Hello Dear One!

I have always been curious about how I could improve my body. When I was young and my family was eating steaks and spaghetti, I was experimenting with a Zen macrobiotic diet. They had forks and spoons; I had my chopsticks. When I turned 50 and was in so much pain, I knew that there had to be a better way. But I was still focused on fixing my body. Fixing. As in a bicycle that could be tuned up or, as in parts that could be replaced. It has taken me a very long time to develop a different perspective.

Our Bodies, Minds, Muscles, and Spirits are One

I can still hear my teachers’ coaching: “Breathe and Look Inside.” “Speak to your Spirit.” Or, “Feel Your Feet Ground Into Earth.”  I heard them, but it took a very long time to absorb the idea that thoughts and emotions, the brain and the belly, muscles and the mind, spirituality and energy are really all part of one dynamic organism. When I really grasped this concept, I believe I had found my starting point for healing.

Back to Kripalu for More Training

I continued my quest, without, of course, knowing what I would learn or how. The next summer after Eve and Aaron’s beautiful mountain wedding in Colorado, I found myself back at Kripalu to finish my Roll Model courses with Dineen Viggiano and to take the Core Immersion with Elizabeth Wipff. Hiking on the mountain (see the previous blog, Part 5), I had learned that deep breathing could keep the tri-geminal shocks at bay. I was eager to dive deeper. I wondered how I could support my own healing with what I would learn. I now knew that I was asking how my whole self —  body, mind, and soul  — could work together to help me heal.

We had been learning some of the initial lessons in our Roll Model session, when Dineen asked us to look in our handbook at the list of “Knead to Know Muscles” and choose a muscle to teach us about.

I suppose I was being lazy – or perhaps I was being guided – but my eye fell on the first muscle in the list, one that I knew very little about. So, I raised my hand and shouted out, “Masseter” and then settled down on my mat with my trusty Trail Guide to the Bodyand turned to page 250.

The Tri-Geminal Nerve is Staring Me in the Face

Was I in for a surprise! Before I could look over the page, the drawings, and the brief description, my eyes were drawn to the boldface N, which indicated the nerve innervation of the muscle. My stomach did a flip-flop. The tri-geminal nerve. The Fifth cranial nerve. Chills traveled throughout my body. There it was in front of me in black and white. And then, I turned the page to see the same nerve innervation with the temporalis muscle. Again, the tri-geminal nerve. This mysterious part of me that had caused me so much distressed over the years. What could this mean?

So, I saw, the tri-geminal nerve, the masseter, and the temporalis muscle are somehow connected. I had to better understand what it would mean to roll a Roll Model ball on these muscles. I went back to my room, placed a block on the floor and began to breathe and to roll. To my surprise, I started to feel a faint residue of the shocks that inhabited my body during a tri-geminal episode. I started to cry with a mixture of surprise and relief. I kept rolling and could feel the tissues begin to soften and connect to this blue, grippy ball in a new way.

Rolling My Face is A Way of Talking to My Face

I have continued to roll my face in a loving and consistent way. To my surprise, when a real shock suddenly jolts me awake and I know that an attack is on the launch pad, I double up on my breath and my rolling. I also increase the dose of hemp oil I am taking and examine my diet to see if I have fallen off the wagon. In addition, I make sure that I am meditating every day. I love the Insight Timer app and how it tells me how many other people are meditating at the same time as me. And, I check to see which of my far-flung friends are also meditating along with me.

Since I have taken charge of figuring out how to best care for myself, I have been able to walk back the start of attacks. This was new. Prior to this experience, once an attack had started, it continued for at least a month until it ran its course, leaving havoc in its wake.

Rewriting My Victim Attitude

For so long, I had felt a victim to these tri-geminal attacks. Now, suddenly I had new questions and the possibility of rewriting this victim attitude. I got out my Roll Model book and began reading about sensory nerve endings. Apparently, the tri-geminal nerve, which starts at the brain stem and spreads out all over my face deposits nerve endings in these two muscles (and others.) Of course, the muscles are woven through with fascia, or connective tissue and rolling improves perfusion, “the body’s process of transferring fluids, nutrients, and waste into and out of tissues and blood vessels” (The Roll Model, 2014, p. 32).

I began to realize that after many painful episodes these nerve endings were memorizing pain and telling my brain that pain lived in these muscles. This, I learned, is called nocioception (The Roll Model, 2014, p. 112). During any given episode of tri-geminal neuralgia, there is an acute phase when the nerve is sending shock waves through my face. But, after those initial shocks, the muscles in my face began to spasm uncontrollably and eventually they learned to hold onto the pain. Perhaps that’s one reason why attacks seem to grow my frequent and more intense. My face was being primed for the next attack by holding on to and memorizing the feeling of this pain.

Recognizing a Residue of Fear and Talking to It

On top of that, each tri-geminal episode left me with a residue of fear. Even when things seemed to be normal, this was a new normal. Every time I leaned over the sink to wash my face, my heart stopped for a moment and the fear of a shock rippled through me. But then, I realized that I was experiencing a thought, a fearful thought, and I didn’t have to own it. So I proceeded, cautiously, and gradually was able to feather apart the actual pain from the thought or fear of pain.

At the sink, before washing my face, I now have a quiet conversation with myself about the fear I feel and encourage myself to set it aside and lean over to wash my face imagining how lovely the warm soapy water would feel and how my skin would appreciate this care and attention.

As I have written these blogs and re-read them in preparation for publishing them, I have felt that I am learning even more for myself about how to live with a very painful chronic condition. These lessons are coalescing, I feel, into a code for self-care. So, after I finish my story – whenever that is – I will offer you my personal code in hopes that it sparks some ideas about how you can begin to take charge of your own self-care. Remember, though, that this sort of lifestyle evolution is most meaningful when it is gradual and comes from careful observation and reflection!

Until next time!

Love and Gratitude,

AnnMerle

P.S. If this blog made you think, tell us your thoughts below! Thank you!

 


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