Every time she wanted to run that race, she would have to pull out. Flat on her back, as weak as a kitten, sick as a dog.
Claire spent hours training diligently for the big race day. She carefully built up her running hours over the preceding months and weeks, she ensured that her nutrition and fluid intake was optimal and that her sleep was more than adequate. She used visualisation to get her across that finish line. And the build up to this race was no different. The end of May was approaching, and she was determined to be at the starting line in her team t-shirt, part of her team from work, and then crossing the finish line at the end.
She had done for the past three years yet never actually made it to the start line. It was a joke in the office that Claire would have to pull out.
Strangely, it seemed that her body had other ideas. Because for each of those three years she was sick, weirdly, the week before the race. With a ‘virus’ that the doctor had not seen in his other patients. She was even put on antibiotics and steroids as it was virulent enough to cause her to take a week off work, every year, not only trying to keep the virus to herself by not spreading it around the office, but because she couldn’t actually get out from under the duvet. And then recovering took another couple of weeks where she dragged herself to work and got home absolutely exhausted. She had never actually been able to take part in that team event. She wasn’t even able to watch and cheer from the sidelines.
We hear a lot about bullying in the workplace, bullying in school, but have you considered that we are perfectly able to bully ourselves? To pick on our own inner world?
Our health is precious and we don’t give it a minutes attention when we have a great version of it but get a sore elbow or knee, an upset stomach or heart pains and our attention sure goes there quickly. And usually the thinking is to get rid of the problem or symptom so life can go on as usual. Sometimes the search for relief goes on for years and we start to express dissatisfaction or even hate on our body for giving us the discomfort.
Why would our body and our health be out to make us uncomfortable or sick or limited in our function? Seemingly out of the blue? For no reason at all? Why would our body start to bully ourselves? The very host that health ‘lives’ in?
Have you ever thought that maybe your body is trying to tell you something?
Of all of the messages whizzing around our incredible yet complex mind/body system, 80% go up to the brains in our head. Now that is a lot of information when you think that there are literally millions of pieces of data going around our whole body.
Yet we try to bully our own body back. We suppress those messages, gag those little nagging thoughts or voices. Even chop out or banish the trouble making parts. The modern way of approaching a physical problem is to medicate or operate.
We live in a highly medicalised world where we are taught to suppress those signs of ill health yet there is wisdom from our body that we are not listening to. Under the radar, in our unconscious mind, there is a whispering that, via the symptoms of the body, we need to hear and continued suppression and ‘ignorance’ will only lead to that whispering becoming louder and louder until eventually it is a roar.
Claire was determined to participate in the race this time. She wanted to be part of the team and experience not only her own success but the camaraderie, happiness and sense of accomplishing a ‘big deal’ at last. So she came to work with me.
We explored together to uncover what her body needed her to know. And because I work under the presupposition that every behaviour has a positive intention we set out to find what it (the part that made her sick and unable to get out of bed) was trying to get for Claire.
Claire quickly realised that by getting sick, she was being kept safe. Now this may seem a bit unusual, but with further exploration, she realised that she was being kept safe from failure. This was something she realised that had been picked up when almost 32 years ago she was around 6, and she was looking forward to the school cross country race event. But she had fallen over and really hurt her knee so wasn’t able to compete. Her mother was very sympathetic and made her stay home, and found a silver lining – ‘ah you would have probably not finished the race anyway love. Imagine how embarrassing that would have been’. All done from love but it set up a belief in Claire that she would have failed anyway and she would have been humiliated.
Now that little seed of a belief took root and over the years became such an automatic part of her life that it became an unconscious belief and one that she unconsciously responded to. So much so that when she became determined to take part in this race, the unconscious part of her said ‘no my love, I will do what I can to save you from humiliation’. And so she got sick – which is a really effective way of stopping the participation.
Through the course of our work together, the part of her that believed she needed to be kept safe was able to realise that, at a deep level it wasn’t needing to behave like that anymore. We expressed gratitude and compassion to that 6 year old part, for looking after her in the way that it knew best. And we communicated that it would be most welcome to keep her safe in other ways, whilst letting her take part in events like this run as well – which was good for her physicality and mind.
Claire hadn’t ever really needed the antibiotics or steroids, or even to get sick. She needed to acknowledge that part of her that was trying to keep her safe. Yet she bullied herself, thinking that she was being bullied by her body. Being let down by it again and again.
There are many symptoms out there that seem to pop up from nowhere and there is no real reason. A frozen shoulder, a swollen, bloated gut, a lost voice, a rash. Messages from our pelvis, our heart, our nervous system. All very inconvenient but I bet you that there is something to hear. That feeling of the lump in the throat may be telling you that you need to speak out. That gnawing feeling of discontent deep in your pelvis is there for you to listen to. A gut stitch that wants you to get on out there and do something new or fun, something that you really want to do, but can’t seem to get started with. Maybe the need to forgive someone so that you can move on. Something, that deep down tells you that you are stressed and need to make changes in your life somewhere. Often trauma (and not always one of those ‘big T’ traumas) is the switch that starts the disease of sickness (epigenetics) and working with that unlinks and unsticks the loop of feelings and emotions that trauma sets up.
Before you consider that it is unfair that your health is bullying you, find out what it is trying to say. Don’t bully it back. That sets up a fight, a war and the state of war is not a place of healing or listening.
Claire was at work the week before that race in May, and on the day she checked in with her gut and whole body – she gave it the compassionate message that ‘Team Claire’, the 6 year old part of her included, was ready and willing and really looking forward to being part of the team from work. She finished the race on an absolute high – the photos of her beaming smile, sweaty face and armpits summed up her success – fully aligned and still safe.
If being sick, being unwell, flooded with symptoms doesn’t make sense to you how about you take this approach? An exploration or gentle enquiry about the problem. Working with a coach makes a huge difference.
Your body is your greatest cheerleader.
As a pharmacist for 30 years Paula saw hundreds of patients who were bamboozled by their ill health, where for no reason they were sick. Now using the trainings of human behaviour, mind/body work and neuroscience, she is always delighted (but not surprised) at the response of the body when it is given a chance to be heard.