Dancing With the Wolves
There is a wild woman under our skin who wants nothing more than to dance until her feet are sore, sing her beautiful grief into the rafters, and offer a bottomless cup of her creativity as a way of life. And if you are able to sing from the very wound that you’ve worked so hard to hide, not only will it give meaning to your own story but it becomes a corroborative voice for others with a similar wounding. -WWDWTW
I don’t know why telling the truth about our journeys is so hard. Exactly where did we learn to give our power away and why? I spent a lifetime ashamed of my story so I did what a lot of us do, left it behind and became someone else. This brilliant coping worked for several decades until one day it didn’t. In the book The Body Keeps Score, Dr. Bessel VanderKolk shares that the limbic system is shaped in response to experience, in partnership with the infants own genetic makeup and temperament. Whatever happens to the child contributes to the emotional and perceptual map of the world that its developing brain creates. The brain is formed in a use dependent manner. It is neuroplastic. Neurons that fire together wire together. When a circuit fires repeatedly it can become a default setting-the response most likely to occur. If you feel safe and loved, your brain becomes specialized in exploration, play and cooperation; if you are frightened and feel unwanted, it specializes in managing feelings of fear and abandonment.
In March 2013 I became deathly ill. My heart would race constantly, I was barely 94 pounds, I couldn’t eat, swallow, speak, walk. I had diarrhea constantly and I would shake like I was cold. I felt panic 24/7 and couldn’t understand what was happening to my body. My doctor believed I had post partum depression. I was in and out of the ER more times than I can count and I received more diagnoses than I can count. Parkinsons, the beginning of ALS, MS, a rare disease that no one had a name for and more. I was pumped full of IVs, antibiotics, medications, yet nothing was changing. I was getting worse. Finally May 2015 I was referred to a specialist in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She was with me ten minutes and said I know exactly what you have, you have Lyme disease and its gotten the upper hand. Sure enough, four weeks later my blood work came back and I had active Lyme and more co infections than I can count. Ive been treating and battling this disease ever since and some days we gain and some days we don’t. Had we have caught it right away my chances for compete remission might have been higher but here we are and the reality is each day is still a challenge. My world has become very small and controlled. My diet, my meds, my schedule, being around other illnesses, EMFs, Noise, People you name it.
Ive spent the past five years trying to deny this disease telling myself its all in my head. My own family telling me and those around them that I am crazy. This disease makes you feel crazy so I can’t say they are wrong there. I spent a lifetime being there for them, supporting them and when I needed them most they were no where to be found. I hear a lot of people with Chronic illness say the same thing about their relationships. My heart goes out to them. It does, its not easy but you know what? After all of this time its only making me strong. I have become more resolved in my own story. Instead of hiding from it I am now talking about it. I know I didn’t just get suddenly sick one day. My body was slowly and surely keeping score from the very beginning and not in a malicious way but in a messenger sort of way. Our bodies are so wise and will do whatever it takes to keep us alive and when its had enough of our pushing and forcing and pulling and shoving it will take over the reigns and say “its fucking enough!” Theres a good chance I got bit by a tick decades ago as I was always in the woods. I love nature and the trees help me feel grounded and connected. I have always talked to the trees. They give me wisdom when no one else can. Theres a good chance my body kept things at bay for me for quite sometime until suddenly it just couldn’t and wouldn’t anymore.
You see, My childhood wasn’t all roses and sunshine. I was molested by some family members repeatedly on and off over the course of nine years. I was a very anxious child and had stomach trouble at a very young age. Nighttime became wicked scary for me and instead of sleep becoming a healing restorative agent it became a thing I feared. When I was growing up most religious families, mine included, didn’t talk about things that were going on in secret. I think there was a fear that if they talked of someone elses sin than surely their sin would be exposed as well. So talking about it didn’t happen even after I spoke of it and asked for help at the age of five. Carl Jung the Swiss psychologist says that the worst thing we can do to a Childs psyche is to keep family secrets. I am a result of this very belief. I spent most of my life afraid of everything, anxious, panicky and very uncomfortable in my own body and skin. I never fully understood why but now at the age of 46 I am beginning to see things clearly. I learned how to move through these anxieties and become very high achieving and productive. I turned my life and the world around me into one big project. Being able to stay busy, start and finish projects was the way I coped and stayed ahead of the anxiety. Living my life as busy and as numb as possible was my drug.
I have needed help with mobility in some form or another since 2015. I have shamed my body, I have spoken disrespectfully of my body and I have demanded that it pick itself up and fucking walk, move, get shit done yet it refuses to listen to my command. The madness, the anger, the resentment, the battle has been real, its been intense. It has caused me to lose the person I had become and has forced me to pay attention, to listen to how I speak to myself and to begin a healing journey with my own body. The innocence inside of me has been persistently trying to get my attention yet I have silenced it. I learned the message at a very young age that my body was for someone elses selfishness and I would often go off in my mind that I was on the ceiling looking down as a way of detaching from the abuse and my own precious body. I had no idea back then that it was abuse but I did have a sense at a young age I should tell someone. If you are reading this and have experienced abuse in any way I want you to remember this if nothing else, you matter, your body matters, your soul matters, what you feel matters, your safety and comfort matter, you are the ruler of your own body, no one else! Tell someone, tell your teachers, counselors, the police and don’t stop until someone listens and responds accordingly! You are not the protector of your abuser/perpetrator! You are the protector of YOU!
My healing journey has barely just begun. I have been healing layer by layer over the past seven years and I don’t plan to stop. Healing isn’t a project, it is not linear and it can feel a lot like mountains and valleys but I have learned I matter, my soul matters, my body matters and I don’t care what anyone else has to say about my journey anymore. It is my journey. I have been asked to walk out my journey and you have been asked to walk out yours.
As a part of my healing journey I was invited to be a part of a campaign that will launch in the next several months with very real discussions/photos/videos about Chronic Illness, Body Shaming and Survivors of Sexual Abuse. I have also decided to share my healing with the world and or whoever sees this post. My body, this body is the only one I get. I don’t get another one. I was recently a part of making some of the most beautiful art I have ever seen. I don’t say this to boast. I say this as a proclamation that I am healing. I look at this work that my dearest sister Jen Q Photography captured and I say “it is well” “it is finally well with my soul”. I see how she captured my spirit, the perfect imperfections of my body, my joy that no one can squelch, the light that still shines and I give thanks! My wish for you is that you learn to Dance with the Wolves as naked as you dare!