Pushing Through the Pain

By Megan Reilly

Have you ever hurt yourself, then ignored the pain and told yourself you were fine, only to realize you actually made it worse? That was the first week of post-grad school life for me. I was excited to dive into my work on a new level and really focus on setting and accomplishing goals. I had just had a great weekend celebrating with my mom and little brother from California, my boyfriend, and my friends, and I could not have felt more mentally and emotionally healthy and strong and ready to tackle anything.

The small problem was that my body was not ready to tackle anything with that new energy. You see, this was my mom's first visit to see me in DC, so I worked extra hard to get my home ready for her. This included moving some new bookcases up two flights of stairs (still in those obnoxiously heavy IKEA boxes). Long story short, I threw out my lower back lifting the box wrong and then immediately decided it was nothing. Despite the increasing lower back pain. Despite the shooting pain down my legs. Despite the unexplained pain in both hips whenever I moved.

So instead of conquering the world or even just knocking some things off my goal sheet and to-do list in my energized first week of work after graduating, I took some sick leave, wound up at a physical therapist twice, and even had to work from home for the first time.

I know we endlessly preach self-care and I've been scolded plenty by everyone from my doctor to my boss, but I honestly can say that I wasn't neglecting my health -- I really just didn't notice how much pain my body was in. That sounds strange, but I really believe in a mix of adrenaline, excitement, pre-graduation jitters, and maybe a little denial that I just completely missed the signs.

Now that I'm slowly recovering and trying to get work done without overdoing it, I realize more than ever the importance of self-care, listening to the signals your body is sending, and maybe accepting that full-speed ahead isn't always the best pace of work.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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