2022 did not start the way I was hoping it would. I came into the year very optimistic and ready to concur goals I had set for myself physically. While I've always enjoyed working out, with the pandemic and working from home and I soon myself loving it even more. I got back into running and strength training and by January 2022 I was in the best shape I had ever been in. I was ready for the long hikes I had planned throughout the year and I was even going to run a few half marathons. Then in February my left hip started to annoy me. While it didn't hurt very much, I wanted to know what was going on and why it was bothering me. I didn't make much sense to me that I had my full strength and mobility and that it only hurt me from time to time. I started watching YouTube videos on how to strengthen various muscles - maybe my glutes aren't firing, maybe I need to activate my quads more, maybe I need to do more band work to get all those little muscles stronger, maybe I had torn my labrum (oh no!). I didn't know it then but I clearly see it now - I obsess over things. I wasn't going to stop until I knew what was wrong or until it stopped annoying me. After a few weeks it was still an annoyance but it wasn't all that bad. Then one night it woke me up in the middle of the night and I decided to go to my doctor. Later that afternoon (March 11) the results of the x-ray come back and I learn that I have mild osteoarthritis. Osteo what? I had no idea what any of that meant so I went to my friend who knows everything, Google. And this is where it started to go bad. I learned that there is no cure for osteoarthritis and almost everything I read talked about pain, chronic pain, limited mobility, pain, pain, pain, and finally joint replacement. I was devastated to know that there wasn't an exercise plan I could follow to get past this. My doctor never even called me in to educate me on the topic, she simply referred me to physical therapy. Physical therapy consisted of one session where she gave me some info on proper running form and exercises I could do to help my form. Within a few weeks I started to notice that I was feeling different. The constant Googling and reading about join replacements didn't help (did I mention I like to obsess over things?). By mid April I was a wreck. I woke up one morning and it was like a switch had flipped. Everything was starting to hurt: knees, elbows, shoulders, ankles, neck, back. In addition to that I just felt different. It's hard to explain but it was like I had an electric current flowing through me. I had no idea what was going on and I was terrified. I made an appointment to see my doctor again and she could clearly she I was not doing well. While I was in pain I was still able to do everything I could before so she didn't seem too concerned. She said it was most likely stress and anxiety and that I had put my body on high alert. She recommend that I try and relax, take a few Asprin as needed, and suggested I see a therapist if this was bothering me this much. This did nothing to help my worrying and it continued to get worse each week. Pretty soon everything was hurting daily and then I started to feel tightness in a lot of my joints and they would randomly ache while sitting at my computer working. Along with the pain, my joints started making more noise. My knees, which I never had any problem with before, were all of a sudden snapping and cracking (very loudly). My elbow then decided to join the party and after a while the ankles and shoulders did to. The joint cracking was fuel for the fire - "why would my joints be making all this noise if nothing was wrong!?! I' tried to tell everyone but no one listened!?" With my luck, I was going to be that 34 year old who went from healthy to widespread osteoarthritis in the matter of a few months. It was late May when some good finally started to happen. I always take the day off of work for my birthday and start to prep my veggie garden. I love listening to podcasts and me being me, I decided I might as well listen to one on chronic pain since I'll be dealing with that one day for my hip. I hit play on the first episode of Tell Me About Your Pain and never stopped listening. I binged all the episodes that day. I could relate to how these people were feeling and a lot of what they talked about was relevant to my situation. It was the first glimmer of hope that I had in over three months. That started my journey in learning about neuroplastic pain. June – August was full of ups and downs. While I had learned about neuroplastic pain I hadn’t completely bought into it. I believed it was possible that It could be relevant to me but I wasn’t sure it was what I was experiencing – I’m not lucky enough for it be neuroplastic, something has to be wrong with me. There were some good days and some bad days and I tried my best to not worry and react to the feelings I was having. That is much easier said then done, especially when it can be daily and constant. Even on my “good days” it was still something I was thinking about and monitoring. I was still waiting for things to happen and expecting a joint to snap or pop at certain times – like reaching for my coffee in the morning – elbow goes POP! In late August I finally noticed things were starting to improve. The constant tightness/sensations/burning in multiple joints wasn’t as constant as it had been. My anxiety levels were also starting to improve as I wasn’t so doom and gloom about everything. I was doing much better and noticing the sensations/noises and just letting them be. I slowly started to get back into my workout/running routine to show myself that I can get back to being as active as I was. That was helpful and I was improving but then I found my worry/anxiety started moving into “is this how I’m going to feel the rest of my life? Low levels of widespread pain everyday?” After I had noticed that thinking I decided I needed to take it day-by-day. During September things started to really improve. I noticed my pain levels were much lower and happening less often. I even had some days where I’d say I was pain free. That really helped me start feeling better about everything. And now, here we are at the end of October. I’m doing much better than I was and I my attitude has changed for the better. I’m still experiencing some pain most days but the levels are low – like a 1 or 2. My joints are also still noisy and that’s the main thing I’m working on now as I try not to react to that. The pain and the joint noise are more of an annoyance now and I’m doing my best to try and just let them be and to not scare myself. I’ve also noticed that most of the joint sensations occur in the areas around the joint – it feels like those areas just randomly tighten up and burn. As I’m sitting here writing this, I can feel sensations/burning in my right knee and the areas around it. This past week has been an interesting one as the widespread sensations have really come back. The pain levels have been quite low but I’ve noticed at times, when relaxing and doing somatic tracking, that the pain/sensations are moving a lot. The other night I was doing somatic tracking and just watched as the sensation moved from my shoulder, to my knee, to my ankle, and then to my elbow. As it moved there would be quick bursts of low pain that came with it. This helped me see that it is most likely neuroplastic so I just keep trying to wrangle in any fear I have and to just be indifferent about what’s going on. There are also times where I don’t have any pain but I have little spasms in the areas that would normally experience pain. It’s all so strange and surreal to me – so much can change in 10 months. I’ve also noticed that there are times when I can feel that something is going is happen. It’s very hard to explain but I notice my body feels different and that’s when the sensations/pain is most prevalent. At first it would correlate with my stress levels but now it just seems to happen whenever it wants. I’m now seeing a therapist who specializes in chronic pain and that’s going well. It’s really helped me to see that I am quite anxious and never knew it. We’ve also started to get into my childhood and it turns out I’ve held in a lot of emotions and I’m still not great at expressing myself. I had a pretty tough childhood (8 out of 10 on the ACES questionnaire) and I’m now seeing all of the defense mechanisms I’ve built up over the years. It’s been a very interesting time and I’m looking forward to better understanding myself. I have my annual check up with my primary doctor next week. I think that has given me some anxiety has I’m not sure how I’ll explain myself when she says “so, how’s it been going.” I’m also curious to see what she has to say about the whole situation. And now here we are. In addition to my therapy, I thought I’d give this educational program a try. I like having the structure and the daily activities so I’m looking forward to starting this journey.