Proof of Life.

It was pointed out to me by my mentor, Jill, that my last post about my chronic condition being my full-time job was good, but missing a critical element – the connection between what I’m doing to take care of myself, and the reasons I have to. I am not just a victim of a random disease without a cause, because there is a cause: the reason I have to take care of myself in this way is because I wasn’t cared for when I was a little girl. In fact, I am a reflection of how my childhood looked, shown through the particular realities of my chronic illness.

It sends me to doctors, thus providing me with care,  highlighting how my medical needs weren’t attended to as a child. My knees are the worst affected, reflecting other unmet (k)needs. It is relatively invisible, which describes not only how I felt in my home; but also the way the family dealt with things it didn’t want to know about; and that illnesses and emotions were to be hidden. It causes a lack of animation – a freezing – which reflects what I did to survive.  And it is all about inflammation – heat – which represents how enraged I am about all of it.

My RA describes my childhood, and what happened to me, perfectly. This is a core tenet of SPRe bodywork: Our diseases, conditions, and dysfunctions may describe us to ourselves, telling the stories about our childhoods – and our families. The shape of our bodies, our physical dysfunctions and chronic conditions, our relationship patterns, our choices, all may show our childhoods, in varying degrees. Every hour of every day, every action, every interaction – we may be showing our inner selves; how we were raised, what was done – or not done – and what we lived through. We may all be doing this, even those who don’t have physical evidence as dramatic as mine.

Take a look and see if your discomforts describe you and your past: invisible (private, hidden, forbidden), addiction (denial of needs, inappropriate nourishment), digestive/diabetic (fight/flight, nonexistent or inappropriate nourishment), neurological (missed connections, unnerving family experience), cardiac/circulatory (broken hearted, “bad blood”) overweight (maxed out, afraid to be seen, fear and self-protecting), pulmonary (fear, fight/flight), spinal/shoulders (don’t have your own back, can’t shoulder the load), optical (don’t want to see/be seen), sore feet (de-feeted, can’t stand on your own feet).

And I don’t say all of this in an effort to blame everything on our parents, but it is about understanding the climate of our upbringing, being honest about what happened, and being aware of how we responded. There is a cost to not being raised – or raised well – and we pay it every day. The fact that you may still be standing, and making an effort to understand is a testament to your spirit. Many of us have siblings that, quite obviously, didn’t make it out alive, and have mental and/or physical problems that have taken them out of the world. They may be a reflection of the family that is hard to see, but being truthful about our pasts honors the reality that our family may have been toxic.

The body sticks to the facts, and it craves the truth. So what can be done about it? How do we stop the body from proving over and over, painfully and destructively, what was done to us? Starting to really look at what happened – and what is happening – is crucial, as is making those connections to the possible toxicity, neglect, fear, and pain in our childhoods. With the proper help, we can take steps to address the situation, but it’s not just about fixing ourselves or having someone else fix us.

Having someone just fix something on you – or, worse, tell you to “just fix it” – isn’t helpful, and it’s not relational, and we’re all about that. That’s the other core practice of SPRe – that everything can be relational. I didn’t really know what relational meant; many of us don’t. Even when I thought I was experiencing intimacy and relationship, it was just another variation of what I knew; being isolated and alone, animating both sides of the relationship, and taking care of someone while watching them disregard my needs (knees!).

In a professional space, aspects of the word, relational, may include having someone to experience something with you, both parties participating with the same desire for a beneficial outcome. Someone who can relate to you, or help you relate to what’s going on with you. Someone to reflect back at you what they see so you can see it too – in effect, help relate your story to you. Finding someone you trust who can reflect back to you what you are and do, and help you make sense of it, as well as help you match your body with your past – your psychology – is crucial for healing. Only then, might our bodies feel they can stop proving the wounds.

With this kind of help, I’ve been able to make important changes in my body and my health. It still takes me a lot of time to care for myself; my post wasn’t lying! But as I tell my truth, unravel my stories, make the connection between my toxic childhood and what my body did to prove it to the world, and as I feel safe and understood, certain of my symptoms are receding. I am thriving, not just surviving. I plan to keep working on caring for myself full-time, but my plan is that someday it will be less consuming; I must admit I’m still hoping for a job that actually pays some money.

With Jill Ableson.