We each have a unique contribution to make here on earth, and by some miraculous design, it is the very thing we get lost in and love to do. When we get sidelined from this contribution, the part of us that knows our special purpose goes to sleep, and our thoughts and feelings turn dark in an attempt to awaken us. This darkness, pushed to an extreme, becomes depression and anxiety, or loss of immune function, bringing on chronic health issues such as arthritis and cancer. It can even appear to be connected to traumatic events, causing injury that will shake us out of our forgetfulness. These events, rather than seen as traumatic can be considered gifts that help wake us up.
The depression, anxiety, arthritis, cancer, and even a traumatic brain injury–have all been part of my personal warning system. Yet with one red flag after the next–each bigger than the one before–I still fell asleep. Just as you probably do from time to time. Life’s busyness creates a blind spot so that we miss the warnings. Except for the Cancer. That is just too damn scary to ignore.
OMG. Where to start, though?
My own life, and my clinical work has provided me the opportunity to test and assess a number of approaches to healing emotional issues, even those closely associated with acute problems such as health crises and brain injury. Many have proven effective. But often, it is only a matter of time before the connection of these to their core issue–failing to remember why we’re here–shows itself in a new way, often in a new symptom.
For example, after my brain injury, I worked hard to promote the best use of neuronal plasticity to regain my cognitive abilities. (Neuronal plasticity is defined as the changes in neural pathways and synapses which are due to changes in behavior, environment and neural processes.) I held fast to the vision of absolute cognitive health, and worked hard to establish a private practice that allowed some flexibility and control of my environment, but would cultivate growth and achievement in any direction and degree that I could imagine. The building of this practice and regaining my memory and thinking processes gave me great pleasure. But this absolute focus may have been at a cost–I perhaps missed the boat and forgot to balance it with a more personal focus on my own happiness and well-being.
When I discovered that I had Melanoma and that it was very likely that it had progressed to my blood and lymph systems, I had to regroup in a big way. I needed to pull back and figure out when and where I had fallen asleep. Again.
I started with myself and my own symptoms. I knew that cancer was not an attack from the outside (like exposure to toxic substances or failure to eat nourishing foods), nor was it a bad roll of the dice in terms of genetics. (Not that these don’t play in, but they were not the whole story.) Rather, I knew that cancer was a big red flag telling me to take notice of something important; that another life change was needed.
This change was to remember the things I loved to do in life; the things I find exciting. I loved working with clients and felt proud of using my strengths and abilities to tease out from their story a rediscovery of their special gifts and how they are to use them. But I had forgotten, in all the excitement of clinical work, to keep my own continuing path part of the focus.
I had failed to listen to my heart. I started to see that walking the razor’s edge between the traditional medicine’s worldview, and my own, had worn me out. Could I continue to do therapy the way that medicine and the health insurance industry taught me to? To make symptom reduction the only focus, and ignoring the aforementioned “forgetfulness” that causes the symptoms, now seemed to have been a major detour from my conscious path. Yet I didn’t want to give up the thrill of being a clinician just because I don’t see things the way the traditional medical community does.
I love sitting with each client, discerning the essential story, and the steps needed to awaken to what in life is so enlivening that there is no doubt that it is “theirs” to do. I do not love all the rest–navigating the complex and nearly nonsensical system of insurers with a set of rules for each and every client, and the pathologizing world of symptoms and diagnoses with its own special language and club-like culture.
For now, I’ll try to let cancer off the hook. I’ll try not not be mad at cancer for sending me a message, but not setting me free with the solution. I’ll make a friend of the unknown, and see if it will be friendly with me.
Your input is invaluable. If you see yourself in any part of my story, please comment below. Consider this post an invitation to conversation and the exchange of my ideas for yours.