Womb Prints: Trauma and Pain Stored in the Womb (Part 2)

The womb space, like the rest of our body, acts as a messenger. It lets us know when it’s unhappy- when we’re unhappy. More than that, it lets us know if we feel safe- to express ourselves, to let go, to enjoy, or even to simply feel.  It lets us know when there is an emotional conflict or imbalance within us. The womb space is an energetic bowl or container, and like these vessels, it holds the ‘water’ of our emotions. It holds imprints of our emotional and relational history- what I like to call ‘womb prints’.

The womb and heart are connected, in that they are emotional and relational energy centres in the body. But they have their differences. The womb centre is more connected to our sexual, sensual, ‘animal’ self. It is instinctive and develops at an earlier stage of childhood. One could say that the material stored here can be buried a bit deeper in the unconscious than our heart’s wounds, which could have to do with cultural biases. I think the material we carry here is often related to childhood trauma, early attachment, and/or sexual trauma. Also, when we carry a baby in our womb, epigenetic studies have shown that the mother’s emotions and traumas can leave an imprint on the baby.

This post is ‘Part 2’ of ‘Womb Prints: What are you carrying in your womb space?’ which introduced the womb as container and asked us to investigate the nature of the emotional ‘water’ we are carrying in there through simple exercises.

In this post, we will go a little deeper into exploring possible scenarios and histories that can leave us with womb prints that can create unhealthy energy patterns and manifest as illness or physical symptoms. For me, this is an exploration, and an area of questioning and reflection. I am not an expert, just an observer and learner- from my own experience, those of others and books and articles on these topics.

I feel it’s important to note that my suggesting these correlations in the following scenarios does not mean that I believe every time we have a physical symptom or disease that a previous trauma or emotional wound is the cause. Even if it was, it should not negate the validity and physical nature of the illness- healing support must be accessible to patients. I don’t believe victim blaming does any good. Mental health and physical health should both be taken seriously. There are resonances, and observed connections between traumas, emotional pain and health. But do not misconstrue this with a victim blaming perspective that the physical pain or illness you experience is emotionally-driven hysteria, your fault for not being ‘well’ enough, nor that mental health is any less valid than physical health.  It seems these days there is a lot of misunderstanding between all these things, but that could be whole other post.

What I am talking about here is possible emotional + physical resonances. Curiosity about the relationships between our emotional experiences. Intergenerational legacies, past life experiences and our embodied experience. I believe body, mind, emotion and spirit are all connected and influence each other. But I don’t think it’s that important to assign ‘cause’ to one level of being, and ignore the others, because usually there is something  happening on all levels. Notice patterns, and let that inform the healing process.

For parents: we are human, and if we have passed down wounding to our offspring, guilt and shame are not very helpful. We must foremost take responsibility for our own healing and hold respect and love for our offspring. We do our best to take care of the next generation. We can only do our best in this moment. We take this awareness and decide what to do with it.

Now, let’s explore some possible scenarios that may resonate with the experience of pelvic pain, difficult periods, a womb health issue, or issues around fertility, pregnancy, birthing, sexual health issues or relationship issues.

Intergenerational womb trauma scenarios:

This can be something we experienced as a baby in our mother’s womb that left an imprint on us emotionally. So, it is intergenerational- passed down to us, ours through osmosis.

What if your mother suffered sexual assault or any type of abuse during her pregnancy? You may have absorbed the impact of this on her womb and internalised some of her fear and pain as your own. Now, perhaps you subconsciously fear men or sex. You may be unable to have your own fulfilling relationships due to mistrust. You begin to feel shame or guilt about this, and feel that something must be wrong with you. Nothing is wrong with you at all. You can’t help feeling this way, and it isn’t your fault. But there is a reason behind it and it had nothing to do with you. You picked it up in the womb from mom, and now experience life based on her trauma. This isn’t mom’s fault either, of course! It’s just the way that energy flows- like water, it flows downward until it is cleared.

What about our mothers or grandmothers who were pregnant during a war or political upheaval? Perhaps she didn’t know if she or the baby would survive, and lived in constant fear and anxiety. She may have not felt that it’s a good idea to bring a baby into the world. Maybe she gave birth in a very traumatic way or unsafe conditions. The impact of that leaves an imprint on baby. Baby grows up and is afraid of loud noises, lives in anxiety and doesn’t know why. As a grown-up they are experiencing infertility or are unable to carry a baby to term. There is an underlying trauma passed down affecting their life today. Again, not mom’s fault, or anyone’s. But the originating trauma creates a cascade effect that can go all the way down to great grandchildren and needs addressing in order for the pain to be healed.

Present-day womb trauma scenarios:

If intergenerational effects weren’t enough, we have plenty of ways our womb may be carrying pain from our own experiences in life. Rape-culture, oppression and governmental control over abortion rights are examples of social stresses that we may carry in our womb space. If we can’t feel free to dress or express ourselves without threat, live in a culture that normalises objectification of our bodies, or don’t feel we have the rights over our own bodies, how can we not have a womb space imbalance or womb health issues?

Our tender sensuality, sexuality and sense of body-sovereignty are contained within our womb-space- if that feels under threat in any way, it will recoil, contract, rebel or yell for our attention through symptoms of pain, illness or imbalance.

One more example of womb prints includes loss- Perhaps you have had a miscarriage or multiple miscarriages or a child loss in the past. You are actively trying to get pregnant and having difficulty. The imprint of your past losses is still being held energetically in your womb space, blocking the possibility of new life, because the pain isn’t fully processed yet. The grief may need to be processed, cleared and the womb space renewed before conception can occur. A pregnancy following such loss can feel challenging. You may not readily want to bond with the baby for fear of losing them. This can affect your relationship with them through life. It is important to be compassionate towards yourself, and perhaps seek support from a therapist in conjunction with embodiment work when there is trauma history such as this.

