Breathing - An Essential Work Task, Don't Ya Know...

I am currently in the throes of my summer situation - asthma.

For some reason, during the summer months, my breathing gets all screwed up. It's a combination of the heat, the humidity (oh, the humidity), the pollen, and it knocks me out! Add in a tendency to avoid the sunshine and WHAM! It all adds up to my summer slump.

I'm having to lug my nebulizer and my additional breathing medications to work with me. It is difficult to do much singing at the moment with my tight lungs and increasingly sore throat. I am on so many medications, at the moment, that I probably cure asthma of bystanders just by walking past them.

This is no fun.

So, what does a busy music therapist do when in the throes of a long-lasting asthma attack? Change things a bit. Sing as long as I can sing (when the coughing starts, it's time to stop singing and focus on breathing). Use the coping skills that we are teaching our students (especially the deep breathing - by focusing, I can usually calm my breathing down a bit - at least until I can reach for my inhaler). Do TMEs that require less therapist movement and singing than usual. All of these things help me when I have to be at work AND have to be breathing!

This is center week at my music therapy room. This wasn't planned because I have asthma, but rather worked out well for me as a coincidence. We are doing two centers this time - a STEM activity using Boomwhackers, small foam blocks, and my gathering drums and some basic Orff song play. I am sitting in my place, breathing, and my intern is getting a chance to start playing with our clients. After clients finish those two tasks, we are either playing a game or making choices about what to do next, depending on the group. Through it all, I am monitoring my breathing.

I have, in my TME database, lots of experiences that do not require the therapist to sing. I use these when I am not breathing well or just am feeling sick. They all have therapeutic purposes and benefits for my clients, but they are things that I can run with limited energy use on my side of things. Most of my clients do not even know that I am in the throes of an asthma attack. I haven't necessarily earmarked these particular TMEs as "MJ is sick" TMEs, but there are plenty that I can choose from when I am sick. (Maybe I should come up with a list for "MJ is sick." Hmmm.)

I also (sometimes) use my cough to gain attention. I had a good session on Monday with a new client who doesn't seem to want to do much of anything. I coughed, the client laughed. I went in my "Put Your Cough and Your Sneeze in Your Sleeve" TME, and the client was hooked - full out belly laughs. Staff hadn't seen that client smile before that song. Remind me never to say that asthma doesn't have at least one benefit - client giggles are the best!

The quest for me is to find TMEs that I can run without having to be resuscitated that still offer the greatest therapeutic benefit for the persons I serve. As part of the therapeutic triad, I have to consider my own ability to engage as part of that therapy triangle. If I overextend myself into full out exhaustion and/or emergency health issues, there is very little to no therapeutic benefit for my clients. If I can find that balance between therapeutic benefit and appropriate energy exertion (on my end), then we all end up a bit better for the experience.  

Well, enough writing about it. Time to gather all my paraphernalia and head out into the world of music therapy groups. I will keep breathing - one breath at a time. I will try to keep my clients engaged in learning and interaction through music without draining my energy any more than necessary. It may be time to take out the instrument memory cards and work on same/different concepts.

 It is Wednesday, right? Well, happy Wednesday, everyone!


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