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Exercise

    I Didn’t Know I Could Heal From Chronic Illness

    September 18, 2017

    Saturday was a big day for me. I did something I haven’t been physically able to do in more than 5 years. Something I thought I might never do again when I was spending my days in a sickbed, staring at the ceiling, wishing the pain away and wondering if this dreadful illness would claim my life.

    I went to a fitness class. Not only did I go, I participated. And I came out in one piece. Yes, I really did do this. Inside a building and everything.

    Here’s how it came about…

    Not many people know this, but I’ve been wanting to take swing dance lessons with Brett for a long time. Several weeks ago I found a dance studio in town that teaches all sorts of ballroom dancing including swing. So, I made a mental note that we should try out one of their classes as soon as I was strong enough (and able to spend time indoors). I had no idea how long it would be. Maybe a couple months?

    When the wildfire smoke made me sick a couple weeks ago, I started watching swing dance videos to pass the time. Seeing people dancing made me reconsider whether swing dancing was really the best place to start. I was pretty sure my body couldn’t do what I was seeing in the videos. Maybe I should try to get stronger some other way first?

    So this week, when I was browsing the dance studio’s Facebook page I noticed that they offered several different dance-based fitness classes. One class in particular caught my eye because it had the word “ballet” in the title (and another word that should never appear next to the name of such a beautiful art form. Hint: booty) But, it still caught my attention. Especially because it wasn’t an actual ballet class.

    I’ve always known that taking an adult ballet class to get back in shape would be the worst idea ever for someone who used to be a pre-professional. I can’t think of a better way to overwhelm myself with grief over my illness and frustration over how far I’ve fallen. If I ever take a ballet class again it’s going to have to be after I get strong and flexible some other way. Even then I expect to cry a lot when I see just how terrible I am.

    All that to say, I was intrigued by the idea of a ballet-ish fitness class. It seemed like maybe it would be different enough, gentle enough, and familiar enough all at the same time. Maybe I could feel safe in a class like that? Never mind that it had a name that would make any self-respecting ballerina cringe. I was precisely trying to avoid running into self-respecting ballerinas. Besides, my ballet friends are miles away and they’d never have to find out how I’d dishonored and exploited our sacred art form for a little workout. No need to feel guilty. After all, I wouldn’t be considering this if I could actually dance like they can.

    So, on Friday we went to check out the studio to make sure it would be a safe building for me. The building had a concerning history of water damage but I didn’t react when I went in. It was a brick building and there wasn’t much drywall or carpeting for mold to grow on. I’m guessing it probably had some non-toxic mold but nothing seriously problematic for me. So, I decided to sign up for “Ballet Booty Barre.”

    I was expecting a floor barre style class, which is basically when you do traditional ballet exercises lying on your back, side and stomach. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When I got there I found out it would be a “fast paced workout with lots of cardio”… Say what?! I didn’t know if my body would last to the end but I figured I was already there and I might as well try it. So I did.

    It was an intense workout class set to loud pop music with lots of poorly executed nods to ballet throughout. (Arg! That inner ballet snob keeps rearing her head! I swear I didn’t even know she was still in there!)

    Anyway… I did it! I made it through the entire workout. I had to stop for several seconds whenever my muscles gave out but so did the other women in the class. Overall, I was amazed to discover that I’m significantly stronger than I thought I was. I was honestly surprised that I made it to the end. It was an hour of pretty much non-stop exercise. I didn’t expect to be able to do that. I still can’t believe I did it.

    I remember when my legs were so weak that they would shake as Brett lowered me down onto the toilet. I had no muscle control. I wrote letters to a dear friend saying things like, “I just want to be able to walk to the bathroom by myself. I’m not asking for the world. I just want to be able to go out without my wheelchair. I just want to be able to do a flight of stairs. Is that too much to ask?

    And here I am, squatting and kicking and moving my hips in a way that any ballet teacher would find suspicious. No matter that I looked horrible! This is incredible!

    It’s almost surreal to think that my body could actually heal from all the devastation it experienced at the hands of Lyme Disease and mold toxicity. That¬†given the right conditions¬†even the worst damage was reversible. The unrelenting neurological pain. The liver swelling. The brain inflammation. The immune dysfunction. The Mast Cell Activation. All of the things that almost killed me were reversible.

    I didn’t know any human body could be this resilient, especially not my own. People always talk about the body’s amazing capacity to heal. But frankly, when an illness takes you to the gates of death and keeps you disabled for years you start to lose faith in that capacity.

    Now that I’ve seen a body that was so broken it could barely sit up complete an intense work-out, I’m starting to re-evaluate my doubts. I think our bodies do have an amazing capacity to heal once the source of ongoing damage or injury is removed. They may never return to their former glory (on this side of heaven) but they very well might impress us with an even greater healing than we thought was possible.

    And just so everyone knows, I don’t think I’m going be taking “Ballet Booty Barre” again. The class was too fast paced for a recovering chronic illness patient to maintain good form. It might have even been too fast for most normal people to maintain good form. In any case, I’d rather build up my strength with slow repetitions that I can actually execute correctly and maybe some swing dance lessons. If I can do “Ballet Booty Barre,” I’m pretty sure I’d survive swing dancing just fine. Maybe we can try it on Wednesday. Yippee!!!


    By the way, Brett and I made a beautiful PDF of my favorite resources for suffering souls. I created the content and he made it look fancy with his superduper graphic design skills. It’s available for free to my email subscribers. Click here to sign up and receive 5 Resources for the Suffering Soul.

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