Childhood trauma scenario:

A childhood trauma can affect us in present-day intimacy issues in relationships. For example, a parent may have abandoned you and your family, leaving you to wonder if perhaps you are unlovable or it was somehow your fault? Perhaps you now attract partners who are emotionally unavailable or non-committal, triggering your abandonment fears. You crave a secure, loving attachment, but instead keep attracting abandonment, triggering your past trauma. There is an underlying feeling of shame and guilt inside you that manifests as perhaps low self-esteem and so you seek pleasure through casual sex to fill the void. It feels safer because it doesn’t go deep enough to trigger your abandonment. But it isn’t truly what you desire, so this conflict between wanting commitment and getting short term pleasure may try to get your attention through contracting STI’s or experiencing pain during sex. Your womb stores this deep desire, and lets you know through various symptoms that there’s a disconnect between what you really want and what you are seeking to fill the void.

As I explored in my previous post “Ancestral Trauma, Gifts & Wisdom- Healing Our Tree“,  I feel that my endometriosis is at least in part a manifestation of an energetic imprint from my family lines of women who suppressed their creativity, true desires and child-loss grief for too long, over too many generations, in the name of duty, the work that needed to be done, and to remain ‘good’ in the eyes of the church. Hard-working, faithful, ‘good catholic women’ who had many children, but didn’t have the freedom to live their truth. Perhaps I was one of them in a past life, or lived similarly. And now it’s time to change the pattern.

The symptoms, illness and the pain, are messengers of your deeper truth, which is longing for expression. Your unhealed wounds. Your inner child. The womb centre’s energy needs to flow. It needs to move. Its job is to help you process and release the past, and birth new ideas and creations into the world.

 

The examples above are just possibilities and there are a myriad of other scenarios of womb prints that block us from our flow.

I feel like there is a Part 3 coming on this subject, specifically to address healing, so I will leave this here for now and see what wants to be expressed on this topic later…

If you are reading this and interested in healing your womb space, please check out my offerings at Willowroot Healing Arts!

 

“I’m fine.” And other crap I told myself and others. My story in a nutshell.

It took about 10 years to get a proper diagnosis and treatment of my disease. That’s because it is not taken seriously enough. It’s been around since Ancient Egypt and affects 1 in 10 women. There are records of women (and even a few men) having this life-eating disease for thousands of years, and yet because it is a ‘women’s disease’- it doesn’t warrant too much investment.

I find it interesting in hindsight how the lack of seriousness and attention Endometriosis(http://endometriosisnetwork.com/information/understanding-endometriosis/)and Adenomyosis (https://www.vitalhealth.com/endometriosis-specialty-center/learn-about-endometriosis/what-is-endometriosis/) are given has made me think I was crazy. I thought I was just over-sensitive, or just deeply flawed and needed to just ‘suck it up’ and be quiet about the intense pain I was in. At first it was just during my period. I thought it was ‘normal’ to faint, to scream, cry and writhe through the night, to feel like a a man with steel toe boots was kicking my womb and back repeatedly for 2 days with 3 days of burning afterward, like a forest fire had just ravaged my insides. After pregnancy and lactation with my daughter was over, things got much worse. This is where the suspected adenomyosis kicked in, and the endo spread. Those few days extended into 3-5 more days of pain during ovulation, then 2-3 more days leading up to my period, then I had about 1 pain-free week a month. During my period I passed huge amounts of blood and clots, I could not leave the house for 2 days a month. Many times I was writhe in pain worse than childbirth and consider calling an ambulance but held back because I thought I was being ‘too dramatic’. Later I found out, many people go to emergency for much less.

My mantra to myself was always ‘I am fine’, ‘I am fine’, ‘I am fine’. Lies I told myself to get through that maybe helped in the short term but became harmful in the long term.

I was a yoga instructor for goodness sake. I thought ‘I know my body. I can handle this. I can breathe through it… calm thoughts. Affirmations: ‘I embrace my feminine nature’ ‘My womb is a sacred space of light and wellness’. Visualise the color blue. White light. The ocean.’ I drank raspberry leaf tea and other infusions every day. Ate a low-glycemic-vegan-gluten free diet for a year, got regular massages, took a ton of supplements, regular castor oil packs, meditation, shamanic healing, therapy, homeopathy, naturopaths, did all the natural stuff- you name it, I did it. And I did it with commitment and faith for 7 years.

But it wasn’t enough.

It helped. I had some successes from each thing. I heard many other women attest to the effectiveness of diet changes, herbs, etc. But for me, with severe, stage 4 disease, it was like pouring buckets of water on a raging forest fire. For a very structural disease, I needed structural help. I needed surgery. And I needed pharmaceutical support too.

I basically felt like an idiot for having un-realisitc beliefs and ideals about natural medicine. For having too much holistic pride and idealism to admit I needed mainstream medicine, and that surgery and birth control pills are the things I needed to give me my life back. I bought into the holistic health prophets with their miracle stories and overzealous notions. The notion that our body will always heal itself. That if it isn’t working, it’s because you aren’t doing it right. That my own negative thoughts and false beliefs caused my disease. But this isn’t true. I just was not one of the miracle stories. I had to admit and accept that NATURE IS NOT PERFECT, and that’s ok. Our bodies sometimes need ‘un-natural’ help, and that’s ok. Evolution has had only half as much time to perfect our reproductive organs as it has the rest of them. And for women, this complex system will take a long time to adapt and figure out how to keep the human race going. One would think that would warrant a further investment on the part of medicine. But I digress…

Back to my story…

Eventually my organs became so contorted and stuck together that I could not urinate or go to the bathroom without intense cramping and shooting pain, could not have intercourse without pain, could not even sit or walk or carry groceries anymore without pain. My relationship with my daughter and husband suffered, because I could not be my best self. My mental health was suffering. I could no longer do my favourite activities, one of which is bellydancing. I pushed through it sometimes, because I loved it so much. But at one point, I realised I had to stop, and finally take my body’s troubles seriously.

