questioned me with her eyes squinted.
I didn’t want to tell her that I had left religion only a couple of years prior and didn’t want to hear that shit anymore. Not only was it none of her business, but this was work and I thought you weren’t supposed to talk about religion at work. But this place was different and I knew it. They had their own rules and their sheeple were to blindly follow.
Then again, I wanted to be a rebel, remember?
“No, I don’t believe in god anymore,” I admitted.
She looked like I had just slaughtered her firstborn in front of her eyes.
I worked that day upstairs and that evening I was to go down to the basement and watch the facility overnight. As I looked at the schedule I noted that Elaine had me on there every single night of the week. There was no way I could work the pain clinic most days, attend school and be in the basement every night. It was too much. No sooner had I opened my mouth to let her know she had scheduled me too much when she began to rant about the computer again.
“We looked at the internet history and we saw what you’ve been doing on our computer.”
“Elaine, I talk to my friends on Yahoo Messenger and I play online Mahjong. I cannot possibly understand how this is offensive to you.”
“We saw where you’ve been reading articles written by Edgar Cayce,” she responded with a very red face.
“Who is Edgar Cayce?” I sincerely did not know that name.
She stuck her finger in my face and said, “You know exactly what you’ve done.”
It had been Mike and his interest in New Age articles that was getting me in trouble.
“Look at the exact date and times and you will see that it was not me!”
She just couldn’t stop wagging her finger at me, yelling the whole while. I later learned that she hated me the instant Tracy* told everyone I didn’t believe in god anymore.
It was at that point that I snapped. I mean, I reallyyy snapped on her.
“NOBODY is going to stick their fucking finger in my face anymore!” I was pretty much screaming at this point.
“NO ONE ESPECIALLY YOU WILL TELL ME WHAT I CAN AND CANNOT READ. NO ONE IS GOING TO FORCE ME TO PRAY. NO ONE WILL FORCE ME TO READ THE BIBLE. NO ONE IS GOING TO TELL ME I’M LESS OF A HUMAN BECAUSE I DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD. NOT ONE MORE PERSON IS GOING TO DO THIS TO ME AND I MEAN WHAT I SAY!”
Her jaw dropped open and she couldn’t find the words. I had never bitten back at her even though she had been a smartass to me too many times to count. I had never been anything but loving and sweet to her, so she was in shock and I absolutely did not care. As we stood there toe to toe, both of our faces stuck with anger and determination, she began to wag that finger at me again.
“I SWEAR ON MY LIFE IF YOU DON’T GET YOUR FINGER OUT OF MY FACE I’M GOING TO BREAK IT!” I was ready to slap the shit out of that woman!
“NOT TO MENTION YOU LIED ABOUT SCHEDULING ME. NOW I’LL NEVER SLEEP AND WILL GO MAD FROM SLEEP DEPRIVATION!”
I could feel myself losing control.
“Don’t you dare talk to me that way,” she demanded.
“Stop harassing me and talking condescendingly at me like you’re my fucking MOTHER!” I couldn’t help but scream that at her as I began to pack my things. I was supposed to stay for that shift, but nothing could keep me there that night. I gathered my things and headed for the door, but not before I yelled one more thing at her.
“I DON’T KNOW WHY I EXPECTED YOU TO TREAT ME BETTER THAN THE REST OF THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE SHIT ALL OVER ME. YOU’RE NO BETTER THAN ANY OF THEM! HOW DOES THAT LOOK TO YOUR JESUS!?”
I got in my car and left that place. It wasn’t very original, but it was all I could muster on the fly.The next evening, I figured things had cooled off and I could return. Ha! Yeah right! I got there and her car was noticeably absent. I went in and began to unpack my food as Dr. Quack approached me.
“Look, I’m real sorry I yelled at your wife yesterday. She was sticking her finger in my face and that offends me. Where is she anyway?”
“Listen,” he gently touched my arm and stopped me from unpacking, “We are letting you go.”
Part of me knew this was coming. The other part felt that I was justified in getting angry from time to time. Doesn’t everyone?
“You have yelled at Elaine. You told Tracy you won’t come to bible study on Wednesdays and the other morning when we arrived, you were outside picking flowers!”
“No one was awake yet. I looked in on everyone and they were sleeping soundly. I was only outside all of 15 minutes,” I tried in vain.
His eyes were sad. He was married to that bitch and he knew she was in the wrong, but he also had to live with her which meant he had to side with her. She had forced him to fire me because she was too chicken shit to do it herself. She couldn’t or wouldn’t face me.
“Fine. I accept what is happening and I will leave you in peace. But not until you pay me everything that is owed to me. I will not wait until payday and trust that you people will pay me.”
He immediately took out his checkbook and wrote me a check.
“Dr. Quack, I’m truly sorry that I lost my temper and yelled, but you don’t know my life. You don’t know my history. Neither of you could possibly understand why I acted the way I did.”
“No one cares.”
And with that, I was terminated.
That was the end of my time spent at AMRI. I truly enjoyed meeting most of the people that I made instant connections with. I didn’t mind the job at all. What strikes me as hilarious although, is the fact that they thought they could go the rest of their lives and never be outed like this. I mean, who writes stories about their personal life on the internet? LOL
So, Elaine, and Dr. Quack, I sincerely hope that you see this. I also sincerely hope that everyone who is considering going to your little magnet facility, otherwise known as AMRI in Mocksville, NC sees this story. If they do read this and still choose to pay your salaries with funds from their 2nd mortgages and hard earned money, then it’s their own fault.
You have all been warned about that place.
Was any of this experience destiny? I'd like to think everything that happened there not only expanded my mind and opened it up to ideas that I would have never dreamed of, I also learned to see certain people without my rose colored glasses. No one has the right to tell you how to live your life. I met some people that I will never forget as long as I live. 
My job here is done.


