Friday, January 14, 2011

Me, Myself and I

My body and I have an adversarial relationship.  We've never liked each other.  Well at least since puberty anyway.  Being an extreme introvert I live mostly in my head.  My body is just along for the ride.  It keeps annoying me once in a while when it wants feeding or sleeping or stretching after I've been sitting too long but most of the time I'm pretty good at ignoring it. 

However, even as I write this I realize that isn't entirely true.  I've also been active.  Not in the American athlete way.  I've never been on teams.  I was always the last one to be picked during gym.  But, I started ice skating when I could stand up and ballet a few years after that.  In my early teen years I took gymnastics and did real training as a figure skater and took ballet lessons until I started point work.  During college I swam almost daily for the entire four years I was there.  I also learned to cross country ski for a geology class (winter field work).  In my 20s I joined my first gym and started taking aerobics, stretching and weight lifting classes.  I even did yoga for a number of years.  All of which I've liked. 

However, I have never considered myself athletic for two reasons: 1) I am not gifted in any of these pursuits and 2) I've been varying degrees of chubby since puberty.  I'm okay at these sports and do them because I enjoy them not because I'm particularly good at them.  While my body and even my mind have enjoyed these activities I have never defined my life by them.  They are just something I do.  It isn't something I bring up during casual conversation when people are tying to get to know me.  Maybe this another aspect of ignoring my body.  My gift is my mind not my corporeal self.  Yoga has helped me integrate my body into my self more than it used to be but I'm still pretty stuck in my head.

Hence, I'm pretty damn good at ignoring my body.  If I get engrossed in a book or an interesting subject on the internet, hours go by before I notice the outside world again.  This has some interesting side effects.  I can play all sorts of head games with my body.  I can ignore pain for instance.  When I was an auto mechanic (yes, I was a grease monkey for four years just after I got out of college) I was constantly bashing my knuckles and various other body parts.  I would get cuts and scrapes daily.  After a while of doing this I built up a tolerance level for it to the point I often had no idea that I cut myself.  I remember walking up the desk one day and a customer told me I was bleeding.  I looked down and sure enough I had an open cut on my hand that was dripping blood on the floor.  It didn't hurt at all.  I just wrapped it up and continued working.  Pain tolerance was also part and parcel of the machismo of working as a mechanic.  You had to be tough to work there.

About a decade after that I took yoga.  I started it because I was having back pain and the doctors couldn't find anything wrong with me (sound familiar?).  At this point I had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the spine.  I had spurs on several vertebrae that were impinging on the nerves that wrap around the lower part of my left rib cage.   However, I had also become deconditioned after a serious bout of depression.  My back had the worst pain but my joints also ached.  I remember this happening when I was in my early 20s.  After I deconditioned after leaving the garage, I would wake up in pain and would have to shower to get everything moving.  I would be fine after my morning shower but I felt like I was 60 instead of 20.  So, to try and get my body back after yet another round of deconditioning I took yoga.  I figured it was time to get my body and mind back on speaking terms.  I also decided that it was time to stop ignoring my spirit and yoga was my path to joining the three back together again. 

I was lucky.  I ended up in a class with a true yogi that had been trained by B. K. Iyengar among others rather than an aerobics instructor that happen to get her yoga certification.  My teacher had also trained in yoga for physical therapy and as a healing modality.  She had been practicing for over 30 years.  From her I learned a different way to relate to pain.  That not all pain is cause for alarm.  That you can be in pain but not be worried about it.  While the pain from my arthritis was annoying there wasn't anything that I could physically do to fix it so I needed to accept it and dismiss it.  I spent three years training with her and after two I was no longer in pain of any sort.  I distinctly remember when it hit me.  I walking down a hall at work.  I was used to moping around due to the constant pain in my back.  Instead when I checked in with my body there was nothing.  The pain was gone.  My brain couldn't wrap itself around this concept.  "What do I do now?  I can't blame my pain for anything.  I can't justify moping around.  I can't worry about it anymore."  It was a strange day.

Four days ago I got diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  I'm still processing this.  I've been thinking about my weird association with pain over the course of my life mainly because I've been reading The Pain Chronicles, which is an excellent book by the way.  Prior to the diagnosis I've been ignoring my pain.  Dismissing it as deconditioning.  After all this is what doctors have told me in the past, "There is nothing wrong with you.  You are just out of shape.  (my being perpetually chubby doesn't help with this one)  You need to exercise."  and generally I've found that I feel much better on all levels if I am doing something whether it is lap swimming, weight lifting or figure skating.  So I embark on yet another exercise routine and my body generally feels better and I tend to be in less pain.  But when I look back on my life I now wonder if I have had FM for many years.  Maybe since my 20s when I used to have to climb in the shower in order to get moving in the mornings and having all of my joints ache.  Because I've been so active for most of my life I have probably managed to keep the FM to a dull roar with it only annoying me when I end up deconditioned for whatever reason.  My tolerance for pain also allows me to ignore it most of the time.  I notice it and then dismiss it.

However, since the diagnosis I've been in more pain.  I think it was been there before but I've managed to ignore it.  Now every time I notice a body part aching I immediately think "I've got Fibromyalgia.  I'm in pain.  There is no cure."  Whereas prior to the diagnosis it was more like "I'm in pain.  Oh, I'm just deconditioned.  I'll be fine once I can exercise again.  Go away.  Stop bothering me."  I'm worried about the FM pain.  I'm worried that it will get worse.  After all it has steadily gotten worse since I first became ill in May.  Originally I wasn't in pain at all once the initial flu like symptoms were done.  After I had the TB tests then the joint pain set in.  I had to start Celebrex so that I could get off arpirin.  Now even the Celebrex isn't enough.  I'm probably going to have to start either a different pain med or an additional one.  Now that I have the diagnosis I'm taking the pain more seriously. 

I had the worst night's sleep last night.  The pain in my joints kept waking me up.  Every time I moved I hurt something.  Now this isn't the first time this has happened but prior to this I just dismissed it.  Now because of the diagnosis I'm paying attention to it.  I'm noticing it.  I'm acknowledging its existence and because of that I hurt worse.  I'm probably in the same amount of pain but it hurts worse.  Now I want to divorce my body again.  I'm done with it.  I want a new one.  All shiny new with no aches and pains.  I want one that is svelte and athletic and can land Axle jumps on the ice.

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