I published this web page because, after taking a few videos, I realized that the sound on my phone's camera was not working. I was going to do a series of videos, but then I decided that I might as well leverage my use of technology to present the work that I'm doing on my body.
To begin with, here's a few photos of me working (these are in my proposal document):
I want to give a little background before I begin. I was just in Portland, and I just moved into the dorms at the University of Washington two days ago, since I’m teaching at a programming camp and I’m an overnight staffer. I’m scheduled to teach several classes that I haven’t taught before (Cybersecurity and encryption, C++ and Unreal engine, and Level design and programming with Unity). I have a machine set up on one of the desks, and it’s basically my desktop replacement. I took a video of myself working:
As a note, I was also doing planks on my elbows.
And after the first day of exercises – I’m realizing I might have been really ambitious for the first two days. In my body scan, which since I’ve started working and moved across the country, I’ve noticed how panicked my body is. My body doesn’t know how to stay still, and I could really feel tension and anxiety in my shoulders, my stomach, and neck.
I also tried the planks, but I could barely do 8 seconds without my muscles shaking violently. Honestly this is a bit of a surprise, considering when I was in high school I would just do planks every morning once I woke up. I think I’m going to amend the first few days so that I do 30 seconds of planks in the morning and night because that’s what feels right to do, so we’ll see how that goes.
In the shoulder clock, I notice that my left shoulder is a lot more responsive than my right shoulder. It’s almost uncomfortable to do the shoulder clock with my right shoulder – it feels like it’s protecting something and I’m honestly a little afraid of what it’s hiding. Although that might not be the right way to look at it, I don’t know. Paying attention to my right shoulder just gives me this panicky, anxious feeling in my stomach.
I’ve started doing push ups, and again I think I’ve been a bit ambitious in my goals. For some reason, when I do pushups, there’s a weird sliding sensation in my elbow. It feels like a ligament, so I’m going to keep an eye on that. After some research, I’m going to say it’s the lateral collateral ligament over my olecranon. It’s only on the left side, it doesn’t happen on the right.
However, the planks are going better. I’m amending my routine to 2 one-minute intervals, and I can already feel a difference when I’m walking, I feel like naturally I can hold myself a little tighter. For some reason it seems like my stomach compensates though, as if my body hasn’t realized that it’s okay for my upper abdomen muscles to be doing work.
It’s no longer core week, but I feel like in the past I’ve heard that the entire core needs to be strengthened to . . . basically just help me exist as a human. I have had multiple physical therapists in Phoenix tell me that I just don’t have enough muscle – really anywhere on my body.
So, I’ve realized that I’m not engaging any muscles in my lower abdomen, and I’ve decided that I’m going to add some crunches to my routine. I’m going to start with 10 crunches the first day, and if that feels good then I’m going to up to 15. I’m still a lot weaker than I had ever expected to be in my entire life, so I’m okay starting small and moving up from there. I’m a bit concerned about any other parts of my body compensating.
I’ve started my wall exercises and they really loosen up my scapula, in a good way. It feels supported, if awkward because my body isn’t used to moving that way. Twisting down my hip for the rotating wall exercise really enlightens me to new ways my spine can move, especially since I don’t do much rotation at all as a teacher / programmer.
It’s almost two weeks in. My daily awareness about using my body in daily life continues to go up and up. I feel so much tension in my stomach, particularly when I cross the street. Not that it’s more when I cross the street, but for whatever reason starting to cross the street is a trigger that brings my attention to my stomach. To an extent, some of it feels like it’s because the muscles are engaged but I think my abdomen muscles just don’t know how to healthily “be muscles.” There’s almost some kind of present anxiety and darkness, and so I always try to do a quick body scan when I’m crossing the street.
My shoulders today were tight along with my stomach, although this doesn’t necessarily always happen. My scapula wasn’t moving as freely, but as I did my exercises tonight – the shoulder clock in addition to the neck roll and the wall exercises – really helped loosen my scapula and wash away some of the anxieties of the day, which I was storing in my upper and lower trapezius.
My abdomen still stayed tense and taught, although admittedly I like to admire the new toned shape they’re taking which I haven’t seen in maybe 6 or 7 years.
I have a lot of inflammation in my left wrist and forearm, and I think I’m noticing it after I drink milk in cappuccinos. I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee recently, so I do the wrist exercises when I feel any inflammation, beyond when I do all my exercises at once. Also I am still not the best about using my ergonomic split keyboard, so I still get a lot of pain if I do a lot of typing on my laptop. This is something I do at work because I know while I am not self-conscious about my split keyboard, sometimes it’s inconvenient because I have to go between classrooms, or I’m doing what seems like so little work at a time that it doesn’t seem necessary to plug it in.