P.S. I never saw Mike again either. 

*Name changed for privacy

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How Taekwondo and Martial Arts Helped Ruin My Body and Health




Typically, when people think of martial arts, they picture Bruce Lee in a room full of mirrors fighting off a bad man with a steel bear claw on his hand. Obviously, that isn’t even close to reality and if you’ve ever stepped foot inside of a martial arts studio you will see that firsthand. I saw it all up close and personal for years, so please allow me to elaborate on the reasons why I will never recommend martial arts to anyone, especially to children with developing joints and bodies or adults with joint troubles.
In September, 2016 I had my 4th foot surgery, which in total was surgery #18. Granted, not all 18 of my surgeries were related to martial arts injuries, but many of them were. Before I begin, in no way am trying to slam martial arts. Truly, I loved what I was doing. I won state championships in my division in 2000 and I won a national competition in my division in 2001. I had the medals. I had a room full of trophies and if you do as well, please don’t take offense. I practiced full time, was getting good and wanted to make it my life career. I visualized myself on the cover of a magazine, or happily teaching others the sport, or even opening my own studio one day. The aspirations were all in place, but I had irreversibly damaged my body forever and I wouldn’t find that out for several years later. After it was too late. 
I realize that while not everyone who studies martial arts become injured, many do. I have spoken to so many people who, after years of studying combat techniques, needed a knee replacement, a hip replacement, a shoulder surgery or worse, a wheelchair. Guffaw if you will. Tell me that my techniques weren’t so great or I would have never become injured at all. I’ve heard everything. And while the possibility of bad technique could have been a factor in the beginning, I honed my skills to the point where it wasn’t technique that ruined my body. It was the sport itself coupled with my preexisting hypermobility and the genetic predisposition for osteoarthritis that eventually took me down in the end. Which brings me to children. Their little bodies are still developing when parents decide to put them in karate or taekwondo for sport. Ask any orthopedist or pediatrician about the fragility of a child’s joints and how the constant wrenching/pivoting motions one performs in a single hour of martial arts practice could potentially end in disastrous results. Although I had a true love and passion for the sport, I cannot advocate it anymore.

Taekwondo is primarily a kicking sport. Yes, you learn to punch, but it's mostly kicking (at least in my dojang and our style). When one is first learning the sport one must practice learning to kick. In learning to kick, it is easier to start off with a primary kicking leg; the right leg. What this means is, for much of your practice, at least in the beginning, you will be learning to balance on your left leg, while you kick with your right leg. This is literally practiced hundreds and thousands of times as one trains and what this means for your left leg, the balancing leg, is that it must pivot over and over. When one is a beginner, it is easy to forget to lift up onto the toes and pivot properly during a kick, which results in the left knee becoming wrenched again and again. Same concept applies to the left hip. Even if you do learn to pivot perfectly, chances are that while you were perfecting your craft, you messed up your knee. Most of the time, people don’t even know what they’re doing to their joints until it’s too late. That’s what happened to me. I’m positive that as I worked my way through the colors of belts, I wrenched my joints to maximum capacity and now I’m paying the steep penalties—which I will get to soon enough. And even after you get good at balancing on that left leg and kicking with the right, at some point you must learn to balance on your right leg and kick with the left. All the pivoting principles and wrenching motions are the same. Keep in mind that most young children are not going to understand pivoting. Some will, but most will not. They just want to have fun and play, so they think throwing some kicks around is a great game, but please know that it isn’t.
I trained in the ITF (International Taekwondo Federation) style of TKD. This style is very traditional; old school if you will. It focuses mainly on technique, power and lots of breaking. While WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) style trains mostly for sport as in the Olympics, they focus on speed, agility and sparring. My TKD master was first generation Korean and was strict to the point that sometimes people weren’t even enjoying coming to class anymore. But not me. I wanted the challenge. I wanted to play hard and train harder. I was the only adult female in my DoJang and I loved training with full grown men. We used to joke that anyone outside of the ITF tradition were only doing aerobics in a pretty white suit with a pretty colorful belt (which is absolutely not true, but in the tradition of talking smack…you get the idea). We had a demo team in our school, and as I progressed in my talent, I was urged to join. If you’ve never seen a demo team in action, check this out:

