On the advice of my consultant, I’ve been forced into ‘complete rest’ recently. Somehow my lower back started acting up, and six weeks later not only is it not recovered, but I keep ‘setting it off’. It’s a rollercoaster.
As a consequence of my indeterminate (thus far) back issue, I haven’t been to dance or do hydrotherapy in weeks. Complete rest for me is extremely difficult. I am used to just throwing myself into things, and my body coping. The advantage of being strong and bendy is that I’ve always been able to do virtually anything without any serious consequences. I always get injuries, yes, but they clear up more or less in a few weeks. Now I am finding that things simply aren’t healing; my chronic pain has escalated, and it seems that my early arthritis (common with hEDS) is impacting everything.
So. What of mobility?
I have mentioned before here my reliance on dance as a way of shifting trauma. Dance has always been the way that I manage to stay in touch with my body — not disassociate, be grounded, be meditative, etc.
Free movement in my environment has been crucial to my mental health for decades, and, probably more than anything else, preserves my wellbeing and my belief in the future.
I noticed when I had my hip replacement operations that within a couple of weeks I felt low. Everything seemed to stop. I felt paralysed, unable to help myself. Useless. But each time, I knew the end was in sight: slowly slowly I began to move again. I had goals. I did physio diligently. And in each case, I was walking well by six weeks post-op.
My current situation is different however. The end of my immobility is not in sight. The cause of this pain and reactivity is unknown. It’s not clear that I will dance again, though I will do everything in my power to get there. I have no exercises to do, no agency in this. Except to be patient.
Which is not my top personality trait, if I’m honest!
I suspect that immobility triggers many Child Sexual Abuse survivors. There are several aspects of this for me:
- I froze while I was being abused .
- I could not walk or run away from my father; I was stuck.
- I could not push my father off of me. I could not move my arms. I was afraid he would do something ‘worse’.
- I stayed still in order to ‘disappear’.
- I felt in danger of imploding, the withheld fear and panic inside me almost overwhelming.
Helplessness — true helplessness, powerlessness — is extraordinarily grinding. Your body seizes up much like your mind does. You turn into a rock, and cannot reach out. You cannot do anything to help yourself. You simply cannot. You feel yourself slipping into invisibility, nearly losing yourself in the process.
Immobility, for me, equals being nothing. Not being able to dance, for me, risks dissociation. It can also bring the inner turmoil of CPTSD: bad dreams, flashbacks, the ramping up of despair.
I am completely aware of what immobility means for me. But my reactions are not something I can control. They are hard-wired.
I am much stronger now than I was when I was a child, of course. I have more to live for, a lot more hope. And I know that whatever happens, I can bear it. But lasting through, time and again, does come at a cost.
(Side note: I won’t be excerpting Learning to Survive for a little while. I’m all good though, and am so grateful for everyone’s companionship and belief.)