“Just breathe” is sometimes easier said than done

Okay, now that I have opened up the Pandora’s box on this chronic pain and have started paying attention to my muscles when they move, I’m realizing that one of the reasons I don’t always breathe evenly, is because it hurts to breathe.

How unfortunate.

The simple act of filling my lungs causes my shoulders to lift, which hurts.

It ties into my neck, which also starts to hurt.

And my ribs expand, which also is painful.

Good grief.

Oh, well. I’ve been pretty active, physically, which has something to do with it. I’ve really been pushing myself, lately, lifting heavy weights and doing movements I haven’t done in a long time. I feel much better when I lift heavy weights. I find it very soothing.

At the same time, thought, I tend to be physically active a lot – especially in the winter, when I try to get out and get active as much as possible. I actually do better in the winter, since I can warm up — while in summer I can’t always cool down.

So, I’ve been pushing my body, exercising muscles a lot, and all the extra lactic acid along with the micro-tears in my muscle tissue… well, it’s adding up to a whole lot of pain. Especially when I breathe.

So, I need to really work on that. It’s hard to relax, when I’m not breathing regularly, but my body instinctively tenses up and avoids the pain that comes with deep breathing.

You see my quandary.

Oh, screw it. I’m going to eat some dinner, have some more Advil, take a long hot shower, and crash. I’m pretty wiped out, so I should be able to sleep reasonably well. And when I sleep, I’ll be breathing regularly, so my body will be able to settle back into a rhythm.

Here’s hoping.

Pain can make you crazy

The weather is changing. After weeks and weeks of hot, dry weather, suddenly it is cold and rainy. And my body can tell the difference. I’m considerably more tender and tight than I have been, and it’s having an effect on my frame of mind.

First, being in pain makes me less likely to move. Much as I may tell myself to ignore the pain and “work through it,” my body is still wired to know what’s good for it — and instinctively avoid pain-producing situations. That’s just how our bodies work — they “know” that our minds tend to override them and force them into situations which can be physically damaging, so they do their self-defensive thing and just avoid the kinds of movements that produce pain.

Being less likely to move makes me tighter than usual. My muscles feel shorter and smaller, and I feel cramped. When I stretch them, it feels really good — like I’m freeing up a bunch of energy that’s been trapped in them. But I have to consciously remember to stretch. My body isn’t inclined to move on its own, when I’m feeling pain.

Being tighter than usual makes me crankier than usual. This is not fun for anyone. I have a lower threshold of tolerance for foolishness (or what seems like foolishness to me), and I tend to snap at people over whatever. I also grouse and grumble, which makes people at work wonder if I’m okay.

Being crankier than usual makes me feel like crap about myself. I don’t feel 100% and I start to wonder if there’s something wrong with me. I don’t feel like I have command of my own life, my own mind, my own body, my own moods, and that sense of helplessness eats away at my self-esteem and self-confidence. And I start to do things that will make me feel better about my life — like eating junk food and staying up late watching crap on t.v.

When I feel like crap about myself, I start to question my sanity. My sleeping schedule may be way off, my daily habits may be unhealthy, and my overall sense of who I am and how I’m doing may be at total odds with what I want them to be. I wonder if I’m losing my mind – I’ve worked so hard to get to this place, I’ve worked so hard to build myself back up, and yet here I am, feeling like a screw-up and feeling damaged and feeling like I’ll never get ahead.

It makes me crazy. And it starts with the pain.

See, here’s the thing about the body-mind connection… I firmly believe that much of our state of mind is tied in with our feelings about our bodies — if we’re feeling healthy, if we’re feeling strong enough to live our lives… indeed, if we are strong enough to live our lives. Pain contributes to reduced range of motion, fatigue, emotional exhaustion, and a dramatically decreased quality of life, and that craziness starts in the body.

…Which can also be tied into the mind… because if your mind is untamed and running wild all over creation, then it can run you ragged (through stress-seeking behavior and situations) and eventually dissolve the rug out from under you with stress and fatigue and over-exertion. I won’t say “pull the rug out” because the process is much more gradual, insidious, and (while preventable) uncannily predictable.

It’s a constant feedback loop that spells trouble.

Now, before I make myself crazy, I must get on with my day.