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Did all that really happen?

Did all that really happen?

My husband was diagnosed with MS, then the diagnosis was reversed.

He was told he needed a second major cervical spine surgery, then it turns out he didn’t.

I was homeschooling my kids, now they’re back in public school.

I intended to write about my journey but then got lost in living it.

And that’s ok. I’m going to start again with some stories. Like this one…

We keep the cutting boards in a narrow vertical cabinet next to the sink. Usually, when the kids empty the dishwasher, they just toss the cutting boards in so inevitably some fall to the very back. The one I wanted was just out of reach. I got down on the ground and stretched my arm into the narrow cabinet. At the same time, as I rotated my elbow, one of the cutting boards shifted, trapping my arm. As I tried to pull my arm out, I realized that it was trapped. I was trapped. My heart pounded. My first instinct was to pull harder but it only shot pain through my elbow and up my arm. I tried to breathe to calm myself but I felt a terror that I couldn’t control. I wanted to scream but a part of me recognized that this wasn’t a true emergency, like a severed finger or a giant spider. This was fixable. Luckily, my phone was in my pocket. I pulled it out and called my husband, who was in the backyard, not wanting to panic him but also wanting him to come to my aid immediately. Faster than immediately if possible. He did, looking scared at first but then curious as to how I got myself into this situation. He was able to move the cutting board that trapped me and extricate my arm. I was shaking and on the verge of tears. I felt ridiculous and ashamed for panicking the way I did. 

It reminded me of when my kids were littles and we’d swim in the pool. They would swim to me and cling to my body, arms wrapped around my neck and waist. They loved when we played the washing maching game and I’d spin them around and around. Even though I loved hearing them laughing, part of me felt like I was being smothered. I couldn’t stand the feeling of being trapped and held down, even by the most precious people in my life. I felt ashamed then too. 

A few months after the cabinet incident, our heater stopped working. Dale, the repairman who fixes those kinds of things for us, is a really nice guy. Nacho, our 2 year old male tabby, is enamored with him. As Dale was taking the furnace apart, Nacho somehow got into the return air tunnels under the house and wouldn’t come out. It was like my arm being stuck in the cabinet all over again. I couldn’t breathe and my heart beated out of my chest. I envisioned something terrible happening to him down there and not being able to get him out. My husband tried to calm me. He said that there was nothing that could hurt him in the tunnels and that he would come out when he was ready. Logically, I knew he was right but I felt completely out of control of my reaction. The thought of him crying in fear or pain…but that didn’t happen. Nacho was having a blast. He explored those tunnels for nearly an hour and was finally able to be coaxed out by a can of tuna. Again, I felt ashamed by my reaction. What made it worse is that our daughter was there and she fed off my emotions. She also recovered a lot quicker once Nacho was safe. For me, it lingered for days.

Being able to move and do something to protect oneself is a critical factor in determining whether or not a horrible experience will leave long-lasting scars.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD. 

As a survivor of abuse, I understand that my body and mind are forever different, rewired. My reaction to being trapped (or imagining Nacho trapped) is understandable and nothing to be ashamed of. But, it bothered me that I wasn’t in control. Not because I’m a control freak, but because I wasn’t able to keep a clear head at a time when a clear head was needed. I’ve been in scary situations before, like when my daughter fell off her bed and broke her arm. I can still remember seeing it bent like a banana, my husband and son freaking out. But I jumped into action and took care of business. Now, if her arm was trapped in a cabinet, I probably would’ve freaked out. It’s definitely tied to the feeling of being closed in, pinned down, even though I don’t have a specific memory of that happening.

We are strange in the way that memories become woven into our bodies. Are we imagining it or reliving it? Did all that really happen? Am I safe? 

…ten weeks of yoga practice markedly reduced the PTSD symptoms of patients who had failed to respond to any medication or to any other treatment.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD. 

Before I discovered yoga, I can honestly say that I wasn’t fully present in my body. It took years, years to feel like yoga was truly helping, although I know it was working in me and through me all along. I can’t tell you how many times I would cry as soon as I stepped onto the mat. I only took a handful of classes with a live instructor because I never knew if I’d burst into tears or not. When I discovered Yoga With Adriene on YouTube, everything changed. Slowly, in the privacy of my home, I found self acceptance and uncovered my strengths. The more I remember to breathe, to be in my body and to recognize its signals, the more grounded I feel. Like Adriene says, my breath is my anchor, my anchor is my breath. 

My yoga practice didn’t exactly come to the rescue when my arm was trapped in that cabinet but it helped plant the seed that this is something that I can change. I’m aware that there is something that I want to change. I hope that I don’t have to experience being trapped again to show that change is possible but I’ll be ready if it happens.

7 responses to “Did all that really happen?”

  1. I’d forgotten how much I love reading your words. I’m so thrilled you found yoga – there is such an amazing rediscovery when you are able to live inside your body again. Love love love you 😘


  2. What a rollercoaster with your husband! When you wrote about the panic about Nacho lingering on, I was suddenly reminded of the days when my son had panic attacks about going to school and I’d make him go anyway. (I thought pushing him through his fear would help him realize he could walk through it on his own – nope). After he went in I’d sit in my car bawling and would be affected for the next few days. I’m so glad you’ve benefited from yoga.


  3. My sister took karate. She observed that it helped her learn body awareness, where it was (boundaries) and what it could and could not do, developing body confidence. Abuse victims aren’t allowed boundaries; it’s smothering whether you’re being held or not. Abuse survivors spend their lives battling those control issues. We won’t discuss what happens when I can’t get a piece of clothing, like a coat or shirt or jeans, off. Not pretty. Strangely, one of the benefits of being a survivor is the gift of being able to disassociate in an emergency and do what needs to be done and fall apart later. You are doing great. Thanks for helping me remember that I’m making progress.


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