My “Dark Passenger” – A Life With Chronic Pain!

by

For the past 8 years I have lived with Chronic Pain. It was only 5 years ago that I was finally diagnosed with a Chronic Inflammatory Arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis. Over the last 2 years I have been on a very successful treatment for it and my pain has been less severe and “flare ups” occur less often.

The pain I have is Sacral Iliac Joint and Low Back Pain that sometimes feels similar to Sciatica and there are times when I find getting out of bed a challenge. I am better when I am out of bed, but in that lying position my ligaments and tendons pull the joints and there are times it fills me with so much dread at the mere thought of going to bed!

Thankfully I was offered a treatment called Anti-TNF Therapy for the condition, which is basically a drug that prevents your immune system “attacking” your own cells. This treatment basically suppresses your immune system, which can leave you vulnerable to other ailments. I have been lucky so far!

This treatment involves me giving myself an injection in the leg once a week. I hate this day each week, because it hurts like crazy and my leg swells up like a balloon, making me look bloated and water-logged for a few days after. But, I have to keep remembering what will happen if I stop; back to a life of worse pain! Looking like a bloater 3 days a week is much better than being in agony, right? … unless you plan to wear a skirt or shorts, or want to have nice definition … Well, I TRY and see the bigger picture, it’s just hard to sometimes.

This post is not about “poor me” or any sort of pity party (except for the evil injection part – I’ll accept all sympathy cards for that one 😉 ), but this is a chance for me to tell you a little more about the obstacles that I face in my everyday life (including my training) that others may relate to. Even if you don’t have chronic pain, you are bound to know someone who does live with Persistent/Chronic Pain or indeed someone who lives with a chronic physical or psychological condition that poses them with a challenge they feel they cannot face let alone overcome.  Reading this might give someone hope that their life doesn’t have to stop, just because they are in pain.  In fact, for me, I am often in worse pain when I don’t move – and not just physical pain!

The risk with this sort of post is that I come off as trying to suggest that I have a bigger challenge to other people when it comes to training. This is not what I want to convey at all. I want people to know that everyone has THEIR OWN struggles and we each need to be aware that just because something cannot be seen, doesn’t mean someone is not trying to overcome a hurdle or two.  The worst thing about my “condition” is the fact that people assume I am fine because I train.  Most of the time I am fine, but there are times when I am not.  These are the times I get looks of doubt and disbelief from the people closest to me.  Just because you cannot see the pain, doesn’t mean it’s not there.  ***FYI, if I wanted to use it as an excuse not to do anything with my life and live off the government, do you really think I’d be running a FITNESS BLOG?? REALLY?! *** (sorry, slight rant there).

Everyone’s problems are relative, and they are very visible to them!

While my condition can literally be a real pain in my arse, I am starting to view it as a blessing in disguise (sort of).

If I had never been diagnosed, I would never have gone to the gym in the first place. If I had never gone to the gym, I would never have got into strength training and began this amazing journey. Plus, the fact that I do get pain from time to time and maybe can’t train the way I want to, means I make the most of the days I can lift heavier and the days I am pain-free!  And, because of my training, I move better even when I am in pain!

Oh those sweet days when I know there is something different, a weight off my shoulders … a day without pain! Makes me feel lucky when I have days without pain, when there are people out there who suffer everyday like I used to.

I guess the point of me writing this is to ask you:

How do you make the most of what you are dealt?  Do you make excuses and use it as a reason not to work, train …  or live?? Or do you turn it around and make damn sure it doesn’t beat you and see the value in what you can do, in spite of it!

There are many times I have sat in anger and bitterness about being in pain and not feeling up to a session of squats or deadlifts, and there are even times when I have had to take time off work – but that doesn’t mean this is who I am or that I am a failure.  My pain may dictate the odd day of unplanned rest, but it will not stop me reach my goals.  I have watched other people excel at their goals and make great progress as mine seems slow in comparison.  But, as I have said before, the battles we face are more often battles within ourselves.  Do not let your Dark Passenger control your goals, for they are YOURS for the taking!

