Miraculous healing follows my shoulder-shaking maiden snowboarding shred

I hurt myself superbadly about a week and a half ago. I went snowboarding with Brian and, admittedly, I fell down my fair share—onto my hands despite a seasoned rider’s advice to fall differently—and my joints in both arms ached, but it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. In fact, riding that board down the bunny hill was the most challenging, gleeful thing I’d done in a while. I loved it. Next morning, I woke up with debilitating pain in my rotator cuff, the likes of which I’d never known in 15 years of swimming, and I struggled to lift my right arm as pain coursed through the muscles of my collarbone over my shoulder bone, around my back and into my armpit.

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This I was just after I unknowingly injured myself doing a McTwist* in Shaun White’s half pipe* over the weekend. I hurt my shoulder fist pumping too hard.(*By “Shaun White’s half pipe,” I’m of course referring to what was probably a snow-covered landfill in Algonquin, Ill. And by McTwist*, I mean “snowboarding lesson.” Brian, a former professional ski bum, and I were seeking a level playing field so we could finally enjoy a snowy hill together without testing our marriage.)

I’d never been injured like this, physically, before. Snowboarding was my first attempt at overt athletic adventure since I became a mom four years ago, and I was a little bit furious and embarrassed I hurt myself doing it. The pain was terrific. It woke me at night and kept me up. I couldn’t move without grimacing. I couldn’t spread peanut butter on bread, slice a pear, lift my boys, play with them in the fresh snow, pet the dogs or do anything but throw all my focus into containing the pain. It reminded me of childbirth, that continuous, all-consuming pain that doesn’t go away until you hold your baby.

When the pain didn’t go away after two days, I knew I needed help. On the third day, an occupational therapist friend, who specializes in shoulders and arms, told me that, based on my impaired range of motion, I needed therapy probably for four to six weeks.

That same day, I booked it to the office of Dr. Dan Mossell at Mossell Holistic and cried on his table as he dug into the tenderest parts of my distressed rotator cuff—and my memory. Indeed, it appeared I’d been holding onto some issues in my tissues and, while the physical trauma was real, the injury of repetitive falls brought psychological issues to the forefront as well. As is a common experience for anyone attempting to lead a spiritual life, the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual often end up being connected. (Natch, everything is connected.) Specifically, an old belief surfaced: that my worth in the world hinged on whether I was successful. When I was a swimmer, especially in my teens, I defined myself almost entirely by how I performed in the pool, or by how I failed to perform, and that definition carried me into adulthood. How hard could I work to win enough recognition to prove I was as good as everyone else, maybe even better?

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Ah, highlights from my swimming grab bag. My parents recently returned to me a duffle containing all my old swimming photos, trophies, ribbons and medals, which date back roughly to when the KC Royals won the World Series (middle pic, circa age 8) and tell the story of a kid’s swimming life. It’s fun to revisit those times, memorabilia of which I hadn’t seen in a decade, but there’s more to the story. If I win this race, if I get this time, if I advance to the finals, if I help my team win, if all this hard work pays off and I happen to succeed, that makes me enough, right? That makes me good, right? That makes me better, right? And if I don’t win or advance, then…what does that make me? (Cue the catastrophe of self worth based on ego-bred ideals.) These beliefs are hard to unseat, but miracles are happening all the time.

That night after downing some arnica and icing my shoulder, as I sat in a near-scalding bath, skin glistening with Epsom salts packed around my rotator cuff, I discovered I was still hanging onto the tired old idea that an Emily who did great things was the best, most-enough Emily. And so, with some trepidation, I went into that feeling. I looked around in there, asked for help, thanked my muscles for everything they do, told my tissues it was safe to release the pain and confirmed with my highest self that I was ready to receive the opportunity to live bigger.

I prayed for the pain to be released, and I went to bed.

I woke the next morning to find my shoulder still hurt, so I went to see our family doctor, a former pro athlete who’d once suffered this same injury. He empathetically prescribed lots of ice, rest and Vicotin for nighttime. “It’s going to be at least two weeks before the pain subsides, before you can get comfortable enough to even sleep at night,” he warned. “And then you’re probably going to need four to six weeks of physical therapy. So just don’t expect to be your usual self and take it really easy.”

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It had been a while (15 years?) since the last time I packed a bag of ice directly onto my shoulder for 30 minutes. My rotator cuff was killing me, but the dog-and-kid snuggles were magically healing.

I slogged through the rest of the day with my arm plastered to my side, iced my shoulder in front of the TV with the boys, took the Vicotin gratefully that night, meditated and took another bath. There in the tub, by the light of one candle, I envisioned myself as radiantly healthy. I directed my consciousness toward appreciation of everything that I am. I tried to picture myself swinging Kip through the air, doing downward dog, feeling powerful in my body, being glowingly grateful for everything, but especially for the four amazing muscles that comprise my rotator cuff and enable some of life’s most wonderful movements—stretching, hugging, dancing, twirling children, reaching for the sky…

It wasn’t easy, and it took some deep breathing, some deep prayer and some deep faith, but I released the old beliefs about my worth in the world, replacing them with the truth that I am a child of God, therefore I am wondrous despite anything I do. There’s no decision to be made about me; I just am.

