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The Path of the Wounded Healer

Part Three: Crossing the Threshold

by Tonya Madia

“To reteach a thing its loveliness is the nature of metta. Through loving-kindness, everyone & everything can flower again from within.”   Sharon Salzberg

If you were to take a moment to examine some of the life experiences from which you emerged transformed in some way, you would most likely find that the series of events transpired in a similar, if not identical, pattern to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey outline. At the start of each new journey, the hero(ine) must be called away from their ordinary world.

We complete this cycle many times throughout our lifetime. By the time I received this most recent call I had been through enough of these journeys to recognize the Wounded Healer archetype expressing itself through me once again. From the time I was very young I recognized the healing and transformative power of helping others. It was a driving force in my decision to pursue my Reiki, yoga and massage therapy trainings.

Two years ago I began to experience sudden and profound changes in my health. I gained over 40 pounds in a matter of a few months, struggled with increasingly low energy and exhaustion, and I began to have mysterious aches and pains. Most notably, I had monthly struggles with extremely heavy menstrual cycles.

Convinced that my issues were simply the result of the hormonal changes associated with peri-menopause, I tried a variety of natural remedies and lifestyle changes— everything from low carb/no carb diets, exercising, fasting, cleansing, supplements, and essential oils, all to no avail.

I became so obsessed with resolving the issue through lifestyle changes that my ordinary world had become one of constant research, lifestyle adjustments and frequent trips to the gym. None of these efforts proved successful and self-criticism and old beliefs about self-worth based on appearance resurfaced.

After about two years of dwelling in this ordinary world of struggle, the call came and I found myself in the ER. Several tests revealed that I had a large uterine mass and was severely anemic. I brought the results to a noted gynecologist in West Virginia. After discussion with my family, I made the decision to travel 10 hours to be in the care of someone highly recommended at a medical facility that I knew well from my time working at the Center of Excellence in Women’s Health at the university. The gynecologist promptly scheduled a procedure called a hysteroscopy. A few weeks later the procedure was done and my doctor felt confident I would begin to feel better.

I didn’t. The hysteroscopy was an outpatient procedure and I had thought that when I’d agreed to the procedure, I’d answered the latest call to adventure. (After all, I would literally be leaving my ordinary world, as I traveled 10 hours to WV have it done!)

As it turned out the hysteroscopy wasn’t the call—it was only a precursor to the call that would arrive two weeks later, with the onset of my next menstrual cycle.

Another trip to the ER (this one even scarier, as my blood pressure plummeted from blood loss and I had to be hooked up to monitors and given fluids through and IV), another series of tests, and the determination was made by a local doctor that held within a single word my call to adventure. Hysterectomy.

With such a surprisingly large number of women requiring them, the surgery is considered by many to be “no big deal.” It was a big deal to me! I soon became quite anxious about the surgery and all that came with it. Physical trauma, pain, potential complications, the loss of internal organs, sudden hormonal changes, six weeks of recovery time… I wasn’t so sure about answering this call. As hesitant as I was, I knew what I had to do so I resigned myself to the inevitable journey ahead.

Deep down I knew what this journey was about and that it was long overdue. As an energy practitioner and yoga teacher, The Wounded Healer in me had been examining my condition from an energetic standpoint. This was a second chakra issue (see my earlier blog post, or my book Living the Intuitive Life, for a detailed outline of the chakra system). The second, or sacral, chakra resides energetically in the reproductive organs. Physically, it relates to the ovaries in women, the testes in men and the adrenal glands, spleen, uterus, urinary and circulatory systems. The decades-old wounds that I mentioned in Part Two of this series had been forgotten, but they were not gone. As long-ignored wounds do, they began to fester.

It was time to face these issues head on and proceed with the surgery. As nervous as I was when I arrived at the hospital the morning of the surgery, I was at the same time anxious to get on with it, cross the threshold and move into the next phase of my journey. Although I recognized the surgery as the crossing of the threshold in the journey, I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, or what it would look like.

Following the surgery, I found out that my uterus was three times its normal size and had a noncancerous mass within it the size of a baseball! There were also many fibroids that had attached themselves throughout my reproductive system, some of which had hemorrhaged.

As I said, long-ignored wounds can fester.

Three weeks later I believe I have a better understanding of what I have gone through. Anyone who’s ever had major surgery knows you awake from the anesthesia feeling somewhat befuddled and vulnerable. I remember feeling confused and afraid when the nurses instructed me to shift from the gurney I was on over to the bed in my hospital room. It seemed an impossible task and I remember thinking in my hazy state that they were being unreasonable. Apparently they weren’t, as I managed to eventually maneuver myself onto the bed. The following morning I remember having a similar feeling when the nurse insisted I get up and walk around. I was sure she had lost her mind. She hadn’t, and I found I was able to get out of the bed and shuffle my way around my little room.

The past few weeks have been an interesting collection of similar milestones and a rising awareness within me that vulnerability isn’t as scary as I once believed. I’m learning with each passing day to extend kindness and patience to myself while at the same time learning to feel comfortable asking others to do things for me that I’m unable to do for myself.

I’m learning just how many of those “simple things” I once took for granted. Things like sitting up in bed on my own, bending down and walking, lifting a pot of soup onto the stove to reheat it, and moving about with ease. All of these will of course return in time, but in the meantime I am allowing myself to learn and practice the art of gratitude along with the ease of acceptance when my loved ones happily offer to assist me. I am learning to treat myself with loving kindness, and even more importantly, that I am deeply deserving of it.