Thursday, December 22, 2016
Reclaim Advantage! Reclaim Life! Reclaiming Life After Trauma: The New Normal
Life as I had known it came to a screeching halt in December of 2006. From the outside looking in, one would think I had it all. I was an award winning social worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs at the top of my game and my pay scale. I was poised to retire in three years given my length of service and meeting the minimum age requirement to get my retirement. I lived in an affluent suburb of Boston with my husband who had a successful career in technology at a local hospital and our twins were 19 years old. But the years of neglecting my body...the chinks in my defense system to manage the trauma I suffered for 9 years just 3 years after contracting paralytic polio at the age of 5 were crumbling.
The limp from polio returned. I had difficulty swallowing and breathing. Everything hurt mind, body and soul. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired but soldiered on to get to work every day and care for our veterans and their families. It was a slow, subtle onset of symptoms that I ignored for almost 10 years until everything was crying out for healing. I knew something was drastically wrong with me; something that my primary care provider in 2004 could not figure out because all of my tests came back normal. He attributed it to "empty nest syndrome" and that I suffered from some psychiatric disorder. He told me to see a psychiatrist and gave me samples of an anti-depressant which I quickly flushed down the toilet.
In October of 2006 I got still and prayed. I asked for Divine Guidance and was moved to google post polio syndrome that I heard about from the surgeon who performed my reconstructive leg surgery. When I went for my post op visit, he introduced me to the wife of a veteran who needed my help. She suffered from post polio syndrome and needed to surgery to try to ease some of her symptoms but was the caregiver for her veteran husband. I arranged for him to go into respite. She had her surgery and I remembered about post polio syndrome.
Spaulding Rehab's International Rehab Center for Polio and Post Polio Syndrome was a half hour away from my house. I found the courage to make the call and begin my 10 year healing odyssey.
In February of 2007 after being told that I should prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair, adapt my Cape home or move to a ranch, get a sleep apnea machine; that I might need a feeding tube and had to be on a semi-solid diet using chin tucks when I ate drinking liquids through a straw to avoid aspiration into my lungs, and that if I had any hope of stabilizing these symptoms where they were I must quit my job at the VA, I turned to God once again in prayer. What's a social worker to do? How can I quit my job? How will I ever find my way out of the dark night of my soul, mind and body?
The answer came in the form of poetry in the cadence of Dr. Seuss that my physical therapist read to me before every painful physical therapy session when I was just 5 years old. We read together in the waiting room and then she would have me recite back to her in tandem while she worked to coax my nerves and muscles back to health. The first poem I wrote? Why "Running the Race" of course! It foreshadowed my 2009 Boston Marathon run as a mobility impaired runner.
I quit my job on May 25, 2007 to heal my life. I had no idea what that meant. I feverishly wrote poems about gratitude, health, healing and wholeness asking the question how would I ever reclaim my life and yearning to live and run unencumbered and free. My imagination was ignited to see myself as I wanted myself to be; healthy and whole free from the shackles of the effects from paralytic polio and trauma.
In 2010 I worked with a good enough massage therapist that helped me to run well, but the relationship broke down. My nephew's suicide in March of 2011 was almost a knock out punch on my healing journey and I turned to modalities and relationships that did not support my health and wellness. I continued to write poetry conjuring up healers in my mind's eye using my pen as my divining rod for healing.
Being across the street from where the 2nd bomb exploded on 4/15/13 was a wake up call and I returned to running and my running village. It was a struggle to run. I was working with a massage therapist who was not serving me, yet like many trauma survivors convinced myself I was getting what I needed. I suffered a serious knee injury that was a blessing in disguise. It would not be too long before I finally found my way to Dr. Ryan, a chiropractor healer and Jeffrey Spratt,MT, a master muscular therapist, who pioneered the life saving and life changing Spratt Method of Muscular Therapy. His healing hands, compassionate presence and care have helped me to create the masterpiece of my life and polish the tarnish away from my inner mirror so I can see myself as I was always meant to be: beautiful, worthy, strong, confident, courageous and deserving of healing. Dr. Ryan turned me onto the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza which set ablaze my mind body connection and reminded me that we can heal our bodies by thought alone! Bringing together my powerful intention for healing with these two power houses of healing, I am creating a factory new body conditioning my body to a new mind.
As Jeffrey so eloquently explains it, when we experience trauma, our bodies dump 31 chemicals into our system to prepare us for fight or flight. These chemicals leave an imprint. The traumatic events leave an imprint and if not treated and healed, get layered over and fossilized. Through the power of positive quality touch using this method, Jeffrey and I embarked on a beautiful journey of unearthing AND healing these traumatic memories. We are creating a new neural net that heals the effects of paralytic polio which did not have a chance to heal when I was a little girl because every day I was fighting for my survival.
But not now -- now I can take all those survival skills and put them to good use without the hypervigilance or the immobilizing OCD. I have energy to work 14 hour days. I travel. I run. I strength train, swim and cross train AND I have one more training run to go before taper time as I am poised and ready to toe the starting line of my SECOND CONSECUTIVE BERMUDA HALF MARATHON! I breathe deeply and I have so much more flexibility in my body and in my life. There is greater ease in all that I do.
I have reclaimed my purpose to work side by side with Jeffery to study the "Efficacy of the Spratt Method of Muscular Therapy in Trauma Recovery" and as his Executive Assistant and Communications and Public Relations Director.
The team at Spaulding Rehab told me what my new normal would be....life in a wheelchair, the possibility of a feeding tube, chronic fatigue and pain, progressive degeneration of muscles and nerves....God and I had another plan and I have to tell you - THIS new normal is so sweet.
To your health and wellness!