by Amanda Blain
Back in November, I noticed that the lymph node beneath my right mandible was enlarged. It was double the size of a large grape. This discovery was made just a few days after feeling my entire energetic system crash and a deep achiness beneath my chin.
On a physical pain scale, the achiness was a 6, but it was accompanied by the exhaustion of being overburdened, the agony of being unsupported, and a very old familiar feeling of personal irrelevance.
My intuition told me to stop working, to slow down, to remove all distractions, and to rest my awareness with my own being. I knew that a current of old, suppressed, emotional pain was springing forth for release.
I have been engaged in a personal healing journey since 2012. First, I healed the viral belief systems that had plagued my mind for so long. Beliefs such as, "I've got to fit society's model for achievement in order to be happy," and "I need to have this, and that, in order to feel complete," and "There's always a clear 'right' and 'wrong' in life."
In this phase of transitioning into a more authentic existence, I often sang these words from a song by my favorite band (Phish):
"I've been waiting for the time that I can finally say, 'this has all been wonderful, now I'm on my way.'"
In 2014, I returned to the United States after serving in the Peace Corps in South Africa. I had been sent home with severe asthma (which I had never had before). The Western doctors had prescribed me two types of medication - neither of which did anything to heal the respiratory condition. My intuition told me to quit taking the medication because my condition was caused by emotional stress, which could not be treated by the medication they prescribed.
A body-centered psychotherapist entered my life, and we began peeling the onion on my fear of not being accepted, my fear of not belonging, and my fear of not being good enough - fears I'd carried with me since childhood. Gradually, the asthmatic symptoms diminished - completely as I released these social fears from my nervous system. It became apparent that it was all this fear that had been making it feel impossible to breathe, to take in new life, to fully participate in life.
PTSD and Relationship Challenges
My enthusiasm for life and human connection reemerged. For the first time in five years, I started dating someone. Everything felt magical in the beginning, but as we grew closer, my inner alarm bells started whistling at the most inopportune times - like when being invited to meet his friends or family, or when he was affectionate in public, and especially when we were alone during physical intimacy. I was completely confused by this involuntary behavior. I knew he was someone I could trust, but my nervous system responded to his advances as if he were a threat or intruder.
It was maddening - to have the conscious desire to behave with openness, to participate in love like a "normal" couple, to let myself be fully in something, and then out of nowhere I involuntarily slam the door in intimacy's face when it comes knocking at my heart. I had no answers for this, and that was even more maddening. After all that I had learned and experienced in my healing journey, how could I have no answers?
I tried to train myself just to walk past the uncomfortable moments in which my nervous system seemed like it wanted to run away from him. I tried forcing myself to stay still when every cell in my body was begging me to flee the situation. But when I did, memories of the past flooded my mind. I no longer existed with him in the present moment. He was no longer my loving boyfriend. He had taken the form of someone from my past, robbing my innocence, shaming me to a level of disgust that it seemed impossible to remain alive inside of my body. The only thing I could do was freeze, or collapse and submit - to literally become dead on the inside.
These episodes persisted for several weeks before I had to accept that I had not yet overcome my traumatic past. As much as I tried to conceptualize things spiritually, and to forgive past offenders, my body was still haunted by the events. My brain and nervous system were hardwired for hypervigilance, working to protect me from the next threat, to ensure that I would always be safe.
This system of defense was now wreaking havoc on my personal relationship with my boyfriend who was the most patient, empathetic, pure-spirited partner I'd ever had. So while my brain and nervous system were working for my well-being, what I was experiencing was the destruction of authentic love, and there was seemingly nothing I could do about it.
Talk therapy could not come close to training my nervous system to support my conscious desires. Body-centered psychotherapy helped to an extent, but my body triggers did not happen during a therapy session, they happened at home, behind closed doors, in private moments with my partner, where the present moment would vanish from my reality and I became trapped inside of a traumatic flashback, from which no one - including myself -could bring me back.
There was no emotional release, no elation, no endorphin boost, just a feeling of going through the motions like a robot with no access to my human nature.
Each episode was followed by a bout of rage, social withdrawal, and dissociative behavior to help me numb out of the confusion and anguish. Yoga had always been a therapeutic practice for me, helping me slow down and get present. But suddenly holding postures became futile. I could physically go deep into a pose, but all I felt there was lifelessness and emptiness - like my spirit was hollow. There was no emotional release, no elation, no endorphin boost, just a feeling of going through the motions like a robot with no access to my human nature.
Everything the wellness world threw at me to put a bandage on my suffering was a lost cause. Maybe this was it. Maybe I was not born for deep connections. Maybe I was only wired for friendship and not for partnership. Maybe the amazing man I had spent the past few years with was deserving of someone else who had a perfect life and could easily be the partner he deserved to have by his side.
I urged him repeatedly, "You should move on. I will understand. I want you to be happy. I can't ask you to be patient with me because I don't know if this will ever change, and I will not make you live with this. It's hard enough that I have to live with it. Be happy. Be free."
He never budged. "We're in this together. I want to be with you," he'd say.
