My Personal Story of Pain

 

When I started this blog, my goal was to share knowledge and self-care tips on the treatment of chronic pain and injury. Until now I have focused my discussions on deep tissue massage therapy, self-massage using foam roller therapy, corrective exercises and barefoot walking and running. Now I would like to introduce myself and tell a bit of the story about why I do what I do.

You live how you feel
The quality and fulfillment of your life is directly related to how you feel – physically and emotionally. Pain is directly related to how you move, or don’t move, each day.  It is related to the fuel you feed your body, to the quality of the sleep you get each night, how much you work, how much you relax, and how much you prioritize your emotional and spiritual health.

I am on a path of personal healing.  I have experienced pain for much of my life. Not long ago, I began to believe that my pain was a life sentence. Thankfully, I was confronted with a choice.  I could either buy into the story that said “I will always be the victim to pain,” or I could listen to the pain, do something about it, and change the story. I chose the path of change. The focus of this path is to heal myself: my mind, my body and most importantly, my heart. I have pursued this path unconsciously from my earliest memories, and over the past couple of years it has become not only a conscious effort, but the overwhelming priority of my life.

How it all started
Like so many around me, I did not have an easy childhood. In many respects it was emotionally painful. As I grew older, emotional pain grew inside of me and manifested itself outwardly – in the way I felt, looked, acted, and in the important decisions I made. Ultimately it manifested itself as physical pain. Due to the emotional pain I carried inside, I did not have a healthy self image, and I did not treat my body with respect. I pushed my body to its limits and beyond, often leading to injuries, many of which were physically and emotionally devastating.

I have spent nearly six months in a hospital bed since the day I turned 18.  When I flew over the handlebars of my motorcycle at 70+ miles an hour, it took a week of iodine whirlpool baths to clean the dirt and asphalt from my wounds, and effectively ended my college basketball career. Five surgeries on my right knee (including 2 PCL reconstructions and an ACL reconstruction) kept me hospitalized for several more months. I developed a very intimate relationship with physical pain. On a level I was addicted to it. The more physical pain I could endure, the less emotional pain I felt.  Since my emotional pain was so deep, I unconsciously pursued physical pain through self destructive behaviors. Some of the other injuries I’ve had are concussions, dislocations, and sprains. By the time I turned thirty, my body was pretty jacked up physically and emotionally.

An AHA Moment
I made the decision to become a personal trainer after my second PCL reconstruction. I was in the process of being discharged from the Navy and I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  One day I found myself working out in a gym on a Naval base in San Diego – attempting to rehab my body so I could once again play basketball. In the middle of a set of dumbbell chest presses I had an “AHA” moment. I felt at home right where I was.  I knew that I loved the gym and that I loved people. The idea of helping someone realize their fitness and health goals excited me. I thought, this is where I want to work. I got up from the bench and grabbed the flier for a personal trainer certification course that I saw posted on the community board.

From the start there has been something supporting and guiding me to where I am today.  This much is obvious to me even though at the time I had no idea the significance of it all.  The support and guidance only continued in the classes I took, in the gyms where I worked, and from my fellow colleagues. I studied exercise and sports science with a minor in business management at Texas State University. I spent nine years working in gyms with some incredible coaches and therapists.  It was an incredible learning environment, a great place for me to grow up. There was no competition.  Knowledge and information was shared freely. I gained what I consider the equivalent to eight more years of college level education and experience in the exercise sciences. This became the foundation of my work. I learned about anatomy, exercise physiology, posture, kinesiology, physical therapy protocol, and was introduced to deep tissue massage and self-massage using the foam roller.
Pushing Through Barriers
I took almost all of this knowledge and put it into practice on myself trying to fix or alleviate my pains and injuries.  After my fifth knee surgery in 2006, I designed my own physical therapy protocol. I spent the six months before surgery doing intensive “pre-hab” to build up the strength in my knee and body.  A few days after the surgery I started simple physical therapy exercises. My goal was to run a half marathon six months after the surgery. The physical therapy was intense, but I pushed on. Four weeks after the surgery I was running on 50% of my body weight using a body weight support harness system. I did corrective exercises until I had the knee strength to support my full body weight.  Three months after the surgery I was doing full resistance functional training workouts.  I built my running base and spent lots of time every week on a bicycle. Every night I would spend hours doing full body self-massage on a foam roller followed by flexibility training. And after six months, almost to the day, I ran the 3M half marathon in Austin, Texas, splitting the last four miles at a 7:30 pace. Since then, as I have maintained my own health and fitness protocol, my knee has not given me any problems.

