Monday, September 15, 2014

Words to Heal By - "Never Lose Hope"

When Jordan Rich asked me what helped me on my healing journey when I was interviewed on his show last week, he said "Well of course you had your writing." It was words and writing poetry that opened my door to healing shortly after being diagnosed with post polio syndrome in December 2006.

It is words that continue to help me heal.

I was introduced to the work of Bernie Siegel, MD by Beth Jordan, an earth angel of a nurse in the 1980's when hospitalized for over 6 weeks with an infection in my shoulder. She told me about his work. Tom and I went to hear him speak at Harvard and he has been my "chosen dad" and labor coach through the years guiding me throughout my healing journey. I encourage you to take a few moments and read his article "Deceiving People Into Health." It was through Bernie sharing a story about how his son strung together wordswordswords in an art project with no space between them that I realized how words can heal or words can become swords.

I am mindful of my choice of words and notice how they have the power to change what is happening in my body. While I worked very hard in outpatient treatment at Spaulding Rehab following my initial diagnosis of post polio syndrome, I was also writing poems about gratitude, health, wholeness and feeling joy, feeling alive in my body. Perhaps the most powerful testament to words to heal by was that in the first poem I wrote after the diagnosis of post polio syndrome, I visualized running a race! Imagine that - I was in a leg brace, using a wheelchair at times for mobility and feeling the worst I had ever felt in my life, mind, body and Spirit, but writing the poem Running the Race - the power of those words - helped to pierce the darkness and gave me a sense of hope. As Bernie often says, quoting Jung, "The unconscious prepares the way for the future," although at the time I had no idea I would go on to run the 2009 Boston Marathon.

If I'm feeling stressed and anxious (that also means I am not living in the present moment), I say the words peace and equanimity over and over again or be here now and I can feel my body let go of the tension. I break the cycle of looping where thoughts create bodily sensations and those bodily sensations fuel the thoughts that keep me feeling stressed and anxious, by using healing words.

Recently I have been focusing on ease and lightness and wrote this poem:

Lightness and Ease

Be light
beneath darkness
doom and gloom
Spirit waits in the wings
by your side
eager to please
deliver you to this luscious
spacious place
of ease
of peace
only a breath away


From the age of 5 years old, I have known struggle and challenges. Being rejected, neglected and abandoned by my mother after contracting paralytic polio and being cared for by my dad and grandfather who, God bless them, tried to do their best but were not deeply nurturing, loving and caring men, left me feeling a sense of heaviness in my body. Paralysis will also do that to you. My body was a burden. Wearing a full, long metal leg brace for years and then needing a full length cast on my right leg for 6 weeks at the age of 11; numerous (over 25) surgeries including reconstructive leg surgery and hardware removal added to this feeling of heaviness. And then there was violence....

But now I choose to focus on ease and lightness. These are my words to heal by. With the combination of Aquatics Therapy at Spaulding Rehab and weekly treatments with Joseph at Sollievo Massage and Bodywork, there are moments when I feel balance, ease and lightness in my body and feel as though nothing ever happened to me. I imprint those moments and then let everything be as it is. And I never lose hope no matter what may be going on in my body. I know that every day, every moment is an opportunity for me to harness the power of words to heal by and let all of my helpers, seen and unseen continue to help me heal.

Thank you to Jordan for a wonderful interview and for playing this inspirational song at the close of my interview:

The first 7 years of my healing odyssey are chronicled in my memoir:

"Wait, I have one more goal," Mary McManus told her personal trainer in February of 2008 shortly after coming out of her toe up leg brace. "I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital." Mary traded in her polio shoes for running shoes and embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Mary McManus was at the height of her career as a VA social worker when she was told by her team at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital’s International Rehab Center for Polio in December of 2006 that she needed to quit her job if she had any hope of preventing the progression of post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease. In “Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility” Mary takes you on her seven year healing odyssey as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma from her diagnosis, to taking a leap of faith to leave her award winning career at the VA to heal her life and follow her passion as a poet and writer. You’ll experience her trials, tribulations and triumphs as she trains for and crosses the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and discovers the opportunity for healing in the wake of new trauma: the suicide of her nephew in 2011, and the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. This is Mary's journey of coming home to her human form free from the influences of the ghastly ghostly invaders who had invaded her sacred earthly home. Her memoir includes journals and blog posts from her seven year healing odyssey. This is her journey of transformation and her message of healing, hope and possibility.

I donate 50% of royalty payments through on line sales at Amazon to The One Fund to help Boston Marathon survivors and their families. Copies are also available at Brookline Marathon Sports. $5 of each book sold at Marathon Sports is donated to The One Fund.

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