Here are 5 things to think about when it comes to living beyond the pain barrier:

  1. Instead of assuming because you get pain on movement that it will only get worse with exercise, do some research into how exercise might actually help your condition.
  2. Sometimes pain is a danger sign and sometimes it is a false alarm! Check out these links to further understand Chronic Pain – I found Part 2 of Dr. Neil Pearson’s presentations (Part 1 doesn’t seem to work) VERY helpful.
  3. Don’t look too far down the road. Take each day or week at a time and make the most of those pain-free days by training to get stronger!
  4. Try to reduce stress in your life. This will make you feel more energetic and less likely to feel heightened to your pain.
  5. Finally, give yourself permission to take things easier if you need it. For me, this means I don’t always train to my 1 Rep Max – but I work at getting stronger at moving well!

Realising that even the smallest steps towards your goal can mark progress, is the key to kicking your Dark Passenger in the balls!

As always, feel free to share your own stories …

Cheers

Marianne

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63 Responses

  1. Marcie Adkins says:

    Read your blogs and enjoyed them. Just wanted to share that my philosophy is similar to yours. I am 55 years old and have exercised all my life. About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with bulging discs in L3/L4. I have chronic pain from that and it afflicts my SI joint. Sciatica causes pain in my glutes, hip, knee and down in my calf.

    However, strength training and yoga have been my mainstay since that time. I firmly believe that the stronger I make my core, the better I feel. In fact, the more I move period, the better I feel.

    I have also put on weight in recent years, gaining steadily despite my exercise. I did some cardio, but just a small amount and my slowing metabolism helped balloon. As such, last summer I decided to begin a walk/jog training regime that progressed to running a half marathon. Since that time I have run 2 more half marathons and am still trucking.

    Before I began, I was wrongfully fearful that I would hurt myself by running. When you are overweight, isn’t it too much stress on your joints? Isn’t it going to hurt my knees? Won’t the pounding make my lower back worse? I ultimately decided that so what if it did. I could always stop walk/running, couldn’t I? But, if I never started the journey I wouldn’t know what would happen, would I? And if I lost all the excess weight wouldn’t that make me feel better?

    Results have been that I have lost 10 lbs and about 7 inches. Pain? Not better, not worse. Like you, it depends on the day. But, I believe it will get better.

    I also know that, as a Christian, the Lord is my healer and that he is always healing me. The fact that the pain is worse some days doesn’t mean anything to me. I know that Jesus heals and he is healing me. I know that he guides my training as well and that he wants my temple to lose weight as he has great plans for me and my future. I also know that if I wasn’t training and following my Lord’s lead, I would be in more pain.

    I am highly blessed and know you are, too. Enjoy your healing and wellness.

  2. I do not create many remarks, however i did some searching and wound up here My
    “Dark Passenger” – A Life With Chronic Pain!
    | myomytv.com | Free Fitness Blog. And I do have some questions for you if it’s allright.
    Could it be simply me or does it look like some of
    these responses look like they are left by brain dead visitors?
    😛 And, if you are posting at other online social sites, I’d like to
    keep up with everything fresh you have to post. Could you make a list of every one of your public sites like your Facebook page, twitter
    feed, or linkedin profile?

  3. Sportsgirl says:

    I read this post with a lot of interest, because I too have an autoimmune disease (Lupus). I have been training regularly for about 15 years, more seriously/strength related for the last 7 years and have only just recently decided to quit weight training. My decision was mostly motivation based, as I have been struggling with motivation to train for about 2 years. A side effect of this decision was that I feel really good now, better than I have in a long time. I don’t feel so tired, or run down and I generally feel much more positive overall and am enjoying my job for the first time in years. The only “training” I’m doing at the moment is running 3-4 times a week. I find it interesting how training helps some peoples symptoms and exacerbates others; generally I think anyone with a chronic illness can benefit from some sort of activity.

