Chronic Illness, Asexuality & Spirituality cont.

 

It took me awhile to come out as an asexual.  Couple a Christian, conservative upbringing where the options really are only gay or straight, and gay=bad and a chronic illness.

As my health started to improve, I started to do some deeper questioning, research and I found AVEN.  After several days of perusing the website here and there, claiming the label asexual just felt right to me.  It made sense and I felt a little more at ease.

I told a few individual people about my asexuality and that was helpful, but in general I was not open about it because in general I am straight-passing, and with that comes a lot of assumptions can just be maintained.  I had to recognize how deeply I identify with the privilege that straightness provides.  I also just wasn’t ready yet.

Yet, as I started the New Year as delved more deeply into breath work and writing, as well as new friendships and healing practices emerging in my life, I knew that I was hiding a deep, vital part of myself that ultimately wasn’t that healthy for me.

That for me, for speak more freely about being an asexual would lead to greater wholeness.  That to write about asexuality would allow me to reveal a huge aspect of my life, and speak to a part of my identity that could easily be overlooked or misunderstood.

Again my illness, asexuality, and spirituality intersect and inform one another in beautiful ways.

Without my chronic illness, I would not have slowed down.  Most likely, I would have kept pressing harder and harder, without much reflection, conforming to gain others’ acceptance.  I probably would have been successful, yet extremely hollow inside.  I would have traded in substance for superficial acceptance.

Slowing down actually was an avenue for exploring, for creating a new normal.  Of course sometimes this new life caused so much grief, and I was wondering about what I was missing out on.  Yet on some days, I actually adored the silence.  During those seasons of unemployment, time would slowly go by, but I would go on a walk, go grocery shopping, make meals, shower, and read.  I made it my goal to meaningfully interact with at least one person a day, either in person or on the phone.  Yet on some days, I wouldn’t really talk to anyone all day.  There was a unique loneliness to that season and yet, I was learning to sink deeply into myself.  I could keep myself company; and some days I preferred it.

A new spiritual ground was being laid for me, and I didn’t even know it.  I relished rest, gentle exercise, steady friendship, lighting a candle.  My prayer life was simple, short phrases like “Help me.”  “I’m tired again” or “I hope today is better than yesterday.”  I was especially aware that without gratitude,  I would shrivel up.  My journals from this time highlight a list of 10 things I was grateful for each day, that I would fill out before I went to bed.

I had a new awareness of life; it was like I was becoming a child again.  I paid attention to everything: the pace at which people walked, if they made eye contact, if they actually enjoyed the food they were eating.  I was grateful for the air, the flannel sheets, being able to stand up in the shower without getting tired.  Today, I look at those journals and weep in gladness–for my illness and my re-emerging gratitude for life–absolutely saved my life.

During this time, was also the first time I read Kathleen Norris.  I absolutely loved her.  I read Acedia & Me during Lent, and I relished her description of the monastic world.  I let myself wonder why I resonated so deeply with silence and contemplation. And also during this time I  told myself, “I could be single in this life, meet all of my own needs, and be happy.”  (I don’t think it’s ironic that I said this when I was deeply sick either…)  After Acedia & Me, I read Amazing Grace–and I said, “I don’t want to be a nun–but why do I think that I could be?

Side note: Celibacy & asexuality are not the same thing!  Asexuality simply means that the experience of sexual attraction does not exist, where celibacy is a choice.

Yet, my longings were surfacing for a deep liturgy, a spiritual experience marked by contemplation in community.  As I started reading some of the white female contemplatives of the medieval church, I noticed a correlation between their spiritual practice and most of them had chronic illnesses.  Their work deeply resonated with me.  I had found some companions on this inner journey of solitude, and reckoning with what my longings actually were.

 

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

 

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Sources of Resilience

On an episode of Healing Justice Podcast, I was encouraged to think about what my sources of resilience have been and are.  In this time of my life that feels like deep grounding, yet deep transition all at the same time, I want to pause and honor those places, people & internal wells of wisdom that have brought me to this place.

–I want to honor Detroit, my summer childhood running home, and my friends across difference, especially Ramzee and Whitney.

–Running, you taught me about sinking my breath with movement and my first lessons in internal affirmations.  You taught me the nuance between perseverance and knowing when to stop.

–Hashimoto’s, there will be lifelong wisdom from you, my friend.  You taught me to listen to my body, to trust it, to continue to seek healing, even when it seemed like all options were exhausted.  You keep teaching me that my body is my friend, not my enemy.  You teach me daily that I am not what I do.  That there always exists within my body the invitation to rest.