I was seeing my family doctor for ovarian cysts, which she was monitoring. She suspected endometriosis, but did not refer me to a specialist until it got really bad. I didn’t really like to complain about all I was going though. She offered me birth control pills, but I refused because the holistic health community I was a part of would unleash typical fear-mongering of all things unnatural and tell me it was a bad idea.

Basically, for 10 years, my pain and anguish was minimised, normalised, thought to be all in my head. Part of this is lack of information, lack of understanding and society’s perception of women. Part of this, I believe stems from women and the christian concept ‘original sin’ that permeates our culture. Women are meant to suffer. This belief pervades our culture and also the religion my family was brought up in, and therefore I internalised the message that:

Womanhood=Suffering.

And we make it ok by saying “I am fine”.

To ourselves, to others. So much that we believe it when it just isn’t so.

This is what I want to abolish. The message that patriarchy has given us- that we must suffer because we are women.

This messages has pervaded so much of the fabric of our lives that it has become completely normal. Invisible. Unnamed.

Welcome to my blog. It will be a compilation of personal experience, observations and questions relating to feminine embodiment- what does it mean to be embodied? What is the Sacred Feminine and how does it apply to me? What does my womb have to do with it? How does the experience of childbirth, motherhood, and pelvic/reproductive disease change my experience of being a woman in this world? What about sexual assault and trauma? My perspectives come from awareness of the interplay of mind, body, emotions, spirit, cosmos, society, oppression and The Great Mystery.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Womb Prints: What Are You Carrying in Your Womb Space? (Part 1)

The origin of the word ‘pelvis’ comes from the words: basin, container, goblet, vessel, bowl and cup in various languages. The pelvis contains our pelvic organs and has a bowl-like appearance. It holds, contains, carries and protects the tender organs inside, including the womb, and our other reproductive/sexual organs.

The ‘womb space’ is another way I refer to the womb and pelvic area in general- in an energetic sense. Not all of us have uteruses and ovaries, but we all have an energy centre here. Like the pelvic bowl holding and containing our tender organs, the womb space holds and contains our tender feelings, creativity and sexual urges. If we are pregnant, it holds, protects and interacts with the baby. In relationships, it holds the energy of the bond and its intimacy.. 

What I call the ‘womb space’ is akin to the Sacral Chakra in Yoga. In sanskrit, it’s called Svadhisthana, meaning ‘in one’s abode’. The element of this pelvic energy centre is water. The emotions and sexuality are synonymous with water, as fluids are released when we cry, give birth, menstruate, make love or orgasm.

So, our pelvic bowl/womb space are essentially holding ‘water’ energetically. This begs the question: What is the quality of this energetic ‘water’ we are holding? Is it murky, sludgy and in need of release? Is it hot, boiling and frustrated? Is it warm, luscious and sensual? Is it cold or frozen? Stagnant or flowing?

I ask myself these questions on a near daily basis- when I do my regular womb check-ins and my yoga practice. In the span of one day, I may get different feedback. I may have weeks or months of general stagnation, or frequent bouts of hot and boiling. Like the ocean, my womb flows in waves and cycles. And it definitely is attuned to the moon. If you menstruate, you may find your cyclical patterns to be more attuned to your hormones than the moon- everyone is different.

At some point in time, many of us may experience symptoms related to an imbalance or blocked energy in our womb space. This may manifest as:

  • Lack of inspiration/creativity
  • Sexual frustration or overdrive
  • Sexual disinterest or shutdown
  • Issues with emotional or sexual boundaries
  • Repeated toxic relationships
  • Guilt or shame around sexual orientation, gender, identity
  • Pelvic pain, cysts, disease
  • Painful, irregular or heavy periods
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Infertility, issues with pregnancy and birth
  • Low self-esteem
  • Frequent financial issues
  • Lower back pain
  • Unable to receive pleasure/ excessive pleasure-seeking

When we have symptoms of imbalance, we are likely carrying energetic ‘water’ that needs to flow or be cleared. We may have attachments to others that are toxic or unhealthy, or grief to let go of.  We may have had traumatic or negative experiences that left an energetic imprint on our womb (we will explore this in an upcoming blog on womb trauma), that we have yet to work through. We also may have an inner conflict that causes stress. 

How can we heal the womb space?

Each individual’s womb space is completely unique and requires a personalised approach to healing. There is no ‘one size fits all’ method. This is why I like to focus on one-on-one healing sessions.

But for starters, we can begin to just give ourselves the time and space on a regular basis to ‘check-in’ with ourselves. If we have any of those symptoms listed above, our womb has already been trying to get our attention.  

The best thing for it, it to give it that attention. I like to do a little check-in I call  ‘Womb Listening’ as part of my practice, and with clients. 

How to do ‘Womb Listening’:

Take a moment alone, in a peaceful environment. Lie down or sit comfortably, place your hands on your lower belly, and just breathe.

Slow down your mind, and just tune into your womb space. Some people like to play relaxing music in the background, or light incense or a candle. Do whatever makes you feel relaxed, calm and focused. 

Feel your hands resting on your belly, gently moving with the flow of your breath. It can be very subtle. Let your thoughts quiet. Think of your womb space as a wise, truthful, living entity of its own, that really wants to communicate with you.  Then ask your womb ‘what do you need right now?’

