For this post I’ve decided to share a wonderful letter that I recently received from one of my clients.
It is timely as the Olympics are in full swing in London, England.
Karen was a highly competitive gymnast in her younger years and now she is starting to realize how much physical, as well as emotional pain has been supressed and tucked inside of her body in the name of success and strength.
Thanks so much for this personal story Karen, maybe it will help more than one person!
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“I would love to say I had a nice, clean referral to see Irene but that wouldn’t be the truth. The truth runs something a little more like this: I have been a healing modality junkie for almost 20 years in the hope of finding some relief. During that time, I accumulated a lot of acronyms – CFS, IBS, FM, 3 MVAs [CFS-Chronic fatigue symdrome; IBS-Irritable bowel syndrome; FM-Fibromyalgia; MVA-Motor vehicle accident] – and a host of other diagnoses that nothing seemed to cure (food allergies/sensitivities, Lyme disease, endometriosis, arthritis). Let’s not mention that I had a 12 year career in high level sport as a youth that carried some injuries into my adult life. I have seen doctors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, cranio-sacral therapists, naturopaths, physios, osteopaths, homeopaths, chiropractors, herbalists, nutritionists, sleep specialists, a host of mental therapists and had undergone surgeries, prescription drug courses, programs, radical changes in diet, lifestyle and, I’m pretty certain, sanity. I had received benefits, and had learned how to manage my body and well-being to some degree but never felt alive. My life felt hollow.
A brilliant moving meditation teacher (in the 5 rhythms practice) recognized an extreme reaction I was having as shock. It didn’t make sense to me initially, but I knew that I had had a particularly intense experience at a workshop and I trusted the teacher. A quick read of the book Waking the Tiger by the founder of Somatic Experiencing and I was on the website searching for a local practitioner. Enter Irene.
In all the modalities I had tried, there had not been the weaving together of the body sensation and the experience. I used to describe to a homeopath that things felt “dark grey” or “thick” or “scattered” and she didn’t know what to do with those descriptions. I had learned to block out my own emotions and sensations early, enduring falls and impacts and yelling and over-training that were common in gymnastics in the 1970s and 1980s. I learned to deny myself and I was a master. I could take new therapeutic guidance but it never seemed to resolve what was already there. This kept me at a functioning level, but never an improved level of health.
Somatic Experiencing provided a concrete neurological understanding of why I could never feel any better – knitting together what I had sought without knowing why.
Irene put me at ease right away. Her manner was gentle, supportive and flexible. This was my reality and I got to drive it. That’s unusual for a lot of practitioners, who are often searching for the diagnosis in order to know how or what to treat. From the first appointment, it was clear that it was my experience and I was in control. I liked that. But I also wasn’t going to be allowed to gloss over something that might be important; a game I was all too experienced with when I saw through the motivations of a practitioner. So there we were, in it together, where whatever I experienced or described was accepted as absolute truth.
Working with Irene is unique. And I’ve done a lot of unique practices. A slight gesture of my hand will become the focus and I’ll be asked to slow it down and repeat it. Focussing on what the movement brings up in me – either other sensations or emotions or memories – becomes a doorway to heal and understand the impact of some long held pattern; patterns that can still be affecting my health and well-being. I’ve been awed at the subtlety of movement or sensation available that enables the old trash to be taken out. It’s not simply revisiting a fall or car accident, it’s learning how to accept it, know that I survived it, that I did what was necessary then, and that I can complete the experience by not being in a fully startled state now. What I had not realized was that I wasn’t just startled; I was often completely shut down from the experience or had just assumed my neck would always been kinked a certain way, which meant that I was still stuck in the experience.
Sitting in a chair, sensing tiny shifts in my body seems an unlikely way to rid myself of the physical pain of some unexpected 30 year old crash off the uneven bars that I didn’t even remember. But being guided through those tiny sensations and not overdoing them has done that. I’ve felt changes in my spine and neck, releases through my hips that have travelled down my leg into old forgotten knee pain, a few minutes of shin splints then a release in my ankle that clears it all. My mental clarity is better and I’m more willing to be around other people. Yes, it can be difficult and tiring but that feeling disappears quickly. There’s never pressure to push through discomfort and what’s left is actually a greater sense of ease in the body and being.
I remember saying to the moving meditation teacher just a few months ago that I had huge potential to be a “shut in”. I was reactive to everything: kids screaming, crowds, loud noises, smells, abrasive people, a dropped fork, a phone call from someone with a different agenda. My body was tense and always on alert. Sure, I could put on a brave face and deal with it, but each time I did that, I became more reactive. Since working with Irene and Somatic Experiencing, my general resilience has improved, physically, mentally and emotionally. That means I have a better capacity to experience life. After 20 years of being given diagnoses, it’s a beautiful thing to feel engaged in life again.” Karen Mellin, Whistler, BC.
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If you have any questions about how the work of Peter Levine and how Somatic Experiencing might help you, please get in touch with me.