Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pain vs 1,600lbs

Hauling 1600 lbs of shingles up on a roof, nailing them down, after having ripped the same amount off and taking it to the dump is not what I would ever suggestion to someone else with Chronic Pain.

It probably would have been easier to just call the roofing company 2 years ago when I started doing this job in 3 stages, but when the first quote came in at $10,000 I thought I have got to be able to do this cheaper than that. Actually, my plan was that I was going to complete the roof in just 2 stages. However the first time caught me so much by surprise and I was brought crashing back to reality when I found out how hard roofing really was. I had done a bit before in my 20's but memory has a tendency of taking away pain and replacing it with a sense of pride or a badge of honour.

The pain in my neck, shoulder and hip had seemed to take a sharper tinge over the last few years. I am not sure why, it may be that the larger load of stress at work and other challenges, plus having succumbed to the erroneous belief that the injury was getting worse and that I should avoid certain movements just in case I wore the joints down to bone on bone or something terrible and scary like that.
This belief had become deeply implanted in me and my plastic mind had shifted with this false information.

So over the last 2 years I have been able to learn an incredible amount about Persistent Pain and Pain Science through a website called SomaSimple and through other great sites like BIM, PainScienceBBoyScience, and BetterMovement. Learning about the discoveries that modern Neuroscience has made and what this has taught us about the experience of pain has not only given me a better understanding of "why" my body hurts, but also why, after 10 years of this, it is so difficult to change.

The last time I was up on the roof, or phase 2, was 1 1/2 years ago. Springtime 2011. I was only starting to get into the Pain Science reading and the cognitive shift that is required to "get" what the new information meant in the day to day reality had not taken hold yet. So that job was a real killer. It took weeks for my shoulder and back to calm down and the normal day to day pain experience had been stepped up a couple notches from that. My right wrist had also added this numbness and pain in the carpal tunnel area that was terribly frustrating and distressing.

This time I am more prepared. I hope. I had started some preparation in the early summer. Some of it was not successful, perhaps my goal of being pain free enough to get up on the roof was a foolish one, but conditioning is definitely a big help. Working hard to build endurance and stamina with whatever movements I could do in a non threatening way with weights if possible.

I know I could have prepared more and planned it better. But getting through with what I had while working 50 hours a week and running a Yoga Studio with my wife, I was happy that I had done anything at all.

Day 1)  Friday. Surprisingly the first day of stripping has gone right according to my 3 day plan. I have a bare wood roof after peeling off the old shingles. Lucky for me my brother-in-law offered to pick the shingles up off of the ground and load the truck while I tore them up and tossed them down. A huge help, seriously. The rain has been threatening all afternoon and forecasts for tonight so lucky for me again, my neighbour has offered some nice big tarps and just jumped up on the roof to help me cover up.

Roof Stripped. Yes this is an old roof.
1851 to be exact.Some of these boards
are 24" x 1" x 14 ft. Not found at
Home Depot.

Day 2). Saturday. Things are not going as well. The shingles I used in the first phase have a class action law suit against them right now so Home Depot no longer carries them. Of course I don't know there is a class action law suit yet so I have hunted them down at a Rona. Again, lucky for me they do not have Two Tone Black in stock, if I want them I will have to drive to Erin Mills, no thanks, something at Home Depot will have to look close enough. Put that job off until tomorrow and just take the plywood and other items back today. I have a limited window of time to get all of my plywood cut and on the roof with the help of my neighbour. I had decided that cutting plywood is not my forte, nor do I want to attempt to carry 4ft x 8ft sheets of plywood up on a roof by myself. As it turns out, 1/4" plywood doesn't weigh much and I could have done that as well if I had to.

Day 3) Sunday. Now 2 things will slow down this whole process. 1) Squirrels had gotten into the attic a few years ago and apparently this was the section of roof that they had gnawed down to tooth picks. Some wood replacement is required. 2) I have two chimneys on this section of the roof. One of them is no longer connected to any fireplace, and when my shovel peeled the shingles underneath I thought the whole chimney would topple over. I think this one will have to come down.

Day 4) Monday. The chimney came apart surprisingly easy and reinforcing the area with some 2 x 4's didn't take much, fixing the section that the squirrels had modified also was not that difficult.But due to all this messing around we are now into Monday and I have a big project shipping out at work that I should be present for. So half day of work lost.

Day 5) Tuesday. I have a seminar to attend this morning, lose another half day. And now this cold I seemed to have caught is really kicking in.
Added some thin 1/4" plywood
on top to stop the shingles from
wrinkling due to the old wood
planks expanding and
contracting with the weather.

Day 6) Wednesday. Rain is in the forecast so I think this will be an off day to hopefully recoup.

Day 7) Thursday. This work is bloody hard. All the conditioning I did manage completely neglected the hands and feet. Standing at odd angles for long stretches of time has my calves and ankles screaming murder and constantly grabbing, pulling, beating, and hammering has made my hands feel a little like hamburger. Each morning I spend some time just moving things around slowly and doing some simple warm ups and Yoga to make the work easier. Who am I kidding, it doesn't make any of this easier but it is at least a way of dialing the threats to my system down again. Today was my birthday and I have made a solemn oath that I will not entertain the idea of roofing a house again in this lifetime. There were some other prayers mixed in that one but I'll save my self respect and not share those.