One day in class I was sparring with another member of the demo team. A young, swift and very strong man kicked me in the abdomen with such force that I immediately blacked out and fell straight to the mat. When I woke up, he was kneeling over me, crying his heart out. He really thought he had killed me and I was soaked in his tears as he begged me to wake up. I can remember looking in to his big doe eyes and mentally telling him not to cry, that it was my fault for not blocking the kick, but he was distraught and even moreso by the fact that I was unable to speak right away. Our master dared him to help me up or even see if I was alright. I was carted by another team member to the hospital (who was later punished for helping me) where I had an MRI of my abdomen to check for internal bleeding. When I returned a few days later, I learned the young man was so traumatized by the experience that he quit the sport. No amount of consolation on my part would bring him back either. Once I was foolishly back on the demo team, I began to learn tornado kicks, jumping/flying kicks, how to land on the mat when being slammed down and how to break things with my hands and feet. I quickly moved from boards to cinder blocks. In no time, I was busting up concrete with my bare hands and feet.
That was the precise moment in time when my spine began its descent into deterioration. But that isn’t the real “kicker” (sorry for the pun, I couldn’t help myself). The worst injuries were yet to come. Soon after the kick to the abdomen, I was sparring with yet another young man who thought it funny to bring illegal muy thai moves into our dojang. You do not block with your knees in TKD. As I went to roundhouse kick him, he blocked with his sharp little knee and I was left with a hematoma the size of a grapefruit on my shin. The doctor was very afraid I would form and possibly die of a blood clot, but I obviously didn’t. Again and again I went back for more punishment. As time went on and I was twisted and thrown around like a ragdoll, my shoulders began to pop. The left one began to roll out of socket. Then the day came that I was to learn how to jump from a small trampoline and land a side kick on just one leg. It looked easy enough when I watched the guys do it, and with their encouragement I went for it. The first time I tried it I fell to the mat. I got up and tried the jump again. The second time didn’t fare well for me. I landed the kick on my left leg alright, but when I did, my knee wrenched and popped and I went to the floor in agony. With more threats from my asshole TKD master that if I didn’t keep trying he would lock me out, I limped to the back of the line and tried again. The next landing would be the end of my left knee forever. And even though I was in blinding pain, I couldn’t give up. Not yet. I had failed in all other areas of my life so far and was determined to succeed at something. I could not and would not accept defeat so I kept trying. HUGE mistake! After class that evening, as I changed back into my street clothes, I got a good look at my knee. My knee as well as the entire outside of my leg was beginning to turn black. Not black and blue. Not purply. It was black. That scared the hell out of me. I hid it from my teammates and went home in so much pain I passed out immediately and slept for days. I went to a new orthopedist who also happened to be a black belt. With a very concerned frown on his face, he informed me that my martial arts days were over if I wanted to keep the ability to walk. He did offer me a controversial surgery; a very extreme surgery involving stripping my IT band and replacing it with one from a pig or a cadaver—attaching it to my leg with 27 bolts, leaving me with a scar from hip to ankle. With only a 50/50 chance of recovery, I opted out of that surgery, although I did let him fix my left rotator cuff. He warned me that since I was so hypermobile and flexible, I would most likely develop osteoarthritis in the next decade or so, but I didn’t want to believe that even with a family history of OA. I was young and thought I could simply shake it all off. I could not have been more wrong.
Soon, I began having severe, chronic neck pain. I had moved to a new town and began to search for a new doctor. I was told many different things were wrong with me from stress to exhaustion and even that it was all in my head. As I mentioned in my chronic pain blog, I went to one doctor visit in so much pain that I threatened suicide if someone didn’t find the source of the pain and fix me. Instead of imaging or even consolation, I was locked in an exam room all day long and put on suicide watch. Between the neck pain, the knee pain, the shoulder pain and the spinal pain, I didn’t think I could handle anything else. That’s when my feet began to throb. I found a foot clinic and began receiving cortisone injections in my feet. I learned much too late that those injections were breaking down the tissue in my tired feet, but I couldn’t focus too much on my feet. My neck was literally killing me and my arms and hands had begun to go numb. There were some huge insurance changes going on during that time. Big HMO’s didn’t want to pay for MRI’s unless the patient was dying, so no physician would order scans for my neck or my knee. I went for 12 years with that neck pain before a neurologist finally ordered an