This is the email that started it all. This is the first “after healing” communication I sent beyond my myofascial release community – my healing tribe.
Take a read . . .
To my wonderful friends and family,
It has been almost 3 years since I wrote “An Introduction” letter to you my friends and family, to let you know that I was taking time off work to do some healing. Thank you, every one of you, for taking the time to read my letter. Your kind thoughts and words have helped and continue to help me on my healing journey. At the time I sent that letter I was very overwhelmed by all the letters and emails of support I received and was not able to respond with thanks. I was, in fact, speechless. Know that every bit of it helped – tremendously – thank you!
So what have I been doing for the last 3 years? Not what I expected that’s for sure. What I expected was to take some time just to do things I wanted to, learn to relax and then come back to work. What occurred in those three years, now that I look back, I could not have planned. It was both frightening and sad; frustrating and overwhelmingly amazing. The details will not fit in this letter, but the thing that happened is what I would call becoming myself. Uh, hence the title of this letter. In my own way, in my own time, with the help of some very courageous and gifted people, I’ve stripped away layers of the past, revealing the real me. We all have one. It’s usually buried under layers of “I’m doing just fine” and “I’ve never been healthier in my life” and “if I could just get that promotion, take my dream vacation, win the lottery, eat a piece of chocolate cake or have a drink with my friends tonight, I’d be happy”. These are just facades – they are empty. They are based in fear. They disempower. They’re not the real you.
I’m not writing to preach to people. Live your life how you want to. But ask yourself “am I truly happy where I am now?” I asked myself this question and the answer was painfully clear. No. But how do I get to that happy place? It took several months of rushing around, rediscovering my past, and running away from it to realize that what I had been doing for the last 19 years to feel better was not helping. Believe me; I tried everything I could think of to understand and get better. I got two university degrees in psychology, I became a police officer, I volunteered for the Sexual Assault Crisis Line, Victim Services of Windsor, I worked as a private investigator, I read hundreds of self help books, studied various religions and philosophies, saw a psychologist, saw a psychiatrist, took antidepressants, exercised and ate a healthy diet. All provided temporary relief or provided solutions so abstract and vague as to provide no real help. In the end, it got so bad I was unable to function in my day to day life.
So, totally exhausted and on that fine line between giving up and knowing there was an answer somewhere, I asked myself “is there anyone out there who knows how to do this?” That’s when I rolled over in bed and noticed a book on the floor. My sister had given it to me 6 months before, to which I had thanked her and promptly put it in the pile of self help books on the floor next to my bed. I saw the book, picked it up and read the quote on the first page: “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anaϊs Nin. My eyes were glued to this book. It was about people’s experiences of real healing told by them. It was not what I had expected. It was frightening really, because it was real and personal. I could relate to these people. I read the book and my skeptical mind – the one that has protected me from all the false promises of wellness – could find no holes in what this man was saying. A feeling of relief washed over me. Finally, here was someone who was making sense of my messed up life and better yet, he was doing this for real people and they were getting better. Not because he said so, but because they were saying so. The book: Healing Ancient Wounds: The Renegade’s Wisdom, by John F. Barnes PT.
What I learned from this book was that I was storing every trauma my body had ever experienced – stuffing it down, way down and willing it there by telling everyone I was ok and trying desperately to just move on. This was further validated by people praising me for how well I was handling it all and how they could count on me to stay calm and level-headed in even the toughest situations. These people all meant well. They did not know what I know now – that I was not ok – that no matter how hard I tried I could not will away the traumas of my life. That my body was storing and remembering everything that ever happened to it – good or bad. That holding it in required almost super-human effort and it only served to intensify my fatigue and to focus most of my thoughts on my past and not on my present. This came in the form of extreme fatigue, sleeping up to 12 hours a day, depression, memory blanks, stomach flu, tonsillitis and most frightening for me, suicidal thoughts. And so I learned that at some point, for no apparent reason, beyond my super human ability to control it and of course at the most inopportune moments, something inside me would say “enough” and began emptying the past it so desperately wanted to get rid of. I began to cry uncontrollably, I became angry and yelled at people I cared about. I had nightmares. I couldn’t sleep. My life was consumed with trying to cover up this letting go and there was no room left for happiness. I could not make myself feel happy no matter how hard I tried.
