“Never judge another person’s misgivings or inappropriate behaviour”, I constantly remind myself. “You may never, fortunately, have to ever experience the desperate context from where it is coming.” This statement became very real for me as many a person gave me the once-over glare as the “car guard” pushed my empty grocery trolley for me and placed the items I pointed out to him into it. It was a mixture of embarrassing and frustrating, but I became accustomed to this kind of excessive help for the most ordinary of tasks. I also became used to the bitter looks from bystanders and the judgey comments when I refused to carry even the small cooler box for my son’s sports team. My explanation had become tiresome and non-sensical so why bother.
I also became accustomed to not sharing the bizarre pain I was experiencing because it appeared so banal. It was apparently just a pulled muscle in the pelvic area. However, I was experiencing at times nausea and pain from my hip down my leg as well as a muscular knot the size of a tennis ball in my left buttock. On top of this, most people would celebrate not being able to exercise. If I began sharing my struggle, it was shrugged off or laughed at for the inappropriate mental and physical pain for an apparent torn muscle! Even if it was only a torn muscle; it would only be the exercise addict or professional sportsman, who could have empathy for the panic that comes with the inability to move the body in the way it had become accustomed to over decades.
I was therefore afraid and confused as the apparent simple diagnosis was incongruent with the pain, nausea and immobility I was encountering. Consequently, I was forced to endure a dramatic holt of any slightly physical activity. From an extremely physically active person to an almost sedentary person! This sudden change of physical activity felt like I was swallowing an elephant. It also had huge ramifications for me on a physical, emotional and even identity level. I am an ex-professional athlete accustomed to a daily exercise regime, forced to face little to no activity. I am a clinical/sports psychologist forced to face having depression as a result of the dramatic change of lifestyle and my body’s response to the sudden lack of endorphins.
Again, never judge another person’s misgivings or inappropriate behaviour, because, for me, the inability to exercise or even push a trolley felt like a death sentence for the first 2 to 3 months. I watched myself sink into depression, becoming teary and over-sensitive, and less and less enthusiastic about life.
The oddest thing was that daily tasks that are necessary to enable one to dress, eat and drink, even drive caused a deep neural pain, with consequent anxiety and nausea. These daily tasks were merely the opening and closing of draws, fridges, ovens, even opening tight bottles would cause a pain reaction. As I mentioned earlier, going to the grocery store and pushing an empty trolley triggered the same. The worst of all was not being able to carry your son’s school bag whilst you are both walking across a rugby field when he has already packed on cricket and soccer togs simultaneously. The top of the list of oddest pain triggers was driving to a destination that had many speed bumps! Opening, closing, bending over, carrying, pushing trolleys, driving in a car, stretching ever so gently, even a gentle walk would trigger pain! At one stage I felt I had to do absolutely nothing in order to avoid triggering pain.
The cause of the injury had been sitting in the lotus position for an hour during meditation, and as I got up to walk I felt a tear down my left leg. But, I became more and more terrified as the nerve pain I felt together with the nausea and the limited physical activity made me think that something else was going down, that perhaps I would be given a terminal diagnoses. After consultation with multiple physiotherapists and doctors who gave me different diagnoses and my own fear of not going for an MRI, I was left to handle this confusing physical issue on my own. I felt helpless. I had always felt that I was so in tune with my body and that I knew exactly what I needed to do to heal whatever little ailment came my way. But, this was different, this was counterintuitive as the visiting of body therapists, stretching and movement of any kind seemed to make the pain worse!
Fortunately, I saw myself as a very positive person and one of my specialties in my private practice as a clinical psychologist was healing the body with the mind. I was also a sports psychologist working with top international athletes, so I considered my mind to be generally strong and equipped with every mental toughness tool ever invented.
About 3 months into the injury feeling like I was just managing to keep things together, I was working with some top national horse jumpers, who had used THE HYPERBARIC OXYGEN CHAMBER to expedite the healing of broken bones and other ailments when they had fallen off their horses. After three months of little improvement, but still no physical activity, I fantasised that perhaps this mysterious oxygen chamber could be the answer for me too. I pondered… perhaps this would be my magical cure?
The next morning I phoned the number at Oxygenate at the Rivonia Sports, Medical and Therapy Centre and booked an appointment. I also put myself on a Metagenics product called Serasyn a natural serotonin booster for depression, and the healing began…
I booked ten sessions in the Hyperbaric Chamber, aiming to attend two per week. Initially, after a few sessions, I felt a little more relaxed and loose after I had the usual 50-minute session. However, after about 3 to 4 sessions, I noticed that the area which was very painful prior to the session felt just a little activated during the session. Nevertheless, after the session on my way to my car, I noticed that all my muscles were very relaxed. Moreover, I noticed that the prior pain I felt on entering the session had relieved, almost non-existent! Of course, the apparent injury had not totally healed so the nauseating sensation did return as soon as I opened my cupboard to dress, or bent down to get my shoes out, or opened the oven to cook! Each time I returned for my session the activation during the session lessoned and the releasing and relieving of the pain increased. I was amazed at the benefits I was receiving from this strange process of lying in an enclosed chamber and inhaling a higher concentration of oxygen. Hence, I booked more sessions. On the second batch, another remarkable insight emerged. During this second batch, I decided to free up my brain of any distractions. My theory was that if my brain was calm and open, the mind/body intelligence could direct the ozone toward the parts of my system where it was needed the most. So I turned off my phone and left my book outside, and attempted to “meditate” by just focusing on the very soothing sound of the oxygen entering the chamber. After about 15 to 20 minutes into the session, with a half-lucid awareness, I noticed that I was falling into a trance like state.
