I have previously shared with you that I am a very high strung Type A personality. Yes, I am the person that arrives to meetings 20 minutes early because nothing annoys me more than wasted time. You know, the person that drives to new venues the night before just to ensure the directions are accurate. Yep, I am totally the person that shows up to meetings with 4 ink pens just in case one runs out of ink. I am also the person that refuses to play games without a clear winner or prize. For me, playing games for the sake of playing, even board games with my family, is extremely frustrating and sometimes maddening. Competition to me is everything, and I can only think of a handful of things that are as exhilarating as winning.
As I type this blog post, my heart is racing and feels like it may jump out of my chest. Speaking or writing about competition or winning does something to me that is difficult to explain. Just thinking about winning sends a bolt of energy surging through my body that makes it impossible to concentrate on anything else. Given my personality and love of competition, you can probably now see why I find chronic illness extremely frustrating. One of the most frustrating things about being as sick as I have been, is my body’s inability to get up and move like I am accustomed to. I will say, being unable to move like I want has forced me to become comfortable relaxing and being still.
Back in March 2011, shortly after my Crohn’s diagnosis, a friend suggested I try yoga and meditation to help controls my illness. I will admit, my first reaction was “aren’t you brilliant, who needs 20 meds a day when I can just think happy thoughts”. Yep, sarcasm was my go to. I don’t know about you, but it grinds my gears when people act as if they know more about my condition or body than I do. I am sure we have all had this experience at some point. You know, people interrogating you because you are sick and suggesting that surely you have done something to make yourself sick. Or, maybe, people don’t believe you are sick at all and you’re told things like “those symptoms are all in your head” or “if you could just get out of your own head, you could be so much better.” If you haven’t, consider yourself blessed. If you have, then you know just how insulting and infuriating such comments can be. Personally, I am most irritated when the seriousness of my conditions are challenged by individuals I pay to help me. I expect my family members and friends without medical backgrounds to have questions or be confused. But, the individuals I pay to help me, should at a minimum understand my conditions. While I have been fortunate to only run into one doctor that did not believe the ailments I complained of, I have come across multiple people that sought to substitute their opinions for the opinions of my medical team. The biggest offenders have been personal trainers and yoga instructors.
Despite my initial reaction to my friend’s suggestion, I decided to try yoga. While my illness is not caused by stress, my demanding and fast paced lifestyle, along with my high strung personality, did not make battling the illness easier. In fact, it seemed to undermine almost every treatment option. So, after spending a great portion of 2011 in the hospital for flares, and on my “Bitterness Tour”, I decided trying yoga and mediation couldn’t make me worse than I already was.
By end of summer 2011, I had heavily researched yoga instructors that specialize in dealing with people with Crohn’s. The particular yoga instructor I found, who shall remain nameless because I dislike her with a passion, prided herself on “healing” auto-immune disorders. She also advertises that she healed herself from Lupus. Now, I do in fact believe in the power of alternative medicine….but I get very annoyed by people that suggest that they have access to secret cures the modern world has not yet discovered. I mean, come on, if a yoga instructor had the “cure” for Crohn’s or cancer or MS, or other autoimmune disorders, wouldn’t they be rich and famous, as opposed to virtually impossible to find without google? Again, I do believe in alternative medicine…but I also believe some things are beyond the reach of positive thoughts and healthy eating.
Well friends, as you may have guessed, yoga with she whom shall remain nameless did not go well. At the beginning of the class, the yoga instructor quickly identified me as someone that needed her special attention. I’m still not sure why she latched on to me, but she was on me like white on rice. She hovered around me the entire class like a helicopter, while throwing out “helpful feedback” that resembled heckling to me. She would also move my limbs to get them in the perfect position, despite my protests of pain. Annoyed but not overly frustrated, I tried to ignore her. But, the hour yoga session began to feel like an eternity of torture. Half-way through the class, the yoga instructor observed me timidly bending and taking breaks to rest. Apparently frustrated, she walked over and said, “I am sure you can bend a little further than that. You just have to get out of your own head. See, 90% of autoimmune disorders can be cured if you just convince the mind and body you are healed”. Intense heat shot threw my body from my feet to my head. I immediately stood up from my downward dog and snapped, “Actually I can’t. My mind keeps telling my tailbone it can bend further, but my tailbone riddled with rheumatoid arthritis insists my mind is a liar. If you could make them stop arguing that would greatly reduce my stress.”
Oddly enough, time seemed to speed up after that exchange. It was as if I blinked and the full hour of torture was done. I will admit, the instructor did not come back to speak to me. When she inquired with others about their thoughts on the class, she did not bother asking me. So, as I limped out to my car in pain, several lessons came to mind:
1. It is very important to spend time adequately researching yoga instructors. As part of your research, please follow your instincts. If your body tells you this relationship will not work out…it probably wont. I can proudly say that while my first yoga experience was horrible, it did not deter me. Today I have an amazing instructor;
2. Anyone that makes you defend how you feel, is not worth your time. This applies to doctors, yoga instructors, friends, and anyone else; and
3. If your body says you cannot do something or you need to slow down, listen. For some reason I let the heckling of a stranger push me to do things I knew I shouldn’t…and boy did I pay for that.
Reliving this trauma has exhausted me, so I will save my mediation adventure for another day. Namaste.