–Therapy-so much therapy in my 20’s!  I’ve learned that with a skilled therapist, your trauma can transform into your teacher.  With an unskilled one, your trauma becomes your ever-increasing nightmare.

–Safe healers-Lesley, Kelsey, Beth, Dina, Mel, Erica, Melissa (x2), Charlie, and so many more.  You save more lives than you realize.

–My voice-learning to speak the cold truth without sugar-coating.  Knowing that the truth will offend some.  But it always has.  Those in power often play deaf to the truth.

–Memphis.  The place where I saw racism up close, not in covert ways in the north.  Where I passed KKK statues in the park.  Where so many questions were asked, and so much anger was sparked.

–My breath.  This powerful source has power to release grief, anger, frustration, powerlessness-all for free!  Breathing deeply helps me create internal and external spaciousness.

–Poetry.  Writing it.  Reading it.  Knowing when something was written just for you.

–Friendships.  My community pushing me forward & encouraging my rest.

& so many more that I could name.

Five Years of Friendship

Five years ago, I met this dear friend of mine.  It just so happened that she was in my interview group, when she was interviewing for the Memphis Teacher Residency.

She got in, and was assigned to spend her residency year at my school.  Then I quit my position right before school started, and she ended up teaching in my classroom (and she wasn’t very happy with me!)

We watched Big 10 basketball together while living in the South, while everyone else was concerned with Ole Miss & Alabama.

When I got very sick, and left Memphis for Indy, I didn’t really think that we would stay in touch.  But we did–and oh, our friendship has been both the best & the hardest thing.

We’ve traveled a lot of hard ground together–more than most friends do in a lifetime.  At times, I’ve been overwhelmed with the grief of it all.  At other times, I rest in my gratitude for a loyal and committed friend who knows me so well.  Of course it’s both/and.

Last night was simply a “Thanks for being my friend” kinda night. At. Ted’s Montana Grill.  Taking occasional glimpses at March Madness scores here and there.

Yet, 2018 is a big year for both us–for different reasons.  Yet, we both still get to be a witness to it all-the good and the bad, our back-and-forth illnesses, new jobs, graduations, baptisms, a book being written, new friendships being made, my confirmation into the Episcopal Church (more on this later!)

It’s been a privilege to be a witness to healing-both mine & Chelsea’s over the last several years.  We are both better, for having been committed friends.

 

Gratitude

I attended a Wednesday morning Eucharist service at my church last week.  I took deep breaths and opened the Book of Common Prayer, and listened to the Scriptures being read, and I turned to the elderly women sitting by me during the Passing of the Peace.

One woman shook my hand, looked me in the eyes, and said,

“You have the prettiest smile.  Thanks for making my day.”

I sat back down in my seat, breathed even more deeply, my thighs resting more heavily.  Immediately, I thought of writing my blog post about just wanting my smile to return.  I wasn’t faking it.  It was a real smile; and it was lighter.  Healing is happening and I am smiling.

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As I sat with my spiritual director last month, and we spoke briefly about Lent.  We spoke about how hard, how tiring the last 5 years have been.  How it’s been a long Lent.  How my hope is that in this Lent, that more and more healing will emerge.  And she just sat with me in my hope.

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I just attended a Silent Retreat in Omaha with the Gravity Center.  50 of us meditated together, did yoga together, ate meals silently together.  And when we could finally talk, one woman asked me my name, and then said, “I’m so glad I know your name now.  Alyssa-the one with the most effortless, beautiful smile.”

Happy tears welled up in my eyes, as others were giving voice to the profound amount of healing that has happened these last four months.

As others ask about the retreat, I’m saying, “I keep moving more and more deeply into the process of letting go.  And a by-product of letting go is joy.”

The last night of the retreat, we all sat silently in the chapel and were led through a lovingkindness meditation.

We repeated the mantra:

May I be well.

May I have love.

May I find peace in this life.

And then we repeated this mantra for our loved ones & for our enemies.

May you be well.

May you have love.

May you find peace in this life.

As a group claiming various or no faith tradition, we were opening ourselves up to Love, so we could love.  And it was beautiful.

Congratulations!

Last week, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor.  I have these appointments 3-4 times per year to gauge my progress and continue to tweak my treatment plan to best serve me and my healing.

The nurse leads me into the room and asks me what my dominant symptoms are to tell the doctor, before he comes in to meet with me.  I smiled as I told her, “I don’t have any dominant symptoms.  I’m feeling really good.”

