When The Body Speaks, Listen

We had been driving for what seemed like ages. The intention was to get home ASAP. My fever was climbing higher. I knew my illness, Behcet’s Disease, was raging out of control and I had to reach medical care.

My friend Carrie and I had spent the weekend in an idyllic cabin on the lake in Chautauqua, NY. Nestled amongst heavily wooded trees in thick, humid August weather, it was a picture-perfect time to visit. Heading into my junior year of high school, Carrie a senior, we were petite, down-to-earth, midwestern Jewish gals with curly hair. Both our images and our lives appeared similar from the outside.

My life was anything but down-to-earth and typical.

I lasted all but one night in the Chautauqua cabin before that became apparent, as my body began to fail me, fever spiking 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Under the guidance of her parents, Carrie and I decided to take the long drive home to Ohio.

When we passed Corning, NY, my chills turned to tremors because I realized we had been driving for 6 hours and were still in New York, instead of home in Ohio.

MY BODY ALWAYS SENT ME MESSAGES

That weekend in New York was one of a million similar flare-ups I had throughout life. Never knowing a day with health, I was a year old when first struck with a seizure and recurring fevers.

Over time, I became aware that my body was sending me signs of imbalances; brain fog, depression, chills, arthritis, body aches, extreme fatigue, flu-like symptoms, taste changes, neurological changes, neuropathology. I had no idea how to read them.

The symptoms were all-consuming, knocking me out for weeks. For many years, hospitalizations and high doses of experimental medications were the only way to bring my body back to homeostasis.

The force felt too strong to fight, and I let myself give in.

COMFORT IN CHAOS

Halfway through my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in my early 20’s, the disease rendered me incapable of seeing patients. My Master’s Thesis defense was due a few weeks later and I could barely walk or speak from the pain. At this point, I realized that my current condition was directly being fueled by the pressure I had been under.

Recognizing the negative impact my Ph.D. program had on my physical well-being was a wake-up call. I took a hiatus and moved home to be closer to family. Yet I was still attracted to stress and suffering; pillars of my upbringing, I found comfort in their chaos.

It was this feeling that I would come back to, time and again over the years. This constant, a toxic friend, was always there when I felt I couldn’t face the world, or when I couldn’t stand in my power.

The disease wove its way through my life and my body as I took several steps backward the next couple of years: monthly flares crippling my life, trapped in a body that was failing me, and flailing in a flawed medical system. Visibly inflamed, feverish, parts of my being so riddled with symptoms I could barely walk or talk. It was time to acknowledge something in my life was broken, and it was time to find out what.

Something had to give because I felt like I was going to break into a million pieces. I had finally reached the point that I was too depressed to continue wading in misery, and it was time to say goodbye to my old toxic friend, whatever the cost.

Venturing outside of allopathic medicine for answers, I began to work with a holistic healer-therapist. When I first stepped into her space, I was immediately mesmerized by the open-aired, cozy vibe. Her office was a sanctuary surrounded by books on healing and natural remedies. Massive floor-to-ceiling windows were adorned with crystals and singing bowls, exotic and foreign mystical objects.

This was a new world that offered me a new path if I was willing to accept it. At first, I was resistant to the unique treatment, a combination of breathwork, mind-body healing, and holistic wellness.

To my surprise and sheer delight, my over-inflamed body began to calm down within the first month. The fevers lessened and the nagging aches in my joints disappeared. I could walk free of pain and finally fit into my favorite winter booties that wouldn’t zip for a year. Ulcers, which had been guarding my throat, as if protecting me from speaking, had finally retreated.

Stepping over the threshold into Angela’s space was like walking into another time and place. I was swept away by the energy, yet I had never dealt in words like energy before. Immediately mesmerized by the open-aired, cozy vibe, her office was a sanctuary surrounded by books on healing and natural remedies. Massive floor-to-ceiling windows were adorned with crystals and singing bowls, exotic and foreign mystical objects. 

This was a new world that offered me a new path if I was willing to accept it. At first, I was resistant to the unique treatment, a combination of breathwork, mind-body healing, and holistic wellness. 

To my surprise and sheer delight, my over-inflamed body began to calm down within the first month. The fevers lessened and the nagging aches in my joints disappeared. I could walk free of pain and finally fit into my favorite winter booties that wouldn’t zip for a year. Ulcers, which had been guarding my throat, as if protecting me from speaking, had finally retreated.

I was now able to take a step back, breathe, and exert a modicum of control over my body. The flares became shorter and less severe. In fact, if I sensed pre-symptoms early enough, I was able to prevent my body from continuing the autoimmune response altogether. 

THE BODY SPEAKS THE TRUTH

How did I learn to speak my body’s language and learn to understand the messages it was sending?

I had to understand where they were coming from and what they meant. They are different for everyone.

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Over time and in response to stressors, the body begins chronically producing inflammation, which, in return, increases depression. Research shows that individuals who have been diagnosed with a stress disorder are not only likely to develop an autoimmune disease, but they are more likely than healthy individuals to be diagnosed with multiple autoimmune illnesses. Fifteen years ago I wasn’t privy to this research, but I did not need it to tell me what I was already experiencing IRL, that distress was detrimental to my body.

Using this knowledge, I began to track the symptoms of my disease by searching for clues to triggers for my inflammatory response. Were my work, personal relationships, food intake, and exercise adding to my sense of wellness, or creating more anxiety and burden in my life? 

Any recurring patterns timed around the illness flare-ups were red flags. If work was overtly stressful around the time I got sick every month, that was a clue to back off and work less. If certain relationships became more toxic in congruence with a flare, I began weighing the importance of my health versus that bond. Would I let another person’s well-being come before my own? In the end, the answer was always, and absolutely, “No.”

Beyond such stressors, I worked through deeper childhood trauma, which I now know is linked to chronic illness later in life. Through body-centered healing, I released painful memories that had been trapped in my body for years. Clearing old wounds simultaneously soothed chronic physical pain. Beneath the layers of agony, toxicity, and trauma resided a well of inner wisdom where I made a profound connection to self. 

READY TO LET GO OF THE PAIN

It took a recognition on my part that suffering was my known pattern. It was a limiting way that I lived in the world and saw myself. Once I was ready to heal and let go of that, with the right support, I let go of that sh*t.

In fact, within a couple of years, my body was in complete remission. I was healthy. For the first time in my entire life, at the age of twenty-eight, I awoke every day to a smile on my face and a body that felt grateful to be

Unshackled by the heavy handcuffs of disease, wallowing, stress, and depression, I was free and excited about life. So much had changed besides the illness. I was connected to my truth, and I could use my voice to speak it. I could say what I wanted, because I knew how I felt in my core.

And I needed to live. 

Donning a backpack on my able-body, I traveled the world for the first time and never stopped. To heal, to thrive, to live my purpose, and to immerse myself in spiritual studies, I spent most of the following decade in Asia, studying and deepening my personal wellness wisdom under the tutelage of healers and spiritual leaders in India, Thailand, and Bali. 

Chronic Illness, Healing Trauma

CATEGORY

9/17/2021

POSTED

When The Body Speaks, Listen

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