I saw my GP last week. I wanted some advice about muscles aches — not the regular over-asana’ed ones. The bone-pulling, dead-weight, so stiff you feel about to snap ME-style ones that make any travel further than the bathroom seem like an impossibility and holding arms up long enough to shampoo hair takes serious effort. Muscles groan even at rest, even skin is massively sensitive. Don’t touch me! I am glad I only feel like this on off-days, not every day, but I still don’t know how best to look after myself.
“I don’t keep up with the literature any more. So what’s the latest advice about exercising and ME”, I asked my doctor. She grinned at my declaration of ignorance — time was when I used to summarise for her the reports she’d not yet read. It turns out the story is still conflicting: medics advocate ignoring muscle and joint symptoms, patient groups advocate listening to them and resting. Still no-one knows what causes ME sufferers to feel this degree of unusual discomfort so it’s hard to advise an appropriate response. My doctor talked about ‘chronic deconditioning’ from years of reduced activity levels. Exactly what that means isn’t terribly clear to me, but she wasn’t surprised when I said that a physio had once told me that my experience of pain wasn’t matched by the degree of joint displacement and injury she could measure. My neurons were firing over-zealously, apparently. Trust my neurons to be overachievers!
So my doc’s advice essentially was to take analgesics and get on with it. ‘It’ being life in general, as well as yoga specifically. She reassured me that even if I feel bad (and the assumption is that I would from time to time), it’s not something that a few days resting isn’t going to fix. I won’t actually do myself harm and I won’t be heading into relapse territory, which I guess is what I’m fearful of. I had long years of living a a half-life and I don’t know how I would face doing that again. But apparently I’ve been on the upward path for too long now, so serious relapse is unlikely. Though after ascertaining how vigorous my new activity level is when I’m feeling well, she cautioned me against training for a half marathon! In my dreams…!
She concluded: “You are not a patient, you are handling this. Have faith in your body’s ability to heal itself. Allow it to do that.” She sounded suspiciously like a yoga teacher. Apart from the bit about painkillers, I guess!
I was still nervous. I’ve never in several decades been given this kind of gung-ho advice. And I am used to those around me wanting to wrap me up in tissue paper and protect me.
Returning to my fundamental fear, I asked “But what if I overdo it?”
Her response was more robust still: ‘I want you to overdo it! Get out there, and do it. Live your life!”
I’m adjusting to the new me, and I have been gradually for a few years now as I feel less and less sick overall. In reality this conversation with my GP changes nothing. But right now it feel as though it changes everything.
image source: http://www.pcrobinson.co.uk/home/about-me