If you feel pain, allow for the pain to ‘speak’ and listen for an answer.

The womb space may not communicate through words, although you may ‘hear’ words- it also likes to move, bring an image to your mind, sing, or make sounds. Allow for it to communicate however it wishes to. Just be open to receiving it. Give it expression. 

Take in a deep breath and let whatever sounds that needs to come out, to come out on the exhale. Maybe it’s a big sigh, or an ‘ahhhh’ sound, or a grunt, yell or even a scream.

Maybe it wants a massage. Maybe it wants to shake, dance or to be completely still. Do you best to give it what it needs in the moment. Notice how doing that changes how you feel. 

Some people find automatic writing revealing. Hold a pen in one hand, and place the other on your womb, and let it speak through whatever words flow through you.

It may not happen right away. It may take days or weeks of practice, but eventually, it will speak and you will hear what it is trying to say. This is where the healing begins!

 

 

Ancestral trauma, gifts & wisdom: Healing our tree

My Memere passed away this past fall, just shy of her 99th birthday. She was my last living grandparent. Born in October 1919 in St.Leon, Manitoba, she gave birth to 6 children, one of which died as a baby. Her and my Pepere worked hard, making a life out of a stubborn plot of land through the harsh prairie winters. They hunted, fished, trapped and farmed more or less their whole lives, raised their kids, made the best life they could with what they had. They faced life’s challenges with a buoyant sense of humour, and devoted spiritual faith. They gave my mom life, and therefore made it possible for me to be here, and therefore my daughter, and so on.

When my grandma passed, I got a bunch of her old photographs, genealogical records, and some funny collages she put together. She was quite the scrap-booker. She was very thorough with recording every birth and important life details of her life, her ancestors and her descendants. On top of that, the church also has kept excellent records so I have a lot of info about my mother’s lineage. More on that later.

One of her writings I came upon made me think about a subject that is often on my mind, part of my own healing journey and the work I do. Intergenerational trauma, healing- and the sacred feminine.

I am not the best at french-english translation, but roughly, she speaks about how important recording our geneaology is. Because how else would we be able to know about our ancestors’ accomplishments, or their struggles? It also keeps us accountable. Once we have children, our name is remembered, and with that so are our faults and good qualities. Our actions have repercussions; You never know how your bad behaviours can manifest or what repercussions they may have; and equally, you never know just how far the good work you do will reach down the generations- all the work you did to make the leaves on the family tree beautiful to be enjoyed by those down the line.

You may have read the articles floating around about how on a biological level, we hold imprints of the memories of our grandmother simply from living in her womb. Our mother carried us as an egg in her ovaries while developing in grandma’s womb, and so, we were in grandma’s womb too. Our genes can mutate based on our foremothers’ experiences.

And so, we must ask ourselves, what are those imprints? What traumas and gifts are being passed down to us? And, are we making the family tree more beautiful and healthy with our actions in this life? Or are we weakening it?

The legacy of our ancestors includes traumas, but it also brings us gifts, and wisdom. We need to use the gifts we were passed down and the ones we cultivated ourselves, to heal ourselves and our line.

I have seen spiritual healers about my endometriosis and done my own spiritual investigations on it. For me, it’s a lot of past life imprinting and generational stuff passed down, rather than events from this life. There are studies that show that women with endometriosis often have a history of sexual abuse or assault.  One could argue that most women have this in their history- either their own or in their lineage, yet they don’t all have endo.  Endo also begins in utero, long before birth. There’s more to it than what happened to us in childhood. 

There are many health issues that are more likely to manifest when there is trauma history. As the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) test scores show, common illnesses we experience today are traced back to how many of these childhood traumas are in your background. My ACE score is fortunately, pretty low. But ACE tests don’t factor in past life stuff, nor intergenerational or collective wounds.

Most women struggle with their relationship with their femininity, or their reproductive organs in general, so perhaps not only personal trauma, but the collective feminine wound can manifest through illness in many of us.

To be clear: I don’t support the mindset of there being a spiritual cause of disease- because it does more damage than good to a lot of us- it negates the very structural, biological nature of the disease which is laid down in utero. We do not choose, or cause disease to happen. It happens to us, but our work is to heal it through whatever means we choose or have available.

Some schools of thought in our victim-blaming culture like to take these resonances between trauma and disease- which aren’t our fault, and assign them as emotional or spiritual causes which then puts shame and pressure on individual women to fix their ‘issues’ and ‘emotional problems’ because that’s the root of why they are sick. But blaming young women (endo shows up at puberty for many) for the personal traumas or collective wounds they may carry, or for simply having a physical disease does not help anything, in fact it does more harm. It gives the already patriarchal medical system an excuse to not take our disease seriously enough to invest in it, and feeds into the archaic yet common ‘female hysteria’ notions that I do not support in any way.

Trauma and illness are often connected, and I believe past lives and heritage can also be involved. But sometimes they aren’t and self-blame doesn’t do any good.  Personal responsibility for taking steps towards healing ourselves, and social & governmental responsibility for doing the research, funding, and giving us the supports and medicines required is key. We’re all in this together.

 Trauma and illness are things we must accept, and work through for those we leave the planet to after us- whether they are our blood descendants or the next generation. Because what we don’t heal, we pass down. And, if you believe in re-incarnation, you just might end up paying for your mistakes in your next life as your own great-granddaughter!

Healing ourselves heals those who came before and those who come after us.

Collectively, women are suffering. But they are also healing and shaking things up. Women are working together, now and through time, working on our own healing, and that of our foremothers.  We are collectively nourishing our trees by waking up to our own self-worth. We can’t spend our time blaming others, or blaming trauma as something outside ourselves. We need to take what we are given and work through it. We can only do our best with what we have at any given time. We need to be compassionate to ourselves, find the right supports and remember that our foremothers were resilient as f*ck and that’s why we are here!