She smiled back at me, took her time to really look at me, and replied, “That’s so good to hear.”

The doctor and I talked about my most recent lab results, how I’ve responded the last several months to new medicines, new IV’s, and adding in new foods.  We talked about how this summer with the high humidity should be different than last year, and yet I told him that I feel like I can tell how much difference these medicines have made by the time summer hits.

The entire 1/2 hour conversation was mostly about how I’m feeling–not what my test results say.  And as we were talking, this calmness came over me.  I was having a collaborative conversation with my doctor, where we were talking about my “subjective” feelings and they were validated over a number on a lab.  We talked about how I can adjust some medicines based on how I feel, because I know how to honor and listen to my body.

As I was leaving the room to go wait for the doctor’s notes in the lobby, he said, “Congratulations!”

The images that flooded my mind as he said that were of the dozens, even hundreds of people who have been a part of this healing journey with me.  From friends & family, to healing professionals, to strangers–it truly does take a village.

And, I have worked really hard.  Sometimes I shy away from saying that because I’ve been conditioned to feel like that’s arrogant.  But it’s not.

And sometimes guilt sets in because I am a young privileged white woman with access to resources that many people cannot even fathom.

Yet, I’m learning to sit with those feelings and just observe them.  And still say, “I’m healing & I’m worth it.”  And I have persevered and persevered and persevered.  And I deserve to feel good.

Hearing “congratulations!” from my doctor at first felt a little out of place. But then I paused, took a deep breath, and let the impact of his words sink in.

When he first saw me, I was on the brink of quitting my job.  I had just been sexually assaulted by a doctor.  I was exhausted and barely making it.  He has seen me through unemployment and multiple moves and black mold exposure and starting my own business.

So “congratulations!” meant “You’re making it!” but not only that, “You’re beginning to thrive!”

And he’s right.  I’ve not only gone through a lot of external changes, but I’ve done a lot of inner work–and the combination of a lot of hard work over the last several years–is a greater level of health and wellness.

I’m grateful for how my inner and outer work has changed my life, for my people who have journeyed with me, for simple encouragements that stop me in my tracks, cause me to take a deep breath and smile.

 

Photo courtesy of Serge Estege on Unsplash

The Flu and Thoughts on Letting Go

I got the flu last week.  The 24 hour kind, where I woke up and thought I was fine, until I was sweating one moment and freezing and next, and then I had the sudden urge to get to the bathroom as fast as I could.

I texted all my clients and told them that I needed to cancel.  I didn’t go to my last Qigong group.  I read an entire book, and listened to several podcasts.  I would throw up occasionally, then take a nap.

The details aren’t that interesting (ha!), and yet a few things hit me last Wednesday.

First, I know how to rest.  It’s like my body just let myself throw up.  It let me know when I was ready to try a cracker, to try a pretzel and see how my body did.  My body guided me to equilibrium and I trusted it the entire time.  Having the flu didn’t feel like an inconvenience, but just a time to slow down and have my body instruct me in how to get well.  Quite honestly, over the past several years, I had to learn how to rest.  I had traveled way too far over false ground.  The fact that resting came naturally, and I didn’t fight it, just means that I’m much closer to living in line with who I am.

On top of that, I was on my period!  Through vomiting and bleeding, I was getting a double message of letting myself let go of what I no longer needed.  Since last summer, I’ve transitioned in so many ways.  My health moved me into these decisions quickly–and yet now I can see that my health was nudging me in different directions that I’ve needed to go.

New job.  New home. New church.  New self-care routines.

I understood none of this while it was happening–we normally don’t!

More questions emerged that I’ve just let be questions:

  • Why do I live in Westfield?
  • What kind of church am I looking for?  Why?  Or am I looking for a church at all?
  • How can my self-care sustain these longer work hours?
  • How can I make Orton-Gilllingham more accessible to more people, while still caring for myself?
  • Who am I accountable to in this time?  And how to do I know?
  • Who am I and how do I know?

Deep questions usually surface in the new.  And they have.  And I’ve been pushed to lean into these questions.  I needed to let go of two jobs, that I liked at one point but were no longer working.  I needed to let go of a home that was close and convenient to everything, but was damaging my health.  I needed to let go of a church, where I had found community, and yet because of several factors I needed to say goodbye.

There are always new opportunities behind the grief.  Once my eyes were fully opened, no longer filled with exhaustion and tears–I saw my life for what it was.  Although I built a business feeling at about 15% myself–I am at capacity now, and I’m making plans for how I want to expand my services when there is a wait list.

