What the Body Remembers: Healing Somatic Muscle Memory

It’s important to learn where the pain started. My foot pain started rather suddenly five years ago, and progressed quickly into an acutely debilitating ailment. Not only was the pain sharp, it had no precipitating event that I could discern. That began a long journey into medical care, acupuncture and loss of mobility. Later I learned that part of my pain was psychic, and triggered by profound imminent loss.  After the loss, the gradual return of functionality has been punctuated with frequent pain similar to the early onset. Could it be that my body remembers this pain?

Looking at diagrams of human feet requires lengthy focused sessions, wherein I read the descriptions and try to match what I see in the textbook to my own unique female body. We are not all the same. We must allow for individual genetics, physicality and gender to inform what and how we see. I invite intuition to guide my educated guesses–willing to cross an option off the list. “Don’t get attached to the results,” I tell myself.

The foot has numerous bones, 26 altogether. Ligaments, tendons and muscles bind bone and nerve. The two hold up our entire body. Finally after hours of sifting through information, a story begins to emerge. I see clearly the pathway of the inferior and superior peroneal retinaculum that sheaths the peroneus brevis muscle that pulses red hot like embers during and after a walk. The tibiocalcaneal ligament evokes my sympathy when I see it on the page. I make a note of that. I’m not sure, yet, but this is important. I’m beginning to understand where the pain resides. Understanding will allow me to focus healing attention to the areas in need.

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In between, I’m determined to move, run and walk mindfully as I heal. I know that in the mornings, my pain is the memory of something: When my sister died and was torn from me in a particularly savage way? Is it the familiar signal the body sends like a cue from the bladder? Is my pain a signal broken on the “on” position? For now, I’m holding firm to my intention to heal myself, knowing that part of this experience is somatic, another physical. I pray to release any spent energies from my emotional, physical and spirituals bodies–to let go of whatever I can. I touch the area gently with Reiki and salve, creating new memories for these places within. There is no fix. There is only the journey inward toward wholeness.

 

A Visit to the Medicine Man: My Introduction to Chinese Medicinal Herbs

On my odyssey of healing from shingles, I’ve stepped into the world of the ancients: the Art of Chinese Medicinal Herbs. I know nothing about Chinese Herbal Medicine except what I’m experiencing with Dr. Kang, O.M.D., in San Francisco. So far, I’m loving it.

To me Chinese Medicine means acupuncture needles. Because of this association, I was nervous about receiving an acupuncture treatment as my past experiences with acupuncture have all led to intense physical and psychological reactions. The needles stimulate me in profound way. More than once my head and feet have been on fire with enough vivid sensation to make the doctors react with haste to remove the offending needles. My first visit resulted in a nearly psychotropic trip in which I could not walk properly because I had no depth perception. The world was flat as I held my hands out in front of me, feeling for objects jutting into my space and patted at the ground with a foot that extended into the nothingness before me. Needless to say, I’m apprehensive to undergo acupuncture treatments, so it was only because it was recommended several times within an hour that I agreed to make the journey to see Dr. Kang.

To my delight, I was not treated with needles. Dr. Kang is all kindness and compassion. This is really important since shingles is traumatic enough without one having injury done by practitioners. I found him to be intuitive and a deep listener. He warned me to avoid stress, admonishing me to not repeat such a dreadful experience. To this wisdom I could only nod my head in agreement. He seemed to understand my pain so well that my friend, who took me to see Dr. Kang and sat with me during the examination, and who has been under Dr. Kang’s care for about five months, wondered if he hasn’t endured shingles himself. I personally doubt that such a calm man could work himself into such a place, but I’m the patient here, not he, so it shall remain a mystery.

After a consultation with Dr. Kang in which he asked me questions about my situation, he prescribed medicinal herbs. Dr. Kang measured my pulse on both wrists for an extended time, making notes all the while. He examined my tongue, too, which even I will admit looks scary. (More on the tongue in a future post, I promise!) What’s fascinating about this process is that I know nothing of what I’m ingesting in this steamy cup of root slivers and flower petals. It’s a faith walk. But isn’t this what we often do with Western medicine, as well? A doctor looks at us for five minutes, maybe he looks us in the eye, maybe not, and depending on your skin color, gender and age, a range of possible treatments will result. Dr. Kang, unlike some, is prescribing the medicine for the illness and the person without such a filter of services—you’ll get the herbs you need for your ailment. He’s treating human beings with human kindness. Lest you think that was all, he also gave me a list of food restrictions, which means that I can’t eat anything in my refrigerator. What a hoot! I don’t even mind, especially if it means that I’ll be well again, soon, and fully recovered. I’ll give up just about anything for my health. I’ve already given up so much.

His diagnosis of my situation confirmed my own insights and inspired my trust. The real threat to my health is permanent nerve damage, also known as neuralgia. My impressions during meditations are that my pain is manifesting in my body often without any corresponding tissue damage. Dr. Kang seemed to think that the rain exacerbates the symptoms of pain. I wasn’t sure, but the three days prior to my visit had been hellish, and there was rain a foot in San Francisco. Everything he said meshed with my understanding of my own situation or of my visualizations from Reiki sessions. In the end, Dr. Kang felt that acupuncture would not help me. I actually breathed a sigh of relief because I was secretly terrified of my entire body catching fire this time. Thank God for small favors! This gave me the opportunity to look at my healing through a new lens.

I took my herbs home and boiled them down to a concentrated brown liquid. The first sip was interesting, bold and pungent with a bitter aftertaste. At this point, I’ve stopped trying to taste the stuff and simply give thanks for the medicine I believe can heal me. Cut to the chase, Edissa. Drink your medicine! I downed the remaining elixir in three gulps and struggled to catch my breath, relax and hold it down.

I survived! I rewarded myself with a grape. Let’s see what the doctor says next week. Better yet, pay him a visit if you’re in need of care. I don’t think you’ll regret being seen by the Medicine Man on Clement. photo