How to Stand Up When You’re Down


Oh no, it happened again! My back gave out. It’s the first time this year, and it always comes at the most inconvenient of times.

Last year it happened three times, all within similar scenarios. There is a list of six possibilities that cause back failure and only three that need to be present for it to occur.

They are:

  1.      Bearing too much weight on my back
  2.      Constant irritation of nerves in my back
  3.      Too much activity
  4.      Enduring too much vibrations
  5.      Being in the state of exhaustion
  6.      Lacking fuel to stimulate nerve conductance

The first time it happened out of the hospital I took about 2 months to recover, the second took 1 month, and the third took 2 weeks. I feel my progress is getting much better, because this time it took about a week to become stable, however, I still had to spend the following week relearning to walk.

Nerve failure consumes me. This time it was after freestyling and backstroking with my legs for the first time, intense hiking, sleep deprivation, another hike the following day, and then giving a tour, complemented with a vegetarian meal and a bouncing bag on my back. This was the tip of the iceberg. I should have read the signs, because when it rains, it pours.

The pain in my back started increasing, then grasping down my leg with its claws. I needed to get home immediately. My left leg started to buckle. I became weaker and it became harder and harder to move. I made a call, hopped on a car, and then dragged myself into bed. I spent that week resting in bed until I was stable enough to move again.

Trying to get back on my feet was shaky. I had to grab on to handholds for support, and start with baby steps. I would take a few steps, rest, and then try again. It was so tiring, because my nerves weren’t communicating properly, and I couldn’t really fuel myself either. The pain in my back just sucked away my appetite.


As the pain subsided the following week, I forced myself to shovel a bit of food in and improve on the distance I was walking. With enough persistence, eventually it picked up. I was well enough to go out again.

I went out to a dinner not knowing one of the mouths joining me for dinner was sick. We sat down across from each other at the dinner table and he generously released a whole entrée of coughs in my direction.

We all know that the immune system protects us from getting sick. However, an addition I only learnt through this experience, was that the immune system can only protect us when they detect and respond to cell changes and neural connectivity, stated from the book Critical Reviews in Immunology.

This means that if we over exercise and tax our bodies, we can’t protect ourselves or recover from sickness as easily. Hence being weak, I got sick within a few hours. I spent the next week trying to sleep it off.


Right before this all happened I attended a meditation lecture given by a doctor-converted monk, to honorary lama. I went in hopes to learn about secrets to healing and pain management, so after his talk I asked him, “ What’s the secret to healing in meditation?” I explained that I meditated in the morning, during rehab and before sleeping. “ What should I be doing to further improve?”

“ Well what you’re doing is right. Don’t change.” He said.

“ Huh? That’s it?”

“ It’s working, so you should keep at it.”

“ Okay, I have one more question. What is the secret to pain management?”

“ Well, I’ve worked with a lot of cancer patients who are successful…” He did rabbit ears quotation with his fingers, “ and even though they are recovered, the pain is there. It might be less, or it might be gone if you’re lucky, but for most, there is pain. The importance is not to label it as pain.”

“ Don’t say the word pain?”

“ No more, so we don’t allow it to associate. Then go through the experience, because each experience in our lives is different.”


Lying in bed a week and weak, I couldn’t do anything. The pain in my head and back was growing. To sleep was unpleasant, but at the same time it was worst to be awake. I tried to go through the experience, but I felt helpless, I just wanted time to pass. The only thing I could do was to meditate. I tried disengaging my brain in hopes to alleviate pressure. It worked a bit, yet the pain was still present.

I laid in bed until I finally woke up from the worst 2-day sleep I’ve ever had. The pain was unbearable, and since I couldn’t take it any more, I knew I needed medical help. So I dragged my way to the doctor’s office. He said, “It normally takes 3-4 days to contract something, so you must be really weak. I’ve given you some medicine, see how you do with that and come see me again if you’re not better.” I have never encouraged pills, but there’s a time and place for everything. So I took the 7 medicines that was prescribed to me.

Those medication sucked all the life out of me and it even sucked all my motivation. I had no interest in anything; I just felt dull and didn’t want to move.

I slept another week and then finally recovered from the sickness. I was sore from the pain, but realise with a little voice in my head, that I had to kick myself back into gear and not allow this darkness to defeat me. So I took in some food and started analysing how to win the game.

So what should I do to prevent this from occurring again?

  1.      Travel as light as possible
  2.      Rest my back as often as possible
  3.      Rest every 2 hours, and if I have to go on an activity that requires more than 2 hours to complete, I am to rest the complete next day
  4.      Travel in intervals and take rests in between
  5.      Go to bed earlier, and wake up when rested
  6.      Eat the right fuel every 2 hours

After it stabilised, and with much hard work I set up a routine for myself. I pushed myself to pursue my former passions, and started to get social again. I even started speaking more after keeping my mouth close for a month’s isolation. It was time to feast, to rehab and work. It was time to get motivated.

I learnt that if something works, keep at it, and if it doesn’t, make a plan and change.

I’m now beaming with a shine, happy and ready for life as always.

What is your plan to kickback into gear?


6 thoughts on “How to Stand Up When You’re Down

  1. I am really glad to hear that you recovered from this “experience”. It has been a hard time from what you’ve described. Keep up the hard-work and persistence and stick to your routine! 🙂

    • Thank you so much for the kind words. I’m still on the mend, feel a degree of pain, but live along side it, instead of letting it rule me. Thank you for much for the support 🙂

    • Thanks very much 🙂 I believe this is applicable to everyone. We don’t really know the side of bountiful health, and usually push ourselves when we are just breaking evens. A balance in life is much needed to be able to live a full awesome life.

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