Throughout this season I focused on deep tissue massage, flexibility, corrective exercise, and functional training.  My mind and body became stronger and I started feeling better physically. As my body healed, my heart began to heal as well. It became clear to me that if I wanted my physical body to feel better over the long haul, I needed to heal emotionally, on the inside. This is the conscious path that I am currently on. Through this process of emotional healing I have found that I have become more engaged, present, productive, and capable as a father, as a partner, and as a therapist. It has been beautiful.

A Different Path
There are many things that I learned, and continue to learn, in the process of healing myself. I have incorporated these lessons into the coaching program I bring to my clients. I shifted my training style from being workout based to lifestyle based. I now recognize that every person struggles with pain. This is pain that, unless they change paths, a client will suffer under for the rest of their life. And so, instead of training my clients to be more muscular, or look better in the mirror or to fit into the right clothes, I train them so they can move and feel better in their body.

One of the biggest lessons that has become a significant part of my training philosophy is this: what is seen on the outside is merely a reflection of what resides on the inside. Issues of weight, poor posture, and physical pain are merely the symptoms of deeper issues.  They reflect how we feel on the inside. This is why I specialize in the treatment of chronic pain. I focus my massage and personal training that I might help my clients feel better. I teach them a variety of techniques to empower them with the ability to care for and heal themselves. I know that as we heal we move better.  The better we move, the better we feel about ourselves, which ultimately leads to being more engaged, present, productive and capable with our family, friends, and career. This, without fail, makes its way to the surface and we look so much better on the outside.

 

I would love to hear your personal story of pain. Please post it to the comments below.

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23 Replies to “My Personal Story of Pain”

  1. Jesse: I am blown away by your selflessness and caring spirit…and your willingness to be so..how shall I say…take the mask off and let us see you for who you are….I feel so blessed to know you and even more blessed that you are willing to give so freely of your knowledge and skill so that others may be healed. God has given you much; and I am rejoicing with what you have accomplished…and what MORE you have yet to do. 🙂

    1. HONESTY! By being honest, Jesse grabs a-hold of your attention then your trust. These are rare attributes in today’s world of me. He gives away what was so freely given to him that’s what gives him inner peace.

      1. I feel a bit humbled by your compliments. I do find great peace in the work I do. I don’t know if I have found true inner peace. Not really sure what that would look or feel like. Thanks Butch.

        Jesse James Retherford
        http://www.tao-fit.com

        1. Hi Jesse,

          While reading your (positive) site I came upon “…I don’t know if I have found true inner peace. Not really sure what that would look or feel like. …”.

          I would like to suggest a way to find out, from my own experience (okay, and many others). You can do it while ‘rolling’!! (I do it while having dinner or doing simple chores.) Go to biblegateway.com, click on ‘Audio’ on the left, choose as reader Charles Taylor, and start from the beginning (it’s about 76 hours total). Stop as soon as you’ve had enough, note down where you ended off and next time continue from there.

          In order to prevent your wasting loads of time being deceived (believing incorrect things) like I was for decades (watta goo siam!), I can refer you to trthndcptn.punt.nl. It’s a weblog containing a big collection of the most common deceptions the majority of people have fallen prey to. So off and on checking out that weblog can save you lot’s of time in that respect.

