Tomorrow would have been my father’s 88th birthday. The following is something he wrote in September 1998, apparently for one of the classes he was taking to get his massage therapist license. (Though he never did massage as anything other than a side gig—he was an attorney—he continued to take courses on subjects related to massage and healing until his health began to decline.) I have made a couple rounds of copy edits to fix small stuff and enhance readability.
Personal Bodymind and Spirit Awareness
James V. O’Conner
When first thinking about what to write about the relationship between my body structure and my personality and self-image, I felt that this was something I had never considered before. But this is not true. I have always known that one’s perception of another includes that person’s structure, posture, composure, and countenance. In fact, a person’s perception of one’s own self is reflected in the posture, composure, and countenance of that person.
The question then becomes: Does one’s perception of oneself affect one’s posture, composure, and countenance, or does one’s posture, composure, and countenance affect how one sees oneself?
I believe that the answer to this question goes both ways. When you are feeling good, you naturally stand straighter, walk lighter, and have a more outgoing countenance. Conversely, when you are feeling down or low, if you stand straighter and walk with a lighter step, your attitude picks up, changing to match your structure.
I have always liked my body as to its size and shape, and pretty well like my ability to use my body for various activities. I have always wished I had more natural talent in some areas, such as sports, dancing, and so on. At the same time, I have never been driven to practice such activities enough to develop top skills in them.
Most of my life I have battled with my body in relation to allergies. My first recollection of allergies is from when I was approximately six years old. My dad took my brother and I to the public swimming pool in Yakima, and they would not let me use the pool because of a rash on my chest.
My next real recollection of my allergies is from when I was in the third grade. We lived in Autanum, Washington (eight miles outside of Yakima), where we had a grocery store. My dad had been in a management program with J. C. Penney & Co., but had to quit because of health problems. He had been struck with a batted ball while playing baseball for the University of Washington. The blow bruised a bone in his left arm; this developed into osteomyelitis. At that time, they were unable to cure osteomyelitis; as a result, he was not be able to fully flex or extend his left arm, and he had a perpetual infection in that arm. When he quit J. C. Penney, he purchased the grocery store in Autanum.
I attended the first and second grades in Autanum. When I was in the first grade, on the Fourth of July I lit a firecracker, threw it, and waited for it to go off. It didn’t. I then went and picked it up to see what the problem was. There was no problem; it went off in my hand. It was a large firecracker and shredded the skin on my hand and fingers. My parents took me to a doctor, who trimmed the skin and bandaged the hand.
For Fourth of July the next year, the neighborhood kids made a small bonfire, from which they lit their firecrackers. I was holding a small firecracker in the hand I had not blown up the year before. My hand was behind my back and I turned my back to the fire. Sure enough, the bonfire lit the firecracker, which went off in that hand. Being smaller, this firecracker did little damage, so this time I did not need a doctor’s care.
When my dad died in 1939, my mother moved the three of us (she, my brother, and me) to Ellensburg, where she went back to college for a year to reinstate her teaching certificate. While in Ellensburg, I developed a rather severe rash on my hands, with cracking of the skin on my fingers, and on the front and back of my wrists. Whenever the other kids asked what was wrong with my hands, I would say I blew them up with firecrackers.
During the rest of my grade school and high school years, I was frequently sent to the school nurse because of rashes on my hands, and sometimes on my neck and face. The nurses would just send me back to the classroom.
While I was in high school, I developed a rather severe infection in both hands. I was successfully treated for this infection by a doctor in Renton. One day, while I was waiting for the doctor to see me, another doctor in the office looked at my hands and said the infection I had was the same as that found with osteomyelitis. I have since wondered: is it possible to inherit an infection?
After graduating from Renton High School in 1949, I worked as an office boy at an insurance agency, and also as a sales clerk on Mondays and Saturdays in the paint department at Sears. That fall, I broke out with a very severe rash over most of my body. My face became swollen and oozed liquid; in the morning my eyes would be glued shut from the accumulation of mucous.
At this time, my aunt’s husband was seeing a doctor in Tacoma for multiple sclerosis. He told the doctor about the problems I was having; the doctor suggested it was probably food allergies. He told my uncle that he would make an appointment with an allergy lab in Seattle for me to get tested for allergies, and said that I should eat only rice and lamb until I got the results of the tests.
After being on this diet for only a few days, the rash began to clear up. In about two weeks, all of my problems had gone away. The tests indicated I had multiple food allergies, and also many airborne allergies—pollens, dust, animals, etc.
Over the years my allergies would get worse. I would have additional tests, and have to eliminate more foods.
Finally, while I was in law school, the doctor I was seeing put me on cortisone. The cortisone worked great at reducing the reactions caused by foods and airborne allergies. I took high doses of cortisone for approximately five years. By that time, however, I was generally swollen, to the point where a surgeon I had consulted for an ingrown toenail refused to cut the nail until I got off of cortisone. I did get off of cortisone—but in the meantime, I cut the nail out myself.
