I swallow wrong.
Not that I ever would have guessed it. Who thinks about the manner in which they swallow, anyway? Isn't that something you just sort of, well, do?
Today I had a very simple goal: find a way to be more relaxed while eating, with an emphasis on savoring the food rather than wolfing it down. It wasn't the first time I had experimented with ways to achieve such, with variable results. But I felt like I was on the verge something that could make things better. Probably because of the osteopathic treatment I had about a week ago which loosened up a vertebra in my upper neck. Even my doctor (osteo/D.O.) was surprised at how much it relaxed/moved. That evening my neck felt wonderful, but every time I ate I felt like I was on the brink of choking, just slightly, which was disconcerting. Unfortunately a surprise round of fireworks startled me so bad the vertebra wrenched out of place and that was the end of that. But it hinted at what was to come...
So I wanted to learn to savor my food more, and as I experimented with chewing and focused on feeling every movement of every muscle, and fully experiencing it all, I felt food go down the front of my throat and it triggered a brain alert blaring "Warning: You're going to choke" right in my ear. I was so relaxed that by the time I comprehended it the moment had passed without incident, and I was stunned to realize that this method of swallowing felt much more intuitive than my regular version.
I looked it up and found a video that clearly demonstrates what happens during a swallow. You'll see that after the initial action there's a little niche the food fits into pressing a flap thingie over your windpipe before it goes on down the esophagus. All these years I've been preventing food from entering that area by subconsciously clenching my throat and swallowing very quickly, so I only feel food down the back of my throat. Feeling food go into that little area is a whole new experience for me.
I have a theory about this. You see, around the age of 7 years old I experienced a severe choking incident. The Heimlich maneuver was unsuccessful, and I passed out from lack of oxygen. Just before I lost consciousness I assumed I was going to die. It was quite the crisis for everyone around me but obviously I made it through and recovered without incident. My theory is that from that day onward I developed the habit of swallowing in this manner, to prevent anything from touching that area close to my windpipe, because I subconsciously believed that if I swallowed normally, I would choke.
And indeed that thought became a conscious one when I figured out today how to swallow normally again. I had to carefully reason myself through convincing my body that no choking was going to happen, that this is the normal way of doign things. I've now swallowed 4 times in this manner; it's getting easier each time and feels amazing, like I've found a missing puzzle piece. But now that area of my throat is all irritated because it's not accustomed to feeling food.
I know what you're thinking. Umm, so what's the big deal, again?
Well, my throat problems are life-threatening, and have been for the past 6 1/2 years. Exposure to any irritant can cut off or severely restrict my airways in an instant, but it is not an anaphylactic reaction, nor is it asthma. Relaxing my throat in the wrong way can also cut off air supply, which for a time was happening right when I fell asleep. Sometimes, my airways would close without any explanation whatsoever, turning a peaceful conversation into an unexpected crisis.
The practice of osteopathy is heavy on how everything is interconnected. If you hold a certain tension in your body, it's going to affect various other areas, and can eventually pull bones, muscles, and organs out of alignment from the constant applied pressure. This incident is a perfect example of how an emotional issue/incorrect belief can cause genuinely severe, completely physical problems. I felt like I was emotionally recovered from the event, but it turns out subconsciously I had the belief - or fear - that if I swallowed normally that it would happen again. This was during the years my body was still developing, which makes the structural effect more profound (like a tree that was bent as a sapling). So vertebrae, fascia, and all sorts of stuff got contorted from the constant pressure of abnormally holding tension in the front of my throat which was different from what the normal pressures would have been on all those tissues, bringing the whole system out of whack. And eventually it led to the life-threatening problem of my throat spasming at the slightest irritation to cut off my windpipe.
It's been only a couple hours since I've discovered this and already the changes are reverberating outwards. My collarbones just let out a series or crackles and I already feel like I'm breathing easier.
I'm so excited to discover when I'll be able to drop the gas mask.
Yay for progress!!!
Ta-da! (Major discovery/achievment for me!)
Blog entry posted by Dainty, Aug 26, 2012.
About the Author
Dainty became ill as a teenager and spent 7 years mostly bedridden from ME/CFS, life-threatening MCS reactions, extreme food allergies/sensitivities, cognitive impairment, fibromyalgia, episodes of temporary paralysis and various unexplained emergencies. The past couple years she has experienced profound improvement from various treatment approaches. She's now tackling independence and continues to pursue healing full time.