It took 58 years for me to understand that I had been anxious my whole life. It took an aneurysm’s rupture in my brain, preceded by severe panic attacks to wake me up to the way my bodymind expressed its need for healing.
When I was in my 20s, I was passionate about my career choice to become a bodywork therapist when I simultaneously became interested in meditation, movement education and bodywork. Because of my mental and emotional discontent, I explored meditation. And as a result of back pain and an inexplicable fear of surgery, I began to experiment with alternative therapeutic bodywork for postural correction. Since I was already a teacher, I decided to train in order to teach body/mind awareness: the link between all of my interests. I became skilled in my practice as a Feldenkrais teacher and craniosacral therapist until my health began to teeter-totter on the brink of a cliff.
During my menopausal years I had recurring panic attacks. Trying to stop them, I repeatedly misinterpreted many body messages. I kept looking inward for messages from my guides, and evaluating sensorial and kinesthetic information with minimal results. I tried meditating to control the anxiety, studying and analyzing dreams and lying on a variety of practitioners’ tables to solve my nervous system problems. I attended classes to interrupt my body-shaking and search for a calmer rhythm to my breathing pattern. I also searched for healing in my yoga and qi gong classes.
In spite of all that, I was losing control of my mind and my life. This intense struggle with worsening anxiety culminated in my acceptance of allopathic medication after I finally understood that my body simply wouldn’t make the chemicals I needed to function calmly.
I was both relieved and disappointed. Relieved to be able to function again to pursue healing from a more grounded perspective and disappointed that there didn’t seem to be a pure somatic answer to my illness. Or was there?
I awoke from a drugged sleep one morning having a seizure. The sensation was like a nail in my brain. I was brought to intensive care at the hospital where images showed a ruptured brain artery. Blood seeped out of my right vertebral artery, oddly resembling a painting I had painted some months previously.
I recalled nothing for a day or two until I woke up in the neurological intensive care unit and was told I had had brain surgery.
“What kind of brain surgery?!!” I wondered.
Being a knowledgeable kinesthetic practitioner, I wiggled my fingers and toes and noted that they moved; felt my head and noticed there were no bandages, nor hair missing. Then I whooped for joy at the realization that whatever had happened, I was okay; I was thinking, talking, sensing and moving. I later realized I was using all the sensing skills I had developed during the past many years in order to come back into this world, for I had almost died.
What exactly did these life events mean? I pondered the recurring anxiety and the aneurysm rupture as I recovered and eventually wrote a memoir, Uncoiling, to sort it out in 2012, four years after the hospitalization.
I went back to work two months after the aneurysm, convinced that working with clients, touching others with awareness and precision within a healing energy field would help me improve. It was true.
Then one day I dared to go to a Zumba class, for I love to dance, and found that following the rapid movement changes was nearly impossible. My motor processing was so slow. Soon I began to go regularly to retrain my brain. And I began to attend Feldenkrais, yoga and qi gong classes to further my recovery.
I feel very strongly that all my awareness training helped me recover rather quickly from the brain trauma. However, its location was an act of grace and the reason I didn’t lose any motor function. I had to cope with “typical” brain injury symptoms and slowly relearn and reconnect the damaged neural pathways. In my private practice, I had treated many brain-injured clients over the years and I now found myself to be one, having to follow my oft-repeated suggestions in order to heal. Blessedly there was little damage to my body, just a disturbance in my more refined activities.
My kinesthetic self now feels less rusty and displaced. I continue to recover and to further heal my brain. As I write this in 2017, I feel fully recovered form the brain trauma and have written a postscript chapter to the memoir I wrote in 2012. The title Uncoiling reflects the type of brain repair the physicians used, a procedure called the coil method that accessed the rupture via the femoral artery (at the top of the thigh) so there were no incisions in my skull. The postscript chapter is called Healing with the Elements, a reflection of how I see my healing now, nine years later.
What did I discover during these past years? Well, I have softened and accepted some use of allopathic medicine in my life. After all, I am sane, alive and functioning. A miracle. I am more than ever dedicated to alternative/complementary healing methods as adjuncts to surgery, and to complete healing in general. Writing the memoir helped me recognize the important events of my life that led me to seek a meaningful career. My therapeutic practice fosters my dedication to helping people. I help clients listen to the messages of their body and inner self in order to make life decisions. And I encourage them to develop a foundation of awareness and body sensing and trust in the life process. I want to share my learning with you.