    • Marianne says:

      Hi! This is interesting, that you have gone the opposite to me; from weight training to cardio. I think you highlight a fair point though, because it can be about finding a balance and what works best for me might not for someone else.

      I am glad that you have found a level and type of activity that works for your condition 🙂

  4. Sam Metson says:

    Hi Marianne,

    I know it would seem completely off the wall to say that your pains could have anything to do with a food that you probably eat, but the human digestive system cannot cope with wheat, nor the reactions it’s sets up once it is inside us. It is a long term, slow and subtle attack. Firstly, please take the time to listen to this (with a notepad to help remember key pieces).

    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/undergroundwellness/2011/09/28/wheat-belly-with-dr-william-davis

    Secondly, give up wheat completely from your diet for just 2 weeks and see how you feel. You mustn’t cheat yourself – not even a crust of bread, corner of biscuit – complete abstinence! It is a really tough challenge because of the opiates in wheat, but you are used to challenges!

    There are many, many professional athletes and trainers who outwardly look fit and internally are suffering. We did not evolve of millions of years to be like that – Nature does not make design errors! Wheat is the great disrupter shifting our pH to acid and the bones and ligaments suffer in an attempt to neutralise this – highly inflammatory.

    Good luck – nothing lost giving it a whirl

    Sam

    • William says:

      It’s funny you should mention that Sam. Initially I had gone on a complete no-starch diet for a couple of months, but after losing close to two stone – which I certainly didnt need to lose – and having friends and family asking me if I was ill, I decided to play around with the various starches. By simply eliminating bread/wheat, I’ve managed to keep my pain levels under control, although I do have to watch the portion sizes with white potatoes and rice, or I do suffer a flare up over the next few days.

      The Paleo diet that someone else mentioned earlier, is increasingly looking like the way to go. One of the most dangerous mainstream dietary recommendations is that whole grains are healthy. They literally punch holes in the stomach lining, hence the increasing range of autoimmune disorders so prevalent today.

      My eyes were opened by reading the Primal Blueprint and The Paleo Solution. This is of course however, information that I would never have thought to seek out if it hadn’t have been for having been diagnosed with this condition myself.

      • Sam Metson says:

        Hi William. This is getting off topic with Marianne, but disease at the cellular level commences with inflammation. There is a highly indigestible type of lecithin in wheat that causes enormous degrees of inflammation to the intestines, the blood vessels and so on. The link above explains how wheat causes so many problems and yet it is the centre of our diet. It is enormously difficult to give up.

        I like Mark Sisson’s Paleo writings too.

        Thanks Marianne – did you try 2 weeks off wheat and did you nearly go crazy? More importantly, did you begin to feel different (more alive)?

        Even top tennis players like Novak Djokvic, who just went gluten-free, suddenly overcome injury and reach new heights of fitness. Murray is also gluten-free now. That is only have a cure, but look at the difference and listen to them talk about it.

        Sam

        • Marianne says:

          Sam, I honestly didn’t try to consciously go off wheat. I know that my diet barely has any in it – in fact, I cannot think of what I eat that has wheat. I am sure I could eat better and perhaps I should be more aware.

          The problem is that I get very stressed when I think I “have to” stop eating something I love; like my mind rebels against the will to stop LOL! So I tend to still eat the things I love but in moderation. These things are mostly honey, chocolate, wine and Chinese food. I am happier than I have ever been with my eating and diet, so I am reluctant about changing anything else. After such a history of disordered eating, I’d rather opt for the way I am now, than go Paleo just yet.

          I do appreciate your input though 🙂

  5. William says:

    Hi Marianne

    I’m 34 years old and was finally diagnosed with same condition as yourself just over a year ago – after years of chronic pain which I had put down to weight training.

