Image Credit: Chrysalis by Michael Kelly Williams
Rx #1: Stopping my Fear of Pain
2020 was a year or letting go. I began the year sick physically and mentally. I probably had the virus and didn’t know it and I felt directionless. One of my low moments was collapsing on the floor because of leg and foot spasms. For the next two months, my legs were weak and I had to slowly build their strength back through bandage compression and physical therapy. Through that process, I learn something about myself: I needed to learn to listen to my body.
Pain is one of the poetics of the body. Pain signals us to not only what may be wrong but also parts of us that need more attention and realignment.
The spasms in my legs returned me to when I was in high school and I twisted my ankle after tripping over someone’s leg in European handball. The memory I had from that time was that although I rested my leg for a few weeks, I never fully heal my leg because the gym class instructor demanded I take the fitness test to pass the class. I pushed through it so I could pass and my leg was on fire after. After that my leg was never the same. I had cramps here and there and my walk had changed, but the world wanted me to keep going so I adjusted to it.
The spasms showed me how much my body had constricted and curved to the left side of my body to comfort that memory of pain out of fear of more pain. I realized my body was always tense out of fear of more pain. I didn’t trust my body to heal itself or to give it space to work on itself; my response had been to restrict and control, hold it so tightly, so I wouldn’t feel more pain. But that only delayed the hurt and let the hurt build up into severe cramps, including the severe menstrual cramps I had.
From there, I decided to slowly change my body, focusing on the areas that were tense and cramped like my left foot, my hips, my shoulders. Little by little, I began to loosen how I held my body and trust that my body could support itself. After years of holding my body one way, changing was a step by step process that hurt. It hurts to let go of the ways my body formed in response to pain. But instead of fearing it, I accepted the pain as a way to guide me out. I let the pain teach me what points of my body needed to worked on, needed to be held differently, needed to move differently. And when I did I could feel my body release the pain. My body flowed! And a flowing body hurts less and can endure future pain.
I still struggle with those same parts of my body, but now I know how to engage them and move them differently, to take time with them, to show them some love and care. To relax my body instead of increasing the tension response to pain.
So I ask you, what parts of your body do you feel pain or tension? What kind of attention do you need to give them? In what ways can they lead you or teach you? In what ways can you show them love and care?