Last May, I came down with a gnarly case of shingles. In the months leading up to the firey blister outbreak, my life had been caving in on itself. I was plagued with stress and all of the panic, doom, and depression that swirled around it. Despite the amazing things occurring in my own life (Mr. Rathroy was home from Malawi and was the most amazing boyfriend ever, my best friend getting married, snagging an awesome job), I was self-destructing and apparently couldn’t be stopped.
But shingles will make you stop doing everything.
The nerve pain was what I image being shot through the shoulder by Katniss Everdeen would feel like. It pierced clean through my body and made me seize my breath and make ridiculous noises like the obnoxious guy at the gym.
It was an inescapable and quite dramatic notification that whatever mental games I had been playing with myself had gone overboard. By the time I started to concede that perhaps I needed some help reducing my stress, the pain from the shingles had spread into my chest. Now, on top of the spears shooting through my shoulder, my heart had been wrapped in imaginary electrical wire and there was no telling when the “shock” button would be pushed.
These were dark times, I tell you.
After 6 months of weekly therapy, a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis and a suggestion from my insurance company that I be placed on medication before having access to more therapy (thanks a lot, insurance), I veered off the healthcare system course.
I had purchased a Groupon for half off a Reiki session at Healing Alternatives Meditation Center and decided, “Why not?” I would go to Reiki to see if it could help or if it really was just a bunch of voo doo and then at least I could say I had tried it.
Now, I’m not saying that therapy wasn’t helpful. Therapy helped me release a lot of demons into my consciousness so that I could actually deal with them rather than keep them shrouded in shame or fear in the dark corners of my mind. But Reiki changed my life.
The first couple of times I started telling someone about my experience in Reiki, I walked very softly – acutely aware of how crazy I might sound. But a few days after my appointment, I was able to fully understand just how dramatic the change had been in my mental and physical health and I no longer cared how crazy someone thought I was.
While my shingles had mostly subsided by then, I was still having constant chest pains. Sharp, deep and ruthless jabs that were with me morning, noon and night. By then end of my Reiki appointment, I had cried, I had nearly fallen asleep, and I had called out my previously unutterable grief and fear that was gripping my heart in so much pain. Through EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), she healed all of my physical and many of my emotional wounds. Seriously like magic (or voo doo, I’m not sure).
After that first Reiki appointment, I continued with therapy (sans drugs and chest pains) and started making decisive choices about my boundaries, my needs, and my personal happiness – all three of which I had beaten and ignored most of my life as many of us do. And as my attention shifted toward caring for myself, my entire life shifted to accommodate the new sense of happiness and freedom that I had created. Doors closed on toxic relationships, damaging habits, and my paralyzing perfectionism and my heart was fully open to finally love myself and the man that had stood by me through the entire painful process.
The choice to begin therapy is typically not an easy one. Stigma, pride, and cost are only a few of the deterrents. Looking back, I consider myself lucky to have had a Shingles outbreak. My body took over where my brain was lacking, pointed out that something was terribly wrong, and nearly shoved me into a therapist’s office. I feel thankful for the push and I’m thankful to myself for pushing past the pain and fear of seeking help. Without the foundation of healing that I had laid for myself in therapy, Reiki would have only been a band-aid and I might still be wallowing in unarticulated sadness and stress. And while the process was rocky and terrifying and painful, it only reflected what I had allowed my life to become. It was my change to make. And like most change, it wasn’t easy, but I created happiness in my own life, and that’s a powerful skill to have.