Hi, I'm Dr. Sabrina Nichole Crouch, host of the podcast "F*ck Being Stuck". I was inspired by my own journey to healing chronic pain using meditation. This podcast spotlights the unrelenting women who went from managing to mastering their health challenges, and the badass alternative practitioners who are changing the way we heal.
I’m excited you’re joining me today. Today’s episode is all about my journey from managing to mastering a chronic pain condition. My first book was called Surrendering to Rainbows: The Art and Science of Quieting the Noise of Chronic Pain.
When I started out on my journey to managing chronic pain, it was all about me finding relief. But as my journey unfolded, I gained unexpected clarity. I believe it only takes one person to take a chance and have a breakthrough for others to see possibility, and I hope I can be that person for you.
So my surrender was all about me abandoning everything I knew about myself. It wasn’t about giving up, but about me letting go of patterns that no longer serve me.
It was about me learning to dig deep and lift that emotional weight that had been holding me down. When I was first diagnosed with cervical stenosis, I was fearful. I felt powerless. I felt restricted. And I was in a state of worry about how I would take care of myself.
I feared being dependent on others, and I saw myself as a caretaker.
So who takes care of the caretaker?
Although the doctors told me that it was mild, I just couldn’t imagine it being any worse.
The stenosis left me with nerve pain, neck pain, nerve sensations down my arm that felt like shockwaves that went down into my fingertips.
My fingertips were very hypersensitive to any touch. If anything brushed up against my hand, it felt like I was being cut with a knife. I was very sensitive to temperatures. If it was slightly chilly outside, my hand would be ice cold. And if it was warm, it would swell.
What was worse was the unpredictable lack of movement. There were mornings that I would wake up and my fingers wouldn’t move at all, and I would just stare at them.
It’s like I couldn’t get my brain to will my fingers to move. This was very scary for me. If I forced my fingers to move, it would feel like I was breaking them, and I’d be in excruciating pain.
Small, everyday tasks became a big deal. It left me feeling very frustrated. But despite all this, I found a way. And this pain gave me a new sense of purpose and a fire.
I can now say that this condition couldn’t have happened to a better person.
I want to share with you some of the things that I was willing to do to discover and uncover my true power. So, by profession, I’m a licensed psychologist with a degree in school clinical child psychology, and I’m an American Board of School Neuropsychology Diplomat.
I work in a school setting, and I also have a private practice.
I’ve always trusted doctors. When I have a medical concern, I automatically call the doctor.
I’ve always valued my doctor’s expertise and opinion, and they were always able to provide me with a course of action. I was able to recover, move on, and return back to normal, whatever that is, right?
But with this diagnosis, I was under the care of a pain management doctor. This was a total unfamiliar realm for me.
Basically, pain management really means that they don’t know what to do, and all they can do is try to help you manage.
At this point, the medicine that they’re providing is not about curing anything. I remember I kept wanting my body to be the same way that it used to be instead of accepting how it was.
But over time, I realized these weren’t my only options.
The medical doctors had done their part and followed their medical model. Now it was time for me to do mine. And that’s where it all started. As a psychologist, I was learning to dive into my own psyche.
As a helping professional, I want to show others the path based on the science. But then I want you to realize that there’s an art to healing, and that art takes heart and passion.
It’s the kind of heart that would indicate that you’re willing to take a risk and do things differently and believe in possibility.
Through this journey, I learned to create my own masterpiece. It’s like the difference between being tossed around by the waves and learning to float.
So in my search for answers, I looked at alternative methods. I looked at acupuncture, and I also consulted with a physical therapist and an emotional freedom technique practitioner.
I was looking for direction. But what I was led to was insight. It took a conversation with an Egyptian holistic healer to really set me on the right path to healing. He happened to be my guide on a trip to Egypt.
So when I had this condition, and I had exhausted all other resources, I decided I was going to call Alaa.
Alaa quickly asked me, “what’s the cause of your pain?”
When he didn’t like my answer as much, he said, “no, you’re not listening. What are you holding on to that you need to let go of?”
I just took a moment of silence because I didn’t know how to respond.
It felt like he just dropped the bomb. But as I reflected on it more, it was more like he was planting a seed. And unexpectedly, I would see the answer sprouting into light.
I went back to any resource that I knew of that was in alignment with his question. And there was a book that I had read a year prior called Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself.
Going back to that book then led me to four other books of Dr. Joe Dispenza. The one that really resonated with me was called Becoming Supernatural.
So I practiced the meditations that were outlined in the book on my own, and I really wasn’t sure if I was on the right track.
But after a few days, I discovered that I really was.
I would feel energy moving through my body. I felt like I was more relaxed, and things were starting to shift for me.
And so, a month before COVID shut New York down, I went to Bogota, Columbia, to an in-person, Dr. Joe Progressive Workshop. And I got confirmation.
One, I was on the right path, but also, two, I needed to push myself just a little bit further. So I learned some new meditations. One of them was called Tuning into New Potential.
He always talked about setting an intention and then attaching an elevated emotion to that. And that’s what I meditated on for about two weeks before my trip to Peru.
Now, the trip to Peru wasn’t supposed to be a solo trip. I was actually traveling with a friend, but at the airport, we discovered that she couldn’t board the flight.
The funny thing about meditating is that it helped me to adapt to this changing situation.
So I easily boarded the plane, but I was still a little uneasy about this hike that she had scheduled for us to do.
