Saturday, July 18, 2015

When It Gets Tough

Doubling over in full spasm may make it seem like I did my best in karate, and maybe I did! But I missed a cue somewhere that it was time to stop, so I will work on it! It's hard to know when something like that is a one-off or if there's something wrong with what I'm doing.

Since achieving my 4-kyu karate has gotten particularly hard. It used to be challenging, now it's hard. My skin tears open, my feet get shredded from movement, and I am so tired after class that I have to go right to sleep when I get home. But I'm satisfied with my effort, I've had a healthy amount of social interaction, I've had fun, and I fall asleep happy.

Even though I seldom get through a class without breaks I love to be there, and I look forward to going. To manage the pain I take breaks to stretch, manage pain, and hydrate. This morning I had taken a stretch break, and perhaps it would have been better if I had stayed on the bench afterword, but I ask myself, how am I to improve if I don't challenge my boundaries?

Testing boundaries is something we all do from the time we are little and we learn the word "no." The way I grew up, everything was a boundary, the boundaries moved, and it was dangerous to cross those boundaries. The only residual part of that muss with EDS is that the boundaries change, relative to my health that day. But some of the fights and stamina exercises are starting to remind me of those days. It's an opportunity to let those feelings come up and to work through them in a safe and positive environment. However, working with a counselor helps me unpack those memories, so I don't have to worry about sorting them out during a workout. I can acknowledge that they're there, make a mental note to process the memories later, and get back to my exercise. A lot of people start karate because of a traumatic past, whether it be ongoing abuse or an isolated event. It's important to keep those feelings in check because they can make you vulnerable or distract you. I keep it simple by telling myself those are yesterday's feelings, and then I take a second to connect with today's feelings, all infinitely more enjoyable.

My feet and ankles hurt a lot in class. I stop often to put bones back in, or to give them a break. I try not to let it interfere with my kata, and I work through the physiology of kata movements to see if better precision with foot placement can help. It usually does, much to my delight!

Breakfalls are still scary.  I think strategically about whether or not to let my partner drop me to the floor, and most times they do so very gently.  I haven't thought of safe ways to practice falling, but I'll come back to it.

I'm not worried that I won't be able to get to a black belt level. I'll work hard on the technical aspects and do everything I can to maximize my moves. That will take practice, my meds put me into a stupor, and I can't always decide which move to do next. But I think I'm at the proper level at which anybody with my rank would be if they had my challenges, and I trust my Sensei's judgement. He wouldn't promote me if I didn't belong in that rank because it would be unfair and unsafe. We don't work that way in my dojo; egotistical risks are rightly frowned upon.

My greatest ally is my Sensei, of course. With all of this, he is well aware of my situation and he has an incredible way of helping me through. Not once has he ever cut me down, complained, or yelled at me for not being able to do something. If I bring it up he says to just keep coming. He never makes a big deal of it, and it's never been a big deal. I need that. I need a place where my health is not going to cause a big ruckus that comes down on my head unexpectedly.  My whole karate family is great about it.

Not the best blog post, but it's where I am at the moment. Other than that, food is staying down thanks to Phenergan and I've got a little bit of energy back. I just need to keep eating, which I never want to do. But if it helps my karate, I'm in. :)

On my way out of the dojo today one of our teens held the door for me and said, "Good job today." Then I knew that I was on the right track. I love working with our teens. Every time I see them I greet them with genuine enthusiasm and eye contact. They've all picked up on it and they now return the gesture. I love it! They are all working hard to grow into good people, and though my part in that is small, I'm thrilled to have one. They brighten my life, and that's one of the million reasons I love karate!

Be well.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Back In Action!

Since I started karate in 2012 this month is the longest I've gone without attending class. The meds have been too heavy and I have been too sedated to do anything satisfying, let alone the most satisfying thing in my world. I've kept up with my studies, practiced my kata, and made every effort to navigate the medical mess of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

It's been seven years since I began refluxing everything that I ate or drank. I'll spare the details, but it's been a long road. I'm finally getting some answers, or at least a working diagnosis, which is better than having them throw handfuls of pills at me in ill-conceived, but well-intended, attempts at controlling the emesis.

When I read my own descriptions of what I'm going through this sound awfully severe. I've learned to get through it without really noticing, which probably makes it more tolerable. However, in karate we are challenged to face what is hard for us and to gain control of the situation. On some level, it is important that I stay aware and reflect on how my body is changing so that I may take good care of it.Tonight was the first night I got back to the dojo! It was very exciting, I get like a little kid! Karate is the thing to which I most look forward, and some people don't look forward to anything as much as I look forward to karate. I let myself appreciate it with every possible ounce of joy that I am capable of feeling.

My goal tonight was to get through warm-ups. Strategically, I had plans to manage my participation by restricting it to half of what I was asked to do. Imagine my delight when I figured out that a month off from karate has given several joints time to heal, increasing my performance! I did rest, but I also pushed myself. I feel great about it!

It's hard to know when to push and when to rest. There are so many benefits to be gained from both, and just enough danger in too much of either to keep me circumspect. This was a constant problem in physiotherapy. At some point my physiotherapist intimated that she had stopped trying to guess what was wrong, and jumped straight into helping me recover. That little bit of information has been quite useful, in that, I am finally using less brainpower to find the source of problems, and allocating that headspace to resolve, recover, and adapt.

One might consider me a highly sensitive person. As such, it can be so overwhelming go through my body's changes that I somehow detach from having feelings about it, just so I can get through it. That may not be a bad thing, because much of it is a sense of loss about which I can do nothing but grieve. Maybe grief will be useful later, but I don't see it helping me right now. Hopefully it won't creep up on me!