Oh, hey. Just casually slipping into blog world after a five-month hiatus. I found there were times I wanted to write and share what was going on with me the past few months, but I couldn’t find the resources to do so. I mean, I’m fortunate enough to have a computer and internet access, but I couldn’t manage to find the energy or clarity to write much of anything.
Chronic illness steals a lot of things. It steals your energy. It steals your mood and perspective. It steals your comfort. It steals your sense of security. It steals your ability to focus and access your own faculties. And, through these means, it can steal your sense of self, too.
The cognitive symptoms that come with Hashimoto’s, fibromyalgia, and gut issues have been some of the most frustrating for me. I’ve identified as a writer since I learned how to form words—it’s my most natural method of communication, creation, and even processing my own thoughts and emotions. When I was a child, my mind and imagination served as my playground, and it was only through writing that I could pull my ideas out of my head and make them, in some sense, real. But experiencing brain fog makes my playground a difficult place to navigate. The symptom is aptly named: it feels very much like a thick layer of fog has settled into the entire landscape of my mind and obscured everything in it.
Not that writing is usually easy. It never is, save for those rare and mysterious moments when the magic writing angel possesses you and allows the words to flow freely from your fingertips (it’s a weird feeling—like the words aren’t coming from you, but through you). But this cognitive slowdown that occurs with many chronic illnesses can make it feel impossible. Obviously it’s not entirely impossible for me—I am forming sentences that I believe are somewhere near the realm of coherence—but the process I’m undergoing to get these words out of me is slower and more painstaking than it otherwise would be.
So, basically, it’s writer’s constipation. I guess the brain and the gut are connected in more than one way.
But I’ve got to eliminate this f&*%ing thing, even if it comes out a mangled shitty mess, so here I am.
And this is what it’s come to. Making gross poop metaphors.
Honestly though, when you have any sort of gut issues, gross becomes your new normal. Before you know it, you’re discussing your BMs with other poop-challenged friends like you’re talking about the weather. Partly poopy today with storms on the forecast for tomorrow—thanks, Miralax.
But, uh. I digress.
The last few months have been rough for me. And of course I say that from my sweet little cloud of privilege, where rough doesn’t mean I’ve lost my food, water, shelter, or rights (though the big guys in the state and federal governments are working really hard to change that) but rather that I’ve just been really symptomatic. And I fell into a depression sometime in the winter (I have the election and inauguration to thank for serving as a catalyst for that), cut way back on my physical yoga practice due to a back and hip issue as well as widespread joint and muscle pain, and struggled with sensitivities to…pretty much everything. Grass? Allergic. Trees? Allergic. Mold? Allergic. Absolutely nothing? Allergic. Seriously—I have such a buildup of histamines in my body that I can have an allergic reaction to air or water or my own existence. And I’m intolerant to so many foods that if I were to avoid them all, I’d probably be on a lettuce-only diet (but steamed lettuce because my poor gut can’t handle too many raw vegetables).
I’m used to depression and sensitivity, though. I wasn’t used to that amount of pain, or limiting my asana practice to this degree. I had been experiencing similar but lesser symptoms like this in my body for a long time, but I used that ol’ push-through-it method that most humans keep in their repertoire to avoid facing inconvenient truths. This is, of course, very un-yogic of me—although it’s not that I wasn’t being mindful of what was happening, it’s just that I wasn’t sure what was going on or what to do about it. And I’m still not. Complex problems never have simple answers. Or maybe they do, but they’re sure as hell not easy to arrive at, especially with the cognitive slowdown going on. Or perhaps it’s more that we know the basic solution but not how to get there; the mountaintop peaking through the fog in the distance. The solution to gut problems? Heal the gut. No freaking duh. But then as we approach the base of the mountain, there’s about 100 different paths, and a thousand different guidebooks, and no real guarantee of ever reaching the top.
Anyway, the asana practice. Fortunately, the widespread joint and muscle pain has improved after stopping a medication that was causing it to flare worse than it ever had (of course, the downside is that I still have the issue it was meant to be treating). My principle for most movement has been to Try & Modify, if I get can get past the anxiety of potentially hurting myself/going out of the house/seeing other humans/etc. I go for walks with an SI belt to give my back and pelvis extra support, and that’s been pretty successful. I do physical therapy exercises, and I think those help as long as I don’t overdo it. But asana has been a trickier beast. Sometimes my modifications backfire. It’s even possible that some of the modifications I had in place for my practice previously have contributed to the imbalances I’m now experiencing. These issues are complex, as validated by several physical therapists who, when asked what exactly my diagnosis was, said something along the lines of, “Uh, well, you’ve got a lot of things going on…”
So on I go, seeking solutions.
It isn’t lost on me that what I’m going through is yoga in some brutal sense. Many of the Buddhist masters (yoga isn’t necessarily Buddhist but many of the philosophies are similar) were/are enthusiastic about pain, depression, and suffering in a way that would maybe seem a little sick and creepy if not for the context: they see them as tools for transformation, as ideal conditions for the awakening of the higher Self. Which honestly makes the ego-driven part of myself want to flip them the bird over and over again, for the span of roughly five lifetimes, but another part of me, the calmer, wiser Jeana that recognizes that she is both infinitely small and infinitely big, both separate and connected, both perfect and imperfect, sees some truth in the idea.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss flowing without feeling tweaks in my wrists or worrying about whether my hip will hurt later or getting exhausted after two sun salutations. And sometimes it just feels better to hold space for feeling shitty about that rather than trying to contort my emotions into something positive. Yes, I know that’s the real practice and that’s where the opportunity lies and everyone’s practice is different from day to day and challenges are why we practice in the first place and it’s not really about the poses, and those can all be helpful reminders, but sometimes I just want to grieve that my body isn’t up to doing the movements that make me feel the most alive. Sure, it could change, but in the present moment, that’s the situation. And I’m tired of “seeing the bright side” always being the go-to when sometimes we just need to stomp our feet and scream swear words and throw temper tantrums. Sometimes we just need some wildness.
Much love to you.