Phoenix rising…allowing that inner fire

There comes a point in any healing journey when deeply harboured feelings need to come up to the surface and, when that happens, we must let them out…which can take courage and determination to see it through; to not just make it all nice and polite and tidy again by suppressing what wants to be said but to open the throat chakra wide and just let out that primal scream, whatever it sounds like. Because, yes, to make sure they are really “out”, we sometimes need to express those emotions out loud, to rant, to rage, to share them with others, to tell our story (which is what I am doing here) and it can help to feel that audience on the receiving end, whether they comment or not or, indeed, whether any one listens at all. Just the act of articulating ourselves can help make the release of what has become pent-up more real for our bodies to realise as a release of immense pressure at the cellular level; pressure that may have been anchoring us to an illness for a long time without us even knowing it. “Out” is the only healing point, the moment of release that sees that hidden bundle of emotions rise up out of the body’s cells and allows lasting healing to occur. No longer pushed down, nor swept under a rug,  not smoothed and comforted away  by nice words…but allowed to spread their fiery wings and rise up, these emotions become like the phoenix from the flames that, but a moment ago, threatened to consume you with absolute overwhelm.

Such a release can be the key to transformation that we have been seeking…and yet we may have held it at bay for the longest time, telling ourselves it is not right to say or even think what we need to give vent to. Counter-spiritual is something else we tend to think about the kind of powerful emotions that seem unruly or hot under the collar and yet what nonsense is that when it holds us locked up in yet another imbalanced relationship; that relationship we have going on within ourselves, between head and heart. And when a problem seems otherwise unsolvable; when the stuck point in our recovery seems to have no other answer, it is often this emotional rockbed that holds the solution to the riddle of why we are still so self-defeating. This has much to do with the throat chakra and, though I have worked on this area extensively, I had begun to suspect there was much older “stuff” waiting still to be expressed and which remained locked up in my body as a result. As to what this emotion was, I couldn’t work out if it was sadness or some long-remembered pain I still carried; what was it? I never suspected anger…yet anger it was and this is how I found out.

For me, the clue came when all avenues lately pointed at my liver being tired-out. Not pathologically in trouble…I’ve had all that checked…but functionally exhausted, weary to the core; I can feel it is so, have (if I’m honest) sensed it for quite some time. My therapist, my thyroid test results (that point at an issue to do with converting T4 into T3), my blood tests, my dietary issues, my instincts…all roads seemed to point at this tired out liver. It had to be emotional and it felt like the last bastion of my healing process, like it was tired of holding something and that the need to detox this thing out of me could be the make or break moment of the whole process of healing I have been on for so long.

So it, at first, startled me when a friend pointed out that the liver is all about anger. Angry me? No…I’m the least angry person I know, such a gentle demeanor, all love and light, no fire in me at all these days (sometimes that feels like my very problem). So I denied it…at least for a time, but then the more I read into Ayurveda, the more it rang true. There was a level where I  could sense that I associated the fiery dosha, pitta, with anger and so, whenever the rebalancing of my doshas came into consideration and more pitta was required (I’ve been taking steps to do this through diet for the last few weeks) it’s as though my body recoils from the rising pitta in me just like I would from an angry voice…Then, I realised, this was not like I was afraid of this “anger” heat like something coming in at me from the outside of me, as such, but because I was afriad of my own anger being stoked up and then unleashed within me. It felt home-grown, like it was lurking at my very core, the lion in its den locked up and kept closely guarded by the side of me that holds no truck with anger.

Was I so very angry inside, was there still anger harboured in me (for, oh yes, I had my fair share of this in the past…over my first marriage, and over the loss of my mother to, ironically, liver cancer, amongst many other things). I thought I had dealt with all of this but had I really held them under lock and key? Did I fear that unleashing them again would harm me and (worse) others around me if I let it all out? Had I learned to keep it in check for too many years? Is this why a pre-menstrual episode these days could feel like I was wielding a force I could hardly control; a lid that wouldn’t stay on? And in turning that force inward, was I making myself wearier than I had ever felt before; like I could contain it no longer and was on my knees, barely able to function in a body that was failing me at every turn? Did I need to let the anger out to survive??

