▪Mind-body teacher ▪Somatic educator ▪Yogini ▪Mindfulness student ▪ Biopsychosocial ▪Lifelong learner ▪Enabler
I love to learn and am fascinated by movement, pain and the nervous system. I have learned to overcome the suffering of my own pain with movement – both vigorous and slow – education about pain and the nervous system, self-awareness and mindset.
I want to help others do this, too. www.mind-body-movement.co.uk
Tell me about how your pain started?
I had back pain in my 20s. Nothing serious, but there were a few episodes and I got physio referral. I can’t remember what I was told in those early physio sessions apart from that I was hypermobile, but I started to become more aware of my posture. Read a lot of health/fitness magazines became a pass time. I tired getting active and started going to Pilates. Teacher always talked about posture types. I wondered which I was, s I looked it up. Decided I wanted to know more and started to train as a Pilates teacher. Fitness became very important to me when I turned 30 – 37. I enjoyed the Gym, some running, Pilates, yoga.
Then I fell.
Slipped on some mossy flagstone. Tingling. Sensation loss around tailbone/saddle areas. MRI scan. Suspected cauda equina. They kept in hospital for 3 nights for observation.
MRI revealed grade 2 spondylolithesis and disc herniations. I was given to understand that this was the cause of my pain. Physio – core stability- Clam shells followed with the advice to also relax.
I was a good girl. Did my exercises like a trooper. Herniated discs – avoid flexion. Stop impact stopped running, cardio. Nobody said for how long. Was getting worse, but then physio ended. Just discharged from physio … no plan.
Thought I’d try to help myself – so I started yoga teacher training. I always felt tight, no matter how much/carefully I stretched. Got pregnant, fell again at 5 months pregnant and had massive bleed. Pain worsened. Started losing sleep.
What was life like at the height of your pain?
It felt broken. I had a massively traumatic birth. Induced. 2 epidurals. 1 spinal block. Forceps – failed. C-section. 2 weeks overdue. Not been sleeping. Sciatica, pain down whole of left side all the time. In hospital for 3-4 days after birth. Weird nightmares. Life felt unreal. Really hard to move. So much pain.
Came home from the hospital. Stayed in bed for 3 weeks with baby. Crawling to toilet. Baby had reflux. Couldn’t keep anything down. No support from my parents. They blamed me.I was sad not to be going out with other mums, isolated. Couldn’t drive. No friends with babies. Close friends geographically far away and childless. In- laws were in India for the winter.
Enjoyed being with my baby though! Singing, reading. Enjoyed lots of yoga nidra – autonomic relaxation. Read Why Love Matters, by Sue Gerhardt. Basically, how love changes a baby’s brain. Most important book of my life.
I had reflux as well at this point, lost ability to speak, sing. Couldn’t sing to my child. Couldn’t talk to other mums. Felt like a crap wife and a crap Mum and a boring person. Felt I’d never be well enough to work again. Suggested to my husband that I wanted to go away and live on a commune so he could remarry and find somebody who could be a better Mum.
6 months post partum I gave up breastfeeding – just too hard. Baby still had reflux. I was depressed and depleted and having suicidal thoughts. Had counselling.
9 months post partum Psychologically felt better,, but movement slow, laboured, restricted. Couldn’t understand why my yoga/pilates not really helping. Sought medical help. Amytriptyline, now that I wasn’t breastfeeding. Referred to physio (not helpful) and a pain clinic.
Told by my MD I had a disability – and diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy. I was told physiotherapy could do no more for me. I should start using a wheelchair when tired. Given nortriptyline, which helped me sleep.
What changed to help you move in a new direction?
Work –worried that I wouldn’t cope. I taught in a secondary school. Pressurized job. Demanding in a way I had enjoyed previously, but now couldn’t handle.
Huge chat with husband and massive relief that he said, ‘Why don’t you be there for Xavi until he goes to school?’ So I started back at work, only 2 days. Support and understanding from my husband and in laws took the pressure off.
I had time to spend with my child, reflect, move , heal. I had purpose. Maybe I could work, but also be a Mum?
Discovered something that changed my experience of movement – somatic movement. Really turned a corner! Started training. Started learning about the nervous system and how movement affects the brain as part of the course.
If you could share one thing that changed in your actions/ thinking and headed you in a new direction, what was it?
I was doing a lot better with somatic movement, and trauma therapy. I could be fine if I lay on the floor and did my exercises. It was standing up that ruined everything!!! The thing that came out of trauma therapy was that I didn’t feel safe in my own body.
Decided to have one last go at physio. I was referred to a physio very interested in BSP model and Cognitive Functional Therapy. Challenged my pain habits of guarding, and avoidance of bending and fueled an interest in pain science. I started getting even better. Started cardio activity, bits of strength. Started getting condition back.
That one thing… I would have to say knowledge – coming from CFT/pain science, knowledge that followed on from what I had learned about movement and the brain in Somatic Education.
What does life look like now?
I can get flare ups, there are biomechanical issues I have to manage. However, the constant pain and suffering is not there. Often there are no symptoms, and when I do have them it’s more of a discomfort/tightness/feeling not in the right place, but I don’t stress over it. I know it can change.I feel I have agency in my life. There are many things I can do to nurture and support myself. I can tolerate more. I enjoy more.
Anything else you would like to share?
Self-development and understanding trauma have helped me enormously. Becoming a parent – and thinking about how I was parented and how things were for me – make me realise how huge the psychosocial influences are. Such a huge topic, I can’t do it justice, but I have been enormously influence by the trauma and complex ptsd work of Peter Levine, Bessel van der Kolk and Marsha Linehan.
What do you wish you could share with medical professionals now?
Give your patients time. Talking and telling my story allowed the bigger picture to emerge. There’s no way I could just ‘exercise’ or just learn to ‘relax’ and get better. The issue was really not feeling safe in my body. I had to feel safe first.
What do you want others experiencing pain to know?
There is SO much you can do to help yourself.