I think about my great-grandmother- my memere’s mom- who had 16 children and several did not make it to adulthood. I think about the losses she felt and how that was imprinted on her womb, and on my memere’s, my mom’s, mine.

I think about her grandmother, who was of Ojibway-Scottish descent, born in Michigan, first married a Metis man and then a voyageur, and moved to LaFontaine on Georgian Bay, Ontario. She and her husband were part of a Metis settlement there. She later in old age picked up her life and moved to St.Leon Manitoba with one of her sons and died there in her 80s. She spoke french, english, cree and michif.  Her son continued to raise his children in Manitoba, a devout catholic, musician, a man with hope for the future.  I think about colonisation, and how it lives in my blood. Cultural and spiritual suppression and erasure, white-passing, internalised guilt and shame. My settler history- Scottish, English and French, their struggles, their ignorance, their racism (internalised and externalised), the things they did to survive. I have so many questions for them.

I think about the mothers fleeing war-torn countries while pregnant, and grandmothers who survived the Holocaust. Mothers who took their own lives, mothers and grandmothers’ silent struggles that we now can put a name to, and recognise.

I think about my Scottish great-grandma (pic below) on my dad’s side, born in Glengarry, ON. who died of Spanish flu at the age of 24, the very day her husband came back from the war, leaving their two young sons motherless. Her husband put his sons in an orphanage, because that’s what fathers did. He too, was raised in an orphanage with his brother because he lost his mother. Suspiciously, both his mother and his stepmother mysteriously disappeared. They have no death certificates. What kind of imprints did that leave on our tree?

Paternal great-grandparents Charles William Oakley and Sarah McGillivray

Nobody’s family tree is all light and love and thriving. We’ve all got some nasties eating away at the leaves, rotten roots, old, broken branches and maybe a parasite or two. Whatever tree we are part of, we can only do our best with the branches and roots we are given. How much energy we give is up to us. Some of us may feel the weight of a sick tree more than others. But we must remember that we are all connected- here and through time. And all our trees eventually connect, somewhere.

As for the Sacred Feminine, I feel that my body, my womb and my heart, holds grief that isn’t even mine. I feel the lost babies and supressed dreams of my foremothers- who were creative, wild, and spiritual, having to make the necessary sacrifices to survive in a patriarchal world and make it possible for me to be here. They obeyed their husbands, accepted their limitations, paid homage to God, the priest, the church, the establishment. They did what they had to do, and their faith got them through. They found things that brought them joy, levity, laughter and strength. I am grateful to their sacrifices which brought me life, and for their resourcefulness, independence, devotion and resilience too.

But my healing lies in reclaiming the wild, creative and spiritual lifeline that they left un-tended. Moving through the constricting pain, guilt, and shame that was passed down helped me very clearly know and appreciate my freedom, my sensuality and my shamanic, direct-to-source spiritual inclinations.  I am pruning the tree, to create pathways of freedom where there weren’t before. And I don’t do this alone. My whole generation does this with me.

 

There are roots I need to tend and cut, re-direct, water, and nourish. Over time, the tree may, hopefully change, so it’s healthier for my daughter, my nephews and all those of the generations to come.

 

 

 

I don’t get my period anymore and I love it…

I don’t get my period anymore and I love it…

That’s all I wanted to say.

Just joking. But really, it’s heavenly.

And no, I haven’t gone through natural menopause yet.

I am on continuous, very low estrogen birth control. And, it works for me right now. For my body, and all it’s been through, this was the best choice. No more flooding, clots, excruciating pain or passing-out. No more gut-wrenching elimination issues, painful cysts, etc.

Thanks to this medication, I was able to complete a 2-year, full time,            8-courses-per-semester college diploma. Something I wouldn’t have dreamed of getting through before. Sitting in an chair all day and eve, being that tired and that stressed out would never have been possible for me on top of everything else. But I did it, and did very well. I am tired and recovering now. But, with a sense of accomplishment.

I also finally got my full G drivers licence. I am not a fan of driving in Toronto, and prefer to walk when possible. But again, I would never have made it through that, with all the pain before. Another accomplishment.

I can lift weights again, and challenge my body more with intense workouts, sometimes.

I’ve been able to think about other things than my diet, my pain, my hot packs and my beloved Advil.

Without the overlapping rhythm of my hormonal cycle I am now more able to be more in tune with the lunar rhythms. I also feel more connected to my inner Wise Woman- a deep, stable inner strength and infinite power that only felt fleeting before.

I cherished moving through the phases of Maiden, Mother, Enchantress & Crone through each month. But, it was tumultuous and damaging to my body. So now, I enjoy it mainly on the psycho-spiritual level, through the moon phases from a more stable, reflective place within myself.

Most importantly, I can be a better mom and partner now. I can listen more intently to my daughter and be more present for her through her tween and teen years. My partner and I can be active and travel now. I hiked around Machu Picchu and trudged through the amazon jungle with him. We can be more spontaneous, and I feel much more free.

Yes, there are side effects and risks like with any medication. For me, they are manageable and worth the benefit right now. If I died of an extremely rare blood clot tomorrow, I would have died with no regrets. For some, this may not be the case. And it is every woman’s right to decide what’s best for her. Everyone is unique. And can change their mind, and know that what they feel they need now may change one day and that’s ok.

I will never shame anyone for the choices they make for their own health and well-being.

We all have our own healing journey.