So here I was, feeling somewhat like that when I heard a a bang, some screams and sobbing outside my door this morning…and it turned out that a white haired woman lying oh-so-fragile in a pool of blood on the road just steps from my house (she could have been my mother) had been knocked over and then reversed over by a van leaving the “supermarket” opposite my house.

I call this shop a “supermarket” since apparently it isnt one; to this day, the owner denies  that it is anything more than a very small village shop…and yet those of us who took the time to look over the plans for the conversion of what used to me a miniscule post office selling greeting cards and stamps into something that is now so massive inside it has shopping trolleys parked up on the forecourt could see that a supermarket it most certainly is. And so, although I was hardly well-enough to cope at the time, I fought those plans for almost two years, pointing out (though it should surely have been obvious to anyone with half a gram of common sense) that a shop of this size was a nonsense in our village centre that has a 40mph speed limit, far too much traffic and very poor parking facilities. The forecourt of said shop is tiny and only allows for 3 vehicles to pull in facing towards the shop window…thus reverse out into the road, blindly, in spite of 40mph traffic and pedestrians on the pavement. The other (many) visitors to the shop park haphazardly all over the place in front of houses,  on pavements, against my windows, across driveways, creating blindspots for motorists and pedestrians alike. I outlined to the planners and local counsellors, at length, all the considerable hazards involved in allowing a shop of this scale to be created in a busy-residential spot such as this…I told them it was only a matter of time before someone would get seriously injured or killed if they went ahead. Yet my pleas were ignored and the plans were waved though by a local council that seemed to be fully taken-in by the soft soap of the shop owner. That pink bubble gum included his insistence (in spite of drawings to the contrary…) that the shop would be very small, stocked only by a few things delivered using his family car (not the huge lorries that now pull up day after day), that it required no shoping trolleys (ha!) and that “adequate” parking spaces parallel to the road (not at right angles to it) would be created, though of course they never were since there was no room. He also assured everyone who cared that no unsavoury behaviour would be attracted to his massively expanded shop…no youths or troublemakers in the evenings, no litter, no noise, no disturbance. What balony; things have never been the same since it opened 18 months ago, traffic is horrendous and I watch near-misses occur daily from the windows of my house.

In the space of just the last three weeks, my worse fears have been realised twice.  Last month, having just returned from holiday, we were woken to the sound of the shop window being ram-raided by youths in a stolen car who removed the cash machine. We were all shaken up by what was seen taking place and a night spent shivering on the pavement being interviewed by police.  Now, today…this white-haired woman lying on the road in a pool of blood twenty steps from my door. I watched as, for over two hours, she was tended to on the road (too difficult to move) and then in an ambulance before being taken to a hospital in the next county as she will apparently require reconstructive surgery to her arm, amongst other things as she was a mess. I heard the police say to the driver of the van “If she dies…” The van driver had apparently pulled out without double checking his mirrors. The woman, who had had no choice but to walk behind his huge vehicle to get to the shop door, wasnt even in his blind spot when he accelerated into and over her; he just didn’t look. The traffic was forced to stop when the police arrived although, until they did, huge heavy articulated vehicles continued to drive past her on the road, just two feet from her head as she lay sobbing in pain in a pool of her own blood. Once the road was closed, I witnessed angry and self-righteous behaviour from people held up in the cars; without any sensitivity to the situation.

Meanwhile I offered help though two wonderful women had taken practical matters in hand, talking to the woman reassuringly and making her comfortable without moving her until the ambulance arrived. It was like watching the worse kind of television drama right in front of my house and it took almost three hours until it was over. The irony was, like most people, yet perhaps more so than most in the circumstances of my last decade with my health issues going on, I thought I had created in my home somewhere safe to withdraw to, away from the harshest aspects of the world. Yet here, again, the more traumatic aspects of life seemed quite determined to come right to my door.