After I got off of cortisone, my doctor in Seattle couldn’t find any foods that did not bother me, so he sent me to see Dr. Albert Rowe in Oakland, California. Dr. Rowe was considered THE authority on allergies. After extensive testing, and telling me about all of the possible side effects of cortisone, he told me to eat the white meat of tom turkeys until my system returned to normal.
After you have been on cortisone for any length of time, it takes over the function of the adrenal glands; as a result, they cease to function. Once you stop taking cortisone, it takes about a year for the adrenals to get back to full functioning again. During this time, the body has a difficult time fighting any type of infection. I was on a diet of white meat of turkeys for almost a year. I would go to a restaurant food supply and buy a case of turkey breasts. There were four breasts to a case, which would last for almost a month.
After getting off cortisone, not only was it difficult for me to find foods I could eat, but also my asthma bothered me a great deal. My office at that time was in an air-conditioned building in downtown Seattle. While I was in my office my breathing was fine. But when I went outside, I would immediately start to have difficulty breathing.
(Because of the severity of my reactions to the allergy tests for wheat, Dr. Rowe had me send a blood sample to the University of California Medical School for study. I never did hear what the results of the tests were.)
In the fall of 1965, about a year after being able to eat more than just turkey, I again got a severe rash. After talking to Dr. Rowe and my doctor in Seattle, I decided it would be better for me to live in a warmer and drier climate. So, in December of 1965, I moved to Tucson. While there, my rash got much better, but I could never get a good night’s sleep. After four months in Tucson, my wife said she was taking our son Kevin and going back to Seattle, as she could not take the heat or the desert—it bothered her arthritis—and she didn’t know anyone there.
The summer after we moved back to Seattle (1966), my allergies were much improved. I was still on a strict diet, but the rash was almost nonexistent. It was a beautiful summer. One other thing I did that summer was to start seeing a chiropractor. Perhaps the adjustments helped some.
It has been a constant battle between what I would like to do and what my body will let me do. For many years now, if I am in a house where someone is cooking eggs, I will have an asthma attack. If I eat even a little bit of egg, I will pass out. (There have been occasions when I have passed out in restaurants because of something I ate that probably had eggs in it.)
In the early 80s, I began to have pains in my hips and shoulders. I often had a hard time sleeping because even soft mattresses would cause pain. When I got remarried in 1984, I had to sleep on a couch in the living room that had large down-filled pillows.
It must have been in the fall of 1985 or 1986 when I started using dowsing to eliminate pain from my body. In 1987, I started using dowsing to determine what nutrition I needed. After several months of using dowsing to eliminate pain and determine what nutrition I should take, the pain in my shoulders and hips went away. I was finally able to sleep in my bed with my wife. But I was still strictly limited as to what foods I could eat (I still am). I also had bad hay fever during a lot of the year, so I had to use antihistamines and nasal inhalers to be able to breathe through my nose.
In about 1990, I learned about a chiropractor named Dr. Versendaal, who was giving seminars how to test the body to determine what nutrition it needed. I have been taking a lot of the nutrition he recommends; although it has not helped the food allergies much, it has almost completely eliminated my hay fever. I never have to use nasal sprays or antihistamines anymore (though I still have rashes when the air is badly polluted).
I don’t know what all this has to do with the relationship between my body structure as I perceive it and my personality and self-image. I do know that when my allergies are more under control I don’t get irritated as easily, I move better, and I have a brighter outlook on life.
I have always been easygoing. Few things really upset me. Sometimes I wonder if my passions come out through the allergies. But then again, whether or not I’m aware of special stresses, certain foods (even though I am not aware I am eating them) cause me a great deal of trouble, and pollution certainly increases my allergic reactions. I do notice that sometimes I start to itch when I am stressed. I might add that I have not done much strenuous exercise these past few years, because when I sweat I begin to itch.
My personal philosophy at the present time is that I will be able to reduce my allergic reactions as I become more aware of the capabilities of my body to heal itself, and that relationships with others can have a definite effect on the ability of the body to heal. I believe that as I learn to help others to heal I will also heal.
Throughout most of my life, my relationship with my body has been an effort to fight my allergies. Now it is not to fight my allergies, but to learn how my body and I can become strong enough to resist those things that cause the allergies.
As to structural imbalances in my body, the only one that I am aware of is that my right leg is supposedly shorter than my left. I don’t know if this is related to a shorter right leg, but I do seem to have a restriction in my left hip area. Also, in 1982, while moving my office, I strained my right hip, right knee, and the joint in my great toe between the metatarsal and the proximal end of said toe. At times I still feel a slight pain in one or more of those joints; however, they have continually improved, so I very rarely feel that pain now.
As I get older—and, hopefully, wiser—I feel that I am also becoming healthier mentally and physically. If I live long enough, I will outlive all of my health problems. They will give up and go away.
In the meantime, I will enjoy life and hopefully bring joy to others.
(20 October 2019)
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