This blog post was originally posted on 10/10/2019 on the blog under our previous brand, Grand Rapids Healing Yoga. We hope you continue to find the insights offered here to be both fruitful and restorative.
Written by Raechel Morrow
In 1996, I was fifteen years old. On the second day of school, my mother was killed tragically during her morning jog. Feelings of profound sorrow, fear, and heartache were present. I remained by pressing on, dissociating from my emotions and body. Back then, we understood very little about trauma and PTSD. After her death, I experienced dread that I could not be in my body. I now realize I was experiencing traumatic symptoms that my entire being could not process. By sixteen, I had learned to cope and escape the trauma symptoms through an eating disorder. For twelve years, every time the fear came back, so did the eating disorder and the shame associated with the behaviors of disconnection.
Telling my story is difficult. However, it allows for the expanded opportunity for connection. The shame of disconnection held me back for many years. I could never move back. At a time, I locked my shame so far away, so no one could see. I did not know myself, let alone have a relationship with myself. I now recognize the influence of sharing stories. In this bite-sized world of social media, we share only specific features from our life to share. Our Instagram feeds and Facebook walls show all the beautiful features and achievements. However, our resumes and deliberately staged selfies only express half of the story.
Here is my whole story. In my early twenties, I developed into a social worker. I felt a deep tenderness for people in hardship and wanted to eradicate it for them and me. The paradox is I had the license for tending for the emotional and mental health well-being of others with-out any practice on how to take care of myself. I had limited awareness of my internal experience and patterns. I craved so desperately to support. I did not know how to go near my pain and fear. Therefore, I could not be present for anybody else.
Deep below the artificial layers lived a dense armor of shame. I would let no one in. I had one failed marriage at twenty-two, and then I worked harder at distracting myself by trying to fix pain for others. My efforts served as a selfish distraction that served my ego. I experienced a pattern of burn-out or compassion fatigue every few years. I did not recognize my value nor feel my right to care and pleasure.
However minor, change was developing with each burn-out. I would understand a little better about what I needed to do to care for myself. Self-care is entirely unique for each individual. For me, flowing from a strict running regime into a yoga practice my body started coming alive. Yoga opened the inquiry about the disconnection I experienced living in my body. Through yoga, I received hope in my body. It is a practice of care. What I appreciate now is that some yoga can contribute to your mind into a neutral state. Therefore, I had awareness instead of the usual shame. This helped me process what I was feeling and carrying in my subconscious. I could interact with my body lovingly and compassionately if the instructor invited us to do so.
I sought professional help many times during those early years for my eating disorder. I would leave groups, treatment, and therapy feeling broken, hopeless, and full of shame. Not at all, how I felt about myself. The talk was always about the symptoms and behaviors. Since we experience the world and our emotions through our bodies, no one could teach me how to regulate, express, and process feelings in my body. Because of this, it intertwined my body image with shame. Self-hatred and self-loathing were lodged in my body. Yoga and my work were ways I could move the energy out in a healthy direction with awareness. Group and private therapy made me feel broken and less capable.
We dislike talking about our shame. It is hard. It is uncomfortable. More than anything, it is painful. As a result, it is natural to shy away from vulnerability and openness about our shame. However, that is what we must do. I began seeking education and experiences that allowed me to experience more awareness about my disconnection and shame. When I touched those places and healed them within myself, there was never any question that I would do any other professional work after that. I was no longer a social worker, a wellness professional, or a yoga instructor. I would hold space for reclaiming and transformation. A conduit for the inner knowing.
I cannot change my past; I missed out on many opportunities. I cannot make painful situations go away. I could not cut off painful parts of myself and replace them with something else. What I could and would do is the inner work required to reduce the impact and expand my capacity for resilience in the face of painful life experiences. Year after year, I used my body compassionately as a tool to connect to my heart. I embodied compassion and strength, a way of being in my world. When there is an embodiment, it is in everything and therefore became my career. For all my struggle with burn-out and authenticity in my twenties and early thirties, now my work flowed naturally.
I know from my own direct experience, healing requires going deeper, beyond the symptoms, to our inner world, where we must become acquainted with ourselves. I was never interested in modalities that compartmentalize and superficially treated a person. I encountered enough of that myself. The transformation process is an inquiry of Self and discovery, taking into account the unique nature of the individual.
My work allows for a conversation with the body. The heart of healing shame and disconnection for me is turning inward toward pain and nurturing our capacity to relate to ourselves with a sense of inquiry, kindness, and care. I now use my body as a source of wisdom and hold space for the same with others.
My life has been an exploration, which I am a student. All parts of me get to be present in my life. I make movements toward wholeness—which must include the light and beauty and the dark and imperfect.
This is why I do what I do. This is the other half of my story. We can take our trauma to make it a part of who you have come to be. Moving towards and forging meaning in our lives makes our traumas not right but sacred. My trauma teaches me love, compassion, and a knowing of deep contentment. It is my greatest wound and my most significant achievement. Today, I feel genuinely called to create space for others to discover their own stories.
Now it’s your turn, tell me your story.