As an advocate for living in tune with nature’s cycles, for womb-love, womb-health and being in touch our natural rhythms- it took me a long time to feel ok about getting back on the pill. My doctor recommended it when I was suffering but I politely declined as I pursued the all-natural route, determined to heal my disease this way. After all, there were a bunch of naturopaths and herbal product creators I found online that insisted it was doable, and preferable. I tried the diets- eating specific foods for each phase of my cycle, the endo diet, anti-inflammatory, vegan-low-, glycemic, paleo-ish. I followed each diligently for many months over several years.

I did herbal infusions and tinctures, homeopathy, bodywork, shamanic healing, energy healing, prayer, etc. All part of my healing path, and helped in their various ways. But my disease was quite advanced. And the root of the problem was still structural. Cells laid down in the wrong spot when I was forming as a fetus. Excess uterine-like tissue in places it didn’t belong, responding as it should to a healthy immune system attacking a foreign invader. My tissues were fighting a losing battle, and required the big guns.

Every menstrual cycle became a traumatsing roller-coaster ride. Like those old rickety ones that don’t feel safe. And it was constantly on the go, gradually wearing away at the tracks, the wheels, the cars, and falling apart.

The best thing for my body was to stop the menstrual roller coaster altogether. My expert surgeon performed an excision, the gold standard treatment to date for endometriosis. Afterward, he told me I had stage 4, very severe disease, and removed all he could. He strongly suggested I suppress my periods or the endo will likely grow back and I will be in another surgery in 5 years or less.

I tried a progestin-only medication which caused constant spotting and other issues, so I needed that bit of estrogen to stop it. Got a new prescription and success! And here I am almost 4 years later, and still pain free. My physio is happy with where my tissues are at, too.

I don’t have endo pain to talk about anymore. But, my relationship with my body is still a dynamic, ever-challenging thing. It is still my path of learning and growth.

But now I am more capable of helping others.

So I am here to help you too, if you need it.

My mission with Willowroot Healing Arts is to take all of my lessons and learning and help you navigate your unique journey. Supporting you with all I know, continue to learn, with fierce compassion and devotion.

I will continue to call out pill-shaming that I continue to encounter in the holistic health community. Capitalism and health don’t mix well, and while many practitioners point out the evils of ‘big pharma’- and yes, there’s lots to complain about- but there’s a lot of capitalistic lies and greed in holistic health business as well. On top of that, a general stance of shaming towards people who take pharmaceutical medication for their mental health, womb health, or just in general. How is this any better than being shamed for taking the natural route?

This attitude doesn’t uphold true wholism- if our mind, body, emotions and spirit are all integral aspects of our health and we are social beings- we need to take all of this into account- such as physical limitatons, social limitations, financial limitations, trauma history, privilege and equity issues, and focus on the most important thing to the client at this time. The more options, the better.

Also, I’m just not into shaming. Nor taking sides.

Sometimes people need something natural. Sometimes people need something pharmaceutical. Sometimes both, or different things at different times. Often, we don’t really even have a choice because of financial limitations, or other accessibility issues.

My wish would be that we could see the necessity of all branches of medicine and respect each other’s sincere desire to be well and make our own decisions based on our own experiences.

My path is not your path. But if your goal is to be well,  I will support you in that goal, taking whatever path you wish to take.

 

 

Being an empath- Illness, boundaries and the dark side…

I am an Empath. I am also a Highly Sensitive Person, and an Introvert. I had never heard of these terms growing up, and in this time now where labels and identity seem to have taken on much larger importance than ever, I was at first reluctant about calling myself what I am.

As though by labeling it, it either implies my essential nature is a like a disease, or that I am being self-important by implying I am a ‘victim’ of my spiritual gifts- thanks to how some people throw the term ‘empath’ around, it can sound like sort of a spiritual ego kind of label. Something that justifies me feeling sorry for myself because I attract selfish narcissists and there’s nothing to do about it but wallow in my lonely little room, crying for myself and for the world. Whatever.

Being me is none of those things, although having a cryfest every now and then is super healthy and I recommend it. And I have attracted people with narcissistic or selfish tendencies, but I have learned a lot from them. They are my greatest teachers. More on them later.

From my experience being sensitive, empathic, emotional, introverted and intuitive in a patriarchal society that values extroversion, superficiality, facts and rationality, emotional dissociation and competitive individualism, its hard for folks like us to feel like we belong, or have a place in this world.

My ‘gifts’ can also make me sick. Living in a big city, sometimes just taking public transit can sap every last bit of energy and sanity I have left. All it takes is one fight between strangers or being wedged in on a streetcar during rush hour on a hot summer day, picking up on all the emotions, thoughts, and smells around me to give me a headache, nausea or backache.

I have also had anger, jealousy and energetic vampirism all directed towards me by other people—and physical symptoms often arise shortly after.

20181019_140937It is hard being an empath, a highly sensitive person, and an introvert. It really is. Not only can it be hard to be accepted or function in society, we struggle on a daily basis carrying much more than our share of the emotional and energetic pain load- silently, invisibly. Some of us may even struggle with chronic pain, or our own trauma history, and never be quite sure if the pain we are carrying is ours, others’ or the collective’s. Perhaps its all three. 

I know that when in the throes of severe endometriosis pain I have had strong feelings of rage and grief stemming from what felt like hundreds of thousands of women through the generations, all over the world. Images of dead babies, women being raped and beaten, and of war came up, all trapped, living inside of me, begging to be heard. I could feel all of this inter-generational pain, anguish, grief, all this painful blood, inside of me– in a womb that’s had enough, that’s so done, yet screams because there isn’t enough screaming going on. Talk about overwhelm on all levels..

Being an empath can be hard but we are not victims! Being this way comes with responsibility- learning how to use it constructively rather than letting it destroy us.

We are gifted with a 6th sense- other than just feeling what others feel and knowing what they need- we can also get intuitive impressions of who wants to hurt us, and why. We can sense danger way ahead of time and avoid it.

