It started with putting on my socks. A simple act we all do everyday changed my life. As I bent over after a shower to put on a sock, my back felt like it exploded. I screamed in pain, and my h̶e̶r̶o̶ wife came running, kids not far behind. I was in agony – and she made sure to help me get to lie down and some Advil too. As I grew up in a house full of boys (God bless my Mom) I tried to “handle” this as best I could and be “tough” – wincing in pain through my work and at various social and kid activities. As the sole bread winner in my house, there was also the added burden of earning. I am my only employee, and while things have been awesome at Red Pill this changed everything. Going to clients, traveling, speaking – it all really, really hurt. If I didn’t work, we would not have income . That scared the living shit out of me. So I kept working, gobbling Advils and hoping this was something that would go away. It didn’t.
My wife’s spidey sense was tingling, and she kept pushing me to see a Doctor. I kept shrugging her off, saying that it will get better soon. My mother soon got in on the pushing too, and I finally succumbed and said I would. I got my MRI and the news was not good – a herniated disc. My doctor recommended surgery, and I quickly said “no way” and asked about other options for treatment – I HAD to keep working because the thought of no income and the burden on my family during recovery gave me cold sweats. For the next year, I got several epidural injections which a) suck and b) really suck. These were band-aids that temporarily gave me relief. I was on a ton of opioids too – and they were messing with me. I kept slogging through, keeping my pain as internal as possible, and what they say is true. You can only bottle things up for so long before they explode. I had not only been fighting serious pain, but self confidence too. I began to doubt myself, and had a ton of fear of doing anything that would put me in a position to hurt myself further or burdening those around me. I am naturally a very confident person but this whole back thing had me shaken to my core. I am not invincible – as a matter of fact, I was indeed VERY vincible and it scared the shit out of me.
One morning I was packing my son Jack up for school and I sneezed. That sneeze literally changed my herniated disc from a herniated disc to a massive herniation. I had never felt pain like this and more importantly – fear. I had become helpless – literally unable to do anything. Panic began to set in as not only were my fears being realized (surgery, not working) but I had also had literally that coming week huge career opportunity to speak at a Venture Capital company in Boston and at THE conference in my industry, LinkedIn Talent Connect. I pleaded with my doctor to get another epidural so I could make these speeches, and they complied. It didn’t help – and I honestly screamed my way through it. Lying there in the hospital had me in a panic. I was going to have to cancel these amazing career opportunities and have surgery on my back. I was now legitimately terrified. My thoughts also raced to my family. We were OK financially, but what would not working for two months plus do to us? My wife was going to have to take care of me as she would my kids when they were babies. What would this do to our relationship? My kids were going to have to see me vulnerable and weak. That made my stomach turn.
I had the surgery and it was a “success”. The doctor took a picture of what she removed from my back and told us that it was one of the biggest she had ever removed in her career. The prognosis was good – but be careful for a while. The next two months sitting in my home really messed with my mind. I used to think sitting and watching movies on TV in my house would be awesome, but that got tiring real fast. I was unable to really move for a while, even needed help eating and going to the bathroom. I was losing my mind and weeks went by when I thought I would never be the same Ed as I was. Unfortunately, I was the anomaly of thee types of surgeries – three months post op and still having severe sciatic pain. Another MRI confirmed that I had a lot of scar tissue on my nerve and I needed another epidural. This was now over a year and a half of this shit. I thought of my family and friends. Were they getting the best from me as I was getting from them when I needed it? Were they tired of dealing with this crap from me?
Along with my back, my mental state was a mess,. I decided to see a pain psychologist and this was very enlightening for me. He got me to see the root of my mental anxiety was fear. Fear of not providing, fear of my mortality, fear of losing my successes. This jarred me. I never had really put this all together even though it seemed so obvious as he said it. I was afraid of asking for help – and this internalizing of my fear led me down a path that eroded my mojo – my confidence. I had to start there and build out again. There was my wife – helping me in ways that no wife should ever have to help her husband. I appreciate her now more than ever. There were my kids – cheering me up, hugging and kissing me when I needed it most. There were my amazing colleagues in my industry, who continued to reach out and support me. There were my clients, who patiently waited for me as I recovered. I was a lucky man. Really lucky. Once I stepped back from my situation and saw all of this, it helped pull me out of my funk physically and mentally to see how truly fortunate I was and that this was just a bump (a big bump – but still) in what is really a very great road. We all face challenges and doubts in our lives. What it took me almost two years to realize is that no matter how bleak things are, don’t be afraid and embrace help. If you are fortunate to have people around you who care, that should serve as all the confidence you will ever need.
I’m back – but with a greater appreciation of the people who helped me get there. I love you all.