crane

That Is Not The Obstacle You're Looking For

I have a dream. It is not a Martin Luther King Jr. type dream, sadly.

There are no people, there is no place, no objects, nothing to see, nothing to hear, no smells, touch, or even the perception of having a body. All there is despair, the weight of it smothering me, taking all my breath, spirit, and heart literally and figuratively. I am dying in that dream, snuffed out without intent on whatever is destroying me. There's nothing to fight. Nothing I could do against it even if I had a body to fight with. The interesting thing for me is that this is concrete proof that I can conceive of myself as an abstract being entirely independent of body. The essential me negated.

I would usually wake up sobbing, and the despair overwhelmed me. Often the dream came when I have some form of asthma. The very first time I had it was just before I left Allie. Immediately after that break up I had it a handful of times, and some part of my head decided that sleep was not my friend. It didn't help that I found research that sleep deprivation helped with depression. I took up the moderatorship of the church soon after that, and had enough to do that I didn't really need to sleep that much. Of course I ended up with an infection of the middle ear, and so nauseous I couldn't stand up for a week. I slept then, but I don't dream when I sleep from over exhaustion.

When I was done with being moderator the dream happened again a few times, and now I realize that it probably had something to do with all the emotional damage I had been taking from both sides of all the conflict that was happening in the church. That wasn't something I wanted to look at, and even when I went to a therapist, I didn't talk about the dream in much depth. When I said anything about it, I couldn't get words around what it felt like, so I gave up trying.

I took that fear of sleeping with me into the gaming scene. Staying up late was part of the culture in any case, and I deliberately did my best to not dream anymore, which, as anyone can tell you, isn't exactly the healthiest of choices.

So it truly wasn't just the gaming.

When I first started trying to heal this time, I went to my pastor Joanne and talked with her for a good hour, and she charged me to do everything I could to heal. And that any job I might take in the church should wait until I could put myself back together. And I told her that I would do that. We also talked about the fact that I needed spiritual healing before I could really get into the physical healing.

So when the dream hit me again on one of the downturns, I got up, pushed it away, went to the restroom, and while I was washing my hands decided WTF, went back to bed and hugged John. When he woke up I asked him to just hold me, and when I was completely wrapped up by him I let myself feel everything that was in the dream. I started crying, and John just held me closer. And suddenly in my head was a voice saying that even if I was angry, sad, despairing, hurting, and ready to give up that there was still love for me. John loved me even though I was messed up, and the voice was saying that God loved me just as much if not more, flaws and all. That only made me cry harder, but it was exactly what I needed.

A week ago I was feeling pretty good, and had felt like I'd recovered a good deal of functionality. My icing schedule, ibuprofen, stretches, physical therapy exercises, walking, and good posture practices felt like they were paying off. I was actually able to drive Einstein without feeling any pain, when I had the driver's seat in the correct position (there was only one position), something I hadn't been able to do for months. And I drove myself to my chiropractor, who then proceeded to adjust my spine and undo all the work I've done for the last two months.

Everything came back, and I was in agony again.

I was so angry. I wrote him an e-mail to tell him what he had done, and ask if he understood that I had needed help for my left shoulder, not an adjustments to make the perfect alignment he thought I needed to save my neck. I asked him if he would undo what he had done for free, and it took him a day to reply. And all he said was that he would do an assessment for free.

When I went in, I was entirely civil. But it was fairly clear that he truly believed he had done nothing wrong, that he had simply put me in alignment as he should. So it was fairly simple to just say that I was not going to require his services again. He tried to mitigate some of the muscle pain with electro-stim on the muscles of my back, and then he applied an essential oil, though he asked that I was allergic to anything in it. I know that I am allergic to eucalyptus, and told him so. He also knew that I have severe asthma, but he decided to apply it anyway. And that night I proceeded to have a severe asthma attack.

And with it came the dream. This time I let myself drowse and return into that dream a few times. I woke up, and realized that the root of the feeling had to do with believing that I was never going to get better and that I had let Brian do this to me with all of those years of chiropractic practice on me. I was so angry that I had let him do this to me. I let myself feel that, cry it out, and then I felt much better.

