I struggle with holding tension in my body. My shoulders have been tight for the better part of my 29 years. I'm pretty sure I stressed out when I took my first bites, first steps, and first few swings at my older brothers. I've spent YEARS holding expectations, shame, disappointments, confrontations... in my BODY.
It's gradually falling apart... the doctors keep taking things out of it and handing me papers with the words, "chronic inflammation" on them. Tonsils? Gone. Gall bladder? Gone.
My body is on fire. (Stop singing Alicia Keys. Once you start, that power ballad never quits.)
My first counselor asked me to begin paying attention to my body -to the way I physically react and feel when I felt the trauma of my situation. I began to notice that I felt my head sort of spinning, my heart pumped faster. I began feeling the need to FLIGHT... FLIGHT my way into the bathtub and fill it with hot, hot water and big, fat bubbles. When it's really bad, I find myself picking at my own skin nervously.
But the most prominent symptom: tight, tense shoulders. I began to notice that my shoulders were tense constantly.
I felt tense in Sunday School when there was silence. I felt tense when I talked. I felt tense when I crocheted (must. finish. must. finish.) and I felt tense when I watched television (maybe because I felt shame for watching? I don't know).
I felt tense at the grocery store.
I felt tense when I went running (must. burn. calories. be. skinny. wear. leggings. boots. with. fur. cute. hair. bun. be. adorable).
I felt tense when I did yoga, when I ate.
As I've made a conscientious effort to release tension, I've felt calm and peace. I've felt freedom that comes from letting go of finishing, performing, and perfecting. And I've begun investigating WHY IN THE CRAP I've been this way for so long.
Looking back on my life, I see that I was raised to make good choices out of fear.
I jokingly say, "I did what was right not because I was afraid of God but because I was afraid of Dad."
Putting someone other than God in my center is an issue I've had long before I'd ever laid eyes on Danny. Ironically, while I was being raised out of fear, I was also being taught that being afraid was weak... something to get over.
I want you to take a second and imagine -if you will -how much mental wreckage that all adds up to.
I have a lot of healing to do. Marrying a porn addict took my "sickness" and BLEW IT UP.
I am so scared. I am so scared all of the time.
I recognize that I am scared. so scared all of the time. and I HATE myself for being so weak and scared.
I feel shame for being scared.
It's a whole lot of crazy running rampant.
In a BYU speech given by Elaine Marshall in 2002 when she was the dean of BYU's College of Nursing, she says:
healing is active—you have to be there. Your friend or your husband or wife or your mother cannot do it for you. You have to face the problem and the pain. To begin healing, you must acknowledge and feel the hurt. Only those who don’t feel, those without conscience, cannot heal.
My mother once told me of an experience she had one winter morning as she drove down to check the cattle in the lower pasture. She noticed a car off the side of the road. Inside she recognized a young mother and three children. When my mother asked if they needed help, the woman tearfully reminded her that this was the place of the accident two weeks earlier that had killed her husband. She answered, “We are just here to feel the hurt.”
On that first day as a nurse, I assumed cure, care, and healing to be synonymous. I have learned they are not the same. Healing is not cure. Cure is clean, quick, and done—often under anesthesia. The antibiotic kills the pathogen; the scalpel cuts out the malignancy; the medication resolves the distorted chemistry. Healing, however, is often a lifelong process of recovery and growth in spite of, maybe because of, enduring physical, emotional, or spiritual assault. It requires time. We may pray for cure when we really need healing. Whether for cell reconstruction, for nerve and muscle rehabilitation, for emotional recovery, or for spiritual forgiveness, healing needs work and time and energy.
Healing cannot happen in a surgical suite where the pain is only a sleepy memory. Cure is passive, as you submit your body to the practitioner. Healing is active. It requires all the energy of your entire being. You have to be there, fully awake, aware, and participating when it happens.
I spent a few hours with a close friend last week. She called me the next day and voiced her concern over my health. Because she's been in a similar situation, she knows the toll trauma can take. Her advice to me was simple and full of concern.
"Alicia, your body is hungry. Feed it. Feed it good food. As women, we get caught up in eating salads, and salads are good... but your body needs more than that. Cut out anything that is causing you extra stress -anything at all. Your body can't handle more stress. Drink lemon water in the morning and do stretches -not more than your body is willing to do, don't push it. Sleep is so important. Get a lot -get enough."
I've been so busy working on my emotional healing, that my body has gone by the wayside. Rhyll Crowshaw once told me, "This addiction literally KILLS women. We have to take care of our bodies. It is VITAL."
Does this mean a program? Work out DVDs? New Running Shoes? Cute Yoga pants?
No -all of those things add up to more tension and pressure for me.
This means me writing out every day step-wise what I will do the next day for self-care. This means tapping into the self-love I've babied into existence through recovery work.
This means walking the full-sized puppy and running only when his contagious energy touches me and I can't help but break into a sprint with him galloping into my path.
Together, we are Grace Personified.
This means turning tension into acceptance. Accepting silence, accepting myself, accepting the cold air and the time spent waiting for the children to finish eating, the sun to finish setting, the dust to settle.
This means more naps.
This means more real food and less fake food.
This means more meditation, more yoga, more calm, more peace, more perspective.
And as my mind clears and my life simplifies, I will find another facet of healing -one my Savior has had in store, waiting for me to be ready to choose it.
I begin to see that everyone around me -EVERY one -is sick in their own way. They are all struggling. They react not because of me and my illnesses but because of THEM and THEIR illnesses.
Healing pulls me OUT of myself and opens the world up -I begin to see what I was too sick to see before.
I see beauty in my mind, in my heart, in my white skin.
I see love.
I live from this. I accept this.
I offer this to God, broken and serene -and I ask, "What would Thou that I should do?"
And then I walk and trip with my big puppy.
Or I eat something grandly filling -oatmeal with blueberries, a pat of butter melting deliciously into the grain.
Or I read Dr. Seuss out loud.
Or I plug myself into Massenet's "Meditation" and allow myself to just... BE for a little while.
And I find within myself a solid sense of SAFETY -an solid inner-chamber wherein fear and shame can not penetrate, where true love for God and self resides.
My shoulders relax and serenity sweeps tension into the other room.
THIS is healing.
It is work, there are no pain killers for this kind of healing... but there is immeasurable recompenses for the pain.