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What Am I Making That Mean?

I have been asking myself this profoundly helpful question about 100 times a day this week.

After I thought I “overdid it” with my exercise.

But first a quick back story.

About 18 years ago, I started suffering from a bizarre unexplained chronic illness at age 30 where I would “get sick” after exertion.

It started with exercise – I was training really hard for marathons, triathlons, etc.

And then it would happen with any exertion – eventually getting so bad that I had to quit my job.

It got better but would still very often flare with exercise or even after events that required energy like putting on a birthday party for my kids.

I have recently understood what was going on and have finally gotten a handle on this in a big way.

What I have realized is that the FEAR of this “thing” is what has actually caused it to perpetuate.

What used to happen was that I would feel the beginnings of “it” and think – “oh no – there it is again. It’s never going to go away. It’s going to get worse. I’m going to be down for the next 2 weeks.” Etc…

Then my brain would be in a hypervigilant mode on the look out for any little symptom and yes it would interpret any little symptom as “the dreaded sickness.” And I would feel “sick” for like 4-14 days.

But now I understand the cycle.

And to counteract it I use this simple but incredibly helpful phrase “what am I making that mean?” to help me to not perpetuate the cycle and keep my fears in check.

So this is what happened this week.

I ran farther than usual.

That afternoon I felt a twinge of what I used to feel before a full blown flare up.

I immediately had fear thoughts and sensations well up in my body.

And then I remembered what I have learned.

That it is the fear, the story of what might happen in the future that perpetuates the cycle.

So, I decided to notice what is actually happening in my body.

I felt my body. OK – there is a twinge.

And then I asked “what am I making that mean?”

I realized I was making that mean that oh no, it’s back! I thought I was better! I’m going to be down for 2 weeks. I’m never going to get better.

All that from a little twinge!

So, then I was conscious of the story I was telling myself.

And then I realized that I can’t possibly know that all of that is going to happen based on this little twinge.

And I offered myself compassion.

And let the story go.

And just stayed with the sensation of the twinge.

(I have had to repeat that question many many times this week especially when later in the week I felt a slight headache and worried that I was catching my daughter’s cold...)

But it worked!

I did not get a flare up!

The next day I felt fine!

Try this the next time you feel something “negative.” Maybe it’s what you think is the start of a cold. Or your very familiar chronic pain. ***I recommend this for chronic pain when it is mild to medium pain. If the pain is severe instead do something loving for yourself to feel better.

  1. When you notice a ‘twinge’ of something you perceive as negative stop and really feel the sensation.

  2. Ask yourself “what am I making this mean?”

  3. Notice the story you are telling yourself.

  4. Then ask, “can I really know all of that from just this twinge?”

  5. Allow yourself to see what would happen if you let go of the story and just stayed with the sensation of the “twinge.”

  6. Repeat as necessary.

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