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The Healing Journey. Part three – Spirit

Disclaimer: This is MY personal journey, I’m in no way suggesting that what works for me will work for you. My hope is that it will get you thinking about things you may not have considered. Also, this is NOT to replace any medical treatment you are or will be receiving, please continue with any medications and therapies you are currently undertaking. Everything I did was AS WELL AS my neurology, GP and Psychology appointments. If you are going to spend your hard saved money on a treatment please ensure it is something long lasting that you can integrate, anything that claims to be an instant cure may not be all it seems.

“Religion is for those who don’t want to go to hell, and spirituality is for those who have already been there.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

I was searching on the net to find an appropriate segue into this post and I happened upon the above quote, it made me laugh so I thought I’d use it. It’s kind of correct, it’s only after going through rough times that you seem to start to grow. (Re)Birth is hard and painful but like the caterpillar working hard to push out of the cocoon, the butterfly that emerges with its colour and freedom is worth it.

This is perhaps the most challenging of the trilogy of posts I’ve had to write, the reason being is that this is the VERY personal private things I have tried. I struggled a little with the idea of sharing it initially for reasons I will explain. Firstly, this is the really profound inner exploring I have done and still do on myself to make changes, it has challenged me on many levels. Secondly, it’s not scientific and if you present anything ‘non scientific’ a lot of people balk at the idea and write you off as having no idea about anything and that you’re probably a bit daft. This is the part of healing me and my friend Diana refer to as the “woo woo” stuff. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it I say!

So let me say I’m presenting this as it is to me. I can’t verify things with percentages and numbers but I can say hand on heart that everything here WORKED for me and to be perfectly honest, that’s more than good enough for me. I am a level headed person with a lot of curiosity about the world, I don’t take things at face value and I’m certainly aware of the arguments for and against alternative therapies/healing/woolly thinking/whatever. The healing that has happened, well it could be placebo, which a lot of people will think, but on a fundamental, soul deep level I have changed because of what has happened and because these following treatments and self healing have enabled me to expand around my trauma. Again, none of these are quick fixes, they take practice and time and in that way they are just as valid as anything else I’ve done. There’s no miracle cure on offer here.

I see spirituality not as religious dogma but a practice, a way of being with yourself and the world. I’ve been opened up to the authenticity and power of self and for that you don’t need no deity!

A single trauma doesn’t exist in isolation, my brain injury unsettled the dust that had lain dormant over all the other traumas in my life so there is a lot to work through. Bear this is mind when reading as it’s very multi layered and deep the way all this works.

My inner voice is telling me that ‘who cares what anyone else thinks, just get on with it!’ Ha! So I’m going to do just that.

1) Candle time

This one doesn’t require a massive leap into the twilight zone. It’s a very simple practice that was suggested to me by my Counsellor many moons ago. It came into usage when my grief was overwhelming, when I was crying constantly and didn’t want to go on. The idea was to set aside some time each day to sit by myself with the curtains closed and light a candle. What I did then was focus on the candle and tell it all my worries. I poured out my sadness, my frustration, my loneliness and my fear and I cried and cried and cried. Once I’d purged, I thanked myself and the flame and then blew it out. I did this everyday, sometimes it lasted 10 minutes sometimes an hour. Every day I worked through the sludge, it was tiring but it helped.

Once I’d become less raw, candle time then morphed into ‘worry time’, the same thing but it was my window in the day where I allowed myself to fret and worry at a specific time each day. Once it was over no more worry was allowed that day. It compartmentalised my anxious thinking into a time slot and allowed me to see that really that’s all it was, just thinking, nothing serious.

Candle time still gets used by me but not as often as it used to but it is incredibly soothing and cathartic. Never feel ashamed or apologise for the emotions experienced during candle time they are all there for a reason and to feel them instead of suppressing is very healthy.

2) Soul retrieval

This was to be honest, one of the most beautiful things I have experienced since my injury and it came about totally by chance. I was surfing the net, filling the void like I always did and I came across articles on Shamanism. I find anything like this interesting so I carried on reading and found out about something called soul retrieval.

In a nutshell, the Shamans believe that every time we experience trauma a part of our soul ‘breaks’ off and gets lost. Shamanic retrieval is there to help you find it again. It really appealed to the side of me that loves all that kind of stuff so I thought ‘heck, why not? Even if it doesn’t do anything I’ll be no worse off, I’m already lying in bed all the time’. So purely by gut I found a Yorkshire lady who did this kind of thing long distance (a lot of all these spiritual adventures were done by ‘gut’ instinct, don’t ever write it off let me tell you!). We spoke on the phone, she went and did her thing then called me back and told me what she found. I don’t want to go into too much detail here as its private but she was totally spot on about my inner self, the bit I don’t show people and returned a bit of myself to me. Soul retrieval is full of beautiful symbolism and story and quite frankly, blew my tiny mind. I felt immeasurably better after the treatment and it maintained, it’s not something that peaked then disappeared. It was a catalyst for the improvements that followed.

