Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Moment of Ease

[This one felt more like what I used to write like, maybe because my mood has picked up because of what I have described.  Though, upon a proof read, it was not one of my better bits of prose.]

It has been a long time coming, . . . , this moment.

First, I realized a new way to explain chronic pain that I must express.  So similar to what I have written and told people and doctors before, it is not until a change that things can really be understood, even noticed.

*     *     *     *     *

Take your mind back to the last time you were injured, a tweaked knee or twisted ankle may be easiest, but a burn or other injury to a part of your body you use often for daily living can be a substitute.  I'll use the twisted ankle as an example, one where you are supposed to remain off of it for as much as possible.  It's swollen such that just moving the leg in the air actually causes discomfort and pain.  Can you remember?  Empathize?

With this hurt ankle, let's say you find yourself alone, even if for just a short time.  Let's say you were hungry and hobbled through the pain to the kitchen, made something to eat, poured a drink, and gimped you way back to the couch, carefully balancing your provisions while using furniture and walls for support on the journey.  Make no mistake, even just 25 feet from kitchen to couch is a journey.  You set down the food on the end table, twist and fall in a pseudo-jump onto the couch so your leg can land raised on the pile of pillows it was supposed to remain elevated upon, and you exhale, somewhat triumphantly, in appreciation of finishing the deed, persevering through the pain, now able to "stay off" the leg as you know you are supposed to.

Then you see the remote control is a good 4 feet out of reach and you will have to get up again.

That is the moment I am talking about.  It's the "Oh fuck, I have to go through that again" feeling.  You know how much it is going to hurt.  You had hoped you were done hurting for at least a little while, only to discovered yourself wrong so soon after thinking you would get a break.  You have to struggle through pain, again, and even if it is just for a small task, you want nothing to to with it, but know it is unavoidable.  There will be no break.  Not yet, anyways.

*     *     *     *     *

Living with chronic pain is knowing that feeling ALL THE TIME.  There is never a break.  You forget breaks from pain even exist.  Every involuntary movement brings discomfort, sometimes even severe pain, and often the inability to relax at all is oppressive when you are perfectly still, only breathing.  Just being,  just the force of gravity upon limbs and the pressure of their weight against the bed is torture enough.  Yet, every action you have to take has that same bit of despair, that moment of "not again," constantly as a burden.  It is relentless, how it troubles your mind. 

This is why you don't want to do anything, go anywhere, even just get out of bed or off the couch, ever.

For me, this has been the last 6 years or so.

Worth noting, I often do appreciate that things are not worse, because I have tasted it, when sick or injured on top of my constant issues.  I know there are people living with worse pain, and for a much longer time, than what I suffer, yet I do try to convince myself that I endure through more then many would (suicide being a topic of reoccurring consideration).

*     *     *     *     *

Why was I suddenly able to realize this description?  I was visited, check that, I am still being visited by an old friend, the ear infection, and another has just managed to start in the other ear as well.

I had not been using any strong pain medication for a few weeks now.  Things had been progressing well.  I really feel movement getting towards the highest part of my back to the bottom of my neck, and in my shoulders such that I literally feel movement wrap around my arms as it travels down the muscles.  Anyways, with such "productivity," I took the progress with the pain.

Then, the ear infection hit day two.  I still have ear drops from my last one.  Though it has been a while (year or more), I have probably averaged 1-3 a year, sometimes really bad ones.  They do, however, trump the chronic pain, making the other parts of my body feel better, relatively speaking.  After all, the easiest way to stop feeling the pain in one body part is to hurt another part worse.

But day 2 of the ear infection brought stronger pain, an area of about 3 to 4 inches circling the ear becoming quite sensitive such that even slight jaw movement brought ear pain.  So I cracked open the Narco.  Without getting into it deeply, I'll admit I had also been avoiding the better pain killers because of constipation issues, having had some bleeding and hemmoroid pain the previous month.  So, I also doubled the Miralax dose for my coffee.

About an hour after taking the pill, I could honestly say that I almost felt good.  I could have done something.  I even wanted to do something.  I wanted to go do yard work or wash my car.  I didn't, thank God, knowing that the pain meds would wear off soon enough and any increased swelling around my ear would necesitate a higher dose of pain killer just to stop me from screaming, but I actually WANTED to get off the couch and do something.  I wasn't burdened.  The idea of just standing up no longer seemed an pain filled endeavor.

