Thursday, April 27, 2017
Reclaim Advantage! Reclaim Life! Reclaim Life After Trauma: The New Normal! Ten Years Later....
Life as I had known it came to a screeching halt in December of 2006. I was an award winning social worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs, poised to retire in three years. I had a wonderful marriage and had raised our twins. 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 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. When I found my way to Spaulding Rehab’s International Rehab Center for Polio and Post Polio, I was diagnosed with Post-Polio Syndrome and 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 food 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 and go on disability. I turned to prayer asking for Divine Guidance as I had during the trials and tribulations of my life. What's a social worker to do? How will I ever find my way out of the dark night of my mind, body and soul?
The answer came first in the form of poetry in the cadence of Dr. Seuss that my physical therapist read to me before every painful physical therapy session as I worked to recover after contracting paralytic polio at the age of 5. The first poem I wrote? "Running the Race,” a poem that foreshadowed my 2009 Boston Marathon run as a mobility impaired runner. I quit my job on May 25, 2007 to heal my life. At the time 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. How would I ever bridge the gap between what I saw and felt in my imagination and physical reality?
In December of 2014, I suffered a serious knee injury that was a blessing in disguise. It took 8 years of searching but I was finally led to a chiropractor, Ryan J. Means, DC or Dr. Ryan as he likes to be called and muscular therapist, Jeffrey Spratt, MT who believed in the body’s natural capacity to heal through the power of positive quality touch. Since April of 2015 I have had a quantum leap of healing mind, body and soul.
As Jeffrey explains, when we experience trauma, our bodies dump 31 chemicals into our system to prepare us for fight or flight. These chemicals along with the traumatic events leave an imprint. If not treated and healed, these get layered over and fossilized. Through the power of positive quality touch using the Spratt Method of Muscular Therapy that Jeffrey pioneered, Jeffrey and I unearth AND heal these traumatic memories. In my first treatment with Jeffrey he said to me, “I want you to run unencumbered.” The tag line for his practice? Reclaim Advantage! Reclaim Life!
In trauma survivors, there is a build up of toxic imprints stored in the muscles and fascia. It’s an unhealthy toxic cocktail when these imprints buried deeply out of awareness meet stressful life situations in the present. As Jeffrey uncovers and gets rid of the toxins embedded in the muscles and fiber of my body through his innovative method of muscular therapy, the external stress no longer has the same impact on me. I am more aware of my reactions and can temper my responses to stress. As a trauma survivor, before partnering with Jeffrey, I went from stimulus to reaction without having the ability to pause!
Working with Jeffrey to heal trauma is a process of mental and emotional release through physical action. Layer by layer, with each treatment, the imprints are touched, brought into awareness, cleared and transformed. Triggers may remain but do not result in tonic immobility (fright) or hypervigilance and need to take action (flight). With the physical removal of the toxins and the metabolic waste that was a byproduct of the original trauma, new neural patterns can be created. Jeffrey and I are healing the physicality that once limited me.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, beatings, torture rituals at the hand of my psychotic grandmother and neglect from my mother who was addicted to prescription pain medication, I dissociated from my body in order to survive. I paid a steep price for disowning my body. All the Post-Polio symptoms I was suffering with were a result of all the gunk that built up in my body and was shutting everything down. When you unblock the body you unlock the mind and unleash the person’s human potential that was arrested by the trauma. What happens in the treatment room gets carried into my daily life. I can negotiate triggers by remembering the warmth and nurturing that happened during the treatment. Triggers that used to unnerve me for a day or days at a time without any awareness of their origins, now pass through me after I discern that they are only a memory from the past. With the awareness that is created in the safety of the treatment room and with the safe, trusting relationship with Jeffrey, I can negotiate the residuals of trauma with much greater ease. Energy once blocked and used to defend myself against the horrors of my past is now free to be used to live a vibrant, healthy life. It's a painful process but it's a good pain; a pain that signals healing and creates positive momentum rather than stagnation and repetition of patterns that are the hallmark symptoms in the wake of trauma. It's a pain that something positive is happening and pain that inevitably accompanies transformation and growth.
While many think of a new normal as adapting to a level of functioning less than what the person previously enjoyed, my new normal is experiencing life in a way that I only imagined in my poetry.
I am now able to embrace the skills that helped me to survive: organization, vigilance - paying attention to details without it crossing over into hypervigilance, planning, multi-tasking without having it cross over into OCD and can recognize when the echoes of trauma are affecting my reaction. I can right the ship and steer myself into the present. My mind is sharp and the trauma brain fog is cleared. I experience strength and honor for all that I have overcome rather than feeling less than because I am a survivor of childhood rape, torture and physical beatings. I can regulate my nervous system. The chronic fatigue and pain are gone and I'm back to endurance running - getting ready to run my third CONSECUTIVE Bermuda Half Marathon next January.
Jeffrey's warm hands, tender heart and compassionate presence help me to create the miracle of healing in my life!
My body chemistry is changing. Research has shown that massage therapy stimulates the production of serotonin and endorphins and diminishes levels of cortisol. With this specialized method of muscular therapy, the core memories are being explored and expressed. Rather than just experiencing the rawness of it all as often happens in talking therapy, Jeffrey is providing the physical and emotional comfort so a new attachment to the file of the memory occurs. I experience what Peter A. Levine calls, “the completion of the action” I could not experience at the time of the traumatic event so my body can restore itself to its natural state of goodness. Just think of the movie "Inside Out"!
Jeffrey’s hands and heart help me to create the masterpiece of my life. He helps me to polish my once tarnished mirror so I can see myself as I was always meant to be experiencing this wondrous and wonderful new normal. Coping strategies and skills that I developed to survive can now be harnessed without the burden of trauma attached to them. Coming home after living in the war zone of my youth, healing mind, body and soul from the effects of the one two punch of paralytic polio and trauma, and living a new normal is the greatest gift in my life. As Dr. Peter A Levine said, “Trauma is hell on earth. Trauma resolved is a gift from the gods!”
Go the distance with strength and courage!
Be sure to visit my newly designed website at marymcmanus.com
My latest book, 'Going the Distance: The Power of Endurance' is available on Amazon chronicling my journey to health and wellness as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma and a woman who refused to quit!