Headloose. Photo credit: Paola Raymi

I’ve been in a long-term, committed relationship with my body for nearly my entire life. Like any relationship, it’s had its ups and down. We have not always been on the same page and there have been times it felt like we didn’t  even know each other. Those are normal relationship issues that everyone has.

What I’d like to talk to you about today is the one time that we almost split up.

It was a few years back. There had been an accident which left my body scarred and burned. It left me shaken, anxious and unsure about the future. As if that wasn’t enough to test the relationship, the accident also brought on early menopause.

This made me unsure of the present as well. I could no longer feel the ground beneath my feet or sense those feet as part of me. It was as if something had formed between me and my body, my body, and the world, breaking my connection to everything.

All the things we used to love to do together, became exhausting. Yoga, pilates… I made up excuses not to go. Romantic walks with the dogs, like to the mailbox? Out of the question.  We were still together as far as anyone could see, but we were apart in every way that mattered.

We weren’t talking. Sure, we were still going through the motions. We kind of had to, but we had lost that spark, the magic, and I wasn’t sure we’d ever get it back.

It wasn’t just my relationship with my body. I wasn’t talking to the world either.  I wasn’t talking to anyone. I couldn’t follow conversations or focus on anything other than what was going on between me and my body.

Every time we tried to meditate together, it would grow restless and fidgety. I’d get angry and leave. Most days, all I really wanted to do was run home and hide. Did you know that it is almost impossible to run home without your body?

It is. That made it so much worse.

It seemed to me that all fun activities we typically used to do to get us out of a funk or spice things up were no longer available to us. Not meditation. Not Yoga. Not even going out with friends.

Feeling this separation from my body made me wonder: “Who am I?”  “Am I dying?” “How long can I go on like this?”

Throughout all of this, so far as anyone could tell, we were still together. That’s because we were together, most of the time.  Dreams were the only place I could go to get away, to be by myself but trying to get to sleep had turned into a complete nightmare.

This was new territory for me and it came with all new challenges. Add to that my hormones going haywire.

How do you tell your friends and loved ones, that the two of you might be breaking up?

Maybe we just needed counseling.

How dance re-entered my life.

I had sensed the healing needed to be different than traditional therapy/counseling.  Something that not only made me aware of the purpose of what was happening (insight/purpose) but something that could rewire the old pathways and stories in which parts of me and my relationship to my body were frozen or dead (body/instinct).

The best part of this whole story is that my body knew on some level what it needed for us to repair and heal. It was telling me to find a combination of bodywork and inner work. I was slow in listening, trusting and following its prompts but I got there.

It was during a conversation with a colleague that I was made of aware of Bessel A. Van Der Kolk”s book, “The Body Keeps The Score”.  

Van Der Kolk’s book is a powerful, truthful, insightful and well-researched study of trauma and new modalities of treatment. It needs to be in the hands of therapists, psychologists, teachers, counselors, police officers, caregivers and just about anybody who works with people and wants to live in a safe and caring world.

Someone needs to put this book in Oprah’s hands.

As I read the book, it showed me what the separation I was going through really was. I followed the recommendations and did the inner work and bodywork. I began to see results. But before I go on, I want to share a few excerpts from the book with you to give you a sense of Van Der Kolk’s thoughts and approach to trauma.

“Psychologists usually try to help people use insight and understanding to manage their behavior. However, neuroscience research shows that very few psychological problems are the result of defects in understanding; most originate in pressures from deeper regions in the brain that drive our perception and attention. When the alarm bell of the emotional brain keeps signaling that you are in danger, no amount of insight will silence it.”

That was on target with how I was feeling.

“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.”

I did plenty of that.

“Imagination is absolutely critical to the quality of our lives. Our imagination enables us to leave our routine everyday existence by fantasizing about travel, food, sex, falling in love, or having the last word—all the things that make life interesting. Imagination gives us the opportunity to envision new possibilities—it is an essential launch pad for making our hopes come true. It fires our creativity, relieves our boredom, alleviates our pain, enhances our pleasure, and enriches our most intimate relationships.”

I had imagination and knew to incorporate it into the healing experience.

Next week, I will tell you how these passages helped me learn to be with myself and how dancing brought me and my body back together again, one step at a time.