The Mozart Effect, or the Nofart Effect

Last night during the finale of Don Giovanni, a popular opera by Mozart, I started writing this blog in my head. Although I had a considerable amount of fast notes to play, and regardless of the fact that I had been playing for over two hours straight at that point and was tired, I was ironically thinking about how much I multi-task all the time and have trouble staying in the moment.

Don Giovanni was a player, but he got what was coming
Don Giovanni was a player, but he got what was coming

Sometimes this has seemed like an honorable skill, like when I did my Master’s degree and subsequent Doctoral degree as a single mom. I might have been outside in the cold at 2 a.m. with a croupy kid, but I was able to practice my cello, read 350 pages a week for each class I was completing and play in two professional orchestras at the same time. I was Wonder Woman, Road Warrior and Super Mom all in one.

Right.

Those years have caught up with me. I’m learning that years of stress and doing way too many tasks at once are not a sign of invincibility, but more of insanity. My body is telling me to stop.

During the same Mozart performance last night, I was struggling with the fact that I needed to poop. I hadn’t had time before I ran out the door from a quick dinner after teaching.  I had a mantra in my brain that made it hard to concentrate: Don’t fart. Don’t fart. Don’t you dare fart. Farting in the pit of an opera or musical production is akin to farting in an elevator. It’s really not okay to the people around you who have nowhere to go and are trying to focus on their own performance.

This happens frequently to me in yoga. Although there is inevitably someone who farts during child pose, I don’t want to be that someone. My farts stink. That mantra is more, “Nofart, Nofart, Nofart.” Which rhymes with Mozart.

I suppose “Don’t fart” in the pit is better than sometimes when a little voice

in my head keeps saying, “Don’t fuck up. Don’t fuck up.” Then I usually fuck up and play the wrong note or at the wrong time because I’m thinking too much about messing up, instead of what I should be doing.

The bottom line is that I’m not very good at staying in the moment. I try hard, but my brain wanders all the time during yoga or during performances.

Last night my brain was also far from the task at hand, Mozart,  because yesterday I found out I have Hashimoto’s Disease. I finally found a “functional doctor,” meaning a doctor that doesn’t just look for symptoms of me being very sick, but looks at all my symptoms combined and gives advice on how to improve lifestyle and nutrition in order to be more healthy and balanced. I have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism for ten years, but levothyroxine has not cured my symptoms. To all of my doctors, whenever my lab tests came back normal they assumed I was fine, even if I didn’t feel fine. It turns out that if you have Hashimoto, you actually have an autoimmune disorder, where your body starts attacking its own tissue. My body has been destroying its own thyroid tissue.

Since autoimmune disease is often related to other autoimmune disorders, we talked about my asthma and endometriosis as being related. This  new functional doctor’s first recommendation was to try removing inflammatory foods from my diet to see what might also be triggering autoimmune responses, which often start in our gut. Gluten, for instance, can “leak” through the intestinal wall and then our body attacks it, because it is not in the right place. People with Hashimoto’s should absolutely avoid gluten, which is why I have felt slightly better not consuming gluten for the past few years. A simple antibody test has shown that I have a disorder which is complex to treat and will require some exploring.

Factors that cause Hashimoto's Disease
Factors that cause Hashimoto’s Disease

Traditional medical protocol prescribes synthetic hormone to restore the thyroid to health. This has not worked for me because my body keeps blocking the thyroid from doing it’s work even when I have enough thyroid in my system. Since I’m tired of freezing all the time, feeling sluggish, dizzy, brain fog and a complete inability to lose weight even on a low calorie diet with lots of exercise, I’m ready to try the elimination diet.

Readers, you will be hearing about this as it is incredibly restrictive for four weeks. I will not be a happy camper. After that I can slowly reintroduce one food at a time, keeping a strict journal of my reactions. This Autoimmune Protocol website (http://aiplifestyle.com/what-is-autoimmune-protocol-diet/) will be my bible, and I’ve already looked into buying a paleo cookbook to make it easier. Breakfast will be tricky: no eggs, no grains. I think giving up sugar is one of the hardest as it is in all prepared food and so many recipes.

And if that doesn’t work, my doctor will test me for hormonal imbalances and other possible triggers. The book “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Tests Are Normal?” by Datis Kharrazian has proved a wonderful resource, as it explains in detail the science behind how our thyroid works and why traditional approaches (prescribing thyroid medicine and not addressing the autoimmune disorder) don’t resolve symptoms.

The number one way to alleviate autoimmune disease is to eliminate stress, however. So I will keep doing yoga, try to take deep breaths when I feel anxiety coming on, and laugh as much as I can with the Brewmaster and Ballet Boy. And tomorrow when I play Mozart, I will try and stay in the moment, connected to my colleagues, the conductor and the wonderful vibrations that Mozart is still sending our way more than 200 years after his death.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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