Behind his words, every time he spoke them, I could feel how much he believed in me. He saw a strength and healing ability within me that I had quit seeing in myself. The PTSD symptoms had diminished my confidence by this point. I was so humiliated by the unpredictability of my condition.
As I began to feel confident, like I had finally transcended it all, BAM! The next phase of triggers and flashbacks and mood swings would come, and I felt even more demoralized than the time before.
Sometimes, he and I would have an amazing few weeks of connection, feeling closer than we ever had. As I began to feel confident, like I had finally transcended it all, BAM! The next phase of triggers and flashbacks and mood swings would come, and I felt even more demoralized than the time before. I had quit getting my hopes up that there was an end in sight. What was the use?
I was willing to accept my condition and learn how to live with it, but I would do so independently, so I never had to make my baggage someone else's experience. Everyone deserved to be happy. The fact that my happiness was destined for limitation should not limit someone else's - especially not his - because he was so pure-hearted. He deserved someone just as pure.
The personal hell of unworthiness that a person with PTSD suffers from is of an indescribable magnitude. It is a miracle every time someone with this condition decides to live another day, because they are literally waking up to endure a war within themselves that no one else can ever fully comprehend.
Living with PTSD means being judged and shamed for your unintentional behavior, being misunderstood by your loved ones, and being passed around by mental health professionals, many of which have never faced their own demons and thereby cannot empathize with your experience. Living with PTSD means being looked at as a misfortune instead of seen for your light. As shocking, aggravating, and burdening as this condition can be for the people who want to be close to you, the most painful part is your own sense of self-shame and rejection.
An Unexpected Healing Path
This was my life. And then I discovered Primal Vinyasa®. I fell in love with this system of movement because it was the only thing at the time that helped me feel totally alert and simultaneously safe inside of my body. I decided to become a certified instructor, not knowing that this was a trauma-informed movement system.
Throughout the training, I received in-depth education on how a traumatized brain and nervous system behave. It was such a relief to understand my condition on this deep level. I felt resourced for the first time in years. I learned how to activate my body to rewire my physiological processes, and how to create coherence between my brain and nervous system.
I began balancing the hormones that had been disrupted by trauma. My flashbacks and triggers were becoming more infrequent. And now, when they happen, I have learned how to be with them from a loving place, how to integrate them into the love of my soul, rather than spiraling into self-shame, and feeling enslaved by PTSD.
It has been such a long journey, but I finally found peace and empowerment with it all. So imagine my shock when I discovered the enlarged lymph node back in November.
Am I Dying?
A few weeks after discovering the first one on my right side, a lymph node on my left side also became inflamed. It was larger than a large grape. I had no symptoms of being sick with fever or infection. I was told by doctors that if they remained enlarged for more than two weeks, they must be removed for biopsy - a procedure which would require two incisions under my chin, to fully remove each inflamed node.
November and December passed, and the nodes were still enlarged. I scheduled the necessary appointment to move things forward. The earliest I could get in was February 1.
Most of January flew by. As of last weekend, the nodes were still enlarged.
I don't have any fight left in me. If I am sick, I will surrender and allow my soul to enter its next journey.
"Maybe it's my time," I thought. "My life has been such a struggle for safety and stability, and now that I have finally achieved some inner calm, a sickness comes? I don't have any fight left in me. If I am sick, I will surrender and allow my soul to enter its next journey. I just don't have it in me."
As I surrendered to the possibility of death, I began detaching from some of the trivial cares and concerns that were still rattling around inside of me. My perspectives on my life, on the human experience, and of right vs. wrong began to shift.
"Maybe my soul has somewhere else it wishes to be," I considered.
"Maybe I can better serve the whole from a different dimension," I opened up to this possibility.
"Maybe everything I wished to anchor on this planet with my life's walk will be better anchored by my departure," I had felt this to be true of others - so maybe it would also prove true of myself?
"Maybe my partner can finally be free to be with someone who will never have an inconvenient PTSD trigger," my ego tried to infiltrate the situation.
Intervention of the Soul
I oscillated between full acceptance of my impending exit from the planet and total confusion of how I could be physically sick after all the triumphs I had created with personal healing. Then, last Saturday, I felt the spirit of my late great mentor, David Patient.
David was a troubled soul early in life. He felt completely unloved and had intended to take his own life numerous times. The last time he intended to off himself was shortly after being told he had an immune-deficiency disease that would surely kill him in about six months. The disease later came to be known as HIV/AIDS.
Rather than let the disease kill him, David figured he'd get it over with by jumping off the top of a mountain. But once he climbed to the top, something shifted, and he realized he actually - for the first time in his life - wanted to live. Here he was, with the perfect easy-out for a burdened soul - being diagnosed with a disease that was quickly killing many of his own friends, and he was choosing to fully be here.
This story came flooding to my mind, as I stood before the affirmation wall in my bedroom. The words, "I choose to be FULLY here" stared me back in the face.
I dropped to my knees and began sobbing. I had countless flashbacks of David empowering South African communities, "The first thing you've got to do is decide that you really want to be here," implying that there is nothing in the world that can save your life if you're not fully in for that journey.