    Through researching this condition online, I discovered that there’s a strong link between the overgrowth a certain bacteria in the stomach called klebsiella and the condition known as leaky gut. The klebsiella feeds on undigested starch therefore, the less starch you eat, the lower the levels of klebsiella and hence a reduction in the inflammatory response. For further reading, I’d strongly urge you to check out the forum ‘Kick AS’ which provides the the whole background to the dietary approach. Hundreds of people all over the world have enjoyed great success with it.

    I’ve now managed to get off my pain killer meds by simply controlling the amount of starch I eat, mainly wheat/bread etc and by replacing white potatoes for sweet potatoes.

    Hope you find this to be of some help.

    William.

    • Marianne says:

      Thanks William. I remember reading this information back when things were really bad and I rarely eat bread or other starches anymore. I usually just eat root veges for my carbs.

      I agree that it make a big difference. When my diet is “bad”, my pain gets worse!

      I hope that you have continued with your weight training, now you know that was not the cause ? 🙂

      • William says:

        I’ve just managed to get back into weight training properly last October as my pain had finally subsided enough. Prior to this, i had given it up completely for about a year or so as I was just too sore and stiff.

        Occasionaly I have to forego squats – for example – due to rib pain, but I’m certainly feeling a lot better now thanks to the diet. Gaining muscle seems to be quite a struggle though, due to the low carbs, regardless of how many calories I seem to consume.

        But anyway, keep up the good work. It’s great to see someone fight back against this cursed condition the way you have.

        William.

  6. Christine says:

    Marianne, you are just amazing! Thank you for sharing your story. This really gives me a point of reference for my pathetic whining when I am feeling lazy about training. Hugs to you and all you do!

  7. neowild says:

    Hi Marianne,

    Recently I was looking for videos of kettlebell workouts and found many of yours–which prompted me to check out your site. You do an awesome job. Your videos project a humble honesty which make me root for you as you power through them. Though, I have yet to gain the stamina to power through them myself.

    Perhaps you have already heard about the Paleo diet–it’s noted as anti-inflammitory. I recently saw a video (link below) of a doctor who spoke about her reversal of her MS symptoms using a paleo diet. Considering your “dark passenger” (an autoimmune problem), I thought you might be interested.

    TEDxIowaCity – Dr. Terry Wahls – Minding Your Mitochondria
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc

  8. Jennifer says:

    Hi Marianne,

    Thank you for writing this! I think it’s great that you open up and let all of us (mostly strangers) into your life; it doesn’t make us pity you–or think that you’re asking for sympathy–but only makes us admire you more. We all have a dark horse and it’s up to us how we choose to deal with it. Mine isn’t chronic pain, but I do have pretty severe chronic asthma and excema. I grew up not wanting to exercise (I didn’t play any sports even though all my friends did)because too much activity would leave me gasping for air and any sweat would make me very itchy and rashy. NOT a good look, I assure you. 😉 But I always wanted to be that fit, athletic, STRONG woman and thanks to better medications available now, I am. After years and years of feeling weak and vulneralbe, nothing feels as good to me now as being strong does. I ran my first mile ever in my life 2 years ago and even though I know I’ll never run anything more than a 5k, I’m good with that. There are lots of other badass things I can do instead.:)
    Also, I think those of us who have lived with chronic conditions are lucky in some way. We aren’t as easy to judge others. We know what it’s like to come from the back row, back where people didn’t expect too much from you. We have empathy for others and we don’t take our success for granted. All good things.
    Keep up the great work here, I love coming to your site for my workouts! I’m almost to the point where I can do exactly what you do, without having to scale to my own ability. Whoop! Here’s to stong women. . .cheers!

    • Marianne says:

      Thanks Jennifer, I find your story very inspiring! You have overcome this and totally turned your life around from childhood!

      I agree that people living with some sort of chronic conditions being more understanding in many ways, but it also lets us be more encouraging and able to push others, because that is something they need to start to see what they truly CAN DO, instead of always feeling the things they cannot.

