I found out that my body seems to have emotional memories that my mind does not detect, at least not yet.
This weekend I was at a training for work that I was very excited to be able to attend in Ann Arbor. It was a childbirth related training. One exercise that was shared was about how to teach what other medical interventions are involved with getting an epidural. In my classes that I teach about childbirth, I use a drawing that I call Epidural Emily. I draw her in a bed and with different colored markers one by one I draw the epidural line, the IV fluids line, the electronic fetal monitors, the urinary catheter, the pulse oximeter, thermometer, and blood pressure cuff. The activity that was shared with us this weekend in the training it was similar except we had a partner that taped pieces of different colored string to our bodies to represent all the above medical interventions. I knew where the instructor was headed at the beginning of this exercise and I thought it was a creative approach. I was the recipient of the taped strings. As the instructor led the demo my partner taped strings to my back, then my forearm – I started to feel and anxiety growing in my belly – then my abdominal area – tears began to well up in my eyes and there was a lump in my throat – then my inner thigh and my upper arm – my head was spinning at this point with emotions I could not control but I identified them as being related to my recent hospital experience. As the instructor asked for feedback and I could hardly hold back my shaking voice and tears as I expressed that this was triggering for me. I was embarrassed and surprised by what happened. The entire class was wonderful and supportive of my moment. All women birth workers so that was not a surprise. Tissues were handed to me and a very sweet woman came over to give me a hug. I was in a good place for this to happen.
I have been curious about my lack of emotions regarding my stay at the hospital this summer. What I realized this weekend was that it is not that there is a lack of emotion, it is just that my body has tucked it away for me. A survival strategy I am assuming.
I do appreciate my body allowing these emotions to come forth, although next time I would prefer it not be in a room of mostly strangers. I am aware that I do not necessarily get to make such requests. One way to minimize this occurrence of surprise though is to figure out how to get into my body to bring the emotions out that are harboring safely away from my sight. I do desperately want to see them and feel them as odd as that may sound. Some may think to just let them stay tucked away but for me I do not want them to live inside me.
To be clear I have not been void of a spectrum of emotions on this journey. I have been really frustrated with my ostomy bag and I am still dealing with body image carrying this bag of my poop outside my body. I get embarrassed when the seal on my bag has not held, especially when we have had company over – the only thing you can do with that is own the moment and exit to the bathroom. Luckily our friends are amazing people. I was stubborn in asking for help when I desperately just wanted to be able-bodied. I have had weepy mornings of feeling crappy. I have sat in my fear of chemo, trying to desperately negotiate my way out of having to do it. I have had some opportunities to feel less than positive moments but for the most part I have been able to work through them. I want the opportunity to move through the emotions that my body has tucked away.
I am thankful for my bodies intelligent protective mechanisms to hold emotions tucked away until I am ready to sit with them. The time is coming soon. I am learning to not let emotions stay hidden in my body. I am aware they can grow and fester into ill-health that manifests in many different ways. My body and I will work together to create optimal emotional and physical health. My body has done its job, now it is my turn for me to do my job of easing the burden my body has taken on.