I’ve continued to replace the pushups with planks – I’m not keen on that feeling of a ligament sliding over my olecranon.
In my body scan, I’m beginning to feel the exhaustion of camp setting in. I can feel it in the buzzing of my calves, the flightiness of my kneecaps, and the shiftiness of my lower trapezius. Settling into this routine has been meditative though, and just by noticing my body I can feel it begin to relax more in general. Waking up in the mornings is a lot more calming of an experience, even if I have to set my alarm early to wake up and do work and learn more things so I can teach my students.
I decided to film myself, and so here is a demonstration of the wall sequence and my wrist stretches, given to me by my physical therapist in Phoenix and my ASTYM physical therapist in New York Respectively.
This morning I decided to film myself doing the arm band sequence. It’s early morning, before another round of camp starts today and I’m up early because I’m perhaps the least prepared for this upcoming 2-week intensive session (of camp). It’s the last day of week 3 of this project, and I’ve found myself to be empowered by this journey.
During my body scan this morning, and in increasing frequency, I can feel my body be satisfied with being a body. As if my muscles – particularly in my upper trapezius and around my scapula – feel like they’re no longer neglected. There’s this warm buzzing sensation I can feel when I notice them, so slight, that feels like they’ve been getting the right tension. There are parts of my body that feel cold, too. Neglected – they call for me to pay attention to them, including my biceps and my adductors. I think once I finish this project I want to focus on those muscles.
Here’s the video of the arm band sequence.
It’s been about a week, and I’m finalizing everything. It’s been a long journey. There’s only a few days left.
I hadn’t realized how weak I was when I began, but I’m happy. I don’t feel like I’m close to where I used to be in high school, but that’s okay. My body has a lot of ups and downs –
Earlier this week I had so many allergic reactions, on Tuesday, and then Wednesday I had more, and then Thursday my body was just so exhausted that I laid in bed from 2pm until this morning. I’m still working two more weeks of camp, and thank goodness.
In regards to this final week’s worth of exercises, I’m glad that I did core strengthening and shoulder exercises before I tried to tackle the back, because as I was doing the bridge, my back felt more taught and supported than I expect it would have been three weeks ago. Even the part of my body like my legs felt better, I think perhaps because I didn’t need to worry about any part of my body compensating to much. I’m less afraid of how weak my neck is, since in the past during class when we would do the neck roll it was always particularly hard to get from the lowest point to any other position.
I think one of the gentlest things is the spine like a chain. Focusing so intently on my back and the vertebrae really feels like I’m giving my spine the love that it needs and that it’s been longing for, especially since I’ve been sleeping in these semi-lumpy dorm beds for the past four weeks.
There was also a student at one of the camps this week (I’m at the Academy right now, he was just at the Teen Camp) who I met who had tape over his wrist. When I asked him what happened, he said carpel tunnel. When I asked how old he was, he said 16. Apparently he had a gaming injury, from too mouse-clicking from competitive gamin. It just reinforced my resolve to be better to my body, and to more consistently use my split keyboard.
It’s a new week, yet it’s the last day of this project. Day 28, but I feel almost lucky that the last day is on a Monday because I’ve already had so much momentum with this project – and while I say momentum and I feel like it’s small steps instead of huge strides, but since my body has been stagnating for pretty much four years since I got sick, I feel inspired with this newfound capability.
I took a photo of how I work now, with my laptop that I use everywhere that’s not the desktop replacement. I lean back in the chair and have the keyboard in my lap. This works at any place with a table, although I’m still known for hanging out and lounging on a couch or bed while using my split keyboard, which might not necessarily be the best, but I figure I’m doing more good than harm for my body in my life these days.
I still find the body scans hard sometimes. This morning particularly, since I had a rough night emotionally last night, and things like that affect how I sleep. Anxiety got to me a bit too, and so the spine like a chain specifically felt very healing for my body, there’s still some anxiety that tinges everything.
Moving forward, I really want to continue working on my body and maybe bringing my activity level a little higher, with things that make me happy. I remember my freshman year I took a belly dancing class twice, and I really loved it. I would love to maybe start that. I also love rock climbing, and so maybe I’ll be able to work on my body and strengthen some other parts of my body. I think my ankles, arms, and legs could really use it.
Finally, here’s a photo of me with my split keyboard.
I want to thank you, Robin, so much for this opportunity and for showing me more about the body and how I can interact with my body and learn more about it. I feel like my relationship with my body is more gentle after going through this process, and I'm excited to move forward more cognizant about my relationship to my body and its relationship to the world.