Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The tendon that held on - Oct 24

It is too easy to get pulled into the mechanical paradigm of bones, tight tendons and swollen tissue. There is another dimension to this healing that is less tangible.

Melissa has been working with me using a healing modality called Somatic Experiencing. It is a body-centered or nervous system-centered approach to dealing with trauma that will complement her training in Social Work (plus it will add more letters after her name). The basic theory is that the body has an incredibly strong drive towards healing, and that the nervous system - or the reptilian brain - knows what to do. In a session, she will direct me to notice what is happening in my body and have me repeat motions very slowly. In one session, I felt like I could sense my left arm trying to push the boulder away, my gaze starting to turn to the left. My reptilian brain, such as it is, had initiated a response to the slipping boulder. That response never had a chance to complete. By getting into the experience, then "renegotiating" the trauma and recognizing that I am safe in the present, it gives my nervous system a chance to leave the event behind. A quasi-spiritual exorcism of the trauma.

A couple of nights ago, I awoke with my leg throbbing. I had tried to wean myself off my evening dose of Oxycontin. I flopped and thrashed until Melissa woke up. A line of tightness began at the outside of the bony part of my heel. It extended upwards through the outer muscle in my calf to a painful point on the outer tendon behind my knee. From there, it continued up the outer edge of my hamstring to envelope my right sit bone in a deep ache. Melissa rubbed it for a long while, then laid down to sleep. I still flopped and thrashed. It was painful, but my angst was more than physical. I rubbed and stretched to no avail. Finally, Melissa asked me to lay flat on my back while she held my heels.

Some floodgate opened, and I started to relive the experience. Melissa holding my heels must have provided enough safety to go there. I can't quite explain what occurred. I didn't exactly remember the sights or motions of my accident. I didn't reexperience the sensations of injury. Instead, I had the *sense* of what had been happening beneath a conscious level during the moments of falling and impact. As soon as Melissa put her hands on my heels, I started wailing and hyperventilating. My hands first went to my left leg, as though taking inventory of remaining resources. Then I felt the pulling in my right leg. The line from my heel to sit bone felt like tight piano strings pulled to the limit of their tensile strength. Without the bone maintaining structure, my tendons held on as though Armageddon were approaching.

I cried and rocked and rubbed my leg. Eventually words came. I found myself telling those tendons, "you did a good job." Then, "what would happen if you let go now?" At the same time, I felt sensation at the point of my fracture. I could almost imagine my tibia waking up, telling the tendons that they could relax, returning to the work of maintaining structure. It was cathartic. After two hours, the sun came up, and my tendons stopped aching.

Was it real? My achilles was a notch softer in the days following, and I am walking with a bit more ease. I don't know whether my tibia actually woke up. Unfortunately, the Orthopedist's x-ray machine was not working this morning, so I don't know whether the fracture is fusing. Revisiting the accident a few nights ago was real enough to expand the dimensions of healing a little bit more. Enough to rock the healing, I suppose. And at the risk of undue personification, I am glad that my tendons had the courage to hold on.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Wow! Mark and Melissa: someday we will sit down and have a long conversation about this Somatic Experience thing (by that time, I'll have a few letters behind my name, too--not that that certifies the worthiness of the conversation). There's something to it, but I'd like to work out exactly what that is: what the nature of the "experience" is and how much it correlates with physical changes. It sounds a bit like hatha meditation to me; meditating in movement. Intriguing!