I can feel when someone is angry with me. I also feel and ‘see’ their old childhood wound it stems from- I feel them and their pain- it’s crystal clear.  I find compassion for this person, for their wounds, and forgive. The next step then is to LET GO. That last part is the hardest for me- because the energy may have latched onto one of my existing wounds, or a physical weak spot. And shaking it requires some extra effort after forgiving and mentally letting go. Suggestions on this, to come..

The point is: We don’t need to carry others’ pain load on top of our own. Even if their stuff reminds us of our own, we must recognize that it’s not.  Just because I empathize with them does not mean I need to carry their troubles for them.

That’s right- we don’t need to rescue. Just because we can sense what someone needs, doesn’t mean we always need to fulfill those needs. We are only responsible for ourselves. We are responsible for creating our own life to the best of our ability. 

Sometimes the most kind, loving and helpful thing to do is to allow people to deal with 23632498_10159431570100212_3594777028949179900_otheir own issues. That’s their path of growth. We need to focus on our own stuff. That’s why I appreciate the ‘selfish’ people I’ve attracted in my life. They showed me that I needed to be a bit more like them. That my energy is my own and I choose how I want to spend it in this one precious life. Narcissists are ill and hurtful but they reflect back to us that if we focus on ourselves once in a while we can avoid being weighed down by others’ pain. And then, we will have more energy to pursue our dreams, passions and help people in more effective ways.

I spent my entire life carrying other people’s pain because I thought it was somehow my job, my responsibility, something I did since I was young to survive. Self-sacrifice is highly valued on my catholic side of the family. It is a virtue to be lovingly resentful. You’ll go to heaven if you suffer for others. Feel perpetually guilty and you’re a good person.

Truthfully, thanks to colonization, our society is built on these old, oppressive religious values. But, even the modern and ‘woke’ among us can fall into a judgmental, pontificating trap- if you aren’t vegan, eco-conscious, politically correct 100% of the time and super ethical, shame on you. You are a bad person. If you bottle-feed, raise your voice, or go to work all day, then you’re a bad mom.

The path of ‘compassion’ has a dark side. Caring deeply is fine, but carrying pain hurts and can make you resentful. Perhaps you want others to suffer along with you. You may wish to pull others down when they are happy, or judge and punish those who, in your eyes, have too much good or appear to live ‘selfishly’. But that’s not responsible or kind. It creates a negative spiral, and perpetuates pain. But pain can feel more comfortable than taking care of ourselves and being happy.

There’s someone suffering more than you, so how dare you be happy?

Look out for this underlying message- in your own mind, or in your environment.

For empaths, and for many moms, we often don’t need to be more ‘informed’ to feel the pains of the world. We feel the pain of the world deeply and self-sacrifice on a daily basis. We need to focus on healing our own wounds and protecting ourselves, so that we can give more to our family, and create a richer, happier life for our loved ones, friends, and clients without resentment.

For a long time I’d prefer to carry extra pain than to stand up for myself and draw boundaries, because that was way too scary. I feared total rejection and exile. Then slowly, since about age 30, I awakened to reality. My physical pain was getting terrible and emotionally I was very low.

I started asking myself: Why do I carry this resentment? Does this kindness and generosity go both ways? What am I getting out of this relationship? Where does this ‘need to be needed’ stem from? How come I feel drained after helping people, and how can I be a healer and mother without resentment?

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In this culture that doesn’t value emotional awareness, maturity, or self regulation, and rewards women for being self-sacrificing, those of us with the empathy tend to take on too much. Because we can. Because others sense that we can and are willing to. But we don’t have to suffer, we can choose not to take stuff on.

We can be happy and free while still being our genuine, sensitive selves. It just takes some work. And we will have to confront our fears about setting boundaries- remember, it’s often the kinder thing to do for others as well as yourself. When you are happy, you make it more possible for others to be.  

Here’s some stuff that helps me deal:

Be honest about how you feel with others, and set boundaries. Practice ahead of time how you will say ‘no’. This takes time and patience. Reward and encourage yourself when you face your fears and stand up for yourself. It is hard when you are the caretaker in a relationship. The other may get pissed off. But if they are meant to stick around, they will get over it, understand and respect you. If not, they never cared about you to begin with and aren’t worth the energy.

Invest in reciprocal, balanced relationships. Cut out or transmute unbalanced ones. Your energy is precious, don’t waste it.

Time alone in your own space– I do this daily to help me process and unwind.

Salt baths and showers– I find water very therapeutic. I add intention and visualization of all the gunk that isn’t mine being washed away and going down the drain.

Smudging/smoke clearing. I burn sage mostly, but other herbs such as juniper, rosemary or Palo Santo wood. Smoke clearing can help remove excess energy and static picked up from your environment. I have my own prayers that I do along with this.

Visualization: This can be used for cleansing and protection.

For cleansing: I often imagine standing in a flowing stream or river under a full moon. The light flows down through my head all the way to my feet and the water takes it away.

For protection: I like to imagine a bubble of light surrounding me. The color varies- sometimes I imagine black swirls of smoke to ward off really negative vibes. Some people may resonate with a wall, or stronger boundary.

Wearing protective crystal& symbols – such as smoky quartz, jet, a quartz programmed for protection, or any other crystal you resonate with as protective to you. You may also resonate with other symbols of strength and power, such as a sword, arrowhead, hammer, shell, shield, anchor, pentacle, Eye of Horus, Hamsa hand or spiritual symbol you resonate with.

-Cultivate and prioritize your own spiritual practice

Creative expression– write, draw, sing, dance, channel all those feelings!