Sure, the moment did not last.  And yes, it was also spoiled by my overactive mind, which approached a mental breakdown over the realization that I had not felt anywhere near decent in 6 or more years (I used to be a "morning person" that would jump out of bed and attack the day's chores).  Yet, I finally had a moment, a moment of ease.  It has been so long.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I Had A Dream

[I'm really not writing very well.  This is very much NOT how I wanted to approach this topic, but having started it a while back to avoid the boring and try to inch toward the entertaining aspects of my past few years, I feel I need to throw it out there.  The dream really happened.  My beliefs because of it are genuine and logically consistent.  Yet, I fear I made too many jumps for the concept to naturally evolve in the reader before explaining my deductions, which should be the goal of any well written piece, IMO, like how M. Night had everyone thinking what he wanted them to think when Bruce Willis got his realization.  So, forgive me or not, or just don't read.  There are some interesting principles to think about below.  I'm just finding it had to think lately, again.  You may have to do the thinking for me on this one if you hope to understand it.  SIGH.]

This is the only dream I know of that I have had which came true.  There may have been more.  I don't know.  But I do know it happened this one time.  I mean I KNOW it.  Read on and see.  The following is completely true.

*     *     *     *     *

The premise -

I was 18 years old, a freshman living in the Clark Kerr dormatory at UC Berkeley, at the time, a physics major.  I had not yet begun to drink myself into trouble, academically or otherwise.  Understand, too, that in high school I was what I'd call semi-athletic.  I was fast, but thin.  I ran track for two years (reaching MHAL finals for the 400 with a 53.4, woohoo, never to be approached again).  I played golf on a Junior Golf team from age 9 to 21. 

I had a pool at my house, such that the older boys on the block would consider me a friend on hot summer days, and I was very "good" in the pool.  I was the guy that could tickle the foot of the person that was "it" in Marco Polo and would not get caught, even if the guy peeked.  I was faster than most at freestyle, but never swam competitively.  I had rarely even seen a competition pool, lanes in, as I ran track during that sport season.  I only saw them in passing a few times.  The relevence of this is upcoming.

So, a month or so into my freshman year, all of us newly thrown together 18 year olds nervous, it was quite common for the group of us that gathered at the same dining table in the morning to bring up our dreams, if we thought they were interesting.  Still learning how to socialize, I suppose.  I rarely contributed.

Then, the dream -

I was sitting on the top step of a set of bleachers that were painted white.  I was watching people swim back and forth in a pool that was directly in front of me.  The really odd part was that both the white bleachers and pool were inside of a large cave.  It wasn't exactly dark, but was definitely dank in feeling.

After some time, still sitting atop the bleachers, a woman came up from my right.  She was older, in her 40s, physically fit, and pretty good looking in her one piece (no easy feat from the judgement of an 18 year old).  She raised her hand, holding up a cassette tape, and said, "Can I rewind my tape in your cassette player?"

End dream.

*    *     *     *     *

Clearly nothing special, but it was an intensly vivid dream.  I had not experienced such vivedness since childhood.  It was so vivid, I told my room mate about it while we got ready that morning, and later spoke up at breakfast about it, where, of course, the conversation quickly turned towards women in their 40s and whether this was evidence of a fetish on the part of myself.  I bring this up because, years later, I had the chance to ask a few of the people I had told about the dream if they remembered me telling them.  Two did, one being my former room mate, who then returned to the topic of my alleged fetish for older women.

Now, before skipping the likely more interesting tales of drunken misdeeds and their consequences, it should be noted that I left Cal after that first semester, to "grow up," as Sanford Paganucci, head of student discipline, had put it.  I returned home to San Jose, tail between my legs, to attend SJSU while I "matured" before returning to Cal two years later.

One of those "friends" from childhood (hot summer day "let's be nice to Mike he has a pool" friend), was also living at home.  He had a job at the Central YMCA, teaching swim lessons and lifeguarding, and he invited me to apply as well.  I did, and I can say with some pride that my experience working 40+ hours a week while taking a full load of classes at SJSU did help me "grow up" in a big way.

And so it came to pass, as I sat in a white life guardchair, as the lifeguard for morning lap swim (6-9am), that the attractive 40ish aqua aerobics instructor of my dream came up on my right hand side holding a cassette tape and asked, "Can I rewind my tape in your cassette player?"

In a moment of imediate recall, probably looking like a deer in the headlights, I softly said, "I dreamed this."

She tilted her head with a puzzled look.  "Can I rewind this in your player?"

"Yeah . . . , yeah."  And she walked away to prepare for her class, leaving me to sit, watching swimmers go back and forth, thinking about that dream.

