I have a loud brain and quiet body. If it weren’t for my disabilities and biological needs, I’m not sure I’d even be aware of my body at all. I have a thinking mind that is constantly going over things, tying new ideas together, and considering possibilities. I also have an ill mind that is constantly fretting over things, tying nonsensical worries together, and dreading impossibilities. I’ve had intrusive thoughts for as long as I can remember, and chronic physical pain since puberty. Between the two, I find myself trying to check out by keeping distracted with multi-tasking and busy work.
If anything, I have a tendency to check out – disconnect from my thoughts and the sensations of my body – too much. So I have learned how to check in – to intentionally connect with my thoughts and the sensations of my body. Writing is a way to check in with my thoughts, which I often feel are racing past too quickly to fully understand. Writing is grabbing hold of one of those thoughts and wrestling it to the ground for answers. I eschew multitasking for the duration of the effort, sitting in silence and listening to nothing more than myself. By writing every day, I can siphon off some of the fractured pieces of ideas swimming around in my mind and use them to build something whole.
Checking in with my body is just as important. To do it, I sit or stand comfortably, close my eyes, and breathe. When I am not thinking about my breathing, it is shallow and fast. When I am checking in with my body, my breathing gets deep and slow. I think about the parts of myself and how they feel. Is my neck sore? Am I thirsty or hungry? Do I need to use the bathroom? Blow my nose? Put on a sweater? While some people may be able to track these things subconsciously, I can’t. I need to give myself opportunities to really think about these questions and address any concerns.
I still value checking out as a coping tool for dealing with chronic pain and intrusive thoughts. I value the time saving benefit of multitasking. But I think it’s just as important that I be able to check in so that I can monitor pain levels and other things I need to be aware of and treat. I’m grateful for the momentary calm in my mind after I’ve written something. I’m learning how to balance these impulses, to be busy and to be still.