In most of my posts I have accentuated the positive. Of course, there has been negatives present all along, but why dwell on them longer than necessary? (I have a personal method for determining "necessary," but that will have to wait for other time; probably in my 2017 Free Rein Resilience material).
For all of you who have grown tired of my on-going optimism, you will be happy to know that this post is a little different. I am not promising that I won't end on a positive note, but the bulk of the post will be about "the great suck."
If you have tuned in along the way, even if just for a little bit, you know that my breathing issue has been on the front line of this journey. Now, one year post cancer surgery, my entire attention has turned towards the issue. And since no one seems to be closer to any answers I continue to pursue many possibilities at the same time.
A BRIEF REVIEW
My pulmonologist continues to remain perplexed. He has seen the abnormal, asthma-like numbers on my PFTs (thankfully) so he knows there is something going on other than just "trying to keep up with my 34 year old professional athlete wife" (his words). Two different steroidal inhalers haven't made a difference, so I am currently on a 12 day prednisone trial. Today is day 6.
I also continue various forms of bodywork because my perception is, and always has been, that something is "stuck," and that my breathing is getting "pinched off" some how. It may be a strange thing to say, but it seems as if changing my body position (bent over, lying on my side, etc) affects the "depth" of my breath. I also have this sensation that if I could just crack my back in just the right place I would be able to breathe again. I can't really explain the feeling any better than that. It is worth remembering, of course, that even though I have had this "stuck" feeling years before my surgery, I did have a mucinous tumor surgically removed from underneath my diaphragm (as well as from other areas), so there is a lot of physical trauma to consider.
I have also reconnected with my doctor to pursue the potential mold/mycotoxin issue. I know that this is outside of the medical "norm," but frankly, the medical norm doesn't seem to have any answers for me right now. And what I do know, for sure, is that I noticed my breathing issue not long after a big mold exposure. It is interesting to me that potential mycotoxin issues are shrugged off so quickly by most MDs when mycotoxin-related problems have been demonstrated in livestock, and researchers actually use a mycotoxin (alfatoxin) to cause liver tumors in rats. I suppose the assumption is that a healthy and robust immune system handles these issues just fine. And while that might be true for most, the research I have been doing seems to indicate that it might not always work very well for everyone.
My labs definitely show some abnormalities. My non-ceruloplasmin bound copper is very high. Also, my TGF-Beta 1 is extremely elevated (3500 is upper limit of normal; mine was 9500), and my MSH is pretty low. Are these due to mold/mycotoxins? Hard to say. They aren't specific markers, but they do fit in to a mycotoxin exposure profile. Technically, it is just called CIRS (Chronic Inflammation Response Syndrome). There is a protocol to follow, however, so as soon as my prednisone trial is over I will start it up to see what happens. [It was interesting to me that my Vitamin D was low, even though I spent almost every day outside in sunny Colorado this summer, and it was a little shocking to see that my B12 was low as well.]
Finally, I have not completely ruled out "dark and sinister forces." I suppose I may as well keep all options open at this point. Perhaps a shaman will be my next consult. :)
THE CONFIDENCE SUCK
While I do not solely self-identify as an athlete/physical person, it has always been a very large part of my life, as well as my career for the last thirteen years. The limitations that I have in my athletic life due to this breathing issue are significant. Fortunately, one could say that they are not "significant" in regard to my "normal, every day life."
Except that, well, MY own personal, normal, every day life involves a higher level of performance due to my career, so it circles back to "yes, it does affects my normal, every day life." Being so intimately tied in to how I make a living and generate revenue makes the experience feel that much more oppressive.
It is frustrating, it sucks, and it starts to grind down on my self-confidence.
