Saturday, February 15, 2014
Healing Through Chronic Pain. A Physical Therapist’s Personal Journey of Body/Mind/Spirit Transformation by Mary Ruth Velicki
Mary Ruth Velicki, a physical therapist and university instructor, endured intense, debilitating pelvic pain for years. Determined to get better, she set aside her initial skepticism and tried a plethora of treatments from the Western, Eastern, and alternative sides of medicine. To her surprise, she underwent incredible healing that extended beyond her physical body to her full person and experienced many direct connections between her body, mind, and spirit. In Healing Through Chronic Pain, Mary Ruth recounts her five-year journey of “healing through the layers” and personal transformation. Along the way, she shares the treatment strategies she used and the support she received from a team of professionals to move past the pain and to heal her whole being.
Mary Ruth Velicki, MS, DPT, has been a physical therapist for almost thirty years. Throughout her career, she has specialized in the rehabilitation of adults with neurological disorders. She spent eight years developing and teaching graduate courses for several universities, and she has published research in the journal Experimental Brain Research. After working diligently for years to recover from her own chronic pelvic pain, she now spends her time writing, speaking, and working with clients using a combination of physical therapy and alternative treatments.
For more information: www.healingthroughchronicpain.com
Memos from the Fire
“The human being is a surprisingly resilient organism. We are impelled toward health not sickness. Your spirit, as surely as your body, will try to heal. . . . So you should not fear tragedy and suffering. Like love, they make you more a part of the human family. From them can come your greatest creativity. They are the fire that burns you pure.”
Before chronic pelvic pain threw me off-track at age forty-five, I was busy and productive, and ideas about spirituality and the mind-body-spirit connection never really entered my mind. But when the pain took hold and wouldn’t let go, I was forced to step out of my life for more than five years to pursue all sorts of healing avenues and to look deeply within. Much to my surprise, the suffering was actually a gift. It opened up an opportunity for growth and led to deep healing at all levels of my person. Don’t get me wrong; it was the most difficult challenge of my life so far, and I needed tremendous help in that healing process. But comparing my life and the state of my body, mind, and spirit before my illness to now, I would never want to go back. The journey was rocky, but the rewards were unexpected and amazing.
At the very beginning of my illness, I began writing a guide on how to physically manage chronic pelvic pain. Having a reason for going through the pain made it easier to endure, and writing was a natural extension of my career as a physical therapist and university instructor. But then this journey became about much more than just relieving my physical pain and writing a book to help others manage their chronic pain. Unexpectedly, this intense experience woke up the spiritual side of me. I also discovered many tangible connections between my body, mind, and spirit—which would have seemed implausible for my scientific, Western-medicine–trained mind just a few years before. As I grew, the perspective of the book expanded, too. Because I wrote during the struggle itself, rather than summarizing the experience at its end, these pages capture the changes that took place in my whole being throughout the five-year healing process.
The first section of this book describes the challenges and changes that occurred at all levels of my person (social self, body, mind, spirit) during the first two years of intense pain as well as the direct connections I experienced between the different aspects of my being. The second section of this book chronicles the last three years of my illness, when I was actively working to uncover what I was carrying at deeper emotional and spiritual levels that might be contributing to my pain. The process of looking within led to deep healing of my whole person. I landed more firmly into my authentic self, and both my internal and external life began to transform.
For me, the catalyst for positive personal change was chronic, intense pelvic pain. For you, the catalyst may be another form of chronic physical pain, or psychological pain, or some other struggle. When I first started sharing the stories I’ve included in this book with friends, neighbors, and even strangers, it surprised me that people who had not experienced chronic physical pain could also relate to my journey. But I soon realized that painful struggle and transformation are deeply human experiences and that much of what I experienced on an individual level is also universal. Although different catalysts may start the process, transformation often involves the same unfolding of the layers of body, mind, and spirit and the same gradual healing through these layers.
Before my illness, I worked as a physical therapist specializing in the treatment of people who had suffered neurological injuries, such as stroke, brain injury, and spinal injury. It was a blessing to stand beside these people during such an intense time in their lives. Sometimes, my patients were in despair; sometimes, they were digging deep to find meaning and hope. Throughout the experience, I felt connected to them through our shared humanness and vulnerability.
When I’ve told my story to other people and shared with them the advice and encouragement I’ve received along the way, I’ve seen their faces light up with recognition and felt a similar loving connection between us. This feeling of being connected with other people at a deeply human level was crucial for my own healing, and I suspect the same is true for others. I wrote this book with the hope that my experiences will provide connection, support, guidance, and hope to others on their own healing journeys.
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