September is Pain Awareness month. I am sharing my story of ending my very own chronic pain. My end to pain came, when I got back into shape. You can read more about ending chronic pain, our pain relief blog series.
By Elizabeth Pongo
Everything about my physical path in life, has been born of three things: my desire for comfort, for adventure, and to be pain free. It is surprising (even to me) that my need to be pain free, came about at a young age: perhaps from the age of 7, onward. Which, in my 7 year-old mind begged the question, “Why am I going through this? Aren’t I a little young to be in this tearful position?”
I am an emotional person. I feel strongly about being joyful, while being alive. My mom, Lois Pongo, has always referred to me as a bundle of energy, starting within her womb. As an 11 month-old baby, I wriggled and leapt out of her arms at the pool, and hurled myself into the water, right before my first swimming class.
From age 5 to 9, my two knees rarely had any skin on them, during the summer. I’d rather bike fast and fall off, than be conservative; sprint instead of walk; and be playing in the park, rather than seated doing homework. I’ve been full of the need to jostle, bounce, glide, and run from my very start.
Around the age of 7, I remember starting to feel fearful and depressed if I didn’t go for a bike ride, run around, work up a sweat, or hop in a pool. My dad was social, and I remember spending hours in any pool or at the lake, rather than being around his friends or my sister chatting about this or that. As I got older, I knew that the best way to shake off a bad mood was to get outside, climb a tree, or go for an adventure in the backyard.
This sense of self-preservation unfortunately hit the skids in College, when I learned that drug-testing was mandatory to be on the swim team. I had been captain of the swim team in high school but I opted to quit in Middlebury College, for fear that my social life would be curtailed in any way: after all, isn’t college about hanging out, and parties?
That was when a deep depression washed over me. It wasn’t until I graduated, that my boyfriend encouraged me to go walking and slowly jogging, up and down the mountains of Vermont (holding two rocks in my hands, to provide some upper body strength training), that I began to feel like my actual self again.
Being depressed and inactive in college was a fear that shook my soul. Yet, it wasn’t enough for me to get it into my head that regular exercise was the game changer. I was an on-and-off-again exerciser; and when I found myself seated in my first cubicle at my first corporate job, that wasn’t working. So, I signed up for the NYC Marathon in 1999 with the Leukemia Society.
The whole point of this story, is that it may seem as though exercise comes naturally to me, and that this need to be physical is just who I am: athletic. Yet, that is where the twist about being an adult comes in. Once I was out of college, and in the work-world, it wasn’t natural at all. I was taking care of my dad, who had a stroke, and avoiding my mother, who had a failed spinal surgery; and found myself wondering, how I was going to survive my 20’s if my parents lives were on the rocks. In the game of leading a life that I loved, I felt like it was a losing battle. I felt like an 80 year-old stuck in a 20-something body. Everything hurt, I had chronic headaches, and lock-jaw. I thought I had a brain tumor, and found myself going to multiple doctors. I was wondering how to avoid ripping my Achilles tendons, when I took my heels off, after work. Agoraphobia, the fear of being out in public set in, because I was wondering how to carry a conversation on, when I was so miserable, and in so much pain.
It was signing up for events that saved me.
That first NYC Marathon in 1999, brought about a deeper understanding and awareness about the power of community into my heart and mind. Training with the Team in Training for the Leukemia Society showed me a whole new realm of life; one where people devoted themselves to helping to find the cure for cancer, and lined the streets of New York en masse, in droves, simply to look into the runners’ eyes and cheer us on for 26.2 miles! Thinking about the purity of that love for humantiy brings tears to my eyes, even as I write this.
I remember thinking about how much I had given to my Dad to take care of him, compared to what many, many people go through and give to one another, supporting each other, battling sickness, every day. Poverty, disease, cruelty, abuse: these are regularly occurring phenomenon that I chose to dedicate myself to helping to end. If I couldn’t save my Dad’s life, I was certainly going to help improve the lives of other people.
In 2017 I signed up with the Leukemia Society again, to complete the Lavaman Triathlon in Hawaii. Once again, the triumph of a community, dedicated to helping others, filled my heart and mind with joy.
Pongo Power is devoted to helping to end pain. And we are doing this as a community, one fundraiser at a time; client by client; step by step: we are in the conversation about what it takes to save and transform lives, and what it means to be a vital human being.
We invite you to join us in our mission to help one another lead empowered and pain-free lives. Imagine being pain-free (and as a person who has had chronic pain, I know how hard that is, to imagine) and imagine managing your pain, and decreasing it in waves and phases! Create that possibility, and we will be here with you: teaching and guiding you, every step of the way.
And please, email us to find out about Pain Relief Now! Our 5-week coaching program, designed by Medical Exercise Specialists, Karin Meesen and Gardy Reglas. We can help you to manage and end your pain!