*     *     *     *     *

First, I just found this on line, a picture of the Central YMCA indoor pool.  The place has been upgraded since 1990, but you can still somewhat see the asbestos looking ceiling.  It used to come down the walls a few feet as well.  It had a dank feel to it in there, and it looked very much like a cave.  Most indoor pools share this effect (at least to me) I since learned, but the added visual cue of the grey, granulated ceiling really exacerbated the effect.  It wasn't until I told some co-workers of the dream that I learned the people at the front desk actually called the room "the cave."

Feel free to think it was coincidence.  I do not.

My intreige over the dream was significant.  I went on to become a Psychology major (perhaps, in part, because of my interest in this dream), going back to Cal, where I graduated with an emphasis in Cognitive Psychology.  I have read, with interest, all the reasons given to refute people who claim their dreams have come true, and I absolutely agree with most of said rebuttals in most cases, as likely alternatives to actual precognition.  They do not work here, however.

First, I could only dream what I knew.  I never saw a life guard chair up close, wooden or metalic, painted white or otherwise.  The YMCA chair was wooden and painted white.  Having spent much time watching football and basketball from bleachers in high school, the 18 year old me pictured white bleachers.  Also, I had never been to or seen an indoor swimming pool before that time, let alone one with a dull grey, asbestos looking ceiling, where even condensation dripped into pool make it feel like a cave when things were quiet.  So, if during the dream, my mind was witness to the Central YMCA's pool and me upon a white washed lifeguard stand, it makes sense that I would perceive myself upon a bleacher inside a cave instead.

This argument is much like what Ancient Alien believers point out (which I admit is not the argument to run with for credibility purposes, but oh well).  If a person of ancient times witnessed a single person flying saucer of some sort, his inability to understand what he witnessed, technologically speaking, would result in describing the event in terms he did understand, like an angel or a person upon a flying carpet.

*     *     *     *     *
Ultimately, the sole purpose of this post is to provide why I am a believer in "precognition" in various forms.  I believe it can happen because I am certain it once happened to me.  I do not believe in every person that claims to tell fortunes, by any means, but I believe in the possibility. 

I resently rewatched the movie Dogma, and found a quote resonated with me.  Alan Rickman, as The Voice of God, explains that God's voice would explode the skull of any human that heard it, being overwhelmed.  So, in all of recorded history, anyone that reported having spoken to God, was in fact talking to Rickman's character instead, The Voice of God, or they were talking to themselves.

This is to say that I don't disregard Nostradamus out of hand (though many interpretations of his quatrains are suspect as all hell).  I find Edgar Casey incredibly interesting.  I think an awful lot more is going on around us then we are capable of consciously perceiving.  This makes for a great deal of interesting possibilities.  Would you necesarily have a clue if you were seeing the future in your dreams but your mind kept interpreting them in terms you found commonplace?

In later posts, I will introduce how much fun it can be to entertain such a position, how it can (and did in my case) help in times of trouble by entertaining one's self with such speculation.  As a precurser, consider:  If the subconscious is capable of picking up glimpses of the future, how much art, how much fiction, can actually be incorporating glimpses of the future, likely without even knowing it?  Could some of our fiction, from movie scripts to song lyrics, actually have future events incorporated within them, even the author unaware?

With that, similar to how I found an alternate meaning for the first lines of 19th Nervous Breakdown, give Led Zeppelin's Stairway To Heaven a listen.

Monday, February 13, 2012

My 19th Nervous Breakdown Delemna

[I had hoped to plow through this one while I had it in my head, though it already has been rearranged several times in the minutes since I woke.  But no, it spiralled out of control, once again, my posture contorting as I got more and more frustrated with each new deviation.  Oh well, at least I posted something.]

"When you were just a child
You were treated kind
But you were never brought up right."

 - The Rolling Stones

I spend far too much time in my head worrying over this, waiting for something to come into focus.  Ultimately, I truly believe there is very little to nothing that doctors can do for me.  My body is going to finish this pretty much on it's own, eventually, just painfully.  Yet, I can't stop hoping for help and understanding, preferably from a power-that-be type white coated individual.  The chance for someone to find an objective test to demonstrate what I am going through is also very appealing.  But then again, I have to communicate it eventually, or I will help no one in the future, which is the only goal I actually believe is attainable given my 40+ year old body is never going to become a fit, 20 year old body.