      Thanks you 🙂

  9. Squirrel says:

    Wow, all of you are so inspiring, all these stories of pushing through!!!
    My dark passenger is migraine. And it’s always frightening, both the attack and the medication (forget about aspirin or adwell… I’m on triptane since last year).
    Let’s all push through our pain and be strong! 🙂

    • Marianne says:

      Thanks for sharing your story too. I have had only a few migraines in my life and they were enough! OMG, just awful! Glad yours are under better control 🙂

  10. Mathias says:

    Hi Marianne,

    your articles and videos have motivated me so many times, I’m looking at your website and Youtube videos already 6 months. My English skills are very bad I did not realize that sometimes you can not train because of your pain.

    After your article today I was very sad
    I’m just a man – Hard on the edges, soft inside!

    The important thing is that even after a break continues and not giving up.
    You are helping many people determined to make your experience and reports, please keep it:)

    Many greetings from Germany
    Mathias

  11. gryer says:

    I forget what you have to deal with on a personal level: you are so good at looking so strong, I think none of us realize the effort it takes.

    When my Dad was dying, I asked about his pain and on a scale of 1 to 10 he said it was a 2. I said, that’s nothing, but he reminded me that at was relentless, so I reconsidered.

    Then I did something to myself about a year ago and got sciatica- like pain, but just in the hip. AT times it was a piercing pain that was almost incapacitating, but most of the time it varied form annoying to just slightly restricting. I could not do the dreaded Stand-Kneel-Stands or TGUs on the right because of the pain.

    I did tons of therapy and nothing was helping. I changed my pillow after seeing a post on MobilityWOD and my chronic shoulder pain went away almost instantly. Finally, I went back to my Peter Egoscue ‘Pain Free’ book and I have been doing an hour of passive stretches every day for the past 6 weeks. The pain is almost gone! Not always, but mostly. Egoscue’s theory is that we are out of balance (one hip higher or one shoulder forwards of the other) so all of his e-sizes involve staying in a position for a long time so that the joints get realigned. He claims almost miraculous and immediate success at his clinic. I am not complaining that my pain is almost gone after 6 weeks, considering I had it the almost a year and envisioned it being permanent.

    Honestly, I have never lent the book to anyone who did not get some benefit form it, so anyone here who is in chronic pain, at least give the book a try — I am sure its in libraries. There are also sone youtube videos that explain some of the very simple positions and I have explained them in more detail on my diary thread on the forum.

    I am always reminded that no matter how rotten my life might appear, there is ALWAYS someone who has it tougher and is probably handling it better.

    Marianne, you just make it look too easy, so we forget your history. You have a great lesson in the power of perseverance and in the benefits of getting and staying in shape. Not to mention humility! We have here an original Badass and member of the International Girls Gone Strong contingent and she’s generous enough to share all her expertise with us!

    We are so lucky to have you!

    Thanks for all you do.

    ~ Gillian

    • Marianne says:

      Thank you for this Gillian! I might look into that book myself. I may may it look easy but it’s because mostly I have learned to live with it during exercise. It’s in everyday activities I still struggle to accept it. Like simply getting in and out of bed sometimes! Anyway, there’s not much more I can do to help it right now, so no pint in stressing about it 🙂

      When I wrote this article I was thinking not only about my own “Dark Passenger” but yours and a women I work with. It was realising that we all have these struggles to overcome!

      Thanks Gillian 🙂

  12. Salina KS Personal Training Fitness Fat Loss Sports Performance Favorites says:

    […] My “Dark Passenger” – A Life With Chronic Pain – Marianne Kane […]

  13. RoriMegan says:

    I really love the community that is here and how comfortable everyone feels to share their stories.

    A few reasons exercise helps relieve aches, pains, depression, and promotes healing:

    1. Movement of muscles stimulates blood flow to and from the muscles replenishing nourishment, removing toxins and promoting healing.

    2. Movement of bones helps to lubricate the joint surfaces and keep them healthy.

    3. Exercise in general increases the release of endogenous opiods…(that is: human body produced happy drugs!)and can last up to 24 hours in the blood stream. Think of what they call the “runner’s high” it’s not just from running, it’s from all types of exercise.

