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Friday, July 19, 2013

On Dreams and Transverse Myelitis: A personal reflection

I have had a couple of dreams in the last few days that have made me revisit how I am relating to having Transverse Myelitis, but also what I think about dreams and whether they have meaning. I thought I might share, knowing dreams are intensely personal, and mine may have no meaning at all for you, the reader. But it may provoke discussion.
The first was three days ago. Brilliant dream in colour, with exquisite detail. I was doing my 3rd Dan black belt grading in Goju Karate. I was aware of each movement I was doing in the Kata, and whether my limbs were in the correct position, whether I was moving fluidly enough, how I felt. Of course I was aware that I was being watched to see whether I had achieved the correct standard. But it felt good. I felt good. I was surprised that my body was able to do so well, given my handicaps. I was satisfied by my own performance and achievements.
The backdrop to this is that, after 22 years of Karate, I was a 2nd Dan black belt in my own club, grading about a year before I contracted TM. I did try on several occasions afterward to go back to sessions, but I got so tired after 20 minutes of exercise, and just had to sit down and watch. I was unable to do many things - particularly using my legs. I felt stupid, a fraud! I had been a good teacher with my own small class close to my home and, in fact, had been teaching the night before my symptoms appeared. My sensei (my middle son Rod, a 5th Dan black belt graded in Japan), lovely man, got me up teaching, and that allowed me to stand relatively still and correct other lower grade students, but I still felt a fraud because when they made errors with leg movements I could not demonstrate the correct movement. Dispirited, I gave up. But I have held on to the dream of returning for the last three years, even though I have deteriorated somewhat, AND lost considerable muscle bulk....
Another piece of the context is that my son, his wife (a 4th Dan black belt graded in Japan), my granddaughter (brown belt with with 2 black tips) and my grandson (who trains when the mood suits him) all went to Japan last Sunday for two weeks  of intensive training. I envy them. I loved training in Japan with Japanese masters. I loved the rigour, the high expectations. I guess Karate and gradings and expectations were on my mind. As I say I envied them, while wishing them well.
So what was this dream about? Was it wishful thinking? Maybe... Was it just coincidence - me remembering what used to be, a very pleasant memory of times past, perhaps an acceptance that I am what I am now - and it is OK? Was it an unconscious challenge? "C'mon, its time, you should be working harder at the exercises. You could do so much better that if you really tried you COULD do your 3rd Dan grading."
Dreams are said to be meaningful, and this one certainly had meaning for me. IT IS HARD COMING  TO TERMS WITH THIS CRUEL NEUROLOGICAL DISORDER THAT STRIPS YOU OF PHYSICAL CAPACITY. Transverse Myelitis can lead to depression, with all the implications of that. Am I depressed that I can't do Karate? No, not really - after all, I am 69, and you have to give up some time.... Am I depressed about other limitations? Yes, of course, but NOT clinically (luckily).
And this dream was not depressing. It was joyous. I was succeeding. I felt good.
Has it made a difference? To tell you the truth, life has been so busy, I have been very lax. I know I should exercise more, but like many of us, I just can't do it on some days. So, the dream was not prophetic, just a happy construction of mind, an exquisite moment before waking.
Now, having got that off my chest, I AM going on the bike for 30 minutes. LOL


  1. I have had a number of dreams in which I am able to do physical actions and past times I once practiced with ease but cannot do now. I always feel great the next day after dreaming such things...dancing, running, wading a pond I often fished with my little brother in Oklahoma. I've recently begun to come out of a fairly deep depression stemming from my own diagnosis. I suspect that these dreams, and I nearly never have negative ones concerning my physical limits, are a bit of the inner me healing myself.

  2. That was exactly where I was coming from. Thanks