I have been spending a lot of time in my head lately, which is probably mainly annoying for those around me. There’s a lot going on in there, some med-related, some not, and what I’ve found over the last month or so is that one really good way to filter it down to a just a few solid thoughts is to swim laps. Consequently as well as spending time in my head, I’ve been spending more time than usual in a one-piece swimsuit, and have been semi-naked in front of more people than I would usually care to be.
In the lead-up to exams, the sort of thing that would get distilled out in the chlorine would be something like cardiac adaptations to load, innervation of the diaphragm, or the haemoglobin-oxygen binding curve. Even a smattering of biochemistry made it to the surface. In amongst this there would be a line from a conversation, a line from a poem, a look, something funny that happened, a song. I fixed some writing in the water, and I figured out a heap of physiology I hadn’t quite grasped before. I only tried to drown myself once.
Somehow the combination of staying afloat, counting laps, remembering to breathe, and moving my arms and legs at the same time in a coordinated rhythmic fashion clears my head like nothing else.
Except for today, only my second post-exam pool session. Didn’t really help at all. In the first few laps I managed to squeeze out a couple of lines for something that I’m working on, but in the end I got out of the water with sore toes and a feeling a whole lot crankier than when I got in. I also seemed to be swallowing a lot of air, which suggests that I may have been breathing some water.
It seems natural to me now that medical terms pop into my head with only the slightest provocation. Aerophagia, the act of swallowing air, met me at the 400m mark and is now firmly lodged in my lateral sulcus.
Meanwhile, I can’t help thinking about the line in my old airline Emergency Procedures Manual explaining first aid procedures for trapped abdominal gases. Encourage the passenger to belch or pass wind.
(Then walk briskly away)
Great, that was almost a fart joke. Standards are slipping around here.
That’s a little what it’s like, being in my head. I think I have lost the plot at least twice in the last few weeks, and the weirdest things I’ve done have happened after not swimming for three or more days. I don’t mind air in my stomach, but the less of it in my head, the better. Maybe swimming is my brain-belch. Maybe I’m drawing a long bow, and maybe now I’m mixing my metaphors.
Whatever: the bottom line is, I’m ready to get back to the textbooks to backfill some of the holes exams laid bare for me, and I’m getting back in the water because that’s what seems to make sense. As for being in my head, I guess there are worse places I could be.
As a good friend of mine recently observed: we are all crazy all of the time, it’s just a matter of degrees.