Have you ever felt like you have fallen to the bottom of your 'To Do List'? Or even fallen off it? I recently realised that, despite what I thought, I was not giving me the time I really deserved. The physical injuries I have sustained over the last few months have been testimony to this fact. I have been a bit quiet recently. I have been away and Mr LMR has been off work so I have been busy with monkey business. However, in amongst it all, I have also been learning to put myself first. I have begun to practice Mindfulness and tune into both my brain and body. It would appear that without doing this my recovery could take much longer.
Whilst I was on holiday I read "Five Deep Breaths" by Dr Genevieve Von Lob. I have recently been reading articles around Mindfulness and believed I had a handle on what it meant. As it happens I didn't. I believed it was a form of meditation and simple deep breathing. Actually it is much more than that and not necessarily for the faint hearted. What I liked about Five Deep Breaths was that it wasn't a parenting manual with strict rules and judgements. It highlighted from the very beginning that the books intentions was to demonstrate that you were doing ok already. That with some adjustments to how you thought about yourself you could change your situation for the better. As I continue to apply some of the lessons set out in the book, I will blog my results as part of my series of post about my recovery from injury.
What I realised whilst reading the book was that I was running around like a giant bobble head. My body, tiny and tuned out, head, swollen and expanded around all the incessant babbling and rambling on in my brain. Precariously balanced on a stretched out spring, lolling this way and that. Like a cheap toy dog that has been overly wobbled by the monkeys. This became very clear when I began spending time at the hydrotherapy pool, a must after my current physiotherapy sessions. Spending time on my own, with my own thoughts it became apparent that I was living so much of my life in my head, planning and back up planning. I was overthinking every angle or possible unexpected obstacle. There was no space in my head to tune in to how my body was feeling.
From Brain to Body
Five Deep Breaths outlines a technique for calming your thoughts and turning your attentions towards your body. This is for times when you are under stress, for example when you are in conflict with the monkeys. But it is also for times when you felt ok. In my moments of peace and quiet during my hydrotherapy sessions, I started to tune into my body. I realised that I am actually in a lot of physical pain. The foot, and other parts of that leg working overtime to make up for what the foot is lacking, hurts. My neck, shoulder and arm, spasm, throb and tingle continuously. The physiotherapist has diagnosed a bulge in one of the discs in my neck which is trapping a nerve. I am discovering that it is not as simple as just releasing that nerve.
Another revelation was that I was caught up plotting to speed up my recovery. Not to mention endless reading and re-reading of NHS pages, outlining symptoms, possible causes and treatments. What I thought I was doing to help was sending me into mental crisis. As these plans failed, I became increasingly frustrated and my brain was overwhelmed. What I now know is that when it is confronted with a stressful situation, your brain will immediately trigger a 'fight or flight' response, flooding the body with stress hormones. I had lost the ability to trigger an effective calming response. Every time I lost control of a situation I allowed my guilt to take over. I had always been so patient, but my overthinking had caused a blockage which was in turn triggering further episodes of 'fight or flight'. I needed to stop completely and tune in to what was important.
What is important?
I earlier indicated that Mindfulness is not for the faint hearted. When I began to fully commit to recovery I began to listen properly to what my body was saying. That when my monkeys were winding me up my chest would tighten and knots would form in my stomach. That I had become closed off to how I felt because I had become scared of being cornered by them or powerless as someone threw a tantrum in public. This frightened person was no longer the me I thought I knew. The pain I had been ignoring in order to try and achieve something I just couldn't, was testimony to that. So I created one final plan. I was going to listen more carefully in the present moment.
What is important, is that the only thing I can change is what is happening right now. I am alone today and my body is in pain. I had a physiotherapy session yesterday. Back and neck cracking that almost brought me to tears and shout out, with ultrasound treatment to top it off. Today I am broken. As I write I am sat with an ice pack on my neck. When I am finished I will be putting my to do list to one side and going to the hydrotherapy pool, because I know it will help me get better. I am the worst offender when it comes to saying "I'll just do this first". To the point that I sometimes have no time left for myself. Today I am putting myself on the top of my to do list because I can.
As time progresses, I am slowly starting to get a better picture of what has happened to me. By tuning into my body and how it is feeling I am able to better plan and respond to what it is telling me. Understanding how too much planning and overthinking is triggering a 'fight or flight' reaction in my brain helps me to remember to pause and take slow deep breaths. Most importantly, forgiving myself and those around me when things inevitably blow up carefully extracts some of the crippling guilt. This time there isn't a plan as such, just a determination to fully commit to my recovery. To turn some of the volume on my head down and the volume on my body up. That way is should find some sort of balance between them both.