This was my Google search at the lowest point in my life.
Two months before this search I tore my Achilles tendon and had surgery. As the anesthesia and pain medication wore off, I experienced what I could only imagine as the worst pain possible.
I was wrong.
One month before that Google search it was apparent that my recovery was not proceeding as planned. I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a rare neurological disease characterized by excessive pain in an area of the body.
In my case, it was a searing-stinging pain in my right foot. It felt like I was being stuck with hundreds of white-hot needles. This could be triggered by something as small as the touch of a bed sheet or a breeze from a window.
The day before my Google search I had gone to my first physical therapy session to “desensitize” me to the nerve pain. During the session, the physical therapist worked with me to begin waking up the muscles that had atrophied in my foot due to lack of use.
The muscles in my foot did wake up. They began to cramp and spasm. Each involuntary twitch triggered greater and greater levels of pain. Nothing helped. There was nothing I could do. My entire existence had been reduced to a single word.
12 hours later I began researching amputation.
As it turns out, amputation is expensive.
Plus, I learned that even if I cut my foot off, the CRPS could just move to another area of my body.
This explains a little bit about why CRPS has earned the unfortunate nickname “the suicide disease.” The pain is extraordinary, the effects are crippling, and the mechanisms of the disease don’t make logical sense.
CRPS took almost everything I deeply care about away from me.
I deeply care about maintaining an active lifestyle full of travel and fun. I was now traveling only to doctor appointments and physical therapy.
I deeply care about providing for my family. I was unable to work facing the very real possibility of going on disability forcing my family to move from our home.
I deeply care about being a good husband. I was now sleeping on in the living room because I was constantly waking my overworked wife as the pain jolted me awake several times a night.
I deeply care about being an active, involved parent. I was now moving slower than my 18-month-old daughter and unable to meaningfully contribute to my children’s care.
I deeply care about helping others to make the world a better place. I was now unable to contribute.
I was broken. I was lost. I didn’t see a way out.
After a few months of working with some wonderful physical therapists and a pain management doctor, I was able to return to work. For them, I will be forever grateful.
However, I was undergoing a weekly outpatient procedure missing every Monday of work. I was taking 5 different medications 3 times a day with substantial side effects including severe drowsiness that made me ineffective. I was on the hamster wheel of pills and procedures.
I was a shell of my former self. I was not living life. I was depressed about what I had lost, anxious about the future, and felt powerless to change my circumstances.
I went to an appointment with my pain management doctor and discussed how the stress of my job was exasperating my condition. She immediately got out the referral paperwork so I could see a psychologist.
And I knew what would happen. I would go to another appointment and get another pill.
I had absolutely no idea what to do or how to help myself, but I knew that another pill was not the answer for me
So I went home, referral-free, and back to Google to cure myself.
So I dug deeper.
I learned that CRPS is basically a malfunction of the central nervous system, the system in your body that subconsciously regulates every bodily function that keeps you alive. Your breath, heartbeat, digestive system, immune system, etc.
And then a question shot into my head. A question that redefined my life.
How do you consciously control a subconscious system?
I flushed my pills and fully committed to taking charge of my own biology testing every diet, every technique, every technology that promised increased mental or physical health through the regulation of the central nervous system.
I am grateful to say I am no longer limited by anxiety, stress, or disease.
In fact, I am significantly better than I was before. I am smarter. I am stronger. I am more present.
Like anyone else, my life is imperfect, but I manage the challenges improving as I go.
I know how to consciously control the subconscious.
This applies to that area of your life where you can’t seem to make progress. That area where all the other skills you’ve acquired don’t seem to matter. That area where you have made plans to just “manage” it.