Mind Over Body

Photo from Health Resource Center

Photo from Health Resource Center

Today, my body has continued to complain as it’s been complaining all week. Anyone with one or more chronic illnesses will know what I mean. There are times when my body quiets, hums along contentedly, and I feel good. Then there are other times when my body grouses and groans, wants my attention, or just gives me pain.  During her discontented times, I seek ways to relieve her distress. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes not. As I write this, I’m soaking both feet up to and a little above the ankles in a tub of icy water.

The demands of life, e.g. work, often interfere with whatever other plans I may have, and make it difficult for me to take care of my body more often than not.  This past week, I worked a moderate amount at my part-time job, but two of the days were full days.  I had no time to deal with my swollen ankles and feet from psoriatic arthritis until I returned home in the evenings.  One morning, I managed to ice my left ankle for about ten minutes before I had to leave.  This week also a new pain has introduced itself, i.e. pain in my Achilles tendon making it hard to walk at times or to wear shoes.

When my body complains and makes me uncomfortable or gives me pain, I find it very hard to be creative.  I’m amazed by anyone who can compartmentalize the physical in order to create artistically.  This fall, I finally broke down and bought, used, Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, considered to be the definitive biography of

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven.   In an appendix of the second part I discovered the report of the autopsy done on Beethoven after he died — I hadn’t known that one existed. It was shocking to read.  He must have been in incredible pain at times as well as near constant discomfort.  And yet he continued to compose, including his Ninth Symphony.

The only explanation I could think of for Beethoven’s incredible discipline was that he could achieve an altered state of consciousness when he worked and it somehow helped to alleviate his pain and discomfort. Or maybe he resorted to alcohol to blunt the pain — his liver was in terrible shape when he died.  I have lost myself in his music at times, and classical music of all kinds helps to relax me, lower my blood pressure, slow my pulse.  An example of mind over body: music’s sound enters through the ears, is processed by the brain, and the sound calms emotions.  Muscles then relax, respiration slows.  Sometimes physical pain eases, sometimes not.

Falun Gong Exercises

Falun Gong Exercises

I believe in the mind-body connection.  Our minds are far more powerful than we realize, and most people have no interest in knowing.  I don’t want to merely tell my body to stop hurting.  I want my body to stop attacking itself, the process that is causing the pain. I know I need to return to my Falun gong practice to connect with the forces of energy within and without. They can be beneficial for my physical well-being.

Today, I plan to dig out my files for Perceval’s Shadow, the second novel in the Perceval series. I wonder if I immersed myself in revising the first draft that the physical pain would go away.  Or maybe the short story I’ve been writing in my head for the past month.  I don’t know.  I’m also wondering if being scattered in my life hurts my body — my part-time job schedule is not predictable so I cannot establish a reliable structure to my work days that includes both writing and the part-time job.  I want to be like Beethoven — mind over body — but I fear that my mind may be too weak….


6 responses to “Mind Over Body

  1. Cinda, I live in constant pain due to rheumatoid arthritis. My anti-inflamatories and other message for the discomfort help to a degree, but rest is what works best. I work full-time in an office job, which is fine, but I need to take the stairs do do some of my work. We need an elevator or a teleportation station. I would prefer the latter.

    Beethoven was not well at all, much like a number of composers. I am glad to have the works that he had left for us. There are moments when my mind stops working due to the aches of the body. Those moments I spend listening to music. Wendy

    • So sorry, Wendy, to hear you have RA. I’m dealing with a type of RA right now, but also have other chronic illness. I really like your idea of teleportation. It would save so much time and effort, but on the other hand, it’s good for me to walk from the bus stop to work.

      Music is totally under-rated in medicine. When I was in the hospital earlier this year, and under incredible stress, I took music with me and listened whenever I could. I watched my blood pressure drop when I was listening and my mood lift. The nurses showed me also that the TV had a couple music channels but I preferred my own music. Glad you have found your music to help you through the bad times.

  2. Physical pain is awful Cinda and I’m sorry you are experiencing it. Have you investigated all ways of minimising it? Orthotics for your shoes .. ones made especially for you by a podiatrist? I ask because orthotics helped me enormously when I had bad hip and other pain many years ago. Then when fibromyalgia was diagnosed some years back, ordinary cortisone taken with powerful painkillers brought the pain under control .. plus bringing up my iron and other levels …

    Good that music is a great help. Could you paint your pain? Lay on the grass and let the earth absorb it? Breath it in and breath it out?

    • Hi, Susan! Thanks for the kind words. Oddly, I don’t have much pain. What I have is swollen ankles and feet that are uncomfortable. It’s painful only when it’s touched and then I know that the muscles and tendons close to the affected joints are inflamed. It is a common issue with psoriatic arthritis. I’ve been soaking my feet and ankles in cold water at times or icing the swollen areas. The cold brings some relief. I’m also have been taking turmeric in capsules for about 3 weeks and it’s beginning to have an effect. I wear the most comfortable shoes that I have. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to deal with chronic pain. It’s so wearying, so frustrating at times, so challenging. I’m glad you’ve found a way to get it under control, though. My good fortune in all this is that I don’t have severe pain. I don’t deal with pain very well.

  3. I am so sorry that you are suffering with these chronic pains. My hat’s off to you for living life in spite of the pain. (I blogged about my pregnancy pains tonight, which made me think about people who have a chronic condition.) I understand a little of what you are going through right now because of my temporary condition. You are right; it’s so hard to be creative, or even stay positive (my main point) when you feel bad. I think you are onto something with music. Over here we do a lot of kids’ CDs right now, but even dancing to silly songs with my son has helped me:) I hope you will find more relief soon…

    • Thanks for your kind words, Lindsey. I saw your blog post and replied to it. It sounds like you share my amazement at people who can still be creative in spite of dealing with chronic illness or pain. Like Beethoven, for example. Music can be very soothing. I know that I really need to reinstate my Falun gong practice daily, too. Take care!

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