You might ask why…several hours later…am I just so bothered; after all, I wasn’t hurt, I didn’t even know the woman and yet I have felt close to tears yet fired with simmering rage about what happened to her all day long. I was forced to ask the same thing of myself…and this is where I started to gain some interesting answers; to draw some interesting dots between what had happened and other things like it in my life. I had noticed a pattern, you could say…and when these patterns arise out of the seeming randomness of our lives, there is usually something they want to say to us.

For it was a road traffic accident that, you could say, started this whole health journey for me because my back problems all began when I was run over when I was 21. I was knocked off my bike, sent flying over someones windscreen, by a man talking on his mobile phone whilst driving all those years ago and from there began the years of back pain around which the later episodes of chronic pain hung themselves like baubles on a christmas tree. He was never charged and I was unable to take action myself, having only just graduated from uni. I was offered just two sessions of physio on the NHS though the pain went on for years; and was unable to afford to pay for treatment myself until many years later.

By some strange twist of circumstance, a decade later my work involved taking witness statements for a legal firm that specialised in road traffic accidents, something I did for several years in a self-employed capacity. I had such a knack for this that they saved for me (and only me) all the cases that were “serious injury”: fatalities, lost limbs, complete loss of amenity etc. I would have to go into these conversations with a clear head and the aim of obtaining all the very finest details of what had happened; not only a descriptions of all practical circumstances of how the accident came about but also all the emotions, the terror, the reoccurring nightmares, the loss of livelihood, the loss (in some cases) of a spouse or a child, the loss of the will to live…the list goes on. Afterwards I had to dictate a coherent statement in the “first person” as though it was me speaking; and, indeed, it did all became terribly personal, as though I was living these experiences vicariously through all these people I spoke to day after day.

As you can imagine, it was a terrible thing for these people to have to talk about what they had been through though, for some, there came a release in having someone listen and they would inevitably end up using me as a sort-of counselling service too. The calls were meant to be entirely business like but mine were often very very long as I was not prepared to go into them being gung-ho and brutish or without showing the tenderness that these people so obviously required and deserved. So I would have them weeping and pouring things out to me, there would be long gulping pauses, there would be anger and despair…and I would never rush them through any of it, even if the interview ran well over time. Many thanked me for the help that I had been to them, the patience I had shown, for being the one person they had felt they could tell things they had never managed to tell another soul. Different stories with many different details are what I heard and yet, often (bizarrely) it was almost as though I was hearing the same story over and over again; the same mistakes, the carelessness of other people, the lack of tact or aftercare (especially from insurance companies and the like), the bad handling, the money-mindedness, the unsung heroes, the terribly pointless sadness of a life turned inside out in a single moment. It was easy to come away feeling shell-shocked and drained from re-hearing this one-story-many-stories over and over again, like I was a peg being hammered into the ground by the hopelessness of it all. Looking back, it was like a long slow process of acquiring second-hand PTSD as these accounts would colour my thoughts, my dreams, would affect me as I drove to work “seeing” road traffic accidents play out in my mind’s eye… were they real, a waking nightmare or was I having premonitions (I became unsure which…) I began to struggle with night driving, became horribly tense at the wheel, would break down at the end of a long day at work when I still had to get myself home yet felt too tired to turn on the ignition and negotiate the rush hour traffic. Slowly but surely, the nature of the interviews I was conducting got to me on top of everything else that I was going through, which was already such a lot.

Because at that time I was going through a divorce (possibly one of the most vitriolic and protracted ones I have ever heard about) and was trying to keep a roof over our heads for myself and my young daughter, who was only 4 or 5 at the time. After my divorce, money was unfeasibly tight and I was forced to accept a full-time job in the same office that supplied my statement work so I was doing a stressful 8 hours of that then coming home to do these interviews on the telephone in the evening…with my daughter sat in front of the TV in the next room. I would be so exhausted and emotionally drained by the time I got back to being an appropriate mother to her that I felt terribly guilty about that too…and then had to get some sleep (though I became an insomniac), get up early to get my daughter to a minder, commute to work and start the whole thing all over again the next day.

