My mind and body aren’t always on the same page. I frequently find myself in the position of wanting to go out and do something, but my body won’t let me. When I’m in an IBS or endometriosis flare, I’m very limited in what I am physically able to do. This means I get stuck at home a lot because I need to be near a bathroom or am unable to get out of bed due to intense pain. At times, this leads me to feel that there is a disconnect between my conscious and physical self, (even though I understand that they are integral to each other).
I’m very much a “Type A” personality; I like to keep busy and get bored easily. I love working, even if it’s just a dull secretarial position. I find the act of doing a job, of feeling useful, very fulfilling. Before leaving my job 10 months ago, I was the primary breadwinner – a 20-something just starting a career in higher education. It was an administrative position, nothing too exciting, but I loved working with students. I even began to think about going back to school to get my Master’s to teach adult learners. But, naturally that’s all on hold at the moment. It’s extremely difficult for me to work in a physical office right now since my symptoms are so unpredictable and debilitating, and going back to school when things are so uncertain feels like I would be setting myself up for failure. I’m trying to figure out a work around, but no solutions yet.
Even making simple plans is difficult. I might make plans to go on a hike over the weekend and get blindsided with a flare up. I have to hit the pause button on life and resign myself to a stint on the couch instead. It’s so incredibly frustrating to want to do all these things and come up against road block after road block. On the flip side, I don’t want to put myself in a position of doing too much and making myself sicker (I’ve done this before and it wasn’t worth it).
Often, I feel like my mind and body are completely separate entities constantly at war with one another. It’s difficult to explain, but I feel a sort of dissociation from my own body; that it’s not really mine and there’s been some sort of mistake. This feeling of dissociation is most powerful during an endometriosis flare. The worst symptoms take place during the first 1-3 days of my period. That may not sound like much, but these flares are literally crippling (and keep in mind that these occur in between several IBS flares a month and other endo related symptoms as well).
I experience an excruciating pain that radiates throughout my abdomen and up through my back. The pain manifests as an intense cramping punctuated with a stabbing sensation that lasts anywhere from 12 to 24 hours at a time. Medication doesn’t even touch it, so I don’t bother taking anything anymore; Ibuprofen and Tylenol mess up my stomach anyway. The pain is so intense, I can barely walk, and occasionally it even makes me vomit.
It’s during these types of episodes that my consciousness feels so detached from my physical self. I want to shed my body, much as the snake sheds its’ skin, and start fresh. My husband and I joke about the advancement of android technology; I’d totally go for a robot-body if that was an option.
I get so frustrated with my situation at times – I control what I can, but ultimately I can’t control everything my body does. I see my doctors regularly, I exercise, I eat right, I do everything I possibly can to improve my health. But even that doesn’t diminish the sense of futility that goes along with having a chronic condition.
I started meditating about two weeks ago; I’m trying to let go of my instinct to control everything all the time (easier said than done). I think it’s helping, but it’s still too soon to tell. I’m not at all a religious person, but I’ve been re-reading some of the Buddhist texts I studied in college. The discussions of consciousness, self-reliance and detaching oneself from suffering resonate deeply and bring me comfort. I do try to be thankful for my body; I wouldn’t be here without it after all and I have had a lot of wonderful experiences in my life. Some days, it’s difficult to feel grateful for a body that causes me so much physical distress and I may always struggle with feelings of dissonance and dissociation.
It’s a process.
I do my best and keep going.