Yoga Pants: pain, recovery, limitations and gratefulness

Yoga Pants Shimoda

CW: Suicide ideation

I’ve considered myself in remission from Interstitial Cystitis for over a year but there are still a few things I can’t do. One of them, it seems, is wear yoga pants.

I usually wear baggy granny shorts to my pre-work HIIT class but I’m flying to the UK tomorrow so they are packed. I dig out an item of clothing that hasn’t been work in 2 years, that’s associated with a girl I don’t quite recognise: purple, skin tight yoga pants.

Excuse the brag, but I look great in yoga pants. Yoga pants were made for people with bodies like mine – skinny with just enough curves to turn heads when things are tight. They fit my personality too – slightly tomboyish, comfortable, not trying, but also flirty.

When most people give up on yoga pants it’s probably because they are short on body confidence, which is a perfectly valid reason. In my case however, it’s because my pelvic pain was bad enough that I was googling how to get a hold of a gun in Tokyo and whether shooting myself in the bladder would kill me.

18 months ago yoga pants would have been laughable but then again, so would working a full time job and I’ve pulled enough 100 hour weeks in the last 6 months to know that that’s more than possible for me. Going into remission is tiny steps of tentatively trying things again and seeing if they still hurt you. A korma curry. A cup of coffee. An 8 hour coach ride. You inch towards these things like a wounded animal approaches food when it’s already been caught in the trap once. Can I? Is this safe? Will this hurt me later?

And so, as my granny shorts were already packed and because I’ve made a recovery complete enough that I hardly think about that-time-I-was-in-pain-for-a-year anymore, I wear the yoga pants to gym. The class goes well – I’m still one of the weakest of course, but I’ve gone to yoga twice this week (in granny shorts) and it’s limbered me up and improved my form. I catch a glimpse of myself lifting a weight that’s heavier than normal in the mirror and I look sexy and strong, so much more than in the granny shorts. Thanks yoga pants.

I shower and head to work. It’s my last full day before I fly home to the UK for 9 days tomorrow so I have a lot to get through. Still, I’m excited for my trip and cheerful until I head to the toilet half an hour into the working day.

The pain is excruciating. At first I think I might just be dehydrated (Tokyo summer is dangerous folks) and it will pass but I down 2 litres of water and mugicha and it’s still burning. I’m sweating, shivering and going to pee every 30 mins but of course I don’t tell my colleagues because a) they’re all men b) if I say out loud I’m in pain that means I can’t pretend it’s all happening and c) I really do have a tonne to do before I can get on that plane so I couldn’t go home even if I got permission.

I think that I’ve had a significant flare 3 or 4 times since ‘recovering.’ This is more pain than I’ve been in in half a year and, unlike when I was really sick, I’m totally unprepared. I don’t have any medication with me and I have no idea how I’ll make it through to 6.30. At 1pm I stagger to the nearest pharmacy and buy Bufferin, the standard over-the-counter painkiller here. I go over to a dark restaurant with a nearby toilet and down the maximum dose with a sandwich and a tonne of water. I put my head on the table and allow myself to panic a little – the timing is really bad. I’m supposed to get on a plane tomorrow and anyone who’s had a UTI or diarrhoea on a flight will have a taste of what it’s like to have an IC flare on a plane.

The Bufferin actually does something, which is a sign of how much better I am – 18 months ago I could have downed the whole pack and it would have destroyed my liver before reducing the pain. I have painkillers that target IC pain but, again, they’re at home. I go back to work and the pain is significantly reduced which is great but it brings with it sleepiness which isn’t exactly conducive to productivity. Still, I slog on as best I can. I hide my pain and resulting anxiety by being even louder and cracking more stupid jokes than usual. I’m technically not in the ‘headline meeting’ for the next issue but as it’s next to my chair I share my dumb puns for an article on animal cafes; ethical snake and cat cafes in Tokyo in particular. “Scares and hairs” “Animal cafes: the good, the bad, and the fluffy.” They’re both awful but both get picked because no one has anything better. Sometimes, for me, pain causes me to feel like I’m stuck to the ceiling, screaming, watching the back of my head calmly carry out day to day activities. It feels incredible how seldom people notice that I’ve split in two.

At 6.30 my work’s not finished but I’m done. The pain has gone down but I can’t be here anymore. I grab fast food on the way home and breathe a sigh of relief as I walk into my cool(er) flat. Now is time for medication, supplements and flare care routines. It’s been a while and I’m out of practice.

I start feeling significantly better at around 9pm. I still have to be careful but it looks like the flight won’t be a disaster. At 22:30 I finish the content calendar and the emails I need to write and log off my work email for the next 9 days.

I worry about a lot of things. The fact I’m 25 and I haven’t started saving properly yet. Wrinkles. Brexit. Closing doors. Whether I deserve my job. My Japanese/harp/vocal ability.

18 months ago, all I was worried about was whether I would be in that kind of pain all the time for the rest of my life. I think of flares like this as lighting a candle to the spectre of the girl in the parallel universe where I didn’t get better. I don’t know what happened to her, but she’s certainly not where I am now. The flare is like her haunting me. An effigy. A reminder.

Gratefulness is the antidote to so many of the sicknesses of modern life. Anxiety, envy, depression, they can all be eased by gratefulness. The sick know clear as pain that good health is something to be grateful for. Those of us who recover have the privilege of forgetting.

I can catch a train without anxiety. I can drink alcohol and coffee. I can work full time. I can have a normal relationship. I can wake up on a sunny morning with no pain and climb a mountain, swim in the sea, dance, twist, fuck, bend and use my body to its glorious potential.

I can lift weights and do burpees in my HIT class on Tuesday and Thursday morning. But, unfortunately, I can’t do it in yoga pants.

It’s a loss to the world, really. I look great in yoga pants.

Photo taken by me, of a statue in Shimoda Koen, Shizuoka