3) Divine consciousness Activation

I don’t even know where to begin explaining this so I’ll just say it’s about pushing aside ego and connecting to higher self. It’s like Mindfulness and The Power of Now but with a WiFi connection!

It’s about looking at your self talk and the language you use. We label emotions as ‘bad’ or ‘good’ and this can add to the shame and guilt and suffering we attach to them. Sadness isn’t bad, it’s just sadness, happiness isn’t good, it’s just happiness.
When you begin to get this concept it’s easier to allow them all. It’s about feeling feelings, it’s about letting go, it’s about getting on with regardless of ‘feeling’, it’s about being happy with ‘now’ and not some future event. It’s just about being.

Argh! I’m not explaining this very well but speak to Rebecca on her website she’ll set you right. She always says to me “you don’t need fixing, you are not broken” and I’m starting to believe her!

This is so intrinsic to my life now that I can’t imagine a time when it wasn’t around. It doesn’t claim to stop challenging things happening to you, what it does do is change the way you attach to it so you no longer suffer. Again, I have to challenge myself with this as I can slip back into my ‘humanness’, my desire to ‘fix’ with logic and rumination. I am not joking when I say this changed my life because it changed the way I think.

4) Paganism/Nature

My friend Diana and I who I talk to a lot about Brain injury and its subsequent joy have both admitted to a feeling since our injuries of being ‘switched on’. It’s a strange, vague feeling that is, on researching, fairly common amongst brain injury survivors. It’s like your router gets a knock and the download speed is superior (to continue the WiFi metaphor). I’ve always been a nature lover but something unwound in me and I began to feel more rooted into the earth. I was picking up feelings, emotions from others and from rooms in buildings and plants and animals. Haha I KNOW this sounds bonkers, I really do, but it’s what happened.

I began to read more into paganism (again it’s not really a religion for me but a practice). As a result I’m more in tune with the wheel of the year, the moon phases and the passing of seasons and it’s a wonderful thing. It’s an activity that gives me focus and makes me feel complete. I’m not really sure I self define as Pagan but it’s the closest thing to tree hugger/yogurt weaver/hippy/witch/wise woman/folk magician I can find. Seriously though getting out into nature is one of my greatest pleasures, it’s soothing and healing and really brings you into the moment.

5) Music

I wrote about music here. Music is a healing source. It can enable the release of an emotion that may be a bit stuck. It can carry you away somewhere lovely and it apparently works on parts of the brain that need a boost (highly scientific lingo for you there).

6) Reading soul books

There’s a lot of books out there that are labelled ‘self help’ and some of them are dreadful, if you sift through the dirt though you find some diamonds. I tend to focus on ones that are about the power of the self and how you are capable and in charge of your own healing. I’ve realised, albeit painfully, that if I want to heal then it’s up to me. I can get help and support but ultimately I have to follow through with it. This is not a lesson everyone can hear and if it doesn’t work for you right now, fair enough. I didn’t want to hear it for a long time. Soulshaping by Jeff Brown, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and Dark nights of the soul by Thomas Moore should get you started.

 

7) Groovy Bruce/ animals

As with nature, I find animals very healing. They are very present and spending time with them makes you very present too. I haven’t mentioned him on the blog yet but our lovely Groovy Bruce the bunny taught me a lot about myself. The way he interacts with us humans especially when we first got him was very parallel to my own experience with anxiety and the world. He was very shy at first and we had to be patient and slowly build trust. He was a metaphor in furry form about how I was experiencing things at that point. He was initially got as a therapy pet, something I HAD to get out of bed for, to look after this wee delicate creature. He now continues to be a source of joy and connection to the present moment

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8) Sound therapy

Finally and this is a relatively new one for me. Sound therapy. Just as music helps you connect as mentioned above, then Sound Therapy I suppose works on that same basic principle. Issues and trauma vibrate at a frequency that can be rooted out by sound. I went into this treatment with no expectations and what happened was very powerful.

After one treatment with Penny, which involved lying down and relaxing whilst she played sounds from different instruments around me. I released a huge build up of trauma (there is a theory I’ve mentioned in a previous post that trauma gets trapped in the body). It was quite overwhelming and I will admit, a little scary. There was a little healing crisis I worked through afterwards (this is a good thing, it’s a clearing out of stuff) but the next day I was on top of the world. Energised, joyful and content. I need to book another session with Penny but because it’s tiring I have to time it with an upswing in my fatigue levels or to make sure I do it at a time when I can afford the time and space off afterwards to integrate the healing.

