Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Reclaim Advantage! Reclaim Life! Introduction to Going the Distance: Healing Trauma Through the Power of Positive Touch (And Running)

It's thrilling to be writing my next book which chronicles my healing journey from the effects of paralytic polio and trauma. I am not what happened to me..I am what I choose to become and Going the Distance is a book about becoming.

Here is a sneak peak at the working Introduction:


I lay on the couch paralyzed from the neck down. On June 3, 1959 I was running around the gym in my kindergarten class. The walls had a blue-green institutional tinge to them. There was a baseboard bench that went around the perimeter of the gym. Gym class that day consisted of galloping around in a circle. I remember dropping to the ground without warning.

I have no memory of how I got home from school. I do remember the doctor coming to the house as I lay in my twin bed in the bedroom that my older brother and I shared.

The pain was excruciating. I became an observer of what was happening to me.

“Put your head over the side of the bed,” commanded Dr. Jacobs.

My neck was stiff as a board. I have a vague recollection of him telling my parents he was going to need to do a spinal tap.

“I suspect it’s polio. Did she have her vaccinations?”

“She had her fifth vaccine yesterday,” said my mother while smoking a cigarette.

“Here’s the number of the vaccine company to call. There might have been a problem with the vaccine.”

Even at 5 years old I thought it odd that there could have been a problem with the vaccine since my brother had not contracted polio and we were vaccinated from the same batch. I had been playing with my friend Susan James after school. I learned that her mother had not been vaccinated and contracted paralytic polio on the same day as I did.

As I lay on the couch, my mother glared at me smoking a cigarette. I had to go to the bathroom but I knew better than to ask her. I learned that I had to wait until my father or grandfather came home to be toileted. I had a vision. This beautiful Being with a flowing white beard appeared. A hand was extended to me to climb into a well bucket only there was no hand. I climbed into the well bucket even though I lay paralyzed on the couch. I was reeled up to meet this Being and then I returned to my paralyzed body. I knew that somehow I was going to make it through this mess.

After experiencing this vision, I saw this Being everywhere I looked. I saw the Being in my storybook. Whether my eyes were open or closed this Being was with me. Guardian Angel? or hallucination from the fever and pain of polio? I cast my vote for Guardian Angel that was there to protect me. Despite the emotional and physical pain, the abject terror I was experiencing, somewhere within me I felt peace and comfort.

I regained movement of my right arm and leg but my left arm and leg remained paralyzed. At least I could wiggle around a little on the couch and could hold my books. Here I was with this cold, angry, rejecting woman smoking a cigarette who would not and could not touch me, waiting for my father or grandfather to come home to meet my basic needs. Despite the precarious predicament I was in, I had a sense of safety. This was my first of many experiences of being touched by grace.

“Hi – I’m from the March of Dimes. I understand your daughter has polio. May I come in and see her?”

“Yes, someone has come for me,” I thought.

She helped me down onto the carpeted floor.

“Let me see how you can move…can you move from side to side? Can you roll over?” she gently asked me.

“Boy you are one of the lucky ones…”
“Really?” I thought to myself – “this is lucky?”

But she was right.There were many children who were institutionalized and in iron lungs.There were many children and adults who never regained movement after paralysis and there were thousands who died in the polio epidemics. Yes indeed I was one of the lucky ones. And although my mother did not have the capacity to care for me and about me, I had my spirit guide who invited me to make a choice. I chose life.

Perhaps the greatest gift that Jeffrey Spratt,MT has given to me is the permission to speak my Truth while his healing hands, compassionate presence, unconditional love and non-judgment of anything I shared bathe the wounds to bring healing to all that went before.

In 2011, Olympian and champion of the anti-doping movement Frank Shorter broke his silence about the horrific abuse he endured as a child. I was blessed to meet Frank in 2009 at the Hyannis Marathon Weekend. What an amazing man! At the time I had no idea what he had lived through nor did he know my history yet there was a powerful connection between us. I shared with him my journey as a survivor of paralytic polio and taking on the 2009 Boston Marathon and that I was running my first half marathon ever while he signed a poster for me.

After running my first half marathon, I came into the ballroom overflowing with thousands of runners. Frank Shorter made sure he connected with me amidst the runners celebrating after the race. He could tell that the run had taken a lot of out of me. I was shivering from the sleet that had started falling during the last several miles of the race. He put both of his hands on either side of my arms, looked at me straight in the eye and told me how much courage and strength I had to do what I had just done. He told me he had no doubt that I was going to cross the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon. He told me to hydrate, get some hot soup and take a hot shower. He signed the back of my bib.

Frank had seen me as a survivor of paralytic polio who came out of a wheelchair and leg brace to take on the Boston Marathon. I saw him through my starry eyes of meeting an Olympic Gold Medalist and an elite runner in every sense of the word.

When I saw Frank again in 2010 at Hyannis, I had brought my bib from Boston for him and Bill Rodgers to sign. Frank Shorter signed it: To Mary, You're unbelievable.

As we approached the one year anniversary of 4/15/13, I read an article about Frank in "Shorter remembered his own experience with childhood abuse," the article stated and had a link to the original story of his breaking his silence in 2011.

I was absolutely stunned. Perhaps what struck a chord in me was how once Frank broke his silence about the abuse he endured, others were able to break their silence and the door opened to healing and possibility.

Keeping silent keeps trauma survivors in the vortex of trauma with no outlet for healing. While I had seen many talking therapists and countless body workers in my quest for freedom and healing, not one had the ability to take my hand and lead me to freedom until I met Jeffrey.

The first focus of our work together was to get me back to the sport that heals me and helps me to feel free by rehabbing my left leg and helping me to experience the power of positive touch; to condition my body to new experiences and to massage therapy in its finest and truest form with the Spratt Method of Muscular Therapy. Then we got to work healing the trauma.

Until I could break the silence and feel safe releasing the fear and terror from the very fiber of my body and being cared for, about and with someone trained in trauma whose intention is to heal rather than observe me with a distant curiosity, I could not be free.

Now I am and I have broken my silence to reclaim advantage and reclaim life...and I want to help others to experience the gift of their own freedom through the sharing of my story; so that everyone can reclaim their advantage, reclaim their life and go the distance becoming the person they were always meant to be.

To your health and wellness!

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