Half way through my time doing, basically, 2 stressful jobs my health began to unravel and the rest (as they say) is the history of the chronic health issues that I have had for the past 12 years. I continued working for over a year after I got sick and would drive to work in heavy traffic still “seeing” car accidents take place in my mind’s eye as I went along, feeling more and more like they were a premonition of something yet to happen. I was in a terrible state of adrenal fatigue; everything became too much for me and my health fell apart. Later, as my emotional health restabilised ( years after I had completely given up work altogether), the issues with driving receded and I got the joy of it back but I realise now that I never fully dealt with the internalised trauma that I buried inside of me at that time (the emotions surrounding the work I was doing all mixed up with my own personal emotions about the circumstances I was in). I saw also that my way of coping has been to withdraw from the world, avoiding trauma whilst sitting on the unresolved adrenal fatigue and all the pent-up emotions still locked inside my body.

Those emotions (though I have only recently come to know it) became a pit of frustration and disappointment with the human race (both versions of anger) and it just stayed there with the lid politely placed on top of it; deemed no longer relevent to my circumstances or my health since, on the surface of it, life was a lot smoother for me now. All that stuff was in the past, wasnt it…and yet its themes remained out there in the world, playing out on nearly every street corner, in the dubious behaviour of so many people, on the overcrowded and over speedy roads that take and destroy lives in a split moment while people concentrate on getting to their next meeting or to the next thing they are so desperate to consume. They play our as the decisions of people with bureaucratic power that affect whole communities and yet those bureaucrats don’t look at what is going on at the real-human level to see what impact their decisions have and no one ever seems to learn from mistakes or to redress the problems when they arise. It plays out as the ever more frenetic world that is steadily encroaching on everyone’s doorstep (like it or not and wherever you happen to live…it will get there sooner or later). We can’t afford to just watch and bury our feeling of discomfiture inside of us where they rot away unseen and undermine our own health; as I said above, we have to stop worrying about being so nice and let them out.

In this specific, my anger is that no one seems to listen or to care about the ordinary people who are affected the most when dubious planning decisions are made. No one is immune (not really) to these misguided behaviours that are rife everywhere and they are really ugly when they start to affect human lives in some really detrimental ways as I saw today. As I lift this lid, I find there is so much anger in me about the way people treat each other, anger at the way we dont listen to each other, how we walk on by, how we prioritise the bizarrest things. What I saw today was only one relatively minor example of it; though the fact these things are happening (increasingly) right outside my door tells me I can no longer ignore them and that I must deal with anything inside of me that prevents me from being able to cope with looking at them or roaring my opinion when it is called for. I cannot afford to make myself weak by stifling my feelings in such a way that they make me ineffectual (none of us can), allowing my health to fail because of carrying such a heavy burden of unexpressed opinion like a weight in my heart. All of this anger wanted to come up in me today…and you could still say, why write about it? How does this help? I hardly know yet. But it helps me enormously to let it out of my cells, to get it out from where it was only turning inward on my health and making me weaker; to allow it to have its say, to rant and rave, to not be the one who stands by and says “oh well never mind, these things happen”. Maybe its a sign that my pitta is, indeed, rising…and maybe it needed to for, without it, I wont survive but, rather, quietly fade away.

Women do this especially well; we tell ourselves we have to keep our unruly emotions in check and are almost too afraid to give them full rein in case we offend anyone or lose people’s good opinion but what if the release of those locked away emotions is the very power we seek or holds the key to our transformation; at the very least, our healing? For me, this wave of unleashed feelings is necessary for today at least…and I am letting it happen… and then tomorrow? Who knows how I will feel but I hope to find that something will have cleared through the mists as a result of this very necessary process of speaking my truth.  I hope that I am learning, at last, how to allow my heat to rise up in a way that fuels what is most positive and without burning myself or others. I hope that, in our own small way, we can all start to offload these emotional burdens from our deep-storage, fuelling something new through our truth and our energy; for  I suspect each small part of “emotional honesty” that we contribute to the whole plays a surprisingly key role in the way that we get to shape our future world together. Maybe, then, we all get to heal as a human race.




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