On left side is the old shingles,
on the right side is the new
shingles. More or less.
Can you spot
the difference?
I don't care if you can.

Day 8) Friday. I am leaving for a week on Sunday to install a piece of equipment in South Carolina. There is no way I can take today off of work so the roof will have to wait until tomorrow. This is cutting it much closer than I had planned. We are already entering 8 days on a 3 day project. Yesterday went OK. At least shingles are getting laid down now. I have been bringing bundles up in sets that I have divided up over the whole project. Making sure to not get too wiped out doing it all at once which may cause me to move poorly due to being over tired. Perhaps that explains why this longer period of time has been good. I have gotten a little work hardened and did not have to move too much at one time.

Day 9) Saturday, I have to move fast today. No time for stopping, less breaks. Full out and get this done. Out of nails. For crying out loud, a trip to Home Depot steals an hour and a half. Today I have felt the stress of the project most. Knowing I have an immovable deadline and it is threaten rain at points today.
Each bundle weighs 75lbs.
This part really kicked my ass.
But I hauled almost all
of the bundles up on my
problem shoulder.
22 trips, 1,600 lbs - not bad,
and the pain didn't
increase at all.
How is this possible?
I have had to work hard to keep breathing as calmly as possible to prevent the stress from building. It is helpful that this is a physical project. Being able to work hard helps dissipate a lot of that stress. Nevertheless, my goal to end this project without increasing pain will need me to keep myself calm.

Somehow I manage to get to the point where I am putting the capping shingles on by 5:30pm. I have to cut each shingle into three pieces and angle them so that they lie neatly across the top. I am actually getting good at this part. The first time I did this in phase 1 I used about 2 - 3 times as many shingles as I should have and I cut the angle incorrectly so some pieces were peaking out that shouldn't have. But as I do this now I hear thunder in the distance. Being on your roof in a thunderstorm, I have heard, is not advisable. How close is it? I keep moving faster to get each cap in place. Another quiet rumble off in the distance. Faster, faster, but keep calm. The sun is going down now making this even more interesting. I manage to get all the caps on and take a picture for proof to show Mark Hollis in New Zealand. But I am still not done.I have to seal all the gaps and vents and chimney.

This is a pretty self indulgent article, I'll admit that. And most of the time I am just writing about the project. But I hope there is some take away points I can leave here and that someone will get something out of this somewhere.
A thing of beauty. Even if
I do say so myself. I sure
do have that capping down.
But don't ask for a quote,
I'm too expensive :)
  • If I had listened to the sensations in my Neck, Shoulder, and Hip I would never have planned to do this project. But I have learned that how they feel does not necessarily tell me whether they are capable or not.
    Pain is not an accurate indication of how much you should or can move.
  • Preparation makes everything better but we also live in a complex, shifting and challenging world.
    Don't wait for everything to be perfect to get started. Prepare as much as you can and then get going.
  • In the middle of this project, and incidentally in the middle of the other 2 phases, I wanted to quit or give up a lot. I had the voice telling me "this is too hard", "you won't finish in time" and "this is really going to cause you to suffer later". I had to ignore that voice a lot without ignoring every voice.
    When it is really hard just focus on the next little step you have to do.
  • Plan out your risks, learn as much about your strengths and weaknesses as you can and have back up plans whenever possible. I wore a safety harness, I had access to help if I needed it, and I wasn't working alone, someone was within earshot.
    Safety first.
  •  When things were getting really hard I remembered to breath deeper, to acknowledge that some of the thoughts I was having were not accurate I had to refocus my attention to what was really going on.
    Don't believe everything you think.
  • Finally after the project was over and I was on the plane Sunday and the rest of the week. I noticed that I did not have any increase in pain. In fact it had actually lessened a bit.
    Understanding pain and why we hurt can actually make a huge difference.
Oh and I really have to tip my hat to roofers everywhere. They earn every cent they get paid. Also, my wife, who absolutely hates cooking, did me the biggest favour all week and prepared all kinds of meals and coffee, helped a ton with ground clean up and warm hugs at the end of each night. She worked equally as hard as me and as always "it takes two to tango"


Anonymous said...

Mark Hollis from NZ says 'Photo isn't proof, it could be a stunt double'. Seriously good job and great post. (Although I had to get out my imperial to metric calculator to work out measurements)

Elisa said...

I'm in the midst of a frustrating and distressing ordeal with chronic knee pain, and your story leaves me feeling a bit more inspired/hopeful. I am just now beginning to read about pain science, and up until this point I too "have succumbed to the erroneous belief" that if I keep moving in the midst of my pain, I'll do permanent damage, end up worse, etc. This is a tough one that I still struggle with. Thanks also for the links to the various pain science web sites; I'll definitely be exploring these. Thanks again for sharing your story.

Unknown said...

I would like to say that your post is wonderful. We can learn many things from it.
Roofing Sarasota Contractor

Anonymous said...

Good Post !

Alex Leon said...

You must add some more information in upgrading your roofing system and other home components so that your home will be in good working condition.