In my New Year’s Eve note, I encouraged you to be vulnerable.
Today, I’m going to walk my talk. I’m going to be vulnerable, authentic, and share an excerpt from a larger piece of writing I’m working on which describes some of the challenges I faced during my second deployment to Iraq…
“Although I never planned to take my own life, I wanted it taken from me.
I was done.
I stopped eating, not because I forcefully denied myself nourishment as a form of control or punishment, but because I had lost my appetite, I had lost my will to live. Like an animal does when it knows it’s time to go, I allowed time to take its own course with me. I faded.
I was an athletic 5’6” young woman, losing so much weight that my underwear were barely stayed perched upon my protruding hips. I basically never slept – nightmares of the rape years before, as well as the current harassment, kept me up at night. I felt I had no purpose on this earth.
My body assumed a sunken, concave “C” shape when I was alone in my “can” (what we called our rooms in our the trailers in Iraq). This space was large enough for a single bed, a closet, and a yoga mat.
Although I began sporadically practicing yoga in college to deal with overtraining injuries from soccer and ROTC, it was nothing more than creative cross-training to me until I was in Iraq. Without even consciously processing the higher transformation that was taking place within me, when I was emotionally distraught, yoga gave me clarity. The simple, basic union of breath and movement made space for something very important – my soul. Somehow, when I felt like I was suffocating, my soul had space to breathe. Somehow, in a body experiencing very physical effects of depression, when I practiced yoga, I had less pain. Somehow, in a world that felt like 24-7 chaos, the mat gave me an anchor point. All of my systems integrated in a way that allowed me to keep functioning when simply surviving seemed impossible.
Thank God for that 3ftx6ft floorspace because it is where I found a place where I could simply breathe without suffocating. I would get on my yoga mat and things would change. I could breathe. I could think. If I was lucky, things would release. I would stretch, and then I would run and feel free.
Connect … connect … connect
If I was lucky, I would connect; first to something beyond myself, then to those around me, for I certainly was not the only one going through what I was going through. When I realized that – that my lack of “specialness” was actually a blessing in this case – the accessibility to healing became greater, deeper, and more diverse.”
(I submitted this excerpt to MindBodyGreen a little while ago, and found out on New Year’s day, via a tweet from a stranger, that it had been published. You can see it HERE).
Yoga and faith bridged the gap and paved a path to long-term healing for me. Certainly, different methods work for different people at different times, but yoga can be a unique and powerful approach to comprehensive, holistic healing. My dear friend, Kate Hendricks, is a fellow veteran and health professional who can personally vouch for yoga’s positive impact, as well. She wrote an eloquent and powerful piece for MindBodyGreen a few months ago titled “Coming Home Is Harder Than Fighting in the War: How Yoga Saved My Life.” I highly recommend that you read it, which you can do HERE.
So, as (Kate and) I head to Costa Rica tomorrow for two weeks of yogic immersion, and to be guides for others on their respective journeys, I feel nothing but complete and utter gratitude for every. single. thing. I have been through, the people in my life, the healing available to me, the opportunities ahead, and the fact that I am still breathing each and every day.
With much love, to your health, happiness, and resilience in the New Year. Namaste,