          Now switching from spiritual to physical: I am, together with innumerous others, enormously grateful to Henry G. Bieler for having written his book ‘Food Is Your Best Medicine’. I have personally experienced (amongst other things) that by eating the way Nature intended as Bieler describes, my stomache got flat within nine days and I ran my yearly half marathon faster than all the years before, with a sprint near the finish(!), plus instead of afterwards having stiff legs for days, I had NO STIFFNESS AT ALL, no muscle ache, nothing, as if I had taken a stroll in the park, meaning: no build up of toxins. At amazon.com you can read people’s reviews about the book.

          Happy hunting!

          Michael

  2. Jesse,

    Thanks again for all you have done for me. Since I have started working with you my life and my attitude has improved ten-fold. I look forward to many more years of working with you and continued good health! I can’t say enough about what you have done for me over the last few years! Lets go have some fun on the mountain!

    1. Don,

      Thank you for your friendship and support, it has been an absolute pleasure working with you and your family over the years. A trip to the mountains is definitely on my priority list for the season.

      Jesse James Retherford
      http://www.tao-fit.com

  3. Wow, nice to see that others get it! This is the second time in the past month that I have whitnessed the connection between emotional and physical pain. I believe it can never be healed until you do the emotional work. Like you I have lived emotional pain all my life. I read that when you grow up with it you have a 50% chance of being autoimmune and when it continues you have a 90% chance. I went to massage school 6 months after being diagnosed with Crohns. Scary times, but I knew I needed to learn everything I could about how the body works. I love what I do and find great Joy in helping others recognize the route cause of their pain and giving them the tools and encouragement to overcome it and like an authentic life. Still working on myself, don’t know how to make myself a priority. I found you through your barefoot running story. I had the same results with a marathon runner who had 2 foot surgeries and we rebuilt her through yoga to strengthen her feet and let the ligaments support the bones. Thank you for sharing, keep up the great work!!!

    1. Hi Robin,

      Thank you for sharing. I find it a common story that many of the best therapists started out looking for answers to treat themselves. As my teacher often tells me, “you cannot take anyone where you have not gone yourself.” It reminds me how much patience, empathy and love are necessary to facilitate healing and growth within ourselves and with our clients.

      Jesse James Retherford
      http://www.tao-fit.com

  4. Jesse, reading your story reminded me of an Amelia Earhart quote:

    “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace. The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things; knows not the livid loneliness of fear.”

    Cheers to your courage,

    Lori

  5. Jesse, your story really helped me to understand myself even better! It was eloquently written and so obviously heartfelt! Thank you so much, I know you are doing great things in this world!!!
    Tammy

  6. I had a serious car accident in 1998, which almost cost me my live. The drs thought I should not survive, then they thought I should never walk again… I broke my spine (Th-7 disapeared), broke about 8 ribs, my head completely open, 8 tooth gone….. and my loung colapsed, which was all very very painfull. The hardest yoga I ever did, was to breath with this collpased loung, in the hospital. And still I have pain in my back every day, when the weather changes or I do to much. No dr understands (untill today) how it is possible that I am able to walk. Not only that, I practice yoga every day, teach yoga better then before my accident, and last but not least, I have a 5 year old son now. While all the drs told me I should probably not be able to have children anymnore, I gave birth when I was 41. Yoga saved my live. Breathing is the key to control the pain, to make it managable.

    1. Hi Oona,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are inspiring and have lived a inspiring story. I can only imagine how much you have helped those in your life as well as those who will come across your story hear. Thank you again.

      Jesse James Retherford
      http://www.tao-fit.com

  7. I am beyond grateful that I found your website. Your words resonate with me, right to my soul. I have read many websites about health- and never have I felt (until now) that “this person truly gets it.” I appreciate your holistic approach and your view of healing the many aspects of self. I do hope that you continue to update your site, as I do not live in Texas, and genuinely feel as though I have come upon a gem.

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