Living in Westfield has been a place of rest, with a lot more country driving!  I had this strong sense when I was preparing to move that although busier in several years, that this was a season of rest.  It’s quieter.  I can see the stars.  I can easily walk down the street.  And my health has most definitely improved living here.

I’ve moved to more gentle self-care routines.  I engage in breathwork, in Qigong, in daily creativity through writing.  I can do these at home or with a group.  In fact, I see that I need both.  I’ve let everything that felt vigorous fall away.  This wasn’t the plan, but it just happened.  No more vinyasa yoga.  No more regular trips to the yoga studio.

As far as church goes, coming into the Episcopal church has felt like a homecoming to me.  I started going to an Anglican church in Memphis 4 years ago during the Epiphany season.  The liturgy truly was healing to my sick body. I didn’t realize how much I longed for that liturgy again, until I stepped through St. Christopher’s doors.  I didn’t realize how much I needed to come out as an asexual, until I looked on their website and read “You are welcome here. You are welcome if you are rich or poor, gay or straight, single or married, Democrat, Republican or something else.”

I wept when I was researching Episcopal churches in the area and I saw that they had a Lay Eucharistic Minister ministry where a volunteer would bring  the Eucharist to your home if you were homebound.  I thought of how many Sundays I didn’t go to church because of how sick I felt, or knowing that I would react to mold.  How over time that made me feel disconnected and isolated.  It was comforting to know that if I needed to stay home, I could just give the church a call and someone would come and visit me.

I let tears fall from my eyes when there were prayers for the sick imbedded into the liturgy.  I felt seen and represented.  I felt encouraged that there was an anti-racism work group, that the assistant rector was a woman and the bishop of the Diocese is a strong black woman.

Saying goodbye to those things last summer opened up space for my practices to align more with who I am, to give me excitement and hope for where I might be headed.

Last month, in my spiritual direction session, my director reflected back to me, that I speaking about themes that all began with c: community, courage, collaboration, construction, creativity, claiming, curiosity, contentment.  She encouraged me to see this time not necessarily as de-construction, but actually construction.  “You are constructing a beautiful life,” she said.

We also talked about how St. Christophers begins with a c.  My director said, “It would be interesting to look at what patron saint Christopher is.”  A few days later I did some research and found that St. Christopher is the patron saint of children and travel.

That seemed too fitting.  The last several years have been an adventure, with so much literal travel, but also a deep traveling inward.  I’ve been on a crazy adventure, oftentimes one that doesn’t make sense.  But then there are those moments, where time feels like it just stands still, and for a moment you know in your body that you are right where you are supposed to be.

I suppose you could say, that instead of fighting the flu, and being frustrated that I had to miss work, I simply took it as an opportunity to say, “I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

A Letter to My “Doctor”/Abuser

 

“Two times a week, I work right across from the doctor’s office, where I was sexually assaulted.”

I said this phrase a few months ago to a friend over dinner.  She nodded and asked, “How do you feel when you pass the office every week?”

“I’m able to stay in the present moment, but I still do feel sadness and anger.  Sometimes I want to walk into the office, and just yell at her.

Other times, I take several deep breaths & just pray, ‘I hope she doesn’t hurt anyone else today.'”

I still pray this prayer twice per week, as I drive across 116th Street in downtown Fishers.  I felt this prayer bubbling up again in my body as I watched the impact statements from the brave women sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar.

I let myself watch the impact statements for a few hours, letting myself cry, letting myself see the bravery, see the righteous anger, see justice coupled with compassion from Judge Aquilina.

As I watched these women and girls share their unique stories, we also all had the same common themes.  I saw myself; and I knew that if the circumstances allowed, I would be the one standing up, telling my story.

Yet, I also know this.  I may never get that chance.  However, I can choose to heal anyway.  And I have chosen to heal anyway.  Here is a letter written to my “doctor”/abuser.

Dear D_____________,

I wonder if you’re scared right about now.  I wonder if you were scared when the Indy Star wrote the article about Larry Nassar, who used the same abusive techniques that you use in your practice.  I wonder if you were scared of being found out.  You knew that USAG, housed in Indianapolis, was covering up the abuse, and intuitively, I know that this allowed you to flourish.

I wonder if you watched the impact statements and had flashbacks of all the people you’ve abused under the guise of medical treatment.  I wonder if one day you will ever feel any remorse.  I wonder what you would have said to me, if I would have allowed you in the room, when I met with the head doctor who just defended your sorry ass.  I wonder if you treated your daughter the same way you treated me.

