* Disclaimer-this post is my recollection of what happened in 1986
On July 5, 1986 I was a seven year old flower girl walking down the aisle for my God-Mother’s wedding. A few days later, my family traveled from Minneapolis to the family farms in southwest Iowa. While mom and dad were visiting other local friends and relatives, I was at the Heim farm spending time with cousins and grandparents. I remember feeling sleepy and went to lay down on the couch. Grandma came to ask if I wanted a hotdog for lunch. The first sign that something was wrong should have been when I turned down that hotdog.
“Annie, Annie-WAKE UP”
I heard these words from my grandfather just once as we were in an ambulance headed to a hospital that was nearly 30 miles away. The next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital bed with a doctor coming at me about to insert a big, thick needle to into my spine. The spinal tap confirmed I had bacterial spinal meningitis. For the first seven days of hospitalization, I was semi-comatose. It took another eight days before I would be released. During most of those fifteen days at the hospital, I was in isolation with a plastic bubble around my bed. This would allow medical staff and family to safely come into my room. I was poked and prodded with IV’s, alternating between the arms every other day. It was a tremendous relief for all of us the day I was able to leave the hospital.
Fast-forward to 2009 and I was in a three day workshop with Nikki Myers, founder of Yoga of 12 Step Recover (Y12SR). This was a leadership training to facilitate Y12SR meetings. I was wearing a few hats that weekend, 1) as a co-host for the training 2) as a participant. This was the third time I had heard the presentation. Each time, something new was learned. What struck me most in this particular weekend was the topic of childhood trauma. There was deep conversation around this topic.
When many of us hear the phrase childhood trauma, we think of abuse; physical, verbal, sexual. In reality, trauma comes in many forms for children. The loss of a parent or sibling, a fire to the home, bullying, not knowing when you are going to get your next meal. And even hospitalizations. This is what caught my ear. Not only had I been hospitalized in 1986, but two other times around then for surgery on each ear. Between three hospitalizations in as many years, when the physical body is cut or punctured, that too is considered trauma.
“Our issues live in our tissues.”
Every cell of our body holds onto every experience we have. This includes but not limited to breath, digestion, thoughts, conversations and trauma. Nikki’s famous line is “Our issues live in our tissues.” Shortly after this discussion at the workshop, as a group we went from lecture to asana (physical) yoga practice. The first time we came into a high plank position, that’s when it hit me- HARD. My body started to shake uncontrollably. It felt like an earthquake was happening but as I looked around, nobody else seemed to be shaking. At the end of the practice while in savasana, (corpse pose), the flood gates opened. Unconsciously tears were streaming down my face. I just let it happen. When it came time to stand up, I felt about twenty pounds lighter. It was as if this heavy weight of unknown was lifted. I had never had an experience like this before. No doubt in my mind, it was this childhood trauma experience that was weighing me down. It made me a believer in Nikki’s saying.
When we are able to address our life experiences such as trauma in safe and healthy ways such as talk-therapy, yoga, exercise, breath-work, conversation, those issues of dis-ease will soften over time. Over the last several years I have worked very hard through many of these modalities to better understand who I am and why I am the way I am. I consider this self-love and self-compassion.