So, it should be clear that I am having trouble communicating what I believe is happening to me.  My fear is that I keep using terms that not only have multiple meanings, doctors unable to "get" what I am saying, but that I am unaware of the meaning they hear as well.  It would be as if I am saying potAto, them hearing potaato, both of us tone deaf to the difference (imagine Eliza Doolittle repeating her vowels, not realizing it is the sound, not the information, that is the issue, only Prof. Higgins does not realize that Eliza does not understand).

With that, I return to the aptly named 19th Nervous Breakdown lyrics (albeit a small portion of them).  The above quote is what I always heard until one morning, stuck to the floor wiggling in back pain, listening to music in a poor attempt at pain avoidance.  It was then that I heard:

"When you were just a child, you were treated fine, but never brought upright."

See the difference, physically made erect compared to properly reared.

So, it may be most accurate to describe my fear this way:

I walk into my doctor's office saying "I wasn't brought upright.  I was brought upright."  My doctor hears me claim "I wasn't brought up right.  I wasn't brought up right." 

Until either I figure out what they hear or they understand what I am saying, the communication breakdown will remain.

*     *     *     *     *

After that 19th Nervous Breakdown realization, I projected meanings upon the lyrics of so many songs it was ridiculous (recall the first post of this blog uses While My Guitar Gently Weeps).  Over time, however, some became clear, like Weeps, to have been about something similar to what actually ails me.  Of course, others do not, and it was probably not the best of ideas to use a song off of The White Album to try and explain to a doctor or psychologist that I was NOT insane.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Current Situation - Another Step To Take

[Basically, a journal entry out of courtesy, explaining the presumed absense to come.]

I am upset.  Things have destablized in a big way lately.  Progress is likely, but so is pain.  I have no clue if I will be able to write at all in the near future.

I am near certain I must reassert myself on altering my hip tilt (top back, muscles of lower back spread, allowing legs to rotate inward).  If that makes any sense to anyone, let me know why.

The local pool has reopened from it's winter closure (though the weather will probably be worse in the next two months than it has in the last two), and I must start swimming again.  I shall focus on breaststroke, again, with an emphasis on hip position.

I had always had a strong, but I believe now, very incorrect kick, much moreso than I had thought originally.  Far to much like a frog kick, my hips tilted drastically in a manner opposite as described above, such that I could virtually bring the back of my knees together when propelled.  My lower back must arch far too much.  I shall focus on keeping my knees pointed down, not out.

I had hoped I was so much closer towards approaching normalcy than I am.  So much more work to do, and I do not know where I will find the motivation to do so.  I am so tired, sleep so little, and feel so uncomfortable all the time.

This would be easier if it were hot outside.  Only a few more months, I guess.  I'll try to stay above water til then, and hopefully get a second wind.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Haiku One

[I tried attempting a post two days ago.  It was not very long, yet I got very frustrated when I became too tired to finish it.  Confusion set in quickly after pain derailed my train of thought.  I could not get the most simple of aspects to fit, becoming angry, which only exacerbated physical pains.  Such has been the past several years.  Perhaps I am trying to write on this topic too soon.  It, and I, may need more time in the oven.  Yet, since I'm already on the cooling rack and out in the open, I feel the need to keep posting.  So enters haiku.  When I fail at the longer pros, I'll try to give either one of these, or an OPO (One Paragraph Opinion), on a single aspect of that which I hope to convey.  Simple or complex, deep or shallow, they will be at least tangential in relevance to the theories I shall eventually outline.]

An objective ill
Still subjectively unknown,
The tone deaf singer.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How It Started (or How I Learned To Walk On Water)

[Not the post I envisioned when I sat to write, but it at least keeps me on the horse.  I'm hoping to write at least twice a week.  Anything.  Just to keep my mind churning.  As such, some entries will lack the quality I desire.  I will provide post-post written, pre-post posts, such as this, to note when I hit or miss what I meant to write.  This one conveys what I wanted to, but not in the form I had originally pictured.  I'd give it a B-, even on a curve taking in account my physical pain (decent) and mental anguish (Cal's football signing day has been monumentally disappointing, thanks Tosh).]

Do not misinterpret the title, the "started" part, not the "walk on water" part, I meant the "walk on water" part quite literally.   As the old, dated, posts I pasted to this blog would indicate, what follows is not really when what is wrong with me started.  It's when the change started.  Hopefully, it's when the correction started.

There were always a few things I knew was different about me, things I had realized.  I tried listing them.  I had thought on many of them before even realizing to add my walk.  You see, I was searching for possible physical manifestations of my misery.  Compared to an "uuuh" sound I allegedly made after every sentence (an exhale with vocalization?), how I walked was not really what I was focusing on to begin with.

