After my first mastectomy and reconstruction, my friends told me I looked like an ocean liner coming into harbor when I entered a room. My upper body was immobile. I wasn’t conscious of this, but I must have been protecting the surgery that had been complicated with a drain in my back. It was winter and, my shoulder was so sensitive that I couldn’t stand the weight of a winter coat. I wore a cotton one with a shawl which was less pressure.
Looking back, I see two things were happening. I was overly sensitive to touch and I had an unconscious fear that the side of my body with the surgeries might fall apart. I see these things now, but then I was totally out of touch with my body. Perhaps I needed to be.
The following year, I had the same surgeries to the other side of my body. The pain and tension I then carried had more than doubled. I learned to live with it…. ignore it. I ignored my body to the point of not even knowing when I was sick. Even this year I had a long busy day which I went through happily, but that night I thought the temperature was too high in the room. It wasn’t, but I had a temperature of 103 and pneumonia.
Now I try to pay attention to my body. I have added fatigue to my awareness. I do a body scan throughout the day. This I have learned: I am much more tired than I realized. I still ache where the scars are on my back. It hurts, how my neck sits on my shoulders.
So, I breathe consciously and pay attention to what I teach in my own sessions, my own book. When I breathe into these tight and painful places I pretend I am opening a vice that clenches my muscles. On the in-breath I identify the area of my body; on the out-breath I let the tension and pain go.
I am like a child who is taught (by myself) “This is your shoulder” “This is your neck” “This is your fatigue”. Good job I said to myself.
I thought I was finished. But something from my book kept tugging at me. I decided to cluster (Gabriele Rico’s method). I put the word “Body” in the center of a circle and made free associations radiating out in lines like the rays of the sun. One line finally captured what I hadn’t known. It went out from the circled word body: “tension” –“pain”–“mad”/
So, I was mad at my body. I hadn’t known it.
Now, I have a new way of breathing for my whole body. “Breathe in acceptance” “Breathe out pain.” “Breathe in love” “breathe out mad.”