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on being injured

I injured my back pretty much immediately after I started dancing. I was asked to be in a ballet (with next to no training) and I seem to remember it was replicating this lift that first did the damage:

Dirty Dancing

Gah-gung, gah-gung.

Since that time I’ve had various issues — facet joint problems, prolapsed discs, untold spasms, etc. — and in many respects I could say that how I dance has been conditioned (or constrained) by the limitations, injuries and pain in my spine.

The worst time of all was in the (northern) winter of 2008 when — without apparent cause — I was no longer able to run (or even walk) pain free. I was still dancing but I couldn’t do a basic roll-down without my spine catching in pain. This situation lasted more than three years and was most painful when I was caught unaware: slipping, missing a step, sneezing.

In January 2010 (two years after this version of my pain first appeared) my sports physician suggested I go and see the sports psychologist Britt Tajet-Foxell. At the time I was expressing a lot of anxiety about the situation, and was very low indeed.

Britt works at the Royal Ballet and we spent just three hours together. She was direct and supportive, and we did some pretty simple exercises that were designed to help me re-think my experience.

The other day I happened across some scrawled notes from that meeting with Britt.

They say:

  • I am capable of persisting; I am persisting
  • This pain is temporary
  • I am working hard on maintaining and supporting my body-mind
  • I am not alone
  • I am well supported
  • My back is an occupational hazard
  • Calm
  • Grief/bereavement/loss: shock, disabled, anger, depression, resolution.

In early 2011 I was able to run without pain. It was, and this is not an understatement, like being re-born into my physical life.

My dancing friend Jacob Lehrer used to say (when we were training together at the VCA in Melbourne):

When you are not injured, you never think you’ll get injured; and when you are injured you think you’ll never get better.

This blog post is to say thanks to Britt, but if you are someone with chronic pain or illness, kia kaha.

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