The story my hip needed to tell to heal
By Keneen Hope McNiven
“When inward tenderness finds the secret hurt, pain itself will crack the rock and AH! Let the soul emerge.” – Rumi
It was the sixth time in five years that I had moved. I lay crumpled on the edge of the old porch, unable to stand, surrounded by broken glass and cardboard boxes waiting to be loaded into the U-Haul. “Goddamn hip!” My left hip had declared mutiny and bailed out from under me. I collapsed and dishes shattered everywhere.
Previously, I had prided myself on how efficient, productive and busy I was compared to other widows I knew who succumbed to their grief, unable move on. I told myself that I was not a victim; I was determined to get back on my financial feet and carry on with my life. Five years earlier, in November 2006, my husband John died suddenly from an aneurysm. Our investments and financial future went with him to the grave.
As I lay frustrated and immobile on the porch, my breath came ragged and erratic as I found myself yielding to waves of rage. I screamed furious curses at God, John, the estate issues I inherited, my bereft bank account, and the betrayal of my useless hip. “God damn it! God damn it, GOD DAMN IT.” Tears followed as I surrendered to the accumulated losses and wept uncontrollably, “I CAN’T HANDLE THIS!”
It wasn’t the first time my hip had quit on me. Two doctors suggested surgery, but I was managing the pain and weakness with a team of bodyworkers. It became obvious, however, that there was still “unfinished business” lurking within my hip that undermined my recovery.
My fury spent, shame set aside, and now with genuine tenderness, I realized that I had been in a defensive pattern: too many moves in too short a time. I saw that my busyness and intentions to “get on with my life” had actually kept deeper feelings at bay, feelings that burrowed into my hip creating instability, weakness and pain.
My heart softened as I now turned with renewed curiosity toward the pain in my hip. I wanted to know the story my hip needed to tell, more than I needed to stick with my agenda to move that day. Inquiring more deeply into the pain I discovered that my hip felt fragile and brittle. Underlying these sensations was an intolerable leaky quality, as if the life substance had seeped out of my hip leaving a deflated, vacant hole. Breathing into the “hole,” a mysterious, warm, and supportive presence arose that infused my hip from the inside out, dissolving the fragile, brittle qualities. The wisdom within this arising, sacred presence revealed and exposed more layers of unaddressed issues within the fragmented fabric of my hip.
Despite my “can-do” attitude, I actually felt betrayed and abandoned by God, my husband, and my hip. Cracked open, I felt my grief and helplessness arise from within the painful tissues and I allowed them to wash through me, finally and without defense. Where there had been a psychic hole of un-metabolized issues resulting in a brittle, dysfunctional hip, there was now an unexpected sense of grace permeating and enlivening my hip and entire being. Rather than feeling abandoned I now felt lovingly held. As my heart relaxed open, the ashamed clench of the “abandoned widow” within slowly dissolved. Feeling encouraged, I brushed the glass shards off, cautiously stood up, and headed to the bathroom.
I was halfway there when my hip buckled again and I felt the bottom drop out as I went down in the hallway, my hip twitching and trembling involuntarily. As I lay shivering with cold and terror, a painful memory surfaced from my quivering hip:
It was early November 2006. John and I were enjoying our morning together when he suddenly gasped, his eyes rolled back in his head, and he slumped into my arms. He was over six feet tall and weighed 165 pounds. At that moment, frozen with shock, I could neither bear his weight nor let him fall. I felt myself start to buckle under his suddenly limp body, but somehow adrenaline kept me from going down too. Feeling conflicted, I knew I had to run and get help but I couldn’t leave him in this unconscious state either. Silently, my whole heart and being screamed from my depths, “OH MY GOD, I CAN’T HANDLE THIS!” but no sound left my lips at the time.
Lying on the floor outside the bathroom, I had just relived and released a flashback frozen both in time and within my hip: the moment of horror when my husband abruptly died and the bottom dropped out of my life. Despite my best efforts to put that day behind me, the trauma still lurked unresolved in my body. Now trusting my body’s instincts, I allowed the trembling, which eventually worked its way out, along with the buried trauma.
Exhausted and empowered all at the same time, my soul was deeply touched, as if by an act of Grace. The shame, pain and weakness in my hip seemed to melt away as the memory dissolved. I stood up carefully, my hip now feeling alive, supple and supportive again, went out to the porch, swept up the glass and then called my landlord to renew my lease.
Today I remain shame, pain and surgery-free. The betrayal of my rebellious “Goddamn hip” has become a portal to a more embodied expression of Grace and True Nature that continues to touch my soul, health, life, and work to this day.
Dr. Keneen Hope McNiven DC, owns Hope Chiropractic and Yoga in Durango, CO. With 35 years offering gentle and empowering Chiropractic, she has a sub-specialty in trauma and PTSD recovery caused by accidents, loss or abuse. Dr. Hope is an E-RYT 500-hour certified Anusara yoga teacher/therapist. For classes and trauma recovery workshops: 970.305.3239 or www.HopeChiroYoga.
Techniques to Accelerate Trauma Recovery
While trauma, grief and associated losses of health and wellbeing are complex, and take time to heal, they are not a life sentence. Trauma-informed books, workshops, therapists and bodyworkers are available to help you recover fully and live a peaceful, Graceful and pain-free life.
Trauma informed gentle Chiropractors are experts in helping a stuck body come back into presence. They are specifically trained to liberate the brain and nervous system from the interference of stress and pain from the past. Physical therapists, myofascial release massage therapists and cranial sacral experts, in addition to Chiropractors, have helped me heal a great deal.
Trauma informed yoga with a focus on alignment and breath can help reduce residues from the past that burden the body. Pain, stress, fatigue and sleep loss are replaced with ease, energy and an inner sense of peace and Grace.
Slow down and pay attention
It’s easy to bypass our pain or override our health challenges with busyness. The time I spent in a defensive pattern would have been better used to inquire into and embrace my pain, rather than run from it. When our bodies complain, they are trying to tell us something, and it is important to take the time to pay attention and listen.
Cultivate compassionate curiosity
As we allow, embrace and soften around any issue or health concern, our bodies begin to access the wisdom within. We become more transparent to the healing guidance of Grace. And thus guided, we are led to take appropriate action any given day.
Breathe presence into sensations
Use the breath to pay attention to, rather than reject, sensations. These may include, heat, numbness, a vacant quality, fragility, vulnerability, etc. Pain is biodynamic and changeable and may have several layers that shift and need distilling over time.
Allow emotional authenticity
The exact emotions that arise in relation to any pain or health challenge are often a clue to the layers of pain buried within. Sometimes anger or frustration are more defensive emotions to underlying fear, helplessness, aloneness or vulnerability. As we bring compassionate presence to these emotions and sensations the body begins to shift and release the trapped energy.
Liberate trapped sound and movement
As we sense and inquire into our pain or sensations, previously withheld sounds, words, movements or memories may surface that need expression. While the mind may object and attempt to rationalize, it’s our bodies that need to express these sounds or movements from the past, in a safe environment, either at home, or with a professional. Left unexpressed our bodies and psyches bear the burden or we act out inappropriately towards others. Some examples may include, 1) yelling if you couldn’t at the time, 2) pushing or shoving if you were held back 3) running if you were trapped 4) protecting yourself in any way, if you were unable to in the past.
Attend trauma recovery workshops and read related books. I recommend Dr. Peter Levine’s book In An Unspoken Voice, and The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk.