…and, often, it tries, through pain, to tell you the unpalatable truths your mind is so keen to avoid.
I believe that our bodies register what is going on around us infallibly. The Amygdala – no matter how outdated it might appear given the lack of woolly mammoths in every day life – has a vital purpose: It warns us, accurately, of danger, menace, threat. If we do not heed its warnings, our bodies can flash their own red warning lights in front of us.
The mind is very clever, however: It sees, and understands, only what it wants to (or perhaps can bear to) – and this includes attributing the body’s warning siren to physical malaise. I have been doing this for years: Seeking medical explanations for the ever-more urgent messages my body was trying to pass on to me.
Three times during the past twelve days, my primary burglar alarm (an apt analogy, I feel) has shrilled out a shrill and painful warning of incoming danger, of a situation I ignored at my peril, of a metaphorical thief breaking and entering.
The first two times, I used my formidable mental powers to banish the knowledge, to argue myself out of the body’s heart-felt cry. Last night, I had to face it head – or rather, digestive system – on.
In times of severe stress, and when my mind can no longer cope with lies and evasions (including my own), I get nasty spasms in my gullet. This has been going on for at least fifteen years – and, last year, I had an Upper GI Endoscopy to investigate. I have a small hiatus hernia, but there was no sign of any actual scarring or disease.
My digestive system responds immediately, and minutely, and painfully, to stress: Digestion slows down or stops when I am shocked; the resulting fermentation causes Acid Reflux and the epigastric pain. I know all this. But, when in the grip of an attack, bodily terror takes over.
Yesterday was almost indescribably stressful – and on more levels than I can possibly relate on here. I felt as if arrows were flying at me from hundreds of directions. I fielded them – or thought I had.
The cramping gullet pain came on quite suddenly. It hurt to breathe, to cough, to bend over. I began to panic, made myself lie down, head and shoulders elevated, upon my bed, tried to breath calmly (not easy when breathing is bringing the pain) and relax.
The pain eased when I lay down – but, this time, my body was NOT going to allow me to ignore it. Smaller twinges rolled up intermittently – and then I went into a form of shock. This is the only way I can describe it. I started to shake convulsively – and no effort by the mind (which was considerable), or giving myself a talking to, or relaxing would stop the tremors. They were too powerful for my mind. They had a ghastly life of their own.
I think now that my body was, in effect, saying, ‘You cannot keep on denying the truth – and, if we have to detonate this kind of agony and panic to get you to listen, so be it…’
Nothing helped. Nothing stopped the process while it was happening. It hit me afterwards how much time we spend trying to stop our bodies from screaming out their various alarms; how much we use the mind to try and control bodily functions; the extent to which we arrogantly assume that we are in charge of the complex system which hosts us during our life times.
But as I lay there, vibrating, tears leaking from the corners of eyes, I suddenly realised that I am NOT my body. Nor am I my mind. That there is a part of me which is more than the physical appearance, the mental processes and the strange workings of the vessel.
In truth, this time of violent shaking and pain felt like a little death. One day, of course, it will be my time to go for real – and it may well take a form similar to yesterday: I could find myself shaking violently and in some form of discomfort, even pain; breathing will slow down and become more difficult; the coldness I experienced in my extremities will be there and will spread – and there will come a point at which the person I have been all my life will labour to leave the body (as, at its birth, it struggled to come into the world through its mother’s body) and will disintegrate, leaving the essence to move on to a new phase.
Two hours later, the shaking and pain subsided – and then I wept, out of loss and fear and stress and the feeling of being completely overwhelmed by the vast current pressures in my life.
I cannot give a happy ever after or wise ending to this post. It is too raw and wounding.