A Tribute to Female Healers

The topic of these next few posts is going to be my sexual assault at the hands of a female doctor. And yet first, I’m going to give you a glimpse of my healing. This post is a tribute to those in my life who act as female healers.

You see, when I was assaulted by a woman, it took some time to be able to go back into a healing environment and feel safe. And statistically, there are more women in healing professions. So I had some choices to make: Do I just select male doctors and counselors? Male yoga instructors and massage therapists and acupuncturists?

No doubt-some of these key people on my health care team are male. Yet, many are female.

I needed women healers to heal in certain ways emotionally and spiritually.

I needed nurturing touch by a professional that wasn’t sexual in nature.

I needed to be able to trust my voice and my body again.

I needed to be given choices and not feel weak or broken for saying “No.”

Yet it comes one step at a time. First during last Christmas break, I started going to yoga.

I found myself apprehensive with certain poses or in classes where there were not many people there. I had flashbacks for about the first month. I tensed up when an instructor would come and adjust my posture. You see, the woman who assaulted me had me do yoga in her office with classical music playing. The memory was just too vivid for awhile.

But I kept going back because I felt good. My mind was clearer and I was happier. I knew that I was healing in subtle ways one class at a time. I learned to be more grounded, to be present in the moment, and over time the memories of my assault faded. Not because I don’t remember the event, but because I can distinguish between the present and the past in real time.   Now I’ve been going to yoga for 7 months and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Going to yoga helped me feel grounded enough that I could seek out a female therapist. I had read the book The Body Keeps the Score and it suggests yoga and EMDR for healing of trauma, particularly related to PTSD. I had a few sessions with her where we started EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) , before she called me telling me that she had to stop seeing me because she was going to take a leave of absence for health reasons. Yet in the first session, I knew that I could trust her. I could make eye contact and I knew that she believed me. I could speak honestly about how this was a big step for me to trust a different kind of female doctor. She agreed with me.

Once I had a little more time because I was not going to therapy every week or two, I decided to place my resources into seeing an acupuncturist and a massage therapist. I go to a pay-what-you-can acupuncture clinic in downtown Indy and the acupuncturist and I clicked immediately. We had a quick conversation about the health history form I filled out, and that I was receiving acupuncture for severe menstrual pain. She relayed that acupuncture is very effective for relieving menstrual pain, and that was the very reason she got interested in acupuncture in the first place. She always asked about what pain I experienced and gave me a few choices about where the needle should go based on how tender a particular area of the body was for me.

What she didn’t know was that I told the doctor who diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s about my menstrual pain at my first follow up appointment. He referred me to the physical therapist in his building who eventually assaulted me. With all the symptoms I have and I track regularly, menstrual pain could easily be edited out of my story. For awhile, in the early stages of acknowledging and feeling my own pain, I blamed myself for even relaying that symptom to my doctor in the first place. I told myself that if I hadn’t told him, I never would have been referred to the physical therapist. Yet as I healed and could acknowledge that it wasn’t my fault—I made the next hard step to be honest and not edit menstrual pain out of my story. In acknowledging each small piece of pain and fatigue, I let myself live with the intense longing for healing—that all in my body would be well.

Lastly, I had read research and heard testimonials about how empowering it is for a survivor to receive massage and feel “in your body” again. I was almost certain I wanted a male massage therapist. However, as I talked to one on the phone, I did not feel comfortable choosing him. Then I realized that what was more important to me than gender was that the therapist was trauma-informed. As I talked and emailed with several people, I finally found 1 woman who was a good fit. Before the massage, we sat down and talked. She asked about my goals for massage, that I had the right to stop at anytime or tell her to apply a different level of pressure. During my second visit, I was glad that she knew the affect of food sensitivity reactions on the body. I could tell that yoga and practicing centering prayer have helped me to stay present in my body—and those have helped regular massage be beneficial to me.

I’ve come a long way in 2 years, but it’s been a hard journey in many ways. There are many more to thank here than I can list. Thank you to all my friends who have listened, who have believed me. Being believed and feeling believed is one of the best gifts, although it’s subtle and isn’t given much attention. Thanks to those who track my symptoms with me, who read books and articles to understand even more. Thanks to those who have helped me move so that my living environment was more conducive to my healing. You are part of a much bigger story than loading things into a truck. Thanks to those who have made meals, talked on the phone, who read my blog.

Wisdom teachers say that gratitude is what overflows when you’ve gone deep and continue to deal with the ego, so that your true self can come forth. Thanks to all those who all those who cheer me on as I dig deeper, as I seek healing and transformation. And thanks to those who dig deep in your own life and because of this our paths have crossed.

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Choosing Small Wins

I’ve started this practice this summer to write down 10 small wins from the previous day when I wake up in the morning.

An author who writes about healing Hashimoto’s encourages this practice in his book.  I’ve found this habit to be met with much resistance, simply because it’s hard.

Summer is the hardest season on my body and mind–so many days I wake up with big losses on my mind, rather than small wins.

However, on the days, I practice this, I do notice a shift in my perception.  Sometimes doing this exercise brings tears to my eyes, which is probably why I try to avoid it.  Sometimes I write phrases like, “I got out of bed today” or “I didn’t get tired driving to work” or “I listened to my body and cancelled hanging out with a friend.”

