I hesitate to go there…

…But, it’s fresh on my mind, and maybe some – or even many – of you can relate.

About two weeks ago I underwent oral surgery. Just those two words together make you clench your mouth shut, don’t they? I had an exostosis, a benign growth on a bone. A bone spur is an exostosis. For better or worse mine was growing straight out from my lower left jaw. If this is too much information and you’d like to click the “enough already” button, I will understand, and I hope to see you next month, when I promise a more palatable post.

If you’re still with me, I am curious if this journey will make any sense to you and if maybe you have had some similar experience. So here goes. I arrived for the appointment and was hooked up to all kinds of monitors by a nice and calming assistant. Then she put in an IV for the Versed. I have had it before and find it completely satisfying in that I am simply not there any more in that place I don’t want to be. You go to sleep and no amount of grinding, sawing, cutting, probing, sucking and poking will wake you up. I asked her if she had started the drip yet, and she didn’t need to answer because at that moment as I stared at the oxygen monitor the number went from 97 to 999777. That’s the last thing I remember.

In an hour or two, I woke up, feeling great. The surgeon said everything went fine, and added kind of bemusedly, “It was just like a little horn.” I left feeling kind of special, like maybe I had a few cells that thought they were in a stegosaurus or a wart hog or some such. The recovery from the surgery was quite smooth. But there was collateral damage and that is what I wanted talk to you about.  

Over the first few days following the surgery I developed marks and tenderness on my chin, cheek, neck and face. I was swollen, red, yellow, black and blue. Alarmed, I took pictures of myself – no, you cannot see them – and emailed them to the surgeon. I can’t remember his exact words, but they were very diplomatic and kind. The message was that he had had to exert a great deal of pressure on various parts of me, and there was twisting and torquing going on and it was not surprising at all that I was sore and puffy and colorful. All was well, he assured me. That made perfect sense, and I thanked the medical gods for Versed. It’s like I wasn’t even there, I told myself. So glad I don’t remember any of that. I was just whisked away somewhere else… but wait a minute, not all of me was whisked away. My body stayed behind and took a serious beating.

And as the days went by my body let me know that we – my body and I — had experienced real trauma. I may have thought I was blessedly excused, off on a Versed holiday, but my body was not buying that story.  I was there throughout the ordeal whether I had any memory of it or not.  Although I submitted to this abuse willingly and even paid a hefty sum for it, and even though the doctor was acting in my best interest and was extremely skilled and even compassionate, my body experienced it as an attack, with wounds which needed healing. I tended the physical wounds with ice packs and heating pads, with aloe and arnica, and Advil and Tylenol. But something else was going on. I was nervous, clenching and releasing my jaw reflexively, worrying about infection, blood diseases, return of Covid. I stopped taking daily walks through the arroyos, I was sure a mountain lion or a snake or both were lying in wait for me. I was stressed at work, afraid of making mistakes, sensitive to criticism. I wasn’t interested in television or reading or crossword puzzles. I was not myself for several days. I was wrestling with trauma in a deep place.

There is a wonderful book, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma.” It deals with all kinds of trauma including historical trauma that is passed on from generation to generation. The dynamics between the physical body, the brain and the conscious mind are complex, mysterious and can be key in helping heal trauma of all kinds.

My tiny experience in this realm of trauma was insightful. Gradually, I understood what my body was trying to tell me. “Don’t deny what has happened. Look at the evidence, listen to what your cells are telling you. We endured a major shock and we survived, and together we will heal.” I’m happy to report that I am much better — less anxious, more energetic, more ready for joy.  My body and I are working on it, together. Neither of us could do it alone.

14 thoughts on “I hesitate to go there…”

  1. Wow Lucy! Thank you for sharing this experience. I am so glad you were able to receive the messages from your body so you could give yourself the care you needed. A powerful reminder to listen to all the information and wisdom my body has to share with me day to day.

  2. The way that started I thought I’d have more to offer, but I could not help but see myself as the practitioner and how I’d hate it when things didn’t go as smoothly as hoped or expected. Glad you are on the mend.

    1. Of course, Les, you’re going to read it with the practitioner’s eyes. And such a great practitioner you are (yes, are!) in everything you do. Thanks so much for commenting. I really appreciate hearing “your side of the story” — and I wonder what trauma is left in those who are the practitioners. Very interesting!

  3. Hi Lucy, I read all your great posts but haven’t commented for a while. This one really was a gift concerning body wisdom! I experienced the same feelings of caution, being ready for attack and sensitive to criticism after going through chemo.
    I watched a documentary on healing and saw a therapist guiding a chemo patient through visualization to help her body view chemo as her guide through cancer in order to lessen the trauma to the body. Thank you for the mention of the book. I’ll check it out.

    1. Your experience with the impact of chemo is so interesting, Karen, and so affirming. I really appreciate it. And the visualization therapy to help the body accept chemo as a guide, a partner — very interesting. We have much to learn, huh?

    1. Always great to hear from you, Brian, and thanks for the comment. Yes, definitely a relief to be “post” rather than “pre.” Take care.

  4. Lucy, Your experience makes me aware how often I/We “versedize” ourselves from all that is going on in the world. We aren’t there on the border, in Ukrain, on Capital Hill, etc. etc. etc. We are on a, in your words, a versed holiday from so many things.
    But…my body is holding memories, personal, and generational that have to be acknowledged for healing to be possible. Anyway, as always I appreciate your sharings and your body mind and spirit’s wisdom.

    1. Wow,Carolyn, I love this extension you’re making. It feels so true for me — versedizing myself from the pain and abuse the world is feeling, yet carrying it around with me in my cells… I’m thinking there needs to be a way to wake up from the versed and take a good, clear, honest look at that trauma that’s happening around us. The trick is to not be overwhelmed and guilt-ridden that we can’t fix it, but to choose to do something positive, very small, for others and/or ourselves, and keep on.

  5. That’s a great story and way to counsel folks about acknowledging trauma—emotional as well as physical.

  6. This does indeed sound intense and resonates a lot. I am glad you’ve been on the mend! Our bodies are incredibly sensitive and intelligent. I have noticed something similar during my yoga practice and where I hold tension in my body and how that changes over time. I often remember after the fact that X thing happened “around a year ago” or “this time last month.” And as my fellow readers point out, this doesn’t even include the trauma we carry that spans generations and collective experiences at any scale. Our bodies really do remember, even when our brains consciously don’t. I’ve been doing some reading on this through the lens of the chakra system, which has been really fascinating…and jarring at times when I’ve felt like I am reading about myself. Some real ancient wisdom at work (Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith). And all powerful stuff, no matter your belief system.

    1. Thanks so much, Cheyenne, for writing. I love your insights and leads into other fields. And like you, I have certain dates embedded in my body relating to past traumatic events — brain surgery of my son, for instance — and I am reminded to honor those dates and take care of myself around that time every year. So fascinating as we get acquainted with our own bodies!

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