    Health and wellness promotion does not just include healthy eating habits and avoiding activities that are bad for you but all health and wellness programs include exercise as a fundamental component. For the sickest of sick, simply sitting up or moving their arms is enough “exercise” to induce feelings of hope, happiness and getting better.

    You’re all so wonderful. Be well.

  14. R. D. Nair says:

    Thanks for the post – very inspirational.

  15. Martin says:

    Hi Marianne

    Great inspiring post now while I dont suffer from chronic pain I have lost count of how often I pull muscles in my upper back. It knocks me back for a week or so nothing too serious just annoying. I’ve been using a gym ball and stretching exercises on different days to help with this and while it does seem to help I still manage to do my upper back. I was wondering did you ever use the Rumble Roller as part of your therapy or conditioning, I was thinking of investing in one. P.S. fantastic website.

  16. Mickela says:

    I am very touched by this article as well as all the comments. It is so refreshing to visit your site and not be bombarded with superficial mumbo jumbo.

    My input here is that exercise has kept me from becoming chronically depressed, which is another type of pain that is pretty debilitating.

    I find that my mind is so much more able to deal with stress when I am fit, if I stop I sometimes can feel the negative thoughts and feelings of despair surging back.
    exercise is so important, it is such a healer.

    I hope we can all keep supporting each other regardless of the type of pain we endure.
    stay strong.

    • Marianne says:

      Thanks for highlighting that there are many types of “pain” we must live with. Trying to outdo depression can be even more challenging.

      Cheers Mickela 🙂

  17. RoriMegan says:

    Hi Marianne,

    This post (and all your posts) is very inspiring. It reminds us that everyone has something they are over coming. The way people handle the stresses of a physical, emotional or other sort of disorder is very different. I LOVE the biggest loser (season premier last night) and they are excellent examples of excuses and barriers and taking control of the cards you are dealt.

    I too suffered from chronic migraines and joint pain from the age of 12 to 18 at which point I was finally diagnosed with Erlichiosis. A tick borne disease very similar to Lyme. I went undiagnosed for 5 years and then was treated pretty aggressively and it has been cleared from my system. But at the age of 24, my joints, ligaments and cartilage are still damaged from 5 years of no treatment. I danced my whole life regardless of the pain, it kept me sane and was an emotional and physical relief from all the pain. In college I decided to take on my first triathlon to prove to myself that this would never get in my way. I later competed for my University and went to Collegiate Nationals for Triathlon and continue to pursue a carrier to help individuals just like me, you and those on the Biggest Loser. I work as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor now and, will graduate with my doctorate in Physical Therapy in May and love teaching and helping people to take control over their bodies.

    Thank you for being such an inspiration!

  18. Anastasia2012 says:

    Oops, I just saw my published post and want to apologize for my typos. I am writing from an ipad and it’s a pain.

  19. Anastasia2012 says:

    Thank-you for sharing this. I came across this site while searching the web for information about arthritis and exercise. I am 36 and an avid crossfitter and former kickboxer. Unfortunately for me, about seven months ago I started experiencing unbearable low back and leg pain and cramps at night. I have been doing physical therapy for sacroiliac joint disfunction for three months now and my pain has improved a little with daily stretching exercises, but it has not disappeared. It really sucks, because I had to scale down my workouts, and some days The pain prevents me to go to the gym.
    Seeing you in such great shape and working out so hard, albeit you condition, really gives me hope that one day I will be able to manage my pain.
    In the meantime, having ditched box jumps and heavy squats, I will do your workouts to keep some strength and flexibility.
    Thanks for doing this 🙂

    • Marianne says:

      SI Pain is the worst! Mine really affects my training at times, with back squats, sumo deadlifts and definitely some of the jumping. Of course I still do these things (when I am not sore), but when I am, I have to just work around it and it sucks having to leave them out! I can totally identify with you 🙂 And I hope your pain continues to improve.

