This past year has had some huge changes for me: the deaths of my father and mother in a four month lapse, my own attempt to play out my role as the “good son,” and the progressive deterioration of my well-being as I no longer could keep up with the “protocols” that maintained my persona (exercise, yoga, meditation, self-development, etc.). I was only partially aware of how these changes were affecting me, but they became concentrated in one symptom: my peripheral neuropathy and its manifestation of numbness, phantom pain (pin pricks in my feet that kept me at night) and sleep deprivation. This symptom distracted me from seeing the deeper “dis-ease” — I feared losing my hold on life’s moorings (as seen in my parents’ deaths), on my capacity to deal with life’s daily tasks and uncertainty, and on my condition as an adult who has to take full responsibility for his life.
This fear of losing my grip translated into a systemic physical trait — I held on ever more tightly through my myofascial tissues. I was the personification of being “uptight” — stiff, constrained, and suffocating. My ligaments, fascia, tendons, muscles and other tissues were engaged to the maximum until I was strangling myself, to the point that large parts of my body was numb, unfeeling. There was a hidden lever in my head that was constantly winding me up, with minute twists to the gears, constantly engaged should some external force or internal flaw make the whole machine blow up under the pressure.
For years, I partially sensed this problem. That’s why I sought out yoga seven years ago. But this problem is so much bigger than starting an exercise regime, developing good work skills or changing eating habits because of a food allergy. That’s why I have put off writing about it here; just one entry is not going to cover it adequately.
A lighter touch
Since my diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy and the start of treatment with myofascial release therapy with Howard Rontal in August, I have begun a gradual process of releasing the tension, of letting go. My weekly therapy sessions were opportunities to explore the psycho-somatic nature of my condition and the mind-body connection. There was no promise of “curing the disease” but increasingly I saw the possibility of controlling my worst symptoms and even finding and developing a more relaxed state.
As of mid-December, my treatment with Howard has been suspended because of the Holidays and travel, so I’ve experimented with techniques that can help me self-soothe and self-heal (more on that in another blog entry). I’ve also made it back to yoga classes, put some time in at the gym and even done some jogging.
Mark Epstein has an insightful book, Going to Pieces without Falling Apart: A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness, and that title captures my predicament. I read it four years ago, and only now realize its meaning. There comes a point when you have to let go and reside in the present moment, no matter what happens, no matter the consequences.