I will never have answers to these questions.

There are some things I know about you though without you ever having to utter another word to me again.  I know that you’re a human being whose entire body is filled with intense shame, whether that is something you will ever acknowledge or not.  You would not abuse if you engaged the journey of self-healing.

I know that you have not accepted your sexuality.  For the things you said in that room were shaming of anyone who isn’t straight.  You would not openly shame diverse sexualities if you were secure in your own.

I know that you’re terrified to heal yourself.  To actually look at what you’ve done and who you’ve made of yourself and cry.  I know that you feel terribly hurt & so you hurt others.  And what’s worse, is that you claim to be a healer, but all you do is tremendous damage, because you can’t even look at yourself.

I know that your smile is hollow.  There’s nothing but utter chaos behind it.

I know that there is nothing more sad in the world than to see a 60-something year old woman who doesn’t know who she is.  You’ve never healed  & excavated your essence to see what healing purpose you were brought on this earth for.  You settled for the same old traumatic family dynamics,  and became a hollowed-out, vicious, and dominating version of your true self.

You should know that I’m strong and healing-more and more every day in fact. I am a brave and dynamic woman who is  realizing the extent of her own innate power. This is something you will never be able to take away from me.

You should know that I will never be like you.  I work with children, and I will never, ever abuse them.

The rest of my story you don’t deserve to hear or know.

Although what you did (and continue to do) is evil, you did teach me one thing.  Behind your gray eyes and cynical smile, I saw a decaying human being, the result of a woman who was not courageous enough to accept herself.  And so I learned that the acceptance and love of oneself, must be paramount.  It must truly be a narrow road that few find.

Well D-I’ve found it, and continue to find it.  While it’s narrow, it is freeing.  And because I have the audacity to take this narrow road, I also have the audacity to reach for forgiveness.  For I need to move on with my life and leave you behind.  But before I say goodbye forever, I do have a blessing for you.

D-before your deathbed, may you find your body and your soul.

May you know that to be curious like a child again-you will have much grief to wade through.  In order to feel that innocent again, you must be able to forgive yourself.

May you find the courage to speak the truth, even if it costs you everything.

May you actually be receptive to touch, not seeking to always manipulate and control.

May you know that Love is still looking for you-but you have to be looking for him/her/them.

Goodbye D.

 

 

Breathwork

 

It’s time that I finally write about this life-giving practice–and how it’s changing my life.

I encountered a deep form of breath work, through the instruction of a resident teacher named Beth this past summer. At this time, I was still very in-my-head.  I thought this breathing of 2 deep inhales, followed by one deep exhale all through the mouth while laying down was kind of weird.  I didn’t understand it (and that’s the point!)

To be honest, the side affects scared me.  I thought I would start breathing too fast.  My hands would start tingling, sometimes they would tighten up.  Sometimes my feet would fall asleep momentarily.  Many times I cried.  At first, my question was, “What does this mean?” although I came to learn and accept that all I was doing was moving stuck energy.  Also, breathing in this way could also be considered an active meditation.

I kept practicing once per week on my own.  I experienced some clarity, yet it became just another aspect of a self-care practice for me.  It was not yet a defining part of my inner work.

Beth left Indy, yet came back this winter.  I came to several of her group breath work classes, and it made me realize that I wanted to dig deeper.  I attended an individual session with Beth, where she invited me to try to practice this form of breath work daily.  Since the beginning of the year, breath work has become a key part of my emotional and spiritual care.

This type of breath work has guided me straight into my heart, into my intuition.  It helps me approach the unknown in my life with greater ease.  It is helping me to reach for compassion and forgiveness, while allowing me to explore my voice–and what I have to say.

Through breath work (and my work in Qigong, but that’s for another post!), I’m receiving messages that I never would have with just my rational mind.  I’m exploring intergenerational trauma and my purpose as someone who values justice and truth-telling.  I’m receiving so much gratitude for my journey, for the people who cross my path every day, and for the gifts even within my illness.

I’m watching some of my limiting beliefs melt away (not like magic, yet sustained breath work feels like a domino effect) and the effects on my health have been extraordinary.  My constant food cravings are gone, my energy is more constant, and the general energy moving through my body is more vibrant.   I’m experimenting with introducing more foods and it’s working!

My breath work practice is helping me to align more completely with my values.  I’m looking forward to more healing and more self-love that will transpire this coming year.

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.

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.