My experience with Post-Covid Condition (PCC) and how the principles of the Feldenkrais method helped get me through it.
I want to share with others what I’ve experienced dealing with Long COVID, also known as Post-Covid Condition (PCC) and how the principles of the Feldenkrais Method have helped me manage living with long term pain and cognitive issues.
Moshe Feldenkrais taught that within each human being there is the capacity and potential for resilience. That is why we, as Feldenkrais practitioners, are taught to see the person as capable and whole, regardless of their condition.
Feldenkrais said many times, “If you are concerned with a problem and you try to treat it locally, then this is a problem for life.” In other words, what you focus on becomes your reality.
My PCC journey began mid-July of 2021 when (after being fully vaccinated) I contracted a mild case of Covid19. After more than a week of rest, my symptoms worsened. I awoke with muscle spasms throughout my body. I couldn’t walk, I struggled to breathe. I was in a full body spasm, confused and struggling to speak.
I had already isolated at home for over a week now so I decided my mailbox must be full. I went to get the mail about 50 feet from my home. I struggled down the two steps from my front door, walking very slowly; each step in severe pain.
When I got to the mailbox I was fearful I could make it back to the house!
But I did.
My symptoms at this time included sleep deprivation, global body pain and spasm.
Oddly, it felt like something was missing. I was missing.
I felt like my brain was absent. I couldn’t track a conversation, movie or television show. I couldn’t retain what I read. I was using words incorrectly.
I was examined by my general physician who prescribed a round of Gabapentin which lessened the pain but did nothing to relieve the spasms. Then suddenly on about day 14 the spasms abruptly stopped.
No muscle spasms. But I had even more pain.
All my muscles were extremely tight and sore, especially my flexor muscles on the front side of my body. I realized I had been in a constant state of flexion. I now believe my nervous system was stuck in fight-or-flight and this is what was causing my muscles to spasm.
Now the spasms were gone. Wow – what a relief, I thought.
Unfortunately, the spasms were back the next day with a vengeance along with a new symptom: time loss.
I would experience gaps of time, 2 to 3 hours, where I had no memory. For example, one morning, I woke up and began to put on my slippers. Suddenly it was 2 hours later and I was still looking at my slippers!
I was experiencing lapses of time, almost like mini seizures. I was extremely confused and frightened.
After weeks with my symptoms worsening, I was referred to the Covid19 Long Haul clinic at the University of Utah. It was 5 weeks into my Covid19 journey.
I set a goal: to walk beyond the mailbox.
The pandemic was a busy time for physicians. My first appointment at the University was 14 weeks away, in late December 2021. What was I to do until then?!
At my age I have many ‘tools’ in my toolkit. So I began throwing everything at the problem, seeing what would stick. Nothing really did.
I couldn’t stretch, do yoga or exercise. Any kind of exertion beyond 10-15 minutes would result in muscle spasms followed by extreme fatigue.
Then I remembered my days as a Feldenkrais student, attending Awareness Through Movement (ATM) classes.
I was a student for over a decade before deciding to become a practitioner. What drew me to the Method was the approach that is interwoven into each somatic lesson. My Feldenkrais teachers would say things like, “Go slow,” Use less effort”, “Make lots of mistakes,” “Take lots of rests”, “Be curious”, “Have fun” and, “If you don’t like the movement proposal, you have options”. Those options were: rest, do nothing, or imagine yourself doing the movement.
Most importantly, and what struck me as unique, was one question that was often asked during a movement exploration. It was posed something like this:
“When you find that you can’t do something, notice how you treat yourself. Do you soldier through the movement and force yourself to do it? Is your self talk stern? Or can you treat yourself gently?”
I really took this question to heart. If I found a movement proposal cumbersome or frustrating, I had options! Oftentimes I imagined myself doing the movement. I gave myself what I call “A Big Pass,” of choosing not to force a movement on myself, speaking gently to myself, being kind to myself, and not judging myself. That’s what I learned from many wonderful Feldenkrais teachers.
I would encourage myself by saying, “Maybe not today – but tomorrow or next week – I’ll be able to do this. In the meantime, let it go.
This is what I gleaned from my first 10-12 years of Feldenkrais lessons. Self Agency.
And after making lots of mistakes with my approach to my many symptoms of PCC, I changed my approach to focus more on what I wanted out of daily life.
My cognitive issues greatly affected my Feldenkrais practice. I had planned to teach an online Fall and Winter 2021 series, but I wasn’t confident I could do it. So I shut down my practice in late 2021 for about 6 months.
I began 2022 with cognitive therapy which involved speech therapy.. During my intake testing I was shown flash cards and asked to complete phrases. I struggled to recall common everyday words.
About a third of the way through the testing I began to sob. I knew I was failing miserably. I was crushed.
I set a goal to successfully complete cognitive therapy and return to teaching online classes again in the Spring of 2022. I met that goal.
For most of 2022 my muscle spasms had lessened but I struggled with extreme fatigue. By late Spring 2022 my cardiologist gave me a clean bill of health. I was walking slowly but way beyond the mailbox.
One lingering issue was my outlook on life.
For most of 2022 I felt helpless and hopeless. I would hit a wall about every 3 weeks where I just couldn’t cope emotionally, feeling burdened
I turned to therapeutic music – and music in general – to lift my mood. If I was having a bad day I would sing or spend time in nature. I found that I could recall the lyrics to favorite songs and albums which gave me hope. I also found a ‘Life Coach’ to help me along the way.
I still felt like there was an ‘itch’ in my brain that I couldn’t scratch.
I enjoy painting and quilting.
Now I struggle with design aspects, composition and color mixing when I try to put paintbrush to canvas. I decided to ‘doodle’ and draw with colored pencils. I also volunteered to help my niece with her quilting projects which was very satisfying.
Then one day while at the library with my grandkids, there was a big display of art literature. I checked out several books. This motivated me to try abstract painting, of which I had done little. It scratched that artistic ‘itch’ in a very satisfying way.
During 2023 my spasms subsided and I had coping mechanisms in place for my cognitive challenges. Then new symptoms appeared (which often occurs with PCC).
I experience a recurrence of old symptoms or new symptoms arise. I’ve been diagnosed with chronic fatigue.
This experience over the last 3 years has rocked my self confidence and caused me to question myself and society.
On the other hand . . . I still have a purpose in life – regardless of my abilities. I have goals, many of which I’ve had to reimagine and simplify in order to be achievable. I try not to compare my current abilities to past expectations (this is difficult and I make lots of mistakes because, as with Feldenkrais – that’s how I learn). Most importantly during this experience, I honor my restrictions. If I need a nap, I take a nap!
I walk every day, not fast or far, but I walk. I can stretch for about 20 minutes and exercise gently. In July I attended my first outdoor concert in 3 years and this past September I took a short vacation.
Finally, I can dance with my grandchildren (we like Bluey Freeze Dance on YouTube); and I’m way beyond the mailbox!
Eleanor Montaño is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais(cm) Practitioner that lives and works in Taylorsville, Utah near her three grand children. Eleanor has been teaching the Feldenkrais Method® to individuals and groups since 2014.
After sustaining a severe injury on the ski slopes of northern Utah, Eleanor began searching for a method of movement that would sustain her as she aged. She found that freedom with the Feldenkrais Method. Eleanor also studies Movement Intellegence and is a Certified Bones for Life® Teacher.
Her website is: https://eleanor-montano-feldenkrais.business.site/