  20. Alan says:

    Hi Marianne

    Just some encouragement to you to keep up the good work. I guess you don’t get too many guys on your website, but can I say that since discovering your site I am inspired to train smarter and harder . . .

    Great job . . and good luck

    • Marianne says:

      Thanks Alan! You’d be surprised at the amount of other who find inspiration here – so you are far from alone 🙂

      Thank you for your kind comment. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  21. Beata says:

    Thank you for sharing, it´s inspiring! I was only four years old when I got juvenile RA. I can´t remember life without it but this past year is almost like being completely healthy. I´ve had one flare up, for ONE week (record short!), I hardly need any medication at all, I feel great. It´s safe to say that it´s almost completely inactive right now. What am I doing different? I´m working out. Harder than I ever thought possible. I´m never going back.

    As you say – it might be an odd unplanned day off from time to time, it might keep us from reaching strength goals as fast as other but who cares, really. It could be much, much worse.

    Keep up the good work!

  22. Cita H. says:

    Thanx for sharing that marianne…the more you share your stories…the more I realize..cant judge a book by it’s cover!! And you right…..what dont kill you only makes you stronger!!! You know, my mom has the same condition as you do…I think…and it’s gotta be hard living with that pain and not being able to sleep @ night, she constantly complains about that. I’ll make sure to mention to her what you’re taking. I’m very blessed that I’m pretty healthy…..I will use your story as motivation to push harder. That’s actually my resolution……”go hard or go HOME” with every part of my life.

    Many blessings in 2012

    • Marianne says:

      What if you’re already at home? 😉 J/K

      Do mention to your mum about the Anti-TNF Therapy – it really has made my life so much easier!

      Thanks Cita 🙂

  23. Kim says:

    Marianne,
    It’s great reading these posts as I have had my health issues as well. Traumatic arthritis has attacked my joints after years of combat sports (kickboxing, judo). I have had 10 ortho surgeries that have left me with screws in both shoulders, reconstructed knees, transposed elbow nerve and a fused right wrist. The worst is displaced lumbar in my spine. I had almost lost all flexibility in my shoulders and back before deciding that proper exercise was actually beneficial and not harmful. I won’t take painkillers because of the side effects, but I will soak in the hot tub when the pain is too great. It is interesting and inspiring to learn how others continue to exercise and manage pain. Bless you all!

  24. Shana says:

    We all have dark passengers. Your honestly here is appreciated and others, including me, can grow from hearing your story.
    Sometimes our dark passenger comes out on a daily basis, and sometimes less frequently. But you are right, the key is to use our dark passenger to propel us forward–in a positive direction.
    Just as our muscles grow stronger by challenging them–as humans we grow stronger (and wiser:) through challenge.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  25. Raylene says:

    Thank you Marianne! Reading this morning was just the kick in the arse I have been needing for months. I am fortunate not to have to deal with such medical problems, so I found your article this morning very inspirational.

    • Marianne says:

      Well, you could look at whatever has stopped you for months as your “Dark Passenger”. We each have our inner struggles too and it’s challenging to get started. Good for you, glad this helped you 🙂

  26. Adam says:

    My “Dark Passenger” – A Life With Chronic Pain!

    I’ve been married for 17 years, does that count?

    Adam

  27. Fa Castillo says:

    Marianne,

    Thank you so mucho for writting this. I have been living with pain for the last 7 years and I do not know why. I visited different doctors but they couldn’t help me at all. Reading your history make me feel hope and I will ask for help again. Sometimes I think that my neck and shoulders will hurt forever and I just want to know why. Thank you so much.

    • Marianne says:

      I’m sorry for your pain Fa. It took Doctors here 3 years of me constantly coming to complain about my pain and telling them it wasn’t just “nothing” to get properly investigated. But that is typical of the National Health Service and of the treatment of back pain. They just send you away with anti-inflammatory tablets and think that’s all you need.