According to documented research, this is the state in which the brain/body needs to be in for ultimate stress-relief, healing, super-learning and even the zone-state where sportspeople break records.
Now I was receiving pain reduction, and a stress-less zone- state that would be very difficult to attain in daily life. As a Performance/Sports Psychologist, I would recommend that a practised simulation of this state would be ideal to train your mind to attain at will, and the oxygen chamber provides the ideal opportunity. It will be most valuable specifically for a C.E.O to learn the alpha-brain wave or “meditative” state, which is scientifically proven to facilitate quantum problem-solving or for a professional sportsman who needs to learn to calm and clear the mind in order to slip into a zone-state or to elevate their performance under pressure.
Now about 4 months into the injury, I felt deeply that the Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber was not only helping me to heal, reduce pain, reduce stress, but it had stimulated other healing processes in my body. I had always struggled to hear with my one ear, so I noticed that I would put my mobile to the other ear. After, about 35 sessions, I realised that I was not placing my phone on the good-hearing side. I could hear perfectly from both sides! I concluded that my improved hearing had to be as a result of the oxygen chamber!
By this time, I was so grateful to be able to swim with a pool buoy (a small flotation device that keeps your lower body afloat) between my legs to keep my hips and legs still. The opportunity to move my arms with power and speed in the pool felt amazing after being still for 3 long months! I began kicking very little and very slowly in the pool as I began swimming just a few times a week in the pool.
I looked back 5 months prior and I could see, albeit slow and frustrating, that something was happening in my left hip/groin/buttock area. The nerve pain and nausea were also becoming less and less. Trolleys and the daily tasks I mentioned above were still out of bounds. I had taken myself off the SeraSyn, as I had been working with my own psychologist on these odd, unpleasant, and disturbing physical sensations. From deep personal and identity work with my psychologist and plenty of meditation, I began to see the gift and blessing in this experience.
I finally felt okay with not having to exercise almost every day. I felt content with being as opposed to always doing. I had taken a knock on every level of self, make no mistake, but I was beginning to see the gift and light in this long, horrible life-changing experience, which at times did not feel anywhere near temporary!
All this time I kept renewing my batch of sessions at Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber, as it had proven to be almost that magical cure for me. It was now a full 6 months in. The tennis ball knot in my left buttock was now a squash ball, there were long intervals without any pain at all, the constant nauseating sensation from the stomach down the leg had dramatically reduced, but if I pushed a chair or took off too many plates from the table, a pain reaction would trigger, I would visit the chamber in order to bring calm, ease and the pain-free feeling back to my body!
Enter Richard Sutton… Finally I received an appointment with someone I knew from the beginning of this saga that he would be able to help me. I was an ex-professional tennis player and this renowned specialist had already worked with former no.1 in the world of tennis players. He also helped Kevin Anderson, South Africa’s no.1 player heal from a hip injury that ordinarily would have needed surgery. As I shared my story with fear and anxiety and after he had examined me, he confirmed 99, 9 percent that I had had a complicated labral tear. This was a tear of the tendon in the hip joint. Surgery is mostly recommended for such an injury! Unknowingly, I had taken the natural, longer route. His validation of the torn tendon and the normality of the symptoms for such an injury were so confirming, securing and soothing. His healing, grounded, calm, and humble demeanour put me at ease. For the first time in 6 months, I felt that I was not a neurotic who was losing hold of reality.
Since that day in Richard Sutton’s consulting rooms, almost 9 months from the day of hurting myself the healing expedited. I continued with the hyperbaric chamber as it appeared to not only speed up the healing of the drastically torn tendon, but it healed structures and organs in a way that is positively indescribable.
In retrospect, the injury and the path that it led me along seemed as if it was specifically designed for my growth. The injury gifted me with the ability to really enjoy the moment fully, non-judgmentally, without the need to exercise before or after in order to relax. It led me to remarkable healers who are authentic, care and are world-class in their fields.
The injury led me to this remarkable healing facility, the Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber, which I would normally never experiment with. Why would one try out such an alternative means of healing that appears quite outside the realms of the traditional practises that have been proven to reduce pain and rehabilitate bodily structures?
The injury demonstrated to me first hand “never judge another person’s misgivings or inappropriate behaviour. You may never, fortunately, have to ever experience the desperate context from where it is coming.”
“What a relief! How lucky am I!” is the statement I currently murmur. I have come down the other side of this mountain, with an even more expanded identity, and free to exercise for health and enjoyment. Freer to have a remarkable resource of healing, the Oxygenate – Medium Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, if I ever need it or just want that soul-fuelling feeling of a deep trance-like relaxation state. What a relief it is to able to open and close the fridge without the fear of pain, to assist my son with his school bags, and go off to the grocery store and push a trolley, place items in myself and walk back standing tall that I have grown both psychologically and with pride. The pride, I feel from having to overcome an obstacle that seemed like an enormous mountain at first but turned into a hill with green grass and yellow flowers that I can stroll down, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the scenery.