So now that I knew what was happening and I knew what to do. Within 2 months of leaving my job I was attending a 2 week intensive treatment program in Sedona, Arizona with John Barne’s team of wise and caring therapists. At this point, even though nothing else had worked and it all sounded good in a book, I had my doubts. I went into my first 2 week intensive kicking and screaming really. I felt like crap but this was my best option. As I drove up to the Myofascial Release Pain Treatment Center on my 36th birthday for my first treatment I looked at the sign and thought “how ironic, I don’t feel any physical pain and I’m going to a pain treatment center.” During my treatments, however, it became clear that my body was experiencing pain, but that I was ‘courageously’ tuning it out. Something I discovered was not so courageous since it was sending me an S.O.S. that it was being ravaged and I was conveniently ignoring it. I also discovered that emotional pain is in fact real pain that manifests as physical symptoms and that its effects can be just as damaging as a physical trauma. So here I was, only minutes into my first treatment and I knew this was the real deal and it was helping. My body and mind just knew.
So life was livable now after my 2 week intensive. A few months passed and I realized there was more work to be done if I was going to get back to work. So 6 months later I went back to Sedona for a one week intensive. That’s when I met John Barnes. Words do not describe this man. The best that comes to mind is kind, gentle, knowing. His presence changes the entire atmosphere of the place. You can actually feel him there, even when you’re not in the same room. It was during this second intensive, as I was being treated by a wonderful therapist, that she said to me “you have angels all around you and they seem to be protecting you”. At that moment and I still don’t know the connection between her words and my thoughts; it suddenly occurred to me that I had to do this work. It was helping when nothing else did and I was feeling better than I ever thought possible. How could I not share this healing experience with others? Knowing what I now did, it seemed almost cruel, inhumane even, not to share what I had learned and experienced with others the way I had experienced it – through another’s hands. Within a month of returning home I had signed up for the registered massage therapist program. 2 years later I became a registered massage therapist and attended 4 of John’s seminars so I could practice using his myofascial release approach. I am now in private practice with my sister using John’s myofascial release approach exclusively. I know it works. It worked for me. And it is what I can now, with love, give to my clients.
For those who know me personally, I am normally very cautious, conservative and guarded about what I say and do. To say that this experience was profoundly life changing and that it saved my life is an understatement. I cannot put in words what goes on in these sessions. As I heard the other clients and therapists (yes they all get treated too) talking about their experiences I realized it was unique, personal and special for every one of them, every time. No two people are alike and no two people receive the same treatment. Nor is each session the same for one person. Healing is a progression not an event. So, all I can say is that I now feel lighter, freer, and happier than I ever remember being. I am now in control of most of what I feel and do and that is the best feeling in the world. It is like experiencing life for the first time. For the greater part of my days the world around me leaves me in awe, time passes as slow or as fast as I need it to, people are beautiful and loving, and my body and mind feel strong and pain free. I can now honestly say, from my heart, that my life is beautiful. And the cool thing about it all is that I look forward to the next moment of chaos. When I feel my head whirling I can now, finally, patiently sit with it. Not try to drown it out with a movie, music, chocolate, a drink, to do lists. Because I know that if I can be in the chaos like I’ve learned to, the reward is a release from yet another part of my painful past and a calm like no other. Then that movie becomes the best I’ve ever seen, the music more awesome than ever before, and the chocolate like ecstasy. The drink pales in comparison to the feeling of being awake and present. And the to do list? Well it vanishes!
I do still have times of doubt (which I learned is a good thing), and yet I keep coming back for more treatment (and now courses) because it’s the one thing that consistently and continually brings me through the chaos and out the other end a more joyful person. I waited to send this letter because I needed the test of time to be sure my feeling better was for real and not just another temporary thing. Every week that passes I find myself hardly believing that I feel this good. And every week it gets better, no matter what else is going on around me. I don’t’ have to ‘make’ myself happy. It is happening now without effort. I know it took courage and determination to go into the pain of the past. I now know there is no other way out of pain but to confront it head on. You cannot transcend your past. You must fully experience it in all its sadness and horror in order to master it and then let it go – giving room to live in the present. This is true authentic healing. It feels like coming home. I am home now.
For those of you out there who are feeling like this level of healing is not possible for you, ask yourself “what’s the worst thing that could happen if I gave this a try?” What’s the worst that could happen if I trusted myself, opened my heart and just let go. Know that every single one of us was conceived with the ability to heal. But in this age of needing to prove we know better than our own awesome bodies, we’ve just forgotten how. That is what this work does. And this relearning is happening to millions of people worldwide, successfully. So my story is really not so unique, yet it would be nice if it were commonplace. That is my hope. That is my goal in writing this letter. That you will be inspired to take your own healing path so that you can truly experience the joy of life. Because isn’t that what we’re here to do?