The month of May did not go to plan. I woke up on May 1st with a sore left arm, neck and shoulder. “That’s weird” I thought, wincing with even the slightest movement. Ouch, like Wow. I thought I just slept on it wrong and headed to the chiropractor. I felt worse after the adjustment, not better—not my typical chiropractic experience.

As the day went on, the pain got more intense. Spicier. Then downright agonizing.

The early morning of May 2nd at about 3am, I went to the ER. I was sobbing so hard the lady checking me in came around the counter, gently cupped my other arm and said, “We’re going to take care of you.” I was given Oxycodone, high dose pain killers and an anti inflammatory. It took the pain from a rock solid 10 to about a 9.5. They sent me home and referred me to a Sports Med doctor. My appointment was four days later. “I should be so much better by then though!” I hoped. I really believed I would be.

But I wasn’t. And frustratingly, I simply couldn’t believe this was really happening and the solution wasn’t something in my wheelhouse; you know, like massage, chiro, cranial sacral, a homeopathic or, I often get immense relief from meditation. But nothing was working, nothing was making even a slight dent in the pain. I couldn’t even (gulp) get into my beloved cold water to plunge because driving was just too intense. All those little bumpity bumps movements on the road, that I have never in my life noticed with such intensity before, were unbearable.

By Monday I was a gosh darn mess but with hope, I went to the Sports Med doc, sure that they would fix me. Mmmmm, not so much. They did a scan of the arm, gave me a cortisone shot and explained that I had this thing called Brachial Plexitis, basically, a nerve blow out radiating down my arm.

Nerve pain. I had *no* idea. The respect I now have for my nervous systems is off the freakin’ charts. Now, when I hear people say they went through or are going through nerve pain I just want to (gently) hug them, look them in the eye and say, “I am so so sorry.” It is the worst. The worst pain I have ever ever felt.

The cure? The solution? My kind, proficient Sports Med doctor said, “Time. We’ll see. Try and manage the pain as best you can.” I was given pain patches, more Oxy, more high dose pain killers and scheduled back for two weeks later.

That’s when things got dark. Like pitch black. I was doing all the things but no thing seemed to volume down the constant pain. My days and nights for the first few weeks of May became taking meds that made me drowsy but didn’t really touch the pain, applying pain patches, and resting in a reclined prone position because laying flat was also not possible, too painful.

Over a month later, I have the great advantage of hindsight. I am so much better, not 100%, but getting there.

Without a shred of doubt, this event stunned me and forced a change in me that I’m now becoming grateful for. It broke my heart open in ways I never expected. It’s odd to admit this but I don’t want to go back to the version of Nicole pre May 1st. I don’t want to go through this kind of nerve pain again either! But a becoming happened and I said Yes to it.

First, I could not believe the amount of support I received. How friends, loved ones, neighbors, and my cold plunging gals were there for me. I was brought ice cream and meals. Neighbors did my grocery shopping. My dogs were cared for and walked. Everything got handled. Everything got taken care of. One of my worst, darkest, scariest life long adult fears has always been, “What if something happens to me and I can’t work? What would I do then?” That fear and worry has always been so intense that the moment I think it, I do everything in my power to usher it away. Well, there was no ushering it away this time, my worst fear came true. And the most astonishing thing is, in my inability to work the way I was used to, I was cared for. Massively.

The other huge thing that I learned from this health event is something I’m still unpacking, still trying to understand, sort out and integrate. It has to do with how I was so conditioned to reference and outsource outside of myself. In this case, it was “Something out there is going to fix me, there is an answer and I have to go find it.”

This is one of the biggest untruths I’ve ever faced. What happened that was so extraordinary and also challenging as heck was that at some point, I was able to witness myself, actually catch myself, whirling around in the “out there solutions”. Every time I’d talk to someone about what happened and they’d mention, “Oh have you tried this healer? Or this doctor? Or this method? Or….” I would spin in that direction and start exploring that option. Chasing. I felt desperate. I was scared.

Turns out, the solutions weren’t “out there” at all. Turns out, what seemed to help the most was something not so simple: surrender. I felt powerless over this experience and I was. There was nothing I could do to make my body heal faster or even heal at all. I didn’t have a guarantee that it was going to heal! “We’ll see!” the good doctor said! Oof.

So I let go. I stopped resisting the pain so much. I stopped fighting it and being mad at it. I also felt all the emotions as they came up. I let the pain pummel through my body and I did my best to be with the sensations. I wondered about it. I was curious about it. As the days went by, as mid month rolled around, the pain started to ticker down to about a 5-6, still hella painful but not excruciating.

A dear friend, also a cold plunging buddy, turned 50 and had organized a big birthday cold plunge and I thought, “I have to go, I just have to”. I drove myself, instead of carpooling with them because I just didn’t know what I could handle. On the beach getting ready to go in, one of my cold water buddies asked me, “Nicole, I heard what’s been going on, how are you?” The concern on her face and the feeling of love from her was too much. I burst into tears. It felt so good, it was just what I needed. I did not need another referral, another name, another “have you tried this?” I just needed this friend to ask me exactly the way she did “How are you?” so that my body could wondrously and awkwardly move through some of this energy, this pain.

Unbelievably, on the way home from the cold plunge that day, we were in the water about 12 minutes, I had this OH MY GOD moment: the pain was so diminished. Not gone but the lowest it had been since May 1st! I went home, took a hot bath and then was exhausted and napped for 3 hours. I remember waking up a little bit here and there and having the thought, “No pain, so little pain, wow” and then falling back asleep.

It was improvement from that day on and I continued to do a few things to support my healing and return to wholeness. I went to acupuncture, I used pain patches, I cold plunged, I slept, I drank a ton of water, I minded my thoughts, I prayed, I meditated and I asked and received.

But I still can’t get over how much the surrender piece played an epic role in this whole event. I’m not an advocate of the “Everything happens for a reason” notion. It’s too tidy and life is way more complicated than that. But I am big fan of silver linings and I believe, in order for them to be seen and bestowed upon us, we have to look for them.

Silver linings 101:

-This dark month gave me the time to contemplate dark thoughts and beliefs I had been holding within and prove that they weren’t true.

-It gave me the experience of having to do something I am (was) SOOO UNCOMFORTABLE with—> asking for help and receiving help. (And honestly, I couldn’t believe how willing and happy my tribe was to help me! We are truly not alone.)

-It invited me to surrender at a level I have never been willing (or knew I needed) to do before. Surrender is not overrated.

-It activated in me a whole new level of empathy and compassion for all living things who are suffering.

-Unexpected outcomes from this event? More than a few clients have said to me in the past few weeks that my work feels different, deeper, more penetrative and powerful.

At the beginning of the month my mentor, who I was bawling my eyes out to about how awful this was and how my life was surely screwed forever because of it, said to me, “Nicole, in 30 days I want you to tell what you learned from all of this.” I knew he was on to something. I could hear it in his voice and feel the meaning but I had no idea. I was in the dark. But I heard him saying that to me all month long and 30+ days later, I am able to share so much light, so much beauty radiating on the flip side of this dark coin.

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