Saturday, April 7, 2012

Deserve, Allow, Accept

Yesterday, I had the most wonderful massage.

Massages trigger migraines, for me, so I haven't had one in a long time. The last time I had one, I was so miserable afterward that it just didn't seem worth the momentary relief from tension anymore. But I miss them, and there is something so offensive about not being able to have them-- like the migraines have stolen even simple relaxation from me, adding insult to injury. So when my sainted husband suggested the other day that I give it another try, I decided to try to take the power back.

Shurrone Wallace at Table 4 One Massage is amazing and intuitive and five minutes away from my house, and yesterday I lay on her table and within five minutes, she knew exactly what was going on with me.

My husband had seen her earlier in the week, and had told her about my car accident and my migraines, so she knew that much when she met me. I told her I was in therapy for PTSR from that accident, and was easily triggered for migraines. She told me she wanted to "listen to what my body was telling her," as far as what and where and how much pressure was needed. I liked that.

So she probed around on my back and neck and shoulders for a few minutes, and then said, "It feels like your body is putting up some sort of shield. It's asking me to go deeper, but then it prevents me from doing that. It really wants more, but it's also resisting at the same time."

I had to laugh at that. A more succinct summary of me, in this work, in this blog, in this life, I cannot imagine.

"That pretty much sums up where I am with my therapy," I said. 

She hesitated, then said, "Would you mind if I asked about the accident? What happened?"

I gave her the basics: drunk driver, high speeds, tow bar, skull fracture, whiplash, nerve damage, head tilt.

She was working on my right shoulder at the time. "Interesting," she said. "As you were talking about it, it started to open up and let me in a little."

Again with the metaphors! It was a little eerie, the way the issues in my life are represented so literally in my body. It should come as no surprise, I suppose. As Dr. Oz keeps reminding me, trauma is in the body.

After all I've learned, I should know by know that what's really happening is that the issues in my body are literally represented in my life.

On the way home, my only goal was to keep a migraine from coming on. Shurrone had worked on the physical aspect, so I decided to try prevention from the psychosomatic angle. 

Relax, I told myself. Let it in. 

It occurred to me then that despite all the work I've been doing: the therapy, the blog, connecting with others over this strange, sad story, I've kept my shields mostly intact and still haven't gotten as deep as I know I'll need to if I'm ever going to find resolution.

It's not that I don't want to get there. It's that I don't know how. I'm as locked out as anyone else.

Shurrone said my body wasn't letting her in. My mind does the same to me.

I realized a while ago that I feel like I'm on the outside of my emotional core with no clue how to get in and figure this whole thing out. I even made a little diagram of what it feels like:

Sorry it's a little blurry. I am apparently also locked out of the part of my brain that knows how to  fix that.
I don't know if that makes sense to anyone else, but this is what it feels like to be me. Outside of these concentric circles is the world. Mindful interaction, authentic engagement. The moment we're all always trying to be in.

Yeah, I'm not there. Not quite in my body, not quite in my head.

I'm inside these layers, remote, distant, an observer from afar, locked safely away from over-stimulation.

But I'm also locked away from my emotions, for the most part. For the same reason, I think-- emotional experience is... well, emotional. And much more than my hit-the-brakes-with-both-feet parasympathetic nervous system can handle in any effective and consistent way. 

I feel like I only ever get Emotions Lite, out here in the outer realm. It's too overwhelming to feel deeply. It's too overwhelming to be authentic. It's too overwhelming to be vulnerable.

I think this started as a way to protect me from "bad" feelings. Fear, anger, sorrow. All the emotions that would have come up in confronting the trauma directly and dealing with it. My body started building walls, instead, to keep all of that from happening and to protect me from further trauma.

Those walls get awfully high, though. And before long, it's not just the bad feelings that are too much to deal with. The good ones become so, too.

This is where that flatline feeling that so many PTSR sufferers report feeling comes from. We disconnect from our emotional centers because we are trying, relentlessly, to stop the stimuli that our reptilian brains mistake for threat.