      Sometimes pain cannot be explained, which is more frustrating. That’s when it becomes a battle inside, to learn to accept that you will never know. I hope you find out what is causing this and that you get treatment 🙂

  28. Lori says:

    Hi Maryanne,
    I have not posted on the site in awhile but still continue to follow your amazing workouts. Thank you for writing this post and sharing this with all of us. I can completely relate. I have been living with chronic pain now for over 7 years. My pain is called Trigeminal Neuropathic Pain. Usually when I say this to someone they look at me like I have two heads. I think partly because they have never heard of it before and also because I train as well and am in shape. I don’t look like I am in pain. Invisible illnesses can be so challenging. My pain is on my right side of my face. I have a constant, burning, deep ache in my teeth, gums, and face on that side. My pain ranges in intensity day to day. But never lets up. The only time I am pain free is when I am sleeping. The medication I am on to help control my pain also makes me tired and not want to work out some days. But like you, I am not going to let this pain defeat me!!! There are times I just want to give up but I look at my son who is 3 and see things so differently through his eyes and know that he needs me as much as I need him. I also don’t want a pity party and rarely tell people about my pain. I also, think that people may not believe me because I look so healthy. Anyways, I am so glad you shared your story with us. It is nice to know that you are not the only one with struggles in your life. It is just how you handle those struggles and hurdles that really matter. Sometimes, struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we were to go through our life without any obstacles, we would be crippled. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. Give every opportunity a chance, leave no room for regrets.

    Lori

    • Marianne says:

      Lori that sounds awful! But good for you and your determination and strength in living with it. I think that people can endure so much more that they think is possible. When we surpass expectations, from others and ourselves, we are stronger for it. This applies to every aspect of life!

      Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

  29. Valerie says:

    I needed this more than you know!
    I have chronic fatigue syndrome & chronic pain & even though I’ve had it for 3 yrs, I feel like I don’t know a lot yet.
    I’ve been feeling like my exercising will never be what I hope for.
    Thank you for giving me HOPE!

    • Marianne says:

      Oh Valerie, there is certainly hope 🙂 It takes time and a lot of energy to accept this sort of thing and learn to live with it. See it as a driving force rather than a ball and chain; let it make you more determined. Make the most of your “good” days and your “bad” days will affect you less. It’s not always as clear cut as that for me, but overall, that’s how I’ve done it. I never want to be beaten!

      Please know that you are not alone x

  30. Ann says:

    I feel your frustration with the fact that, “People assume I’m fine because I train.” When we have a condition that is not visible to others (I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis), we look and act like we are fine. People have no idea what we are actually feeling. That’s kind of the way I want it; but, it feeds into their perception that we are not in any pain or having any issues. I have had to change everything in my life since my diagnosis in order to be healthy and continue to work – I’ve changed what I eat, drink, how I work, how I train, sleep patterns, etc). We make it look easy; but, it’s not. Wellness is a full time effort for those with chronic health conditions who want to function optimally! Know that you are not alone, and others do understand. Thanks for sharing 😉

    • Marianne says:

      Ann, you have had to do so much! At least I didn’t have to overhaul my whole life. I think the perception that people who live with health problems shouldn’t train NEEDS to change. Far too many people think their life is over after a diagnosis. Yet exercise can really help! Plus the other side of the coin too when people just assume because you train, you are 100% healthy.

      Thanks for sharing 🙂

  31. Helki Rogers says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I too struggle with inflammatory arthritis and still training for strength. My rheumatologist has not been able to narrow it down to RA or Lupus, but I am trying my first round of plaquenil.

    It’s wonderful to read a post about people working with strength training around their disease symptoms. I look of these types of posts a lot on my bad days to help motivate me. Thank you again!

    -Helki

    • Marianne says:

      Well, Helki, whatever it is you are stronger for it – both body and mind!

      I don’t know how I would be if I never started training. It was a God-send that I started! I am sure you feel the same. It makes you feel like you are winning the battle, pain or not – you can always do something 🙂

      Thanks and good luck with the new meds. Is that also Anti-TNF?

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