For example, as a member of the King's Canyon Roaring River Trail Crew, I developed a knot in my back.  It was ridiculous.  No amount of massage or stretching could weaken it in the slightest.  It literally protruded from my back visibly, and it was hard.  Over time, I had had some conflicts with my supervisor.  As things between us got more difficult (he even tried to get me to quit smoking by creating a "smoking section" 100 yards away from camp), I was miserable.  I finally quit, and within minutes, I noticed the knot was gone.  Right or wrong, I concluded that the knot had been a physical manifestation of my misery.

So, again miserable, more so than ever before, I was grasping at straws such that I might find a physical manifestation once again, and maybe this time backwards extrapolate to figure out if I could improve my situation.  Eventually, I turned to my walk.

My walk was different from most such that I could be picked out of a crowd, even from a distance.  I cannot describe it as I obviously was the walker, not a viewer.  Others had commented on it in varying ways most of my life.  I was a toe walker, and I used significant effort.  My shoes wore down significantly on two opposite corners (I hate that I don't have an old pair to examine now and scrutinize).

I walked very fast, I can say with certainty.  I do not believe it helped in any way shape or form that I grew up on a hill.  I carried a rather full backpack and a trumpet case up that damn hill for far too many years.  Do not think for a second I write this off.  No, I am certain it contributed to my condition, but only so much as it would a normal person.  Now I know I was broken already, so the hill, the books, and the trumpet were merely another front joining the perfect storm.

Primarily, I knew that my walk took a lot of effort, as if I was carrying a great weight, and this is where my realization formed.

I considered evolution and natural selection.  Competition drives the long term success of traits.  Under the stress of competition, it is those best suited to the environment which thrive.  It is logical that traits which use the least energy to produce the same desired results are superior, and therefore more likely to be passed along.  The more I thought about it, the more it made sense that I was using too much effort with every step. 

"Perhaps I had taught myself this walk because of the damn hill?" I wondered back then.

So I sat down with pencil and paper to do some math and figure out the ideal walk.  Do understand, I meant to identify a perfect walk, one which I believed evolution would strive towards, which it had and shall continue to move towards.  I thought that by finding the perfect walk on paper, I might be able to simply improve my own, if it was, in fact, the wrong way to walk, and possibly lessen my misery in the process.

Right off, it was pretty clear.  The perfect walk, neglecting friction, would be a matter of simply keeping the body up in the air once the gait speed of choice had been achieved.  There would only be force applied straight down.  The body, already in motion, would remain in motion.  You would basically just raise your feet and put them down.  I made several sketches.  [For a visual, picture your hands grasping the rungs of a ladder.  Now, make the ladder lie flat.  Maybe that helped.  I'm afraid I am not tech savvy enough to scan and insert my drawings yet.  Some day.]  They admittedly looked like I was trying to create a perpetual motion machine, which, in some ways, I was.

And so began my endeavor to change my walk.  As often as I could, I focused on every step.  I would alter the tilt of my hips or stomach such as to not push so much, to not use my toes so much, to let the foot land with ease instead of force.  I would envision my old shoes with clear scrapes from repeated and undesired friction so I could avoid such steps. This I did for many months, a feat in itself, before the real changes started.

But I fear losing control of this post, again being sucked back into chronologies and tangential tidbits that make my tale too difficult, too large for me to grasp, too entangled to figure out how to articulate it.  Entangled, how appropriate?  Anyways, I was going to describe how to walk on water.

It is simple.  Just as outlined above, the key is to only apply force straight down.  Make sure you reach your desired speed before reaching the water.  Trying to slow down or speed up by owns own means once upon the water will result in failure, almost immediately.  Once you have reached the water, again, already at the desired speed, you must maintain "step pace" such as to keep your feet under you.  There lies the trick.  Each foot must go slightly in front of and behind the body, but you have to only allow the portion of each foot that touches the water to be applying force downward.  There must be no forward or backward pressure.  [An aside I will write of in depth at some point - I would recommend "bare foot" running shoes.  I wear Vibrams, but if the toes freak you out, there are several other brands.]

So remember.  (1) Reach your desired speed first, (2) Maintain "step pace" to remain vertical, and (3) No forward or backward pressure.

Using this approach, your gait will appear to glide upon the water, though actually moving exactly as if upon land using the perfect walk, and you can walk on water.

Just make sure you freeze it first.