One recent morning, I woke up to find that my left ankle was swollen and in pain. I was getting ready to go to work, hiking and camping for the weekend, and I was not happy that my ankle was hurting. Truthfully, I was scared. My mind went to a million places at once. What happened? What's wrong? Should I go to work? Should I stay home? How can I take care of myself and still get to work and do my job?
I applied a homeopathic cream to reduce the swelling. I took an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain reliever. I wrapped my ankle and went to work.
How many of us have done that before? We carry on and push forward and go about our day even when our body is giving us clear signs that something is up. I modified my work load for the weekend, skipped one of the hikes and took it easy as best I could. I was okay. And, I wasn't really listening to my body.
Even when I returned home, I kept going. I assumed my ankle would get better and did not pay it much attention. I rested, sort of. I convinced myself it was getting better, the swelling was going down and my range of motion was increasing. This was true, but clearly my ankle still hurt and was still swollen, days later. I could not walk normally or put my full weight on my foot.
Listening to Our Bodies
Perhaps you are not like me and you would have gone to the doctor that first day. Sometimes I do that, too. This time it took me a full week.
As a Somatic Therapist, here's where it gets interesting. I went to the doctor because I finally slowed down enough to listen to my body. Literally. I asked my ankle if it wanted to go to the doctor and I heard, "yes." Clearly. From my ankle itself, not from my head.
Intellectually, I had a sense that it would be helpful for me to have someone else examine my ankle. However, it was not until I really heard my ankle's response that I went to the doctor.
The doctor's visit itself was partially helpful because it ruled out certain possibilities, nothing broken, nothing strained. Okay, that's what I suspected all along. Now I could turn my attention to what I know how to do, which is to get to know the experience in my ankle and listen to what it wants to tell me.
Alligator in the Ankle
Throughout the week, I had been sensing into my ankle on and off, but only half paying attention. Twice I asked if there was an image in my ankle and twice I saw an alligator clamping down on the joint. In those moments, I did not want to know anything more about that, so I moved on to whatever else I was doing.
I started to realize I wanted someone to be with me as I got to know more about this alligator. That's why I was avoiding it, I didn't want to explore it by myself. It felt like too much.
So I got help. With the skillful and caring presence of Jessamyn Tallyn, who is a practitioner of Jin Shin Jyutsu and Manual Osteopathy, I was able to hear more clearly what was going on in my ankle. I saw the bigger picture and had a better sense of what was preventing me from grounding and standing fully in my left side. She helped me release something and bring in love and gentleness, which encouraged the flow of energy. Something started to shift.
My sense is that all of the ways we have of caring for and listening to our bodies are part of the healing process. In my case, I needed to go to the doctor for diagnosis, or at least to rule out certain possibilities. In some way, that was the beginning of me taking my ankle seriously and listening to what it had to say. That was the beginning of my healing process. Our bodies have so much to tell us when we are ready to listen.
On one level, my ankle continues to heal and feel better. On another level, I gained something else, too. The best way I can describe it is to say that I retrieved some part of me. Through listening to my body and understanding the ways I was constricting and holding myself back, I was able to let some of that go and regain a sense of fullness and power.