Heart Healing

I am continually surprised by just how physical a process emotional and psychological healing is. Logically, the body is all one system, mind and emotion are all about structures and chemistry too, so of course healing is physical, I just don’t expect to feel it as such a distinct and bodily process. It’s often gut sensation as well, which makes little sense to me – but it’s what I get.

Wounding – physical and emotional, took me out of my body for a long time. Pain from illness didn’t help. I learned not to be in my skin, not to experience discomfort. What happens instead is that I go into this hazy, unreal headspace. The more pain there is, the more absent I become, vanishing away into a strange kind of fog where I am a disembodied awareness. Being asked, verbally or by physical contact, to show up in person to my body has been such an issue that in most contexts, it creates a jolt, and panic. I am not here, I am not in my skin, I am not this body… don’t ask me to be this body.

It’s not an easy thing to face up to where that comes from: A sense of betrayal. An understanding, deliberately fed over a long time, that my body was what caused the problems. My body, by its very nature, justified what was done to it. Pain, and shame and misery were not the responsibility of anyone else, they were the natural consequences of this body… and I came to believe it, and as I internalised that blame, it became logical to assume that any reasonable person would treat my body this way because I have the kind of body that deserves to be mistreated. I can’t imagine saying that about anyone else. Getting to the point of being able to consciously identify it is not comfortable at all, but there we go, healing can be a messy process at times.

Recent years have blessed me with people who treat my body gently, and are patient with my physical awkwardness. People who are concerned if I am sore, and kind if I am startled, people who give me time and who listen, and help me to be present in my own skin. The circle of contemplative Druids I sit with have been very supportive, and there are others, too. Teaching me how to handle affection, and gentle exchanges. Teaching me how to trust, and how to feel safe. Spaces in which I have wanted to say yes so keenly that I’ve been willing to take risks again in order to move forward.

I feel those changes in my body, in my gut and across my shoulders, down my spine and in the tips of my fingers. I feel it in my own growing willingness to be open hearted, and more open of arms. I feel it in the way my body no longer jolts with an adrenaline spike if someone tries to touch me.

It is a process of unlearning guilt. This body is not guilty, it does not come with any implicit invitations to hurt or harm it. There is nothing in my skin that requests disrespectful treatment. My body did not betray me – someone betrayed my trust. There is no going back to the person I was and might have been, but there is scope for going forward, without guilt or shame, perhaps even without fear. Showing up to my own skin, and offering heart and hands to people who know how to respond gently and in kind, with warmth and care.

I have no idea who or how I will be if I manage to come through all of this, but there are people to trust, and hands that have held mine when I could barely identify that I had hands… and I think they will still be there as I learn to do better with all of this.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

5 responses to “Heart Healing

  • fyrefly

    Being able to speak abut your emotions and body so eloquently and without fear seems to suggest that the healing process is progressing. Thank you for sharing such a personal area of your life,very brave indeed.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    I was rarely comfortable with my body exposed because was very thin. I also tended to get sick fairly often each year for much of my life. Yet there were some things my body was ideal for such as walking long distances ad being poor I walked a lot the and twenty miles a day were common. I was always in a rush and waiting was very difficult for me. I spent much of my time looking at things buildings people and nature in the city. Everything was a story to me and being bipolar, everything was feeling, often extreme feeling. Sexuality soon taught me that others looked at my body rather differently and it could give me great pleasure and give others pleasure.

    Midlife brought some major health issues and increasing disabilities. I had several operations, nearly lost my life several times, and nearly losing my sight in my right eye several times requiring operations to keep any of it and began to stumble and fall more often. Even with a hearing aid, only one ear hears anything. I smell nothing at all and taste very little. Even so my body surprises me in how rarely it gets hurt even by falling. I use a walker outside and I no longer can safely drive.

    Nevertheless I worry a lot less, laugh a lot more on a daily basis, and have very little fear of much of anything having survived a number of things that should have killed me off. I am mostly cheerful now and I tend to courage people now, which is somewhat a surprise, considering how fearful, frustrated and angry I had been as a young man. I am grateful to find myself inn this situation and not completely certain how I got here. Ironically I like being a geezer and find it fun. I meet new people every week without ever having to leave my home and shop. I enjoy being a home body after ay years of traveling most of the time while living the in a VW bus. The birds and animals get 17 pounds of seed a day and water. Even the predators keep well fed in my part of the desert. I live on a day by day way of life, and enjoy myself most of it time.

  • siobhanwaters

    Thank you for sharing this with us – it is something I needed to hear. I’ve been suffering from the same symptoms of not being present, and I used to have anxiety attacks near constantly – not that I knew what they were at first. It’s just nice to hear that someone else has gone through what you’re going through – that’s it’s an actual ‘thing’ and not just something you made up in your own head. I just feel validated, I guess? That I’m struggling, not with the original traumatic event, but with my own response to that event? I don’t know, I can’t put it into words – but you did, and I thank you for that.

    • Nimue Brown

      It can be very lonely when it feels like it’s just you… which is part of why I write. I think it helps with the coping just to be able to draw a line round it and say ‘this is a thing, and it happens, and it is real and happening to me.’ Trauma so often robs people of their boundaries, and of their scope for trusting their own judgement, which doesn’t help. I have also found it useful, through hearing other people’s stories, to be able to hold the understanding that this is actually a sane response to something insane, and that the retreating and being defensive has a purpose, but getting beyond that to being able to say ‘I am safe now, I can stop doing this’ isn’t easy. Possible, though.

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