My recovery journey

From bodybuilder to artist to being in recovery…

I’m John Morris, a husband, artist, online art teacher and bodybuilder and this is the story of my road to recovery.

I have trained in bodybuilding since I was a young teen, and was at one time 5th in Britain for the NPA (Natural Physique Association). I love bodybuilding, and even though I may not compete anymore, I do still love to keep fit and train.

Something happened recently which I didn’t want to share publically as I didn’t want to cause any unnecessary worry for my clients or fans. Although our art business has been booming, in May of this year I tore my abdominal muscles clean apart.

How on earth could one do so much damage without warning? I hear you ask! Well, I will tell you.

On the morning of the 4th, I was in my gym, as usual, training. I had upped my training schedule to every other day in an effort to lose some fat and build more muscle. I began to feel like I used to, in the days of competitive bodybuilding. The rush, the surge of adrenaline flowing through each and every muscle. It was while I was carrying out an exercise known as jackknifes, which focuses primarily on the abdominal muscles or abs, that I felt a funny twinge, but nothing out of the ordinary. It is perfectly normal during muscle recovery.

I finished up my session, went for a shower, and continued my day. Completely unaware of what was about to unfold.

During a time in the art studio where I was kneeling down to paint, I felt a sudden wave of stress flow right over me. It was like being under the sea and having a storm above me. Now, I don’t know what caused it, but stress and anxiety flooded my body like liquid. Then it happened. Katie called me to let me know dinner was ready. I raised up off my knees and my back gave way. I fell back against the wall, nothing major, or so I thought. Had I known at that moment that I just tore my entire midsection, I would have been more careful.

Many people think that having a tear means that the person is in instant pain and agony, however, that wasn’t the case here. I went downstairs, Katie was in the kitchen, food was ready. She asked me, “Are you ok?” I said, “Yeah, but I think I’ve done something to my back.” I must tell you at this point that, I have a very strange body. How I process things in my mind is different from most people. Things can be fine one day and ache the next, and sometimes just very random things seem to occur. I digress.

I bent forward to stretch my back and continued on with my day.

The story continues.

A day or so later, I began to feel discomfort, the recovery after my gym session was taking a little longer than normal, but again, this was nothing new to me. I have colitis and dyspraxia, both of which can affect bones, joints, and parts of the body in very random ways. It’s almost a daily occurrence for me. The pain was in my stomach, again nothing new. I had experienced stomach tears and pulls before. My thought was, “a few paracetamol, a hot water bottle and some rest and I’ll be fine.”

I was not fine! It didn’t work! I continued to take pain killers, and a hot water bottle when the pain was bad. I also didn’t rest. As I mentioned business was booming, I had to keep going. The clients wanted their paintings and I had a responsibility to them. I was worried that if this got out, our audience and clients would lose confidence in doing business with me, so I kept it very quiet. Only Katie and I knew about it and how bad it was.

It didn’t go away! My recovery didn’t seem to be progressing. During the month of May, night after night I woke up at crazy hours: 5:30 am, 4 am, 3:15 am, 1:30 am, 11 pm which was just 30 minutes after I had gone to bed. It had gotten bad, really bad. On the plus side, I have always lived my the philosophical approach, “If you’re up and can’t sleep, you might as well do something profitable with your time.” So I did, I got up, out of bed, and worked. Sometimes right the way through until dawn, sometimes going back to bed about 5:00 am. It was a great time to chat with clients and folks from all around the world.

I would sit forward in my office chair, hunched forward with a hot water bottle on my bare stomach until the pain went away.

The final straw…

There comes a point in every situation like mine, where the person has to do something about it. My road to recovery was a long one.

So as to avoid waking Katie, I slept in the spare room a lot. Plus it was our old bed so I knew the comfy spots. One Friday morning, at around 1:30 am, after battling this pain for nearly a month, I woke up, writhing in agony. The best way I can describe the pain was like being stabbed multiple times.

The pain was in my back, collar bone, and right arm.  Many of you at this point that knows your anatomy, will jump to the conclusion, “oh no!!! He was having a heart attack.” No, this was not the case. I have a fractured collar bone which happened after a tree limb fell on it in 2011. I also have a trapped nerve in my right shoulder which may or may not be another calcium deposit. As I said, my body is very strange.

I got out of bed and again went downstairs. This time, I needed help. I called NHS 24, a helpline for non-life-threatening conditions. A lady answered and asked my name, age, and symptoms. The moment that the words, “back pain & pain in my right arm” left my mouth, she suspected a heart attack and began panicking. She sent out the paramedics, (bear in mind that this was during the worldwide lockdown for COVID 19) and told me what to do next. She hung up and I sat there.

