Each year at this time, I try to find something from the past year to write about that will be inspiring to my readers. It is always my hope that the readers will take upon themselves something to enhance their health in the coming year.
One of the definitions of the word “inspire” is to influence or impel. I hope that the following story will truly inspire you to put some hard work and effort into your health and wellbeing in order to better your life. In the 2 months I worked with Shlomo, I received a lot of encouragement, too.
The phone call
It was a little less than a year ago that I received a phone call from someone in central Israel. She proceeded to tell me the plight of her son and inquired to see if I could be of any help. Her son’s story is complicated, but unfortunately, it isn’t as uncommon as it once was.
Shlomo was just a regular guy. He went through the regular Chareidi school system. Although not easy for him, he got through to Yeshiva and eventually he married and moved into the workplace. One thing that Shlomo was very talented in was working with Yeshiva-age boys who weren’t fitting in. So he worked in a program to help these boys succeed in life. Shlomo and his wife had children and their family lived a very normal existence. Shlomo was especially close with his kids.
One morning a little less than two years ago, something happened that greatly changed Shlomo’s life. It set off a chain of events that led to great adversity. Shlomo woke up one morning with terrible pain all over his body. Responsibly, he made an appointment with his doctor. The physician could not find any obvious cause of the pain but ordered a battery of tests. When those tests came back negative, he was sent on to several different specialists. In the end, he was given a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
“Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event.”
[In a future article, I hope to explain how fibromyalgia can be treated through very specific exercise, and some dietetic changes can greatly enhance the quality of life of those suffering from what can be a very debilitating disease.]
Trying to handle physical and emotional pain
The first thing the doctors tried to do for Shlomo was to manage his pain. Week after week, they tried different medications all to no avail. Shlomo’s life had become misery. Aside from his physical pain, as so often happens, his inability to function began to bring on anxiety (what’s wrong with me?) and then depression. So now Shlomo was suffering not only a physical malady but psychological ones as well.
Shlomo became desperate in his search to return to normal living. One of the doctors suggested he apply to the health ministry for permission to use medical marijuana to give him relief from his pain. Unfortunately for Shlomo and his family, until recently, only terminal patients were able to get fast-tracked to get a prescription for medical cannabis so he waited, and waited and waited. But the bureaucracy involved in the health ministry was causing this wait to take longer than Shlomo could bear.
A desperate situation
In an act of desperation, he listened to some bad advice from someone and purchased cannabis illegally and from an unregulated and unlicensed source. So now, he was taking cannabis for his pains and discomforts but with no particular regulated dosage or monitoring. And now his life would head in an even worse direction.
As his anxiety and depression worsened, it effected his relationships within his family. His wife, not knowing what to do, called the authorities and Shlomo, unfortunately was taken out of the house. Ultimately, the courts along with a social worker decided that Shlomo should stay away from his home. He was finally placed in a half-way house and was forbidden from using marijuana at all. Shlomo went clean and stayed that way, but his pain and agony, anxiety and depression continued unabated.
Working together to improve
Finally, a meeting was set up between myself and Shlomo. As the court had ruled that he was not permitted to go anywhere unaccompanied, he came to see me with his escort.
In our first meeting, I found someone very down but very desperate to put his life back together. Part of his anxiety was the unknown. Was the court going to let him go home? Would they ultimately send him to a program populated with non-religious people? What would tomorrow bring?
I worked out a schedule with Shlomo’s mother for a combination of exercise sessions and life coaching sessions. I was asked to write a series of letters to the authorities and the court concerning our plans and my qualifications. Not too long after, Shlomo started working with me.
We started exercising and talking and both were of great value. His ability to exercise was very limited from having been sedentary most of his life, and from weight gain and pain. I created a program for him where his aerobic bouts were no more than 6-7 minutes at a time with moderate speed and low resistance on the recumbent bike. We did some limited resistance training including modified push-ups, some abs and light weights. We spent time on stretching which is extremely important for someone with fibromyalgia.
In part 2 of this article, we will follow Shlomo’s determined journey to recovery and toward resumption of normal life.