You can find out more and book with Penny here shanokee.music@gmail.com she’s based in Belfast and wonderful.

That’s it! I’m done! Business as usual again from now on, I’m hoping to start getting the old Paint out and doing more illustrations. I sincerely hope this trilogy of posts has helped you in some way even if it’s just to set you off investigating something. I feel I must reiterate, I am not telling you what to do with any of this, I’m letting you know what worked for me, that there’s a myriad of things out there you may not have considered. If you think it’s baloney I really don’t mind!

 

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Colour me in

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness”

Maya Angelou

I’ve always loved music. My pre brain injury days were always filled with it, from my teenage years of feeling like it ‘spoke’ to me and soothed my angst to my maturer years of listening and learning and escaping through the gaps it provided. I think it was Jimi Hendrix who said there are only two types of music – good and bad, he was right of course but this definition is subjective for each and every person. What I like is good and everything else is bad. I have a varied taste and like many different styles (I am however firmly stuck in the 1990’s for a lot of my listening preferences). There are those I have carried with me from my youth such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, those I discovered a bit later and those I am still discovering today.

What I love about music is that it’s universal, it cares not about your gender, colour, creed, age, sexuality, whatever. It speaks to us all in a voice we all hear differently. I have music to suit my mood, I can flip from Nick Drake to Ella Fitzgerald to Rage Against The Machine and each one will take me on a sonic journey somewhere familiar and comforting (or not very comforting at all sometimes).

I write each blog post with a song at the end and the title is always a line from the same song and it’s always one that gives an idea of where my head is when I write. I make no excuses if this post becomes whimsical, because music is hard to write about from a feelings perspective without slipping into a bit of whimsy.

So here comes the bit where it gets a bit strange. For months and months after my injury I couldn’t listen to music. At all. I couldn’t even physically sing songs in the shower, not through any obvious physical impairment but because I just couldn’t get it together, my body/brain didn’t want me to. I drove my car in silence, no more musical accompaniment. My CD’s gathered serious dust and my Ukelele and guitar were left untouched. Now this could have been because EVERYTHING felt like it had been sucked out of me into a big black vaccuum and all I could do was stare and sleep. Or a part of it could be because music was too triggering for me, it was too rooted in my emotions and my brain was saying ‘no, none of that yet for you young lady’, maybe it was a combination of both. Who knows? All that I knew was that my world had become very still and very very silent.

Then there was a breakthrough, one day I started listening again but it was in very short bursts and it didn’t seem to have any emotional effect on me whatsoever, I’d lost my connection with the one thing throughout my life that had been a constant. This rumbled on for some months, I listened but it almost felt like a marriage that had run out of juice, I’d be present physically and showing all signs on the outside of being a ‘good wife’ but my mind was flat and cold and empty. It was horrid. There’s music I cant really listen to now because it reminds me of that period of time and feels so desolate and uncomfortable.

I persisted though and found that as I slowly came back to myself, the music came back too. It’s still not fully intact, I have a narrow window of stuff I can listen to but it’s back and boy is it back with a vengeance!  There is one musician I listen to that, throughout his career I have remained with and that has been one of the few that didn’t seem to get affected by my flat state and that is Mr Damien Rice (not everyone’s cup of tea but I don’t care!). He has been with me every step of the way. When I listen to Damien and a few select others I go on what can only be described as the most magnificent journey, it’s like turbo charged music love. The music paints pictures, it wraps me up in a wonderful melodic blanket and whisks me away somewhere. I can almost touch the notes and words as they dance around me. This is no exaggeration, it is the strangest, most wonderful thing I have experienced, I get a bit, well, high off it. I told Dr L about this and he said that its a new one on him! Not only that, I cry and laugh and sing along at the top of my voice. I cry and laugh like a person who is shedding the deepest, darkest, heaviest pain but you know what? I feel AMAZING afterwards.

So Dr L my wonderful neuropsychologist who I no longer see told me at our last appointment to use music as a tool to help me access the emotions that I shut down initially, he said it will help me balance things out again. Maybe this is why my brain made me flat initially because of the sheer volume of what I had to feel it wanted to make sure I was physically a little stronger first. I have no idea why music affects me so much now, maybe it’s temporary, maybe it’s because my frontal lobe with my mood regulator has gone a bit askew or maybe it’s because now I’m much more in touch with myself and less embarrassed about being a human with emotions. Quite frankly I don’t care two jots about what others think of me anymore and that is very freeing.

So I will leave you with a song from Mr Rice and the one that started a wee discussion about this on my facebook page.