body awareness: a rant

My general body awareness is typically really low, so I don’t notice I’m getting sick until it hits the impossible-to-ignore threshold. I don’t know what “mild” pain feels like because I don’t notice pain at all unless it’s on the severe end of what most people would call moderate. I don’t know what malaise feels like because I don’t notice it unless I’m can-barely-move-and-every-muscle-hurts exhausted. There were times even when I was a kid that the docs would check my ears because my sister had a contagious ear infection, and my ear would look as bad if not worse than hers but I wouldn’t notice it at all. Like one time, my sister came down with an ear infection on an international flight and spent most of it screaming. Docs check her ears: Raging swimmer’s ear. They think, hmm. Swimmer’s ear is contagious. Let’s check her sister’s, since her sister was swimming, too. Same thing then as I have now: both middle and outer ear infection. Mine looked worse than my sister’s and I was all, “Naw, my ears don’t hurt. I feel fine. I don’t need to be checked.” Mom, thankfully, knew by then that I have shit body awareness and might just not notice it. Same with throat infections. Plus all the times that I went from playing soccer or something in gym to ER in <30 minutes as a kid because I didn’t notice my breathing was off.

My parents got me exempted from gym from kindergarden through grade three because my body awareness was so poor that they weren’t comfortable with me exercising unless they were right there to respond if I had trouble because I wouldn’t even notice breathing trouble until I was in a severe flareup. If my asthma hadn’t improved, I probably would’ve had an exemption all the way through school.

Because of that, I usually accidentally leave stuff go until it’s agonizing, just because for my body, I’m either writhing ball of pain and misery, or I’m fine. No in between.

Case in point: I was running a fever of 39C two nights ago, and I wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t have a night sweat and check my temperature out of curiosity. Then I was like, “Holy shit. My temperature is 39C! I guess I am feverish. Whoops.” Because when I went to see the doc earlier, I didn’t notice a feverish feeling so I didn’t think to check my temperature, so I told her I had no fever.

I always have bruises and such that I’m not sure how I got them, because they weren’t painful enough to notice at the time. I got cellulitis on my forehead a while back because I smashed my head off a desk corner bad enough that I lacerated my scalp but I didn’t realize it and so I didn’t clean it and so it got infected. Then there was the time I didn’t notice orbital cellulitis until it swelled my eye shut (and I still don’t know how I caught that one).

It’s annoying because I probably wouldn’t be in this spot right now if I had enough body awareness to have caught it early. And this lack of body awareness has gotten me into potentially life-threatening health problems before (orbital cellulitis can cause meningitis, for example, plus all the times as a kid when I didn’t even notice breathing problems even though I was cyanotic). I really, really wish I was able to catch this shit early. Because it’s not like I’m toughing it out to be all macho about it. It’s that I literally am unaware there’s a problem until it’s really bad and then I’m almost too aware of it and I’m completely miserable. And that’s really fucking aggravating.

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One thought on “body awareness: a rant

  1. autisticook says:

    Feel free to laugh at me if you want to, because what I’m going to say probably isn’t very scientifically sound, but I’ve found a great deal of help in yoga and meditation. Not the “feeling one with the universe” kind of meditation, just hyperfocusing on my body in the here and now, trying to figure out if I can feel a muscle or a specific bit of skin or an organ. It’s helped me become a little bit more aware of my bodily needs even without hyperfocusing all the time. To me it feels like something that can be trained, if you do it often enough, although it never becomes easy. But it might not work for everyone.

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