Sometimes the exercise feels too painful and I skip it altogether.  You see, it’s hard to admit, but sometimes gratefulness brings up this ache that I am indeed sick, and although I can heal, chronic illness is something I manage every day. When I write things like, “I didn’t have a reaction when I stepped into an old building today” I know that my healing is far off-far off from what I want it to be.

The liberating piece, though, is that I claim reality for what it is.  In doing so, I open the door to be compassionate to myself, and in writing my truth, I can be compassionate to others.

The more I am in touch with my body in my illness and in touch with contemplative practice, I live into the obvious-that I am dying.  In Western culture, this seems morbid, something we don’t talk about and avoid.  And yet, I feel this strongly living with Hashimoto’s.  This spring I realized that I desperately needed a spiritual practice that could affirm suffering and also help me detach myself from it, so that my suffering could be the very place where transformation occurs.  Enter centering prayer.

So my mornings look like writing down things I’m grateful for, recording 10 small wins, and sitting for 20 minutes in silence, practicing the art of letting go.  This practice is shaping me.  Although it’s human and messy and ungraceful, it’s a rhythm I’m trying to cultivate.  I’m engaging in the practice and art of learning how to die before I can die.  For in dying to myself, I will learn how to truly live. I will see myself for who I truly am, see the Divine for who he/she truly is. I will see people as human with similar needs, wants and desires as mine, longing for connection and intimacy.

Last week a small win included quitting my job at Fortune Academy, a job I really did like.  A place I hoped that I could step back into the classroom. But I needed to let it go, along with the dreams and hopes I attached on to working there.

The thing about letting go is that is always leads somewhere else–it doesn’t lead to nowhere.

So I’m practicing small wins, sitting in silence, going to yoga, finishing well with my tutoring students this summer, and letting go of dreams, big and small. I am more than my pressing thoughts, emotions, jobs, failures, victories, and the extent of my healing.

I am connected to this expansive, good, and abundant universe and to people who just want to see me thrive. Seeing small wins and learning to let go are daily invitations to a larger and more vibrant perception of myself and the world.  I want to live there.

The Beginning of Summer

Friends, I wanted to thank you for the many gracious responses from my last post.  This last month has been a healing one, full of big and small steps.  It’s been a time of winding down work and enjoying a week off at the end of May.  It’s been a time of full days, and then other days without any plans.  It included lots of reading, yoga and walks outside.  Time perusing book stores, making yummy desserts and eating great food!  A day trip to Columbus to celebrate a friend’s wedding and Bloomington to watch the Indiana State Track Meet.  It’s been a month of hard conversations-but important ones.  A time to talk to health professionals and fill in some gaps in my treatment.  It’s been a month of seeing small outward glimpses of my own inner work.   Of hearing my voice more clearly, seeing greater assertiveness rather than hesitation.

One of the hardest pieces of living in the aftermath of sexual assault is the shame that turned into feeling alone.  Like I was lacking some core piece of belonging.  Intellectually I knew the statistics-I knew that I wasn’t alone in my experience. And I also knew that there are a lot of supportive people around me.  And yet my body was telling a different story.

Here is a piece by John O’Donohue that is a beautiful blessing, which speaks mostly to belonging to yourself, which of course then extends to belonging to others.

For Belonging

 

May you listen to your longing to be free.

May the frames of your belonging be generous enough for your dreams.

May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart.

May you find a harmony between your soul and your life.

May the sanctuary of your soul never become haunted.

May you know the eternal longing that lives at the heart of time.

May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.

May you never place walls between the light and yourself.

May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather you, mind you, and embrace you in belonging.

A Blessing for the One Who Listens

 

Sit quietly, plant your feet flat on the floor,

and take a few deep breaths.

Settle your anxious mind.  Do not let thoughts

run circles in your imagination.

Let your breath guide you to a deeper place of seeing.

Let your solitude linger. Try to not be afraid of where

this quiet journey takes you.

 

And when others enter your company,

they will recognize this sturdy ground you stand on.

They probably will not have words to describe your presence.

Yet you are marked by a quiet self-confidence, listening,

attentiveness, tranquility, and joy.

When others spend time with you, they feel honored.

 

However, this is an act of returning to the quiet,

and learning to listen to the daily whispers of God.

 

So return, and keep returning.

The quiet will soften you and make you

open to the world.

Open enough to realize there is someone

always yearning to listen to you.

A Blessing For My Soul

May you continue to show me all the ways you have stayed alive,

even thrived.

Invite me, coax me at times to follow you,

especially when it doesn’t make sense.

Show me the wild, spontaneous side of my nature that hasn’t died,

even after a long descent into grief.

I commit to nurture the tender side of you,

the part that is slow to come out of hiding.

I will share you with trusted friends who exercise empathy and compassion.

Guide me out of my head, and into what is most real about me.

Keep on ploughing greater depths, that I may inhabit a deep solitude,

that heals without me saying a word.

A Blessing for My Body

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For so long I knew you to be my enemy.

You were attacking me, as my health continued to decline-

or so I thought.

Now I know you were just trying to keep me alive.

You gave me warning signs that all was not well-

and you were compensating the best ways you knew how.

 

And so today, I honor you.

May you keep restoring me to balance,

day by day.

Bless you for teaching me how to care for myself.

Keep me in tune with your signs, that I can accept

the gift of equilibrium.

Remind me when I wander outside my capacity

that not everything is my job.

Allow me to experience the fullness of my breath,

that I am alive:

no matter how great fatigue’s presence is today.