Holistic: characterised by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.
Much of my internal thought processes which continue to assimilate, brew and reintegrate as months go by are focused on purpose; specifically my purpose. I’ve come to see that purpose as service– to be in service to something greater than myself. With this endeavour embodied, I pour myself into the practice of medicine. Poring over literature on the nature of the energetic body, the realm of mind-body-soul connection and the way physical illness manifests takes us some steps away from the more traditional practice of western medicine, where disease is a deviance from health and treatment a road back to it. Attempts have been made, of course (see: Biopsychosocial model) to bring the word “holistic” into mainstream medical practice. The truth? We are a far cry away from where we need to be with this. Allopathic care dismisses the wisdom of our ancients and worst of all; the wisdom we hold deep within ourselves. Some day, I hope to bridge these gaps and leave a legacy of bone deep, soul deep, spirit deep, trauma informed healing in the world (“here’s some antibiotics but what was your childhood like?”) But that’s a public service announcement for another time.
And what sort of hypocrite would I be, fresh into six weeks of GP training to boldly claim all of this and fail to apply it in my own life?
I find that the universe has thrown me into an interesting predicament, for my own good, I’m certain. I’ve been put through enough of that now to know that life has a greater plan for me than I may ever have for it. A horribly strained buttock muscle (the piriformis, if you must know) is compressing enthusiastically on my sciatic nerve and leaving agony in my wake. Loaded up with pills, potions and manjal/haldi *(come on, I’m indian) I strived to push through pain and immobility and work two night shifts in hospital. It was safe to say that my arse wasn’t having any of it. It seized up, the limping got worse and I had to do the one thing I hate doing; write a dreaded email to ask for sick leave because I could no longer meet the physical demands of being on-call.
Cue: shame, guilt, fear, people pleasing tendencies, peering over the day registrar’s phone in morning handover to see if anyone on the rota doctors’ group hates me already. A superficial analysis of the emotions in reaction to an attempt to just look after my fucking health already seems to speak volumes and make way for all the shit that lies underneath it.
In my family, you’re not really allowed to have needs. Having needs is usually a huge problem that leads to overreactions that deepen the enmeshment that already lies at the heart of our deep and avid dysfunction. If you have needs we have to talk about it. as a family. Because it’s a big discussion. It’s a problem. My mother- the person from whom 80% of my trauma responses stemmed- wasn’t allowed to have needs either. Coming from a conservative family with a controlling and co-dependent mother forced her to learn to survive. The same survival mechanisms she employed as a small child are used today. In the face of anxiety, my mother needs reassurance – even if the anxiety is because of my own problems. Any deviance from certainty pushes my mother into a state of panic that has her grasping for solutions. Trust and surrender are foreign. Subsequently: I can’t go to her for very much. Which would’ve been fine, had she not drummed codependency into me from my first breath. Her first child. The only person who has ever shown her unconditional love and loyalty. It took years for me to understand that normal mothers don’t speak to their six year olds about their adult problems. That the reason I was never allowed to be a child was because she has never been adequately parented. I needed to step into an adult role because she had no adult friends. It took even longer for me to understand that my existence was defined by being her emotional crutch. When therapy worked its magic to put some of those things to rights, my mother was left with a daughter who no longer depended upon her, whose anxiety was cut off from her own and this has been deeply saddening for my mother. To her, I am stranger whom she so wants to love and care for but ultimately, feeling safe to be authentic around Amma is an experience I’ve never had and never will have, so long as she lacks the insight to confront her own deep rooted trauma.
Then there’s my dad: the fixer. Since I was a late teen, I always had a close friendship with my father. He was my rock- always solid, always dependable. Until 2021. Despite the fact that my life was in pieces at the end of last year, everyone else’s issues took centre stage in my family. My father began to bite off more than he could chew. Realising how compromised, unhappy and traumatised he was by his marriage to my mother, rather than walking away or attending couples therapy, he chose, initially to use spirituality as a bypassing mechanism and then later to focus his efforts on ensuring my sister and my absolute happiness as if solace can be sought elsewhere. He works unbelievably hard but his work requires a fervour and intensity that doesn’t leave room for much else. The fact is- my father is unable to hold space for me anymore but he says he can because he wants to. He wants to be involved but he’s permanently distracted. He wants solutions but he’s so unsatisfied with his own life. He’s unravelling whilst trying desperately to hold it all together.
My poor sister. She wants to be therapist when she grows up. I wonder why.
A new face to the old blog has finally given me the freedom to speak candidly about my family, confessing without shame the depths of our dysfunction. Previously, the fear of any of them reading this would claw at me so badly that for six years I hid that part of me away from my safe space.
Bearing the emotional load of my family has come at many costs. A seriously anxious attachment style, massive people pleasing tendencies, a fervent, sometimes martyr-like dismissal of my own needs in favour of everyone else’s (selflessness needs to stop being pedestalled as a virtue) and an overwhelming fear of abandonment because what if I’m not good enough and I need to prove myself! Is it really a surprise that I’m peering over the registrar’s whatsapp conversation in morning handover to check if everyone hates me yet?
Holistic was the title of this blog so why the background check? Well, pain and trauma gets stored in our bodies and wreaks havoc with our nervous systems. Mine is already on overdrive from the intensity of my work right now which starves my flowy, feminine nature who longs to slow down, breathe, drink cacao and swim in open water under the Piscean moon. The disconnection to my body has manifested as deep muscular tension. We hold a lot of emotion in our hips. That’s why pelvic work in yoga makes us all want to cry if we connect with ourselves hard enough. I’ve cried in many yoga classes. Try it: it’s a cleanse.
I’m disconnected because the stress of my work brings out the wounded, unbalanced, reactive, child-like parts of me that centre around striving, pushing, certainty and control. I’m disconnected because I cannot meet my own needs, my parents cannot meet my inner child’s needs and I’ve lost the practise around parenting myself and gently asking for what I need or to even identify it with all the noise. I’m disconnected because for the first time in years, I am falling head over heels for a woman whom I have convinced myself would never feel the same way or is somehow out of my league with all those fears around inadequacy creeping back up. I’m disconnected because I don’t want to confront the possibility of internalised homophobia that could be lurking beneath the surface of that infatuation; having “identified” as heterosexual my entire life. I’m disconnected because I cannot remember the last time I meditated or took a yoga class or engaged in breath-work of any sort.
Sure- I injured my muscle running. I’m taking anti-inflammatories, pain relief and I’ve (finally) made the call to take time from work to recover. There is likelihood of a small tear, perhaps some periosteal inflammation and lots of angry muscle fibres that will need time, medication and rest to heal. The doctor who practises western medicine can wash their hands now, say “come back if anything gets worse, love” and call in the next patient.
What about that chasm of disconnection we totally failed to address? Disease. Dis-ease. The absence of “ease”. The deviation from wellness. The manifestation of so much more than a simple running injury. To put my faith in true holistic care into practice, I hope to truly care for myself in the wake of this pain. I hope to parent myself, nurse myself, take my painkillers, undergo complementary Bowen Therapy (energy work/ fascial release) and address the actual, internalised, underlying pain beneath it that asks for space to be seen and heard. Once the momentum of healing is in place, the body always catches up.
It’s time for the deep dive.
Til next time, folks
*Manjal/ Haldi= Turmeric. The indian mother’s cure to every ailment.