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Trophies, real or imagined, no longer define me, not even when an old one surfaces from my parents’ basement and makes its way into the hands of my boys, who think it’s the coolest sword with which they’ve ever played.

I woke the next morning tired, but no longer in pain. For good measure, I returned to Dan Mossell’s table for a second treatment one week after the snowboarding adventure. This time, there were no tears or cold sweats as he went to work on my shoulder. My range of motion was almost back, and he sent me away with the advice to take it easy, but gave me permission to stretch. “If it feels good, do it,” he said. “If it doesn’t, don’t.”

Ten days after our snowboarding adventure, which I will totally try again, despite Dan’s advice to try skis next time (“You know how you take down a steer, don’t you, Emily?” he quipped. “You tie its legs together.” ), I have no pain and my range of motion is almost completely back to normal. I’d be fibbing if I said I wasn’t surprised, considering how excruciating the pain was a week ago but, then again, I believe in miracles.

This is no accident. This is no misdiagnosis. This is no freak recovery. This is no coincidence. This feels like a miracle to me. And the amazing thing is that we’re all capable of receiving our own miracles, if we ask for them. This experience hurting and healing my shoulder is a timely reminder of the power of heart-centered prayer, meditation and good old-fashioned openness.

What is holding you back right now? Is it physical pain, emotional pain, beliefs you hold about yourself or the world in general? Whatever it is, take a moment to visit your own dark, quiet, healing space, be it your bathtub, your meditation room or your bedroom just before you fall asleep, and ask for help. Look right at whatever it is and give it permission to leave, if that’s what you want. See yourself living in the way you want to live. Believe that the vision is really you. Hold that vision and trust it will be so. And, if you’re so inspired, message me about your vision and I’ll hold it, charging it with prayer, for you as well. May a miracle so unimaginably wonderful take place in your life and bring you joy upon joy.

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5 thoughts on “Miraculous healing follows my shoulder-shaking maiden snowboarding shred

  1. You inspire me every time I read your writing. I wish I was more in touch with my own spiritual psyche. I think I’ve just done a really good job of distracting myself from going there I don’t even realize I am being neglectful until it causes me to avoid other things and I wonder why. And I wonder why I can’t figure out what is preventing me from figuring it out. When you don’t nourish the inner part of yourself, its like a muscle that hasn’t moved in “that” way in far too long. It takes awkward practice, leading to painful practice, and hopefully you eventually see the light. Thank you Em for this, you continue to keep me in awe, just by being you!

  2. You really got me with this one, Linds. Wow. I’d say you’re VERY in touch with your spirituality–look at the process you just mapped out in a mere couple of sentences above. What you say about distracting yourself from “going there,” later realizing the avoidance, exercising the muscle of inner reflection (I’m paraphrasing), etc., is really profound insight. Thank you for baring your own soul here in such a powerful way. I feel like, in my own life, really diving into whatever is going on in that moment (especially in the difficult moments) helps me to move past them 10 times faster than if I save the self-reflection for later. But, you’re right, it’s totally awkward and sometimes painful to fumble your way through. Maybe someday we’ll both feel more graceful in the process. 🙂 Love you!

  3. Thanks for the insight, Emily, and glad your shoulder is on the mend. Especially tying self worth to success…really success measured by others. I did it in swim days and certainly do it now with work, parenting, my marriage, and dozens of other menial tasks – some that I really don’t even care about. Very thought provoking! P.S. I have at least one yard sale a year skiing. That’s not the solution to falling on the mountain!

  4. This one hit me hard. I have had a week of rushing through life, looking to control everything, feeling like a failure at almost all of it and suffering from physical aches and pains all at the same time. My best self has been buried somewhere deep down all week, hidden by my superwoman self that thinks she needs to be “out front” in order for me to be worthy. THANK YOU for sharing your pain…both physical and emotional…reminding me to stop and give myself permission to let the world see that I am less than perfect and I definitely don’t have it all together right now.
    You might enjoy reading this as much as I did today…http://www.anesecavanaugh.com/from-anese/what-do-you-stand-for-what-impact-will-your-leadership-create/. There is a manifesto included in her blog that is very much aligned with what you have shared.
    Be well, my friend.

  5. I so needed to read this tonight!
    Em I had no idea you just went through such similar distruction of our wondrous bodies that have served us so well! However you by accident md by choice and ind trust! However you brought to my acute awareness that I must take an actively mental responsibility in my healing and not just accept the pain but actively ask it to leave me and choose to be strong and whole again! Not weaker or to cautious! So tonight I will begin to help this healing process along. The thing we both have to be grateful for is that our bodies know how to be strong and they know they can do it!
    Well I am going to take my Vicodin and shoo this pain out of my body and choose active healing! Still can’t immerse myself in water for another week that has been a major experience my body is missing and wishing for! Sweet dreams of healing ! Thanks Em glad you are better! Abrazos Sherry love to you and your amazing men!

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