I spent some time talking to a young woman yesterday about her choices. Locked into a particular paradigm yet still struggling with depression, she realised that perhaps she needed to open her mind to other possibilities for healing. She was scared. Reasonably so. Because when we try anything new, it’s natural to be nervous, or cautious or uncertain, isn’t it. It’s just the nature of doing something we haven’t done before.

And it can be the same when we begin to reinvent ourselves. And that’s a necessary part of healing, isn’t it. Because when we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’re going to keep getting what we’ve always got. And there are some things we don’t want to repeat, aren’t there! Once in a lifetime is enough to experience some of the things we’ve experienced.

Most people don’t realise we actually become addicted to being ourselves. Every time we think a thought, or feel an emotion, we release chemicals in our body that form receptors on our nerve cells. And the more we repeat the thought, or the emotion, the more receptors that form and the more our body feels the need to keep repeating the thoughts, or the emotions, to get its fix. Being addicted to bitterness, or judgement, or anger, or anxiety, or stress, or sadness is no different at a cellular level than being addicted to smoking, or drinking or drugs. In fact, there’s a great smoking ad on tv that actually shows how it happens. We get into the habit of being ourselves. And because our bodies get used to being a certain way, they can kick up a real stink when we try to change. Like breaking any addiction, it has to be a multi-level approach. And that’s why we need to go below the surface, to focus our healing where the true problem lies. 

Shortly after chatting to this young woman, I happened to notice the date yesterday and it took be back two years to my own journey. My 14th wedding anniversary. And I remember being beside myself on that day. Breaking down. Because two years ago, I didn’t know if I was going to live or if I was going to die. I didn’t know if I was going to be around ‘next year’ to celebrate with my husband and my children. And the fear in these thoughts can be a terrifying thing, can’t it. But thankfully, now it is only a memory. And I no longer live in it’s grip. And it seems such a long time ago. Such a different life to the one I have now. Because the choices I have made have helped to reinvent myself. To break the old addictions. To help me get here to where I am today, a safe passage through the storm, and now more alive than ever…

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I found myself thinking about pain yesterday. Not the mental and emotional pain that comes with our journey, but the physical stuff. The pressure of tumours on areas they shouldn’t be, the pain of recovery after surgery, the pain that can sometimes be ongoing. I remember once imploring my tumour to stop hurting so that I could get some sleep. It use to burn and throb in my breast. And to my surprise it did just that. It’s an incredible thing how much control we actually have over the way experience our pain, isn’t it.

In hospital recently, the morning nurse greeted me with ‘oh you’re the one who doesn’t take anything’. Well, not quite true. A bit of mild paracetamol works wonders in taking the edge off. But if I can, I’d rather find another way than the codeine that binds you up making life a little unpleasant, let alone the harder morphine derivatives. And so I get through most of what I need to get through using everything I know about managing pain in other ways. Having a great doctor certainly helps reduce the need for pain relief. And sometimes the deeper breathing helps. Because it’s hard to feel pain when you’re relaxed, isn’t it. Sometimes it’s in distracting myself with things that make me feel good. A hobby, a funny movie, a relaxation CD, anything really. I’ve read that Norman Cousins found that just ten minutes of laughter gave him two hours of pain-free sleep. Again, it’s about the choices we make isn’t it. Do we want to watch a funny movie that will help our healing, or do we want to watch the latest NCIS with it’s gruesome storyline? I deliberately chose to watch ‘Are You Being Served’ a few hours post surgery, and I’m sure this helped reduce my pain. I was too busy laughing to notice.

Sometimes it can just be in the reframing of the pain that I find it easier to manage. If I resist it, I just seem to tense up and it gets worse, but if I step back and observe it, notice it, where it is in my body, how it feels, what it looks like, what colour it is, it somehow seems to diffuse it. I remember hearing someone say that at least if they are in pain they know they’re alive. And I guess I’ve learnt to look at the positives of post surgery discomfort – at least I’ve still got some sensation in the areas I want to be sensitive!

But of course there are days I can’t do it all myself and I am happy to have a little bit of help. A good massage last week, took the burning out of the muscles of my shoulder that are learning to work differently. It’s also brilliant for breaking up adhesions. Physio exercises when I am disciplined to do them also help to rehabilitate. And I remember once, a few years ago, my body just couldn’t take the stress anymore. I bent over and locked up and the pain just kept ramping up until I was vomiting. I’ve never experienced anything like it. And this is when I am most grateful for my husband’s knowledge and training. After watching me for 20 minutes or so, he simply gave me just one adjustment and the whole thing shut down. I went straight to sleep and when I woke up, the pain was gone. I’ve never experienced anything so powerful. An open mind opens up a whole world of options, doesn’t it.

And probably for me the most healing has been the healing of painful emotions which has brought me such physical relief. In healing my feelings, I am no longer pouring these inflammatory chemicals through my system, minute to minute, day to day. And so my body copes with things so much better. Because, what I’ve learnt most about the management of pain, is that if I can take the physical, mental and emotional stress out of my body, no matter which path I take to do this, everything just relaxes and the pain just seems to melt away…

ImageWe lost our beloved dog Gus this week. Suddenly and unexpectedly he was gone. The shock was immense. And then the grief set in. You know, that raw pain, that deep wrenching ache that nothing can stem,the guilt that maybe if we’d been with him we could have done something. I cried for days. It’s like losing a member of the family isn’t it.

I’ve been around emotional work long enough to know I just had to feel it, to let it move through me. And I knew I had to help my kids do the same. Many people don’t realise that when we resist our feelings or worse still bury or repress them, it just makes them worse. And sometimes they can get ‘stuck’ and plague us years later, even after we’ve forgotten why they were there in the first place. There’s a universal law, that what we resist persists. So by the third day, I found I could begin to step back and observe the pain.  I noticed the pain in my throat, my chest, my stomach. I gave myself permission to just notice it and feel its depth. It didn’t hurt any less, but I knew that it would speed up the healing. Well meaning friends of course told me I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I did, simple as that. And I knew I had to accept my feelings and really feel them. Not judge myself, just feel them. To try and make myself not feel something would only make it worse.

I wonder, have you ever tried to make yourself not feel something, or instead try to feel something you don’t? It’s not so easy is it. Feelings are what they are. They come from somewhere deeper inside that’s not under our conscious control. It’s like they’re automatic. Many people don’t realise that one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves is to allow ourselves to feel what we feel for as long as we need to. And it’s a gift to be able to do this for others…