It seemed like overnight Clarke Boozer went from a very active guy, used to doing anything and everything that he wanted to, to not being able to take care of his basic needs and having to depend on others. At the prime of his life, Clarke’s doctors diagnosed him with a rare disease called Polymyositis. But getting that diagnosis inspired a change in his mental outlook. Embracing therapy, meditation, and mindfulness all helped Clark shift his perspective and now views his muscle disease as a blessing. As an instinctive meditation teacher, Clarke helps others find the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Learn more about incorporating meditation for managing chronic illness on Search and Replace.
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[00:00:10] Joe Taylor, Jr.: What if your body stopped working the way you expected? Could you find a solution in your mind? I’m to Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search and Replace.
Clarke Boozer spent his days like most of us, going through school then to work and just moving about his life.
[00:00:32] Clarke Boozer: I had always been an active person. I was spending a lot of time training in the gym. I’d played a lot of high school sports. And then after high school I played some adult league stuff and intermural stuff.
And so one day I went to the gym to do some training and I just noticed things just didn’t feel right. I noticed that when I was walking my gate was becoming very weird and I started tripping and falling a lot because I was no longer able to dorsal flex my foot, my feet, up.
[00:01:00] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Like most of us do when we start feeling a little unwell, Clarke just assumed his condition would pass. Until it didn’t.
[00:01:07] Clarke Boozer: So fast forward to 2002, I was at my job. I was coming in for a lunch break and I tripped on the floor and fell and knocked myself out. They took me to the emergency room. Then they started doing a lot of blood work and it seemed like the point of this happened. And the point of the diagnosis just took like several months.
So I just kept going in for all these tests. I was progressively becoming weaker and weaker to the point where I ended up having to be in a wheelchair to ambulate around. I couldn’t do a lot of the traditional grooming stuff. I wasn’t able to button my shirts, tie my shoes, brushing my teeth was difficult. It seemed like overnight I went from this very active guy, used to doing anything and everything that I wanted to, to not being able to take care of my basic needs and having to depend on others.
Like, doctor called me in and said, we’re not sure exactly what’s going on. We just know that it seems like you have some sort of muscle disease going on, but we don’t know what. If we can’t figure out exactly what this is and find a way to treat it, you probably won’t see your next birthday.
[00:02:14] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Imagine how you’d feel if your doctor told you that you might not make it to your next birthday. Clarke says his reaction was exactly what you’d expect.
[00:02:23] Clarke Boozer: I was very angry. I had, let’s see, my son was about four. My daughter was 10. I had, at the time, it was a pretty decent paying job. Was on our second home. And it was, like, all of a sudden, now what’s gonna happen and once I’m dead. Why does this have to happen when I’m in a prime of my life? What did I do to deserve this. At that point in my life, I looked at this as the worst possible scenario, and I just had a lot of anger and animosity. At that time I really didn’t have anger management skills at all. And so, I guess I was internalized a lot of this in which I didn’t realize was probably exasperating my condition. Trying to process the anger was very difficult. Trying to keep my mind focused on what I could still do and what I could not do, instead of what I could not do was – I had a hard time doing that. So, basically, I think I was doing a lot of damage and making my condition worse at that point.
[00:03:20] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Clarke’s doctors diagnosed him with a rare disease called Polymyositis. It’s a type of extreme inflammation. It can attack the muscles and it almost always sets in after adulthood. Things weren’t exactly going great for Clarke in that moment. But getting a diagnosis inspired a change in his outlook.
[00:03:38] Clarke Boozer: At that point, I was like very pumped up. And I said, if he tells me I’m gonna be here and I’m not gonna die, then I know I’ll learned how to walk again. And once I started treatment and they were able to get the inflammation down to a point where it wasn’t doing any more damage and stabilized. Then I started my treatment. I approached it just like I approached my workouts prior to being ill. If you just tell yourself and nobody else knows, then if you feel like giving up you can’t.
And there were those times, believe me, cuz it’s not all days were created equal. And some days I was in so much pain and I’d be wore out from the, you know, previous therapy sessions. But it helped me to a high degree of accountability, started pushing myself to prove a point to the others- and then eventually to myself.
One of the things I struggled with was, you know, why me. And so I finally sought out some mental health therapy. And blacks in America, that’s just something that we don’t traditionally do. I happen to be directed to a African American therapist who taught African based psychology. And so this kind of appealed to me.
Prior to that, I had no idea that black people even meditated because coming up culturally, it’s just something I didn’t see in my community. So it took me a while to actually, I guess what I was called then stay focused. And I found it difficult to listen to some of the longer guided meditations.
But since then, I have got a little bit more into it. I found some ones I liked. I started practicing Tai Chi. And then one day I realized, you know what, this meditation and breathing and stuff that I’m doing is really good for me. I wanna teach others who have not been, traditionally not been, had access to meditation.
[00:05:18] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Embracing therapy, meditation, and mindfulness all helped Clark shift his perspective. And he pursued his new mission.
[00:05:26] Clarke Boozer: It’s made a huge difference in the way I look at life and what I’ve learned so much. Now, what I used to look at as a curse, with this muscle disease, I look at it as something that is a blessing. Something that I actually had to live through to be able to get to where I am now, to be able to share this gift of meditation with others.
I want the people out there listening to realize that they have the ability, through the power of positive thought in their mind, to actually take a illness and improve the conditions of it. If you don’t take care of your mental health and let all the stress get you, you will at some point, have some sort of illness come your way. And everybody knows that illness is caused by stress.
So I highly recommend if you don’t do so now to develop some sort of meditation practice., And I, myself am an instinctive meditation teacher. So meditation is just simply having an intimate relationship with all of life. Get out and do the things that you enjoy. Evoke all those feelings from experience, whether it’s something you’re doing presently or something that you’ve done in your past, and take that into your everyday life.
[00:06:39] Joe Taylor, Jr.: That’s meditation leader and disc jockey Clarke Boozer. We’ve got links to all of Clarke’s projects in our show notes and over on our website at searchandreplace.show.
Search and Replace was produced by Nicole Hubbard. With support from Christine Benton, Connie Evans, Amelia Loman, April Smith, and Executive Producer Lori Taylor. Our theme music was composed by Alex Refire. I’m Joe Taylor, Jr.
[00:07:04] Announcer: This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production.
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