Honor your uniqueness. Don’t feel guilty about being who you are, even though you are in the minority in a world that doesn’t celebrate you, see you, or understand you. You aren’t alone, and you have a well of inspiration, beauty and love inside you that is worth nurturing, and creatively manifesting. Don’t give up and keep doing you!

If you are not an empath yourself, but have a friend or loved one who seems to be, who listens intently to all your stories- show this person gratitude. Hold space for them to share with you, and make sure to reciprocate.

It may take time, and gentle prodding to get them to open up to you because they are so used to listening and may feel extra vulnerable when sharing. But they wish to be heard too. Be patient, and let them know you care, won’t judge and their words are safe with you.

Be well, and stay true my sensitive friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Ok to Sit This One Out. Choosing Your Battles..

For Type A’s, and those with chronic illness or mental health struggles: It’s ok to sit this one out. It’s ok to just walk away sometimes.

We don’t have to be all out, all the time. We don’t have to fight every battle we are invited to. We don’t have to prove ourselves to everyone who demands it, especially our own shadow. Sometimes we just need to be with our pain for a bit, or let it go. Do what we need to take care of our self.  

One of the most repeated lessons that comes up for me, is knowing when to fight and when to put down the sword.  Sometimes, we have no choice- for some people, especially those more oppressed and marginalised, battle is necessary for survival on a daily basis. And that can be exhausting. For some people, maybe the more Type B personality, or relatively healthy people who struggle with procrastination and lethargy-  good kick in the pants is the right thing.

But, often for those with chronic illness or mental health struggles- self-care is a matter of conserving much needed energy- and sometimes choosing not to fight is the best option.

It may not even be a fight or a battle- just something that requires a lot of our energy- and we need to check whether it is worth it or not. In the last few years, probably thanks to my chronic pain, and innate perfectionist, Type A nature, I am much more keenly aware of how I am spending my energy and whether it is worth it. My body usually tells me the answer through pain, fatigue, or just feeling ‘not myself’. For someone like me- who likes to be active, participate, experience life in as many ways possible, having chronic pain is a real bummer. And so is being an introvert, and a Highly Sensitive Person. Different parts of me are often at cross-purposes, and I need to make a lot of quick micro decisions to keep myself healthy and well. I am sure some of you can relate.

Asian woman with samurai sword on the nature

I find as I get older and wiser about myself, I note the things that use up a lot of energy, and the things that aren’t worth it. Perhaps you’ve heard of the ‘Spoon Theory‘…

The ‘Spoon Theory’ is an analogy those with chronic illness and mental health struggles use to describe to others the limited energy they have, and how going through the motions of simple daily tasks may exhaust and deplete them compared to an average person. It’s pretty simple- ‘spoons’ are a measurement of energy. Some people have more spoons than others. Each task throughout the day requires a certain number of spoons. Some of us run out earlier than others. Some tasks require more spoons for us than others. For one person, taking a shower and going grocery shopping takes up half the day’s spoons. For someone else, it barely makes a dent in the number of spoons for the day. They have plenty more spoons to spare.

Another example, someone may find 6 hours of sleep a night enough to replenish all their spoons. Often those of us with chronic illness/mental health struggles need at least 8 and often more.

Even if we don’t have a chronic illness, I think it is wise to be aware of where our energy goes on a regular basis and honor our own limitations. For instance, lately I have been paying more attention to the nature of my thoughts- I notice my mind has been very busy running around in all directions and how draining that is on my energy. I notice that when I dwell on negative thoughts- past, present or future oriented- it takes up a lot of spoons. So, I am experimenting with catching those negative/fearful thoughts early on- and if they are unproductive for me, I try to move that energy into a productive course of expression. I might do a breathing exercise or do calming visualisations if I am in public.  if I am home, beat my drum, write it out on paper. I also like to use aromatherapy or physical exercise to calm and ground myself. Often, I find my spoons get saved by doing these things.

What about political/social/spiritual/interpersonal conflicts? What about those battles we fight- for ourselves, for loved ones, for those people and causes we care about? Sometimes, it can be extremely draining to try to explain or educate someone on your point of view when you don’t have many spoons left. Especially if that person is highly unlikely to see things from a point of view other than their own and/or simply wants to fight with you for some personal reason. It can also be very depleting if something someone says triggers us, and we go into a deeply wounded place inside of us or have trauma flashbacks.

This can happen anytime, with anyone. It an happen in person with family or friends, or with friends or strangers online. Online is where things can get dicey- because we don’t have the nuances of face to face contact. For me, online conversations take way more spoons than face to face conversations. Because, trying to convey a thing in writing, in a way that is clear, takes more energy for me- and I value the physical and emotional impressions and connection that we glean in person or even through a phone conversation.

With family and loved ones, there are deeper, older strands of emotional baggage to move through, and that can take a whole day of spoons if we don’t know where our line is.

So, I try to check in and see if this activity or battle is worth engaging in. We can ask ourselves:

How many spoons do I have left right now?

Is this battle/activity worth it?

Is it a productive use of my energy?

Will saving some spoons now leave me more for a future time when I can deal with this more effectively?

Is now the best time to handle this?

Is there another option here I haven’t considered?

What would happen if this time I just walked away?

What would happen if I said that while I care deeply about this issue, or this person, right now I just don’t have the energy and that’s ok?

Give yourself permission to be strong yet passive. To care, but rest. To take care of it all by doing nothing.

To hide so you can replenish and emerge anew.

We don’t have to be all out, all the time. We don’t have to fight every battle we are invited to. We don’t have to prove ourselves to everyone who demands it, especially our own shadow. Sometimes we just need to be with our pain for a bit, or let it go. Do what we need to take care of our self.  

My mantra is to be kind to myself. Its simple but it saves me spoons.