Thursday 4 April 2013

Integrating the Alexander Technique into your life

On December 13th 2012, I had retinal surgery on my left eye. The operation was called an "epiretinal membrane peel" (EMP) and involves scraping off the membrane that sits between the vitreous humour and the retina. I had had the vitreous humour removed from my eye 2 years earlier in an operation called a "vitrectomy" and I had had both a vitrectomy and an EMP on my right eye 15 years previously, both of which went well.

So, I had no undue fears of undergoing surgery again. On December 14th the dressing was removed from my left eye and that was the point at which my life changed: suddenly and possibly forever, I was now completely blind in that eye!

The surgeon explained that this happens in about 1 in 20 cases: the retina had become fluid-logged (known as "macular oedema") and hopefully it would eventually settle down. I asked him how long it may take and he replied casually " about 1-2 years although, in rare cases (about 1 in 10,000) it never recovers.

For the previous 12 years I had been running a successful IT business single-handedly and my first thought was how I was going to continue managing the business, given that, as a result of my previous history, my right eye wasn't strong enough to work intensively on jobs that required sharp vision. My next realisation was that legally I may not be able to drive. Only later did it dawn on me that my favourite pastime of reading blogs and writing this blog and my existential philosophy blog ("The Dimensions of Consciousness") was going to be curtailed if not completely prevented.

How would you have reacted if you were me?

I think it would be completely normal to panic. But I didn't. OK, I got angry about what I at first thought was my surgeon's complacency (and maybe incompetence) but that feeling didn't last. Instead, I said "NO!" to that sort of knee-jerk (habitual) reaction and instead, adopted a consciously-considered response. I decided I would meticulously follow the post operative regime of daily eye care (inserting steroids into my eye 6 times a day) and to stay calm and try to have the patience to wait for an improvement in my vision.

I spoke to my friends about my fears and they mainly helped to reassure me and offer their help if I needed it. I ignored any advice that sounded like negativity. (e.g. "why don't you sue the surgeon") and I tried to stay positive

Today, almost 4 months later, I have about 40% blurred vision and here I am, blogging again :-)

I realise that the way I went about responding to this awful event in my life was a perfect example of the application of the Alexander Technique to this massive stimulus to "pull myself down". I had applied inhibition to any unthinking, habitual reaction and I had applied conscious direction in my response to it.

I've explained before that AT is not purely physical but "psycho-physical". It's not just that your thinking  affects the way you use your body but your whole attitude to life in general can be guided by the same principles.

I would be misleading you to suggest that there weren't times when I felt down and depressed about this sudden life-changing calamity BUT I have ignored (inhibited my response to) the advice of friends, some of whom are professional medics and therapists, to take prescription anti-depressants. That's the knee-jerk response of the Western medical paradigm: unnecessary in my case. I had identified the reason for the way I was feeling and I inhibited the response which might otherwise have sucked me into a "black hole". Instead, I directed myself to think "up" and positively: to count my blessings rather than my woes.

The Alexander Technique principles that I teach are integrated into every aspect of my life, not just my physical well-being.

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