An interesting side effect of returning deliberately to the dream has been that I am not as afraid of that dream as I used to be. When I was a child I would have equally terrifying dreams of a huge weight rolling after me, chasing me, and it was also associated with my asthma; but I had it so often that I found myself recognizing it as a dream and then playing with it. I haven't reached that point yet with this one, but I guess I should call this one of the blessings of this particular obstacle.

Do no harm. It seems to be a primary principle for all healthcare workers, but it really felt to me like he thought he was above that so long as he was doing what he felt was right. I understood then that I could not work with him again, and now I am grateful that I was able to end that relationship. On top of that, the logical part of my brain said that if he was never going to touch me again and my body really might heal itself without his interference.

The other thing I was grateful for is the fact that pain is a very good teacher of good posture. There is no cheating, no slacking off, and it's made it very easy to know when I have things adjusted well at my workstation.

And finally, he also gave me the gift of knowing that my spine and neck weren't the problem. He was very good about thoroughly checking that those weren't damaged, and that the nerve connections directly involved with the adjustments he made were not compromised in the least. I saw my sports doctor two days later, and on hearing the story she checked everything out, and didn't find damage that concerned her. I have good strength all through my left arm, and all of my reflexes are fine, and best of all none of the vascular system is compromised. So I finally figured out that it might just be my shoulder that's the problem, especially since several muscles in my shoulder were permanently on fire.

Some of them hurt so much when I did my physical therapy exercises I decided to call my therapist on Monday morning, and he said to just stop and let my body heal for a while. I had my massage therapist work me over on Tuesday, and today I feel like a completely new person. Things are still stiff, and I still have to be very careful of my posture, of taking breaks frequently when I'm at the computer, reading, or writing. And my left arm still tingles with pain, but at a far lower level than it's been all week.

I have finally come to the conclusion that without this level of pain and agony I would never have stopped gaming. I would never have tried to fix my sleep schedule. I would never have gone back to my stretching software. I would not be using my dictation software. I would not be looking for the next step for the rest of my life. I would have just stayed with gaming until Jet went to Japan. Which isn't that far off, honestly. However, I might have just gone on with the gaming and my Lost Boys. Wendy still lost in Adventure Land, instead of back home with her family and life.

I have started the Happiness Course in the Yale online syllabus. It's interesting stuff, about scientific methods of improving ones individual happiness. In the very first lesson there is this G.I. Joe fallacy: Knowing is not just half the battle. Knowing might be a start, but you have to do the work and understand the tricks your own brain can play on you if you're foolish enough to follow your instincts rather than your logic. I really liked that. The first week includes rewiring exercises involving gratitude, and the second week is looking kind of rough for me. It has to do with making social connections every single day, and I am terrified, but willing to try what I can do.

I wouldn't mind being entirely happy again.

I can say that the gratitude exercises have been useful in my week of agony. It's important to remember what I can do when I am drowning in all the things that I can't. I have to admit it amuses me know that I can do all the housework I might want, and that a lot of it is probably very good for me. Washing dishes, hanging clothes, folding laundry, dusting, cleaning counters, moving small kitchen appliances, and mopping are all great, large muscle activities that only increase my circulation and strengthen the muscles supporting my injured tendons. So I have been doing a lot of housework. I do have to watch looking down at my work for any length of time, and make sure I stretch at regular intervals.

One of the I Ching I threw during the agony phase came out as 39 or The Obstacle. The basic message for that hexagram is that the unmovable obstacle is before me, but if I view it from a different angle it might not be the obstacle I deem it to be. At first I was obsessed over when I was going to be able to get back into gaming, and now I'm realizing that the problem I thought was in front of me is something completely different. My physical therapist, Brian, wants me to put a big sign up saying "Be Gentle With Myself". Even in just a few half-hour sessions we've had, he's picked up enough of my personality to understand how important that is for me to remember. I am regaining better sleep patterns. I am gaining far better posture. I also gaining a better perspective on what I should consider "realistic capabilities" with respect to just about everything in my life.

I was so relieved when I could actually prune one of my rose bushes. I was amazed when I could do a cat and camel yoga pose. I was astonished when I could stretch my neck so that I could touch my chin to my sweatshirt collar. Every moment when I don't feel any pain is something I now notice and savor. Those are very interesting gifts from what has been a very interesting obstacle. Not what I would've expected, but they are things I have gained.
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