My last post was about my love of autumn and how much I miss my long walks because fibromyalgia is a bitch. That said, it is possible to have an autumn walk even on the most dismal of days – all you need is to visualise it.
Some autistic people struggle with visualisation but if I ask you to visualise a purple elephant with wellies on, and you can do it, then you can do visualization relaxation. It’s basically daydreaming, but with a purpose.
The Basic Tools
Your mind is all that you really need but I like to engage as many of my senses as I can in order to make the experience feel real.
Sounds of Nature
Sounds of nature apps, for example, if you like to go for a stroll on the beach, add the sound of waves or seagulls. For this autumn walk, I use a birdsong and the sound of leaves rustling. The app I use is Relax Melodies: Sleep Sounds.
I use essential oils to get those olfactory sensory neurons firing but I use them sparingly as oils should enhance the experience, not take over. For my autumn walk I use patchouli oil because it reminds me of woodland walks and it’s great for lifting a shitty mood – just as an actual walk in nature does. There are many oils to choose from but as a starter – lavender is a good all rounder. Plus, it’s cheap!
Note: Artificial candles and scents is a no from me. When it comes to relaxation, keep it real it leave it out.
This is a difficult one for fibro sufferers because we’re either too hot or too cold so do what works for you. If that’s having the fire on, the heating on and being wrapped up in ten blankets, then go for it. If it’s sat in front of a massive fan, do that. As long as we are comfortable, anything goes.
Technology (and other distractions)
Aside your nature app – turn off your phone or silence all notifications. Your mate’s Instagram upload of her bacon bap will still be there when you switch back on. Turn off anything that bleeps, bongs or rings and banish the dog to the kitchen if he/she is a serial face licker because, lets face it, stinky hound breath isn’t conducive to relaxation.
As for the visualisation itself, there are guided ones which you can upload from the internet. This way, you get to set the sensory scene, but let somebody else do the talking. I think it’s important to do your research and find a voice which soothes you as all tastes differ. What soothes one may irritate the living shit out of another. My go to for guided meditations is Kenneth Soares who can be found on Insight Timer. The guy’s voice is just perfect for relaxation and his ratings are massive, so I am confident in recommending him.
If you don’t need Kenneth (or anybody’s help) then let your imagination take you to places and contrary to what some people think – autistic people do have it. The phenomenon which is Pokémon was created by Satoshi Tajiri, who is autistic.
I’ll just leave that one there…
Where my imagination differs to Satoshi is that I can’t make things up. I need to have been to a place, like a beach or woods. These places are familiar to me. I can weave a meditation using memories and stealing bits from movies or literature but what does it matter as long as it works?
So, onto my mind walk..
I’ve set the room up.
Everything is perfect.
I’ve been for a wee.
I’ve made sure I have been fed (nothing heavy) and watered.
I settle down, close my eyes and slow my breathing down..
I enter my imaginary world via my Grandmother’s Narnia-esque wardrobe or our back gate. The gate isn’t as exciting but it does the job. You can use steps, an escalator or a lift – it really doesn’t matter what you choose as long as it serves as the separation between this world and the imaginary one.
I’ve walked out of the wardrobe and into the woods, only it’s not blanketed in Narnian snow and Mr Tumnus is nowhere to be seen. What I do see are deciduous trees transforming the emeralds of summer into the reds, yellows and oranges of autumn. It’s breathtakingly beautiful.
Thanks to the patchouli oil, I can smell the leaves and the temperature is perfect for me. I am in complete control and I am safe. There is no anxiety of strangers talking to me. What’s more, I can walk with ease. There is no pain in my joints or my hips. I can kick piles of leaves. I can do whatever I want!
I walk for as long as I need to and then I come across a little cottage nestled deep within the woods. There are wisps of smoke coming out of the chimney. There’s somebody home, but who would I most like to see standing in the doorway of that house? It could be anyone, but I choose to see my mother.
I see myself sitting at the table with her drinking tea as I have done a thousand times over our 42 years together – a simple pleasure that I miss along with many other things that the death of a parent takes from you. The house is real. I’ve just placed it where I want it to be, along with a memory of me and my mother. This is how my brain works.
Sometimes I fall asleep before I get to leave. If not, I make sure I re-enter reality the same way I left it, as in, back through the gate or through the wardrobe.
When mediation is done properly, your body (and mind) will reap similar benefits as if you’ve actually been out. The only thing is that there has been no cardiovascular workout. However, meditation has a very positive effect on the heart. It’s scientifically proven to lower blood pressure and a whole host of other benefits and that’s equally as important as getting your heart rate up by physically walking.
Three years ago I couldn’t do this. Now it’s one of the most important tools I have in my anxiety slaying box. It’s helped me to recover from a nervous breakdown. Now it’s helping me to take some control back with fibromyalgia because in wandering through my imaginary woods I am flicking the V sign up to this chronic illness.
I refuse to let it take everything from me.