I had surgery on my wrist over twenty years ago. A ligament that was putting pressure on the median nerve was severed to allow the electrical signals to travel unimpeded to and from my hand. The surgery was ultimately a success, providing some pain relief and an increase in sensation and function. However, it was not without its side effects. As a result of the cut ligament, my median nerve was exposed and the slightest pressure on the inside of my wrist felt like the sharp ulnar pain of hitting the “funny bone.”
I learned to avoid that sensation. I grew protective of my wrist, afraid to flex it too far or expose it to the risk of injury. I babied it, wrapping it in a protective brace whenever it started to hurt or my hand started to numb. Those measures, appropriate in the months after the surgery, were probably too extreme as they continued through the years.
But I was conditioned by that point. I was so pain averse with my wrist that I would fall on my face rather than brace myself with my hands. (it’s okay to laugh as you picture the predicaments I ended up in!) The pain avoidance was an overreaction, like someone who suffered a burn from a stove top being afraid to cook, but it was an overreaction that I accepted.
After years of being afraid of pushing the limits of my wrist, the inevitable occurred – scar tissue began to form around the site of the surgery. The self-imposed limited range of motion became enforced by adhesion. This scar tissue replaced the fear of pain with real pain when I tried to move my wrist too far.
I am just now beginning to release that adhesion, to unstick the glues that bind my wrist and hold it tight. It wasn’t an intentional process, rather it snuck up on me (probably the only way it could ever have happened) while on the yoga mat. Through yoga, I have slowly been tearing through the ropey tissue that has hindered my movement. I find that I can flex it further and hold more weight without the pain becoming overwhelming. The release has been physical but also emotional, as I learn not to fear the pain radiating from my wrist. I have learned to trust that the discomfort is temporary and bearable. I don’t have to avoid it.
I used what I learned from my wrist in healing from my divorce. The initial pain of the separation was the sharp pierce of the surgeon’s blade through flesh, leaving tender nerves exposed. At first, I was afraid of the pain. I sought to avoid it by medication and distraction. Lack of flexion in the beginning allowed some adhesion to occur, wrapping me in its bindings and holding me in place. Luckily, I didn’t hold my heart as still as I had my wrist, or the sticking would have been worse, perhaps even permanent. I knew that I had to keep my emotional self moving and fluid so that I did not become stuck. I knew that the pain wasn’t fatal and that it would diminish with time. I could have braced my heart like I had braced my wrist, but then I would still be learning how to let it be free twenty years from now.
I am now more afraid of adhesion than I am of pain.