Hospital and panic…

Unable to move due to pain, I called Katie’s phone. She answered and I told her what was about to happen. She came downstairs and waited with me. The medics came out and hooked me up to an ECG machine to monitor my heart rate. They were there because, at this point, they had been told that a 32-year-old male was having a suspected heart attack. We tried to inform them that I wasn’t having a heart attack but had three separate issues going on at one time.

The ECG showed that there were blips in my blood pressure and so as to rule out a heart attack I needed to go with them to A & E. What a pallava this was turning out to be. So, we arrive at A &E, I tell the staff what is happening, but they won’t listen. All they can hear and focus on is “Heart Attack…” So, after two or three doctors examine me and hook me up to a new ECG machine, this young Doctor comes in and chats with me. I tell him the full story, this time focusing on my stomach tear.

The penny drops. Now a little boo boo faced, he realises that he had been given incorrect information and that if he had listened to me in the first place, a lot of time could have been saved.

He examines me, then tells me to get dressed. “It sounds like a stomach tear or pull,” he informed me.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” I replied.

“I will write you out a prescription for pain killers and I would advise you to get in touch with your GP.”

I get dressed and head out. The staff on call are frustrated. I take my prescription, say thank you and leave.

There was still more to come…

I began taking the medication. It helped, it helped a lot. I felt like maybe now I was able to get back to normal and I would get better.
Quickly it became evident that this wasn’t going to be the case.

One afternoon I was painting in the studio. Katie was teaching piano in the next room. I don’t know how else to say this but all of a sudden and very unexpectedly, I passed out. Only for a moment or two, but I literally blacked out. Thankfully I was on my knees already and my body just kind of went stiff. This stopped my smashing my face into the floor and stopped my face from puncturing the canvas I had been working on at the time.

I quickly came too like nothing had happened. I told Katie and continued on. At this point, I should tell you that as much as I was loving the business being so busy, I was exhausted. Twenty hours of sleep in a month and working like a trojan will do that to a person. Nevertheless, I was determined to keep on going.

Then, it happened again. This time when I was walking down our hall stairs. This time only for a split second.

The big one…

Doctors say that taking any medication during recovery, a person can possibly experience side effects.

During the filming of episode one of our brand new show called Behind the Canvas, I felt a little funny. I continued on my scene and as soon as I finished filming, I blacked out. This time it was a total one. I fell into everything that was surrounding me. Paint bottles went flying all over the place, the easel thankfully was positioned in such a way that it broke the majority of my fall. I came too and just laid there trying to take in all that had just happened.

By this point, the pills had stopped working. I was trying to rush things too much. My recovery was taking longer than I desired. I hadn’t fully healed and I was in constant pain. The only way that I was going to heal my head, heart, and body was by taking time off when and where I could.

Recovery happens when we rest…

Saturday was fast approaching and I made the decision that I was going to sit and watch movies. And I did just that. I chalked up a record of 6 films in one day. My butt didn’t leave the sofa and I didn’t work at all. I did the same on Sunday and just for a change in scenery, I did the same on Monday.

Little by little, recovery was happening. I was getting better and better and my stomach hurt less. My body was in recovery and my mind was also in recovery. Funny, silly and crazy film after film, I sat and I enjoyed. The Police Academy series, Man on the Moon, The Truman Show, Groundhog Day, The Three Amigos and so many other classics too.

Finally, I was doing what I should have been doing all along.

An injury, which had come from nowhere and was one of my most painful experiences, was coming to an end. This three-month battle had finally a light at the end of the tunnel.

The road to recovery…

My road to recovery has been a long one and naturally, I wanted to get back into the gym and to normal life. However, I will be honest, I was scared. I didn’t know how much I could take and how healed up my body was. So, before attempting any gym work I decided to entirely relandscape the garden. It needed doing, we had made the plans and I had decided, “OK, let’s give this a go.” I’m pleased to report that the garden is now totally transformed and also that I was completely fine.

This morning as I write this blog, I am also delighted to inform you that I completed my first “normal” heavy workout session and even went for a 1 mile run afterward in an effort to shed some love handles that developed during my convalescence.

I have just finished writing my new book which will be out later this year. It has many life lessons in it and will be aptly named, The battles we all face.

With that knowledge, I leave you with this…

Life is full of lessons. Every experience we go through, and every situation that we find ourselves in has the ability to be able to teach us something new. One of the lessons I learned from my experience was this: Listen to your body. A candle that burns twice as bright, burns only half as long. Shine brightly when and where you can but remember to live in balance and remember to rest when you can. This is the only way for recovery to take place.

Until next time

Take care and God bless


P.s come and visit http://www.johnmorrisartfromtheheart.com/gallery to see my brand new artwork.

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