Not my self-confidence as a all-around person, or of what I know or how I act in the world. Fortunately, those aspects of my self-identity seem relatively immune (thus far). But it grinds down on my self-confidence as a trainer and a coach. Obviously, my knowledge isn't less now than it was 3-4 years ago, but I have always had an intuitive-kinesthetic style to my training/teaching. I not only like to sense and feel things out (internally) as I move throughout a session with a client, but I try to maintain a solid practical feeling in my body in general. And the fact is, I cannot maintain much of that right now. Either my breathlessness prohibits me from doing the things that would give me access to that body-sense, or, even more sadly, the expectation of the breathlessness reduces my desire and willingness to even attempt those things.
Interestingly, age, in general, does this as well. I can't lift as much weight or box jump as high or run as fast as I could ten years ago, but that never created the same confidence void that I feel now. Truth be told, it has been an interesting study in how things like this affect both our bodies and our minds. I bow to the experience as a teacher, but it frustrates the shit out of me as well, and makes me want to punch the teacher in the face. :)
Frustration experienced long enough usually wears down in to a valley of sadness. I suppose I experience that from time to time, but for the most part I am fired up to find a solution. Residing in a state of sadness would certainly not be unreasonable, given everything, but it is not going to help me get the answers that I seek. And that is why I always encourage the idea of finding gratitude in the moment, acknowledging any vulnerability or negativity that needs to be acknowledge, and pushing forward with a positive mindset. It is not an either/or kind of thing; it is holding all three simultaneously. Or at least holding all three as close together as you can manage.
At any rate, the point is, yes, it sucks, and the experience definitely takes the wind out of my sails from time to time.
I am not the kind of person that thinks that "everything happens for a particular reason," at least from a metaphysical standpoint. But I do think that every experience provides an opportunity to learn, whether you think the experience was divinely inspired or the product of a series of "random" events. As for "meaning," well, I think we find and create meaning as we see fit. With all of the filters and biases that are coded in to the software of our brain's operating system, it seems highly likely that we will always fall short of finding "Ultimate Truth and Meaning" in the events of our lives. But meaning aside, I would always like you to think about causes.
THE CONSERVATION OF CAUSES
Most people are familiar with the Conservation of Energy, at least by name. Well, the Conservation of Causes has very little in common with the Conservation of Energy, but I hope that momentarily linking the two ideas here, plus the catchy alliteration, will serve as a mental device that will provide you quick recall of the concept.
And the concept behind The Conservation of Causes is this: "everything has a cause."
As you go about life you are going to hear a lot people tell you "well, just because."
"Well, you are getting older..."
"Well, you/it are/is just too (insert adjective here)..."
"Well, these things just happen..."
But things don't "just happen." We might not always know WHY things happen, and we might not be able to PREVENT things from happening, but the concept of "things just happen" is not only incorrect, it is very disempowering. The "things happening" are the effects of causes.
I want you to embrace the idea that things have causes because I want you to understand that as long as things have causes, you have the POTENTIAL to maybe do something about it. Obviously, there are a lot of things you are not, ever, going to be able to change. Things (some terrible) happen to people every day due to things they have no control over. But having no control does not mean that there wasn't a cause.
I also think it is important to not automatically confuse "cause" with fault or blame, or to think that it is inherently embedded with any particular higher meaning (remember, meaning is largely self-created). You can assess the WHYs after you discover the HOWs.
This is all a round-about way to say that if something isn't the way you want it to be, see if there is a cause that you can change. My breathing issue has a cause. I don't know for sure what the cause is, and I don't know for sure if I can change it, but I know that I have the power to keep searching for an answer. Even if you have something going on that you deem to be due to "just getting older," well, what does "just getting older" mean? It means there are certain physiological changes happening in the body. What are those changes? And are there some that you can affect by doing things differently?
Likewise, you can start planting new "causes" today that will bloom in to new "effects" in the future. I have a saying on the back of my business card that I always like to refer to:
"What can you do today that your future self will thank you for?"
The ebb and flow of Life is inherently composed of ups and down. The Confidence Suck that I experience is off-set by an equal and opposite energy of desire and will to excel and to thrive. The amount of time that I spend on either side is frequently determined by my state of mind. Just keep moving. Keep moving forward.