There is nothing more debilitating than a bad back. Getting up off the chair becomes difficult, you end up walking around like an old man and even something as simple as a sneeze can send your back into a spasm. My lower back had been playing up for about two years. A day at work, a round the golf and even going for a surf, my back would be really sore. Chiropractors helped a bit, I bought an inversion table that allows you to hang upside down to stretch out your spine and it helped a bit too, but all this was just managing my back issues not fixing them. It was only recently, that I became aware of the real cause of my back problems.
Australia Day is my favourite day of the year. We always have a big barbecue at our place. The beers flow freely and there is a countdown on the radio for the top 100 songs of the previous year. I love it, it’s MY day. Food Beer and some great tunes.
Last year, while about eight or 10 beers deep, I went down to the garage and found the kids mucking around with my boxing equipment. It didn’t take much enticing for me to don the big 16 ounce gloves and have a little muck around with one of the teenage boys. At 14, with my big gloves on, the boys can hit me as hard as they like and it will do little or no damage. After a bit of encouragement and a few sledges, 14 year old Spencer started having a good old crack. He got me with a big hook to the left eye and I steeped back onto a wet area of concrete and slipped over, landing awkwardly on my right foot. I was down. K.O.ed by a 14 year old Ranga, my tough guy illusion shattered along with the ligaments in my right foot.
I hobbled upstairs, put my foot up with some ice and enjoyed the rest of the music countdown. As the party started to wind up, my foot wasn’t getting any better and a hospital trip was inevitable. X-rays and trip to the foot specialist over the next week confirmed a “Lis Franc injury” and I needed an operation and was going to be out of action for 3-6months. No surfing, no golf, no riding and no work.
My family and friends were all concerned, “he’s going to go crazy being stuck inside all day” they worried. “you’re going to get fat as a house without being able to exercise” another mate commented. Despite their concerns, I was OK. I managed to work out an exercise routine that didn’t hurt my foot and saw the enforced break as an opportunity to finally write this book that I’d been talking about for the last couple of years.
So with my foot up and my computer moved up to the bedroom, I started researching and writing. A couple of things happened. I suddenly wasn’t as hungry and over the next 5 or 6 weeks managed to lose 8kg (20pounds) some of this may have been muscle, but I was eating better and was embracing the brain benefits of fasting and Ketosis.
The one thing that was really surprising, was that from the moment I was out of action my back was not sore anymore, not even a twinge. I didn’t give it much of a thought, just assumed it was due to the increased rest and got on with things.
As the foot improved following surgery, the accounts at my newest business came in and it wasn’t good reading. Two months off was not at all good for business and I was in the unchartered waters of having a business that wasn’t doing very well. My foot specialist assured me, if I took it easy, I could go back to work. I looked at the calendar and rang work and told them I was coming back next week.
This is when something REALLY STRANGE happened. My back was suddenly sore again. I hadn’t done anything different, I hadn’t even gone back to work, but the familiar tightness in my lower back had returned and it was sore again. Two months of a pain free back were over and I was again struggling to straighten up. A week later I was back on the job. It was great to see all my workmates again and I had a list of people waiting for my return to test their eyes. By the end of that first day I was in agony. My back had seized and couldn’t move. I managed to get home and lay on the floor to get some relief. A few neurofen and a nights sleep I was back at work the next day bad back and all.
A friend of mine, Karl and I used to often joke about people with Fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is very real pain bought on by stress and depression. My sudden back pain made me think I may well be my back’s worst enemy and perhaps it was the muscle between my ears that was causing the spasms in my lower back.
I pondered this for a few days and thought I might go and see another friend of mine, Michael, who does hypnosis and Neurolinguistic programming. We had a great chat and I told him all about this book and how excited I was about learning these new things and hopefully sharing my STRESS TEFLON theories with other people. Then I gave him my fibromyalgia theory regarding my back problems and my return to work.
“What is it you don’t like about work?” he asked. I pondered this for a while and struggled to find a suitable answer. I loved my staff. I enjoyed seeing clients and helping them see better and was relieved that the business would be back on track. So, what was the problem? Why the brain induced bad back?
I had been an Optometrist for 25 years. I had tested 300 thousand eyes and had enquired about the relative clarity of the eye chart about 5million times. I had owned eight practices and was comfortable financially. I still liked my job, but was struggling to find any caveman satisfaction. Boredom, a bit of apathy and the yearning for a challenge had been simmering for a while.
“Having 25 years of experience is not the same as having one year of experience 25 times”
I wasn’t seeing the merit in building another business “just for the money”.
Recent changes in the structure of the business had taken away some autonomy and had put a bigger emphasis on the financial figures. Every line and expense was examined against KPI’s and it made me feel as if the monthly accounts were the barometer of success. In the past I had never worried about these things. I had my “rule of thumb” about staff costs and the rest just looked after itself. Staff were always happy and there was always plenty of money left over.
There was no longer the pride from inside from running a successful business. Money, although important, has never been my driving force and when I looked at my priority of values, it wasn’t on the list. This posed a real problem. I was staying in the world of my chosen profession for one reason…Money and that reason wasn’t inline with my inner values. In this situation, STRESS STICKS.
I had two choices: 1. leave now and concentrate on other endeavours. Turn my back on what was going to be a very good business. or 2. Change my attitude to realign work with my values.
Thankfully Michael knows me really well. He pointed out that the things I like about my business was helping customers and developing staff. By reaffirming that I am going there to do those things, the tension in my back dispersed and I happily went back to work. That day I spent an hour with Diana, my new graduate Optometrist and did my best impression of the “all knowing” old master. I told her about “caring and showing you care” and gave her lots of tips on how to find the best solutions for each client. Spending some time with Diana made me see the part of the job I really loved. I stopped worrying about the figures and concentrated on the people again. I was back.
The attitude readjustment not only made me better at work but my back problems disappeared. I found a way to make my actions and my inner values to once again become aligned.
There is always two-way interaction between the body and the brain. This is a great example of how your subconscious and your old brain can override your body’s mechanics. My judgemental, old brain was telling my body it wasn’t supporting my conscious brain’s decisions.
And what part of the body does a lot of your supporting?