It is day three and it is the last 15 minutes of our first episode. Excited to see what happens?
Here is the scene. Patients A, B, and C walk into a large room with a circle of chairs. There are a bunch of interesting looking strangers and a wise old frumpy looking psychologist all seated and waiting.
The first few minutes is a guided meditation. Our valiant and wounded patients are asked to write down what thought, story or narrative kept intruding on their meditative state.
The next few minutes are a guided movement practice. Everyone is asked to draw their experience on a Somato-Map – an outline of a body. Each participant draws or scribbles where they felt the most tension, pain, or nervous energy or lack of connection to their body.
After that, our wise Elder talks about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) and walks the group through a rough childhood from birth to becoming an autonomous adult. There are a lot of nodding heads and a few tear-filled eyes.
Patient A loved the meditation and found their only thoughts were about what else they were going to do that day to win the Autoimmune war within their body. Their Somato-map was pretty clear. Scribbles up and down their spine and knees were about the pain. A little spiral at their throat and what look like wristbands came out of nowhere.
The conversation about child trauma was hard. Patient A grew up in an impatient, judgemental and hyper-responsible home. No violence, addiction or mental illness to speak of. Just the need to get it right.
Patient B found being surrounded by strangers a little distracting but enjoyed the meditation. Their thoughts kept going back to the consequences of not fixing their physiology and getting all of this right. Their Somato-Map showed chronic neck and shoulder tension with a line across the middle of their abdomen and a big X on their pelvis. Patient B could barely feel their diaphragm and had no connection with their instinctual or sexual aliveness.
The conversation about child trauma made them cry. Patient B grew up in dangerous neighborhood. There was violence on the streets an in their house. Addiction was a family tradition but never took over their lives. An us vs them mentality was so imprinted on their family that they went off to fight and kill strangers that were supposed to be evil. Patient B wanted to run around in circles and scream and scream but managed to stay in control.
Patient C found the meditation to be like surfing the channels at 3:00 am. Their attention kept leaping to other places to be, other more useful things they could do and especially all they ways they could numb. Their wrote down, ‘My narrative is what fun can I have after this BS was over. The movement practice was fun and distracting until they started to feel like they were going to vomit. Their Somato-Map was a mess. Patient C drew a spiral at their solar plexus until the pen started going through the paper. They made an audible sarcastic snort and put a big X on their face, heart and genitals. No one home there, there, or there!
When the ‘old hippy’ talked about rough childhoods, Patient C had to physically grab their chair to stop from shaking any harder, vomiting and/or fainting. Patient C was physically, sexually and mentally abused for most of their childhood. Their family had generations of abuse and addiction. They had never made many real friends and to this day had no idea what most people were talking about when it came to love, sex, play, adventure, or creating a secure future. The amount of instinctual, visceral and existential pain that they felt everyday was finally looking them in the face. And they were facing their pain with empathy for the first time in their entire life.