If there is anything my healing journey has taught me it's that truth lives where shame doesn't.
His wisdom also implied that there is nothing wrong with the decision to not be here. Not everyone's path is intended to be the same. If there is anything my healing journey has taught me it's that truth lives where shame doesn't.
I sobbed in reverence of David's journey. I sobbed for the conviction of his commitment to live, and his power to turn a medical death sentence into 34 more years of spunky life full of global humanitarian service.
My body trembled as something inside of me cracked. Tears streamed down my face, softly melting onto the floor upon which I sat. As softly as the tears melted, a voice came into my awareness.
It was a tender, yet strong feminine voice that I felt as my very own soul. "You are supported either way you go. But you do have a choice right now. Do you want to be here?"
She had no energy remaining to reach for life at all. She was tired. She was ready to go home.
I let out a guttural sound as a waterfall of tears pooled onto the floor. An aspect of my human identity arose from within me, revealing that, for most of my life, she had wanted nothing more than to escape her burdensome existence. Every time she had put her trust in life, she was gutted by betrayal, disappointment, and trauma. There was no faith and truth left in her. She had no energy remaining to reach for life at all. She was tired. She was ready to go home.
The sobbing continued as I melded with this aspect of myself. Allowing her anguish to finally be felt, seen, heard, and acknowledged. Allowing the love of my soul to hold the pain of her broken heart.
A new energy later emerged; its name was "Support."
Suddenly I was flooded with all these recent memories of Support showing up for me in times when I had least expected it. In times when I had asked no one for help and told no one that I was in need.
The tender voice of my soul spoke, "Your path is supported. But you have to choose."
It was now so clear: my current situation is not one of allowing the cards to fall as they may. I can consciously steer this in any direction I choose. I still have time to do so. This is not always the circumstance in our lives. This is a rare and unique opportunity.
...the anguished aspect of my human identity - the part too forlorn to reach for life again, too damaged to place her trust in anything, too defeated to give energy to another desire.
I received this message, still cradling the anguished aspect of my human identity - the part too forlorn to reach for life again, too damaged to place her trust in anything, too defeated to give energy to another desire.
Support penetrated my energy field and stayed with me as I cradled this aspect of myself that had no fight left in her. We remained like this for some time until an ethereal wind blew, melding Support, my soul, and this anguished aspect of my identity into a unified consciousness.
"I choose to be here." The words reverberated throughout my physical body and energy field. I experienced dizziness as the magnetics within my being reorganized and the fragmented parts of my psyche, body, and soul integrated into a state of total coherence.
Less than one hour later, I assessed the size of my lymph nodes. I was astonished to find that the right lymph node had reduced in size by about 75%. Still larger than normal, but an uncanny improvement in such a short amount of time. The left node had also reduced in size slightly.
Death and Transition
Over this past week, my lymph nodes fluctuated in size, but gradually reduced overall. During this time, I had two dreams in which people close to me were dying. I was sobbing in the dreams, releasing more grief and despair - the same kind of emotion I released last Saturday during my soul's intervention.
On Thursday morning, I received the most devastating phone call one could ever imagine. One of my friends had ended his fight with anxiety and chosen to take his own life.
I have spent the past few days in denial, feeling guilt for not being able to intervene, and sobbing over the physical absence of one of the purest energies I have ever felt in another human being. His departure has triggered the release of older grief that I had no idea I was still carrying. As the grief continues to purge from my being, the lymph nodes continue to decrease in size.
He was ready to be on his way, and there was nothing I could do. It was not my place to block his transition for my own interest of keeping him in his human identity to remain here with us.
Last night, I fell into a dream in which my departed friend was in the top room of a house, close to the heavens. I ran to the room and tried to convince him to stay. But he was at peace, and there was a knowing that his next journey was ready to take flight. He was ready to be on his way, and there was nothing I could do. It was not my place to block his transition for my own interest of keeping him in his human identity to remain here with us.
I awoke from the dream, tears flowing. "His soul had somewhere else to be," I realized.
"He can better serve the whole from a different dimension," it felt so true.
"Everything he wished to anchor on this planet with his life's walk will continue to be anchored - even in his departure."
I got an intuitive nudge to check my lymph nodes. Both sides have drastically reduced, almost down to a healthy normal.
As my soul cradles and integrates my grief, as my perspectives expand beyond viral beliefs in right vs. wrong, and as I sense Support here for all of us (whichever way we choose) my burdened identity ceases to exist, as I continue to walk among you, healthful in psyche, body, and soul.
A few hours ago I received a photo of the last note my friend wrote before his soul transitioned. It read:
"This has all been wonderful, but now I'm on my way."
Just like in my dream last night, he was ready for his next journey. The vibrational imprint of light that he has forever seeded within our hearts, and the emotional purge of old, stuck energy that his departure has catalyzed for those who love him, are the unusual gifts of healing that only a soul so pure could have offered.
May we all feel, sense, and know the love from which we are made, and the love to which we always return.
Journey peacefully, my sweet, sweet friend.