My Unexpected Journey
By Adele Blazey
A few years ago, a friend of mine who was recovering from breast cancer, told me about a most cherished part of her cure. She found a person specializing in something called MIA. She became her “health and feelings” practitioner, which supplemented dreaded, but necessary chemo, radiation and numerous doctor visits. Denise helped my friend focus and trust her body through movements, meditation and relaxation. It became her salvation and now, in wonderfully good health, my friend continues to maintain these inspiring sessions with Denise.
I am lucky to have good health, a loving husband, a wonderful son and daughter, cherished friends and gratifying work as a pediatric RN. However, there was one area of my life that caused me anxiety and was defining me in a negative way. I have been diagnosed with a vestibular dysfunction, which means that my delicate inner ear system of balance is challenged. It can be affected by weather, fluid in the ear after a respiratory infection, noisy and dark environments and most of all, stress. I would often get a dizzy, slightly unbalanced feeling that caused me a great deal of anxiety. I would worry about when this feeling was going to appear and how I would look to others if I lost my control. The journey to get this diagnosis was a difficult and painful one. Before the medical community understood vestibular dysfunctions, the symptoms and most importantly, the patients, were misunderstood. I was advised to take anti-anxiety medications, relax, see a psychiatrist, and most hurtfully, “grow up and get strong”.
Finally, a physician’s group in Warren Ohio tested my inner ears. A doctor looked me in the eyes and said the words I will never forget; “We know what is wrong with you and we can help you!” From that time on, I was given vestibular therapy and some anti-vertigo medication. These therapies helped the physical problem, but the damage to my psyche remained. I worked, taught classes, became a school nurse to over 3,000 students and never outwardly missed a beat. However, the fear and dread of that unbalanced feeling never left me. My family knew how fearful I was, but most other people would never have guessed. When I remembered my friend speaking about her sessions with her practitioner, I started a search for yoga or mediation classes in my area. There, before my eyes, appeared the Peace Blossoms Yoga website. Jane gave me the information about a Yoga Nidra class coming up and encouraged me to give it a try. I remember making sure she knew my limitations: I couldn’t lie on my back, I would get dizzy in so many positions, etc. When I think of how I defined myself back then into “I can’t do this and I can’t do that”, I wonder how I ever managed! (Not well, actually.)
So, I came to Yoga Nidra. Jane helped me modify some restful positions and I tried as hard as I could to relax. It was so very difficult for me. With my vestibular challenges, my brain felt that it was always in motion. I longed for a feeling of peace and quiet, but just couldn’t find it. But something made me return to a few more Yoga Nidra classes. Soon, Jane and I decided that private sessions might be an excellent way to begin my yoga path. Did I really know what I hoped to achieve? Not really. But I knew I liked Jane’s kind and patient spirit and felt like something was pushing me in this direction.
So the sessions started. I remember that I spent lots of time talking about my “symptoms”. Was it a good day or a bad day? Was the weather making me feel dizzy? Did I have anxiety while I was teaching that week? And so on and so on. Jane let the thoughts come forward, but at the same time, she started very slowly showing me how to breathe, walk, sit and listen to my body. I cannot put into words how the transformation happened. It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t easy for me. Slowly, with Jane’s support, I realized that I could indeed lie on my back. I just had to breathe and trust my body to help find the balance within. Jane has taught me to greet the inner ear symptoms, listen to them, and breathe them away. I am a changed person and the biggest surprise of all was how it translated to the rest of my life.
During one private session, Jane had me go through a long relaxation period that centered on forgiving ourselves. I listened to her words, but they didn’t seem to apply to me. I had nothing that needed personal forgiveness. I considered myself a good mother and wife (not perfect, of course) and a caring daughter to my elderly mother who had lived with us till the end of her life. I had taken care of her, loved her and made her last years very content. So, I listened to Jane’s forgiving talk and tried to relax through it. All of a sudden, tears started to flow. What was I crying about? And then, thoughts began to fill my mind. My father had been ill since I was a quite young. My childhood was very traumatic, as he was always in some medical crisis, often witnessed by me. I was afraid of him as a little girl since he was so ill. As a young adult, I still had trouble getting rid of the fear when I saw him. He had a major stroke at an early age, could not walk or talk, had seizures and choked easily. My childhood seemed to be filled with episodes of running away from these scary episodes. The guilt was tremendous. As a teenager, when he was in and out of nursing homes, I just couldn’t bring myself to visit him as I should have. It was just too painful for me. No adult in my life had the time or the energy to help me though my fears. They had their hands full. When my father died, I was 25 years old. It was a relief for me in so many ways. Later, I told myself that I did the best that I could. I THOUGHT I had forgiven myself. It wasn’t until that session with Jane, as tears rolled down my cheeks, that I truly forgave that frightened little girl who loved her dad so much, but couldn’t bear to be around him. It is interesting to me that I found myself entering a nursing career! Even now, I help many older folks (parents of my friends, etc.) and pride myself on being a care giver. My yoga sessions with Jane have reminded me to make sure I give enough love and care to myself as well. Not easy!!
I am a more patient person. I am less critical. I can make myself relax wherever I find myself…. On planes, in an auditorium where lights are challenging my inner ears or when the motion of the car is driving me crazy. I greet my symptoms and, as Jane has taught me so well, I think of them as sensations and nothing else. She has taught me that my true self is still and quiet. Nothing will happen to me and, most importantly, I have the power to hold back the fear and anxiety with my breath.
I rarely talk about my ear symptoms anymore. They do not define me. It feels like an albatross has been lifted from my neck. I thought originally that this success would end my yoga connection. After all, it served the purpose and I could finally handle this part of my life. The surprise was that this was only a small part of the journey. Finding the inner self doesn’t end, but rather changes and flows with our life. I have continued on with classes with Jane and it is now a most wonderful and cherished part of my life. I try to take part in as many classes and special events as I can at Peace Blossoms Yoga.
From me a few years later:
As I read these words, I am struck by how, though I tried to express my thoughts as best I could, there is a dimension that cannot be expressed by written words. These sessions have changed me in a surprising and wonderful way. I can only hope that others will be able to experience a similar mind-body connection through yoga. One piece of advice from one who loves instant gratification: These changes do not happen fast and often you cannot even feel the progress. Be patient, listen to your inner self, find that quiet place where physical symptoms do not exist and you will be in awe of what you will find!!!
My yoga prods me along the path to health and I practice at home in addition to classes with Jane. When I am able to start the morning with a home practice, my day takes on a more peaceful and positive spirit. My private yoga sessions were the best gifts I have ever given to myself. I am thankful to Jane for her wisdom, her guidance, her love and her healing spirit. I hope others will join me in this unique way of finding the path to our inner selves.
Filled for 2016