MRI scan. Turns out I had a bone spur protruding into my spinal cord and needed immediate neurosurgery. I was told that all the former negligence and activity could have left me paralyzed, but there was nothing to do about that. In 2014 I had the bone spur removed and now live with a titanium cervical spine. I can still hear the nauseating grinding sounds when I turn my head. That same neurologist ordered several scans of my spine and that was when I found out I had scoliosis and a hemangioma (tumor) on my spine. It was never detected as a child and I never had prior troubles, so I was left to believe this too was caused by the trauma of falling to the mat over and over for years. It was also during that time that I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. My spine is literally crumbling inside of me.
 In 2015 I found an independent orthopedic surgeon who consented to do exploratory surgery of my knee. Once inside, he found multiple bone spurs and unbelievably, I had been walking on a fractured femur bone for 14 years! My kneecap was mush as well. He also told me that I had no cartilage in that knee. None. I’m literally walking bone on bone and with a fracture at that. I was informed that it would never be normal again. He did not want to put a titanium replacement in though, stating that I was too young. They don’t like to put titanium knees into people younger than 65, he said. I yelled at him and fought with him that I didn’t deserve to walk on a fractured leg until I was 65. Neither of us would relent and I left his practice extremely disappointed. With that “out of the way” for the time being, I then found a podiatrist to begin the long trip to hell in regards to my feet. Through all the kicking and breaking, I had developed a neuroma (more tumors) in both feet and both heels had a bone spur. One neuroma was successfully taken out. Two months later, the next one was removed. Two months after that, the left heel spur was removed. And here we have come full circle back to that foot surgery I just had in September, 2016. It was supposed to be another simple heel spur removal, or plantar fasciotomy, in medical terms. But it didn’t go as simply as the last one. I knew something was dreadfully wrong immediately after I woke up from surgery, but chalked it up to exhaustion. In all 18 of my surgeries, I have not once slept 7 straight days, but after that final foot surgery, I literally could not move for a solid week. I couldn’t sit up, I couldn’t walk, the crutches were killing my weak shoulders and I couldn’t crawl around because of the knee. I was spiraling into a deep depression that is still hanging onto me like a wet blanket. The 19th of January, 2017 marked 4 months post op and my podiatrist wasn’t taking my post op pain seriously. He wouldn’t even touch my foot. He chided me to stop walking in my surgical boot, but I couldn’t. So, I found yet another orthopedic specialist. Within 5 minutes of meeting me, she had set me up for an MRI of my right foot and began telling me I needed PT for my spine. I went yesterday to pick up my MRI report because I could not wait for my next appointment to find out what is wrong with my foot. As I sat in the car and read over it, I was overtaken with disbelief. Not only do I have a high grade tear in my central cord plantar fascia, but there is another high grade tear in the lateral plantar fascia as well. And the icing on the cake is the fibroma tumor that has rapidly developed in the arch of my foot. I cried all the way home. No wonder I can’t walk. No wonder my foot flops like a dead fish. I couldn’t believe any of it. But it is true. I called my new doctor immediately and sobbed to her. She is sending me for intensive rehabilitation for my spine, my feet, both ankles and my knee. I haven’t told her that my shoulders are clicking again. As a matter of fact, she knows nothing of my shoulder history. I can only picture her hanging her head when I do tell her. Even with all the PT coming my way, I will never walk normally again.
With all of that said, I hope you can now understand why I cannot recommend martial arts to anyone. And while I do realize that I cannot blame Taekwondo for everything, I still cannot promote it. Genetics did play a role in the slippery slope I’ve been sliding down for well over a decade now. None of this is going to get better either. All my “conditions” are degenerative, meaning they will slowly get worse with age. Emotional and mental troubles played a hard factor in that body-mind connection, I’m positive, but I am also a firm believer that if I had never stepped foot in a martial arts studio, my health would be 75% better than it is now.
If you are considering martial arts, or thinking about putting your kids into a program like that, please reconsider, or at the very least, talk to a doctor first; especially if you have a family history of any type of joint, spine or bone problems. I’m really not here to bad mouth the sport. I’m simply trying to save someone else from all the torture I’ve lived through as a result. 

 This is an image of the inside of my knee taken during surgery May, 2015.


**click here for my blog on chronic pain and I do apologize in advance if some of the event sequences are out of order. I’ve been through so much and it is very hard to sort it all out and keep everything in perfect chronological order**