I’ve learned recently (for reasons I won’t go into here) about exposure therapy. With some mental disorders, it is better for the patient to confront his fear and live with it, no matter how anxiety-provoking, than to avoid it. I’ve been exposing myself to more these days.
For the first few months of grief, I was so closed up. I wore longsleeved shirts when I went out this summer, because they felt like a layer of armor against people’s discomfort, their kindness, their energy. I was so physically tense that I would creak myself out of bed and hobble down the stairs. I stopped dreaming for the few hours that I slept. I was uncomfortable and/or numb, but living this way made me feel safe.
Opening myself up has been a months-long process. I’ve taken baby steps–I received a few manipulation treatments from the acupuncturist to soften the stiffness, I ventured to the farmers market on Saturdays, and so on, until I went to yoga.
I’ve been going to yoga a lot in the past week. I’m out of shape and not as flexible as I used to be and heavier than I used to be. But that doesn’t frustrate me. I know that I can do what I can do today. I used to be able to do more. I probably will do more, someday. But today, this is what I can do. This, of course, is how I live my life these days. I am humbled and chastened but I haven’t been defeated. Yoga is so gentle, so forgiving. It takes this crumpled body and mind of mine and pushes the body without pressuring it, focuses the mind without frightening it.
In reading up on yoga this week, I learned more about integrative yoga, which is a treatment suited for trauma survivors. I sat through some guided meditations on my own. I am surprised by how amenable I am to meditation. The thoughts come. So many thoughts come. Some are mundane. Some are ruthless in their horror. I don’t shy away. I don’t stop. I think those thoughts, see those visions, then I move back to my breath.
It isn’t always easy. It is sometimes scary and appalling. But the thoughts aren’t going away. I am ready to face them now, so I expose myself to them, knowing that there is gentleness and quiet strength to support me.