After some back and forth with the guide in Peru…I did the hike.
The hike started out in the dark. My first steps were guided by Alex and a beam from his flashlight.
We were the first two hikers on the path. The only other people that we passed along the way were the park rangers.
I remember posing for a picture lit by a flash, holding two walking sticks. And let me tell you, I’m not a hiker. I really thought we were just going for a walk.
I’ve been on some trails before, but nothing very strenuous and never an elevation of 15,000ft.
I quickly realized I wasn’t only dealing with the terrain, but also the air. I realized that my body didn’t move as fast as I wanted it to at that altitude.
Alex was so patient with me. He coached me along the way, and I knew right away that I had the right guide. But in essence, he was also like a spiritual guide.
As we walked, I could feel his connection and reverence and respect for the land of his birth. He was so familiar and comfortable with all the unexpected changes in temperature and terrain, and he knew what to do at the right times.
At times he was silent. Other times, he talked to me. And when he saw my frustration with the steep inclines, he said, “not like that, like this.”
Alex was so gentle. He guided me in this zigzag motion, and I just imitated his movements along the way. There was a dog, and the dog would walk ahead of me. He would stop. I’d catch up, and he’d continued the way up the mountain. The dog kind of reminded me of the patience and obedience of the process that I needed to embody to make it to the top of the mountain.
As the end of the hike neared, I realized I had to stop looking for Alex and the dog and this rainbow that I still hadn’t seen yet.
I thought back to my long distance cycling days. Slow and steady, focusing right in front of me, staying in the present moment.
I could hear Alex’s voice at a distance saying, “you’re almost there.” And with each step, his voice sounded closer. But I really wasn’t ready to look up until I took that last step, and I turned to see the rainbow colored mountain at 16,800ft.
I remember it was overcast, it was cloudy, and the colors weren’t really as vibrant as what I had seen in the pictures. But I couldn’t be disappointed, because in that moment, I felt a sense of freedom. I felt whole. I realized that I was the brightness on the mountain, and that what I was seeking was within me all along. I just had to surrender to it.
Alex, who was checking the time because I did have a flight to catch, says, “oh, I’ll give you a few minutes to meditate.” But that’s what I was doing the entire time.
The hike was the meditation. Each step of that 2 hour, 40 minute journey was a walk in meditation. Everything I learned, I had to put into practice without even being conscious of it.
The art of settling my body down, regulating my breathing, tuning into my heart. The feeling of the ground underneath my boots was meditating. The feeling of the wind blowing across my face, the chill in my hands, and the warmth from the sun was meditating.
Somehow along the way, I began to trust my body again. And in that time of reflection, I felt my heart expand.
The entire time that I was hiking, I didn’t have any pain. No neck pain, no shoulder pain, no sensations. My fingers were moving, and I felt so grateful. I felt this renewed love for life.
Those were the elevated emotions and the intentions that I had set in Bogota two weeks before. I realized the pairing of the elevated emotions with the intention was like a multiplier, and it was powerful. Those heavy emotions of fear and anger from the past couldn’t have led me to this place.
Although I started out on the journey with the goal to find relief from the pain, and I was able to quiet it, what I did receive was much more than I could have ever imagined. And it’s not over.
I’m not totally cured from my condition, but I learned how to quiet it. It’s rare that I have neck pain, but when I do, I respond to it differently.
I used to be upset with it, and wanted to be mad at it, but I realized I was mad at something that was within me.
So did this mean that I was mad at myself? Perhaps.
But I find that when I do have pain, I can lean into it.
I read an article by Dave Potter responding to emotional or physical pain. He talks about turning toward. When we turn toward, there’s an attitude of curiosity and a willingness to be with and explore the experience of pain, even if it’s uncomfortable.
It makes me think and ask myself, what’s causing my pain to occur? Is it stress or tension? Or am I doing too much? And this isn’t easy. It takes a lot of practice.
Occasionally, I can acknowledge the pain and simply return to my breath. Dave calls this letting go.
There are other times I can be hyper focused on a task, and I feel discomfort. This time I joke with it and say, not now. I’m busy.
Maybe this is a healthier form of what Dave calls blocking, but the point is, I’m now conscious of it. I’ve increased my awareness of it.
We really have to learn a greater tolerance for cognitive dissonance and extend our level of comfort to encompass what was once uncomfortable for us. I realized that this expansion has not only changed my relationship with pain, but it’s also changed my relationship with others.
I’m now firm and unapologetic with my boundaries.
I find it refreshing when a friend asks, “can I tell you what I think?” before offering their advice. I smile because it means that they’re starting to understand me, the me that I’m becoming. And I can reply no, because I trust the answers that are for me will come to me in due time. The answers we truly seek in life are not going to come from outside of us, but from within us.
We are the motherfucking light, y’all.
This podcast spotlights the unrelenting women who went from managing to mastering life’s challenges, and the badass alternative practitioners who are changing the way we heal physically and emotionally.
I’m Dr. Sabrina Nichole, a licensed psychologist, author and motivational speaker, but more importantly I’m a person who was stuck and had to find my way through a chronic pain condition by unconventional methods.
I’m on a mission to help women get unstuck from their thought patterns that no longer serve them in order to find relief and freedom in a way they did not think was possible. My guests and I will share stories of our journey from stuck to unstuck. There is more than one way to heal, and we will explore various methods on this show.
If you are willing to open your mind to possibilities, then this is the right place for you.