I turned to the book I've recommended here before, Crash Course: A Self-Healing Guide To Auto Accident Trauma & Recovery by Diane Poole Heller, PhD, to see what she had to say about disconnection:

"Many auto accident survivors end up dissociated and disconnected from their bodies."

"These dissociated states are a signal of extreme activation and must be worked with slowly and carefully" to prevent re-traumatizing the victim.

And: "Food, alcohol and drugs can be used in a misguided attempt to get the nervous system back into balance and ultimately make things worse."

Well. Yes. Those dark, difficult posts I keep hinting are coming? Let's just say I've got that last point covered.

And yes, this is me avoiding it for one more week. It's hard. But I'm running out of excuses.

So, what does all of this have to do with a massage?

Like I said, it occurred to me that in spite of all the work I've been doing, I still stay within my little walls and don't push myself to be mindful, in the moment, actively trying to reconnect to the part of me that feels things just fine.

Mindfulness also short-circuits your reptilian brain's auto-response-- scan for threat! Run! Fight!  Retreat!-- by taking you out of your perpetual imaginary danger-state and planting you firmly back in reality.

So I tried it. 

Breathe deeply. In, out, in, out. 

Mindfulness begins with an awareness of the body in the moment. This is where you are right now. This is how you feel right now. 

This. Right now. Right here.

Let it in.

I tried to use words like the ones Dr. Oz always suggests; the ones I don't dare to believe, most of the time. I tried to believe them. I tried to let them work their magic.

I deserve to feel better.

I allow myself to relax and take this in.

I accept the healing that my body craves.

Little thrills washed over me in waves. My hair was standing on end. I felt my body relaxing, relaxing, taking it in. It felt impossibly good. Euphoric. Wonderful.

I tried to hang on to it, repeating those words when I caught my mind drifting and my shoulders tensing up again: Deserve. Allow. Accept.

I made it home, and maybe a full hour after that, before the all-too familiar, electric-mayhem- under-the-scalp feeling of an oncoming migraine began to break through my post-massage haze.

Wait, wait! I tried to yell at myself (silently) (mindfully). DESERVE! ALLOW! ACCEPT!

My muscles were beginning to feel sore, the tension returning. My eyes were struggling to hold focus as the light became sharper around me. 




And my over-stimulated, comfort-resisting body returned a request of its own: 


Well, it had worked for a while, and I suppose I shouldn't complain. I really understood for the first time the nature of the work I have yet to really begin: Mindfulness, openness to the world, acceptance of healing.

All this work, and it suddenly feels like I haven't even started the important stuff yet.

I am planning to keep going back to Shurrone, migraines or not. She connected with exactly what I am trying to connect with, and I am going to trust her to keep working from the outside while I work from within to bring my body back into balance.

And I think I have a mantra now. 

Deserve. Allow. Accept.

I have spent so much time and energy protecting myself from the bad-- real and imagined-- that I have insulated myself from the good as well, and it's just as hard to let myself feel the pleasure as it is let in the pain.

It is not, however, as difficult to choose which one to start with, if I'm going to attempt to open these floodgates of mine.

Pleasure, comfort, healing, love, life: let's do this. I'm going to give it a shot.

I deserve. I allow. I accept.


  1. "Deserve.  Allow.  Accept."  Great mantra.  

    Ms. Wallace sounds like a treasure.  

    Keep fighting the good fight, hon.    

  2. Alicia Crawford11 April, 2012 22:06

    I recall a conversation about writing while in school together about the omniscient observer and that you always felt like you hovered over and watched yourself and others. (Your diagram illustrates the feeling- cozy, surrounded but protected and like you said, claustophobic.) That's what makes you the natural born writer you are, I remember saying to you or something to that effect.  I wish I could retract my statement now and not encourage displacement, as I, too, am familiar with myself, but echo your ideas here and rephrase my then youthful observation. It seems you are on a path to integration, it's happening, I hear it, I read it here.

    I'm encouraged by your words to stay mindful of the center. Thank you and much love, ac