A Journey with Pain

Recently I posted on my facebook page about how I had a new journal post forming in my head about my experience of being in my body. This is the post I wrote on June 17 at 2:41pm:

“I’ve been blessed to have found an amazing yoga instructor in the Oki-do method and also a body worker who has such an amazing collaborative approach to her practice. It feels that I was meant to be in this town (Castlemaine) to meet these people (and of course many others). After living with chronic pain for many many years of my life my body feels so much more spacious. I am writing a new blog post in my head as I ponder this unfolding clarity about my relationship with my body and with my health care providers. There are artistic images which I have made in direct response to and as part of my body work experience. Something also springs to mind about the body as vessel and how through carrying a baby to full term, birthing her and then wearing her close for so many months has also significantly changed the nuisances of being in my flesh”.

Selected Body History

When I was 14 years old I was hit by a car. I was thrown up in the air, my body smashing the windscreen and landed on the road. I remember wondering if another car would run over me and about what had happened to my bag full of clothes for an overnight stay at a friends. My shoes had been ripped off my feet from the impact. I lay there half unconscious as a group gathered above me holding a rug to stop the falling rain from landing on my battered body. They seemed like angels. Afterwards in my police interview I asked why the parents of the man who had hit me, were standing over me with the rug. He said they were not his parents. As they lifted me into the ambulance on a stretcher I felt as if I was shooting into the clouds.

I was left with a fractured collarbone and some bad grazes but was lucky that I had not obtained any other serious trauma. 17 years later that collarbone still keeps me awake at night and one of my feet aches when I wear the wrong shoes, drive for too long or walk for too long.

Layered on top of this accident has been a succession of head, neck and pelvic trauma from numerous car accidents as a passenger and years of mountain/road bike accidents. These include a close call with a tram, a serious concussion and another incident where I was hit by a car on my bike.

During my early twenties adrenaline threw me from one close call to another as I quite literally rode myself into adrenal fatigue. My way of dealing with my emotions was to get into my body and out of my head but now I see it was my way of disconnecting the two from each other. (Of course there were lots of great points to bike riding and over the years I have learnt to find a good rhythm with my riding which is not all about going fast!)


Riding my bike in 2014 (a lot slower than I used to!)

Along with this physical battering I also started developing painful menstrual symptoms in my early twenties, which only increased over time. In the last few years these have been diagnosed as Endometriosis and Adenomyosis.

I chased the magical cure for my variety of conditions…osteopathy, acupuncture, chinese medicine, tai chi, yoga, pilates, chiropractor, body work, counselling, psychology, hormone therapy, naturopathy, anti inflammatory diets, surgery and some serious medication.

Carrying a baby to full term added a whole other layer of strain to my pain. It felt like every single injury had flared up simultaneously as well as experiencing hyperemesis gravidarum in the first trimester and nausea for the remainder. My main relief was osteopathy and pre-natal yoga (thanks Mamashanti).


Intravenous drip to re-hydrate during first trimester as a result of hyperemesis gravidarum

So why am I telling all this?

I have told this list of ailments and accidents too many times in my life. To family, to friends, to strangers, to health practitioners and also to a researcher…often as an excuse for why I couldn’t do something (like lying on the floor at work in pain) or sometimes to get sympathy or to make sense of my symptoms.

Writing this accident/pain/condition biography I start to see the threads between the different events and conditions. Rather than seeing them as separate they start to have distinct relationships to each.

Two significant things have happened after giving birth 17 months ago…this year I started to do yoga regularly again in conjunction with having gentle chiropractic bodywork. I highlight giving birth because my relationship with my body and pain have dramatically shifted. As has my relationship to my “fight or flight response” and my adrenal fatigue.

I now can not afford to maintain and support a relationship to my pain being a mother. I have made an active decision to take more responsibility for making change to my lifestyle and my approach to the pain.

Meditation and yoga provides me with the chance to listen deeply and develop awareness of using my breathe to release and let go of the tight areas (a technique which was invaluable during the absence of pain-medication during an induced labour).

The woman I do gentle chiropractic work with (I purposefully say “do” rather then “receive”) offers a collaborative approach – we work together, responding to each other and what happens on the table during the present moment. Before our first consultation she invited me to email her a little information about my body and I offered her a “body history” with chronically timeline, similar to what I had done for a Research Project in which Carolyn Tucker explored the use of Bodywork and Creative Arts Therapy. I told my Chiropractor about this and she expressed interest, thus I shared a copy of the thesis Carolyn had written which included data about my relationship with my body as well as artworks I had made.

As time has progressed I have felt inclined to bring images I have made about my body and new knowings which have emerged, along to the sessions with my Chiropractor. She has been very welcome and curious about this. There has also been some really interesting parallels. My Chiropractor invites me to notice what is happening at all levels when on the table. Once I said there was something holding my curiosity in a part of my body and she said that was something about “Who is nurturing the mother”. The night before the session I had drawn this picture:

Who Carries the Mother

Natalya Garden-Thompson, Who Carries the Mother? pencil & watercolour on paper, 14th February 2016

Recently during a treatment I had an intense desire to draw what was emerging for me. When we had finished I noticed some coloured pencils on her table (I imagine they were there for children) and asked for some paper. Immediately I drew what I was feeling. She was very receptive by this. As she took notes on her computer I added to the data through my visual representation:

My house is upended

Natalya Garden-Thompson, My House is Upended, pencil on paper, 15th June 2016

This representation is about my experience of moving house. As I lay on the table with my arms stretched back I imagined that my body was also a house and that it was being upended – the stagnation I was feeling starting to flow out of my mouth as I was encouraged to make sounds. As I loosened my jaw my hips adjusted and let go.

Threads Forming

The threads that are starting to form are something surrounding the original trauma of the car accident I had when I was 14 years old, combined with the years of “riding” away from my emotional pain and quite literally into accidents. A strong relationship between my upper body pain has formed in my pelvic/hip region. This pain is a combination of emotional pain and physical pain. These can not be separated. When I get stressed my neck hurts. When I don’t take time out for mindfulness, relaxation and self care my body becomes inflamed. This might seem obvious but it has taken a decade of trying to find balance between two extremes or trying to find a cure or diagnoses for my conditions. Yes, I have had accidents but it is the stuckness and emotional blockages which prevent them from releasing.

There is a lot of research and evidence which I could give to support this but for now I am writing my stream of thought based on what I am coming to know.

The other knowing emerging is that rather than being angry at feeling pain…feeling resentment towards the source or trying to block it out with pain killers is that it is part of me. Yesterday as I breathed into the connective tissue and felt into the site of my adenomyosis pain (embedded in the wall of my uterus) I started to feel a character emerge.

Some of you may be familiar with the representations of different aspects of my self that I created a few years ago as part of my Masters Exegesis. Well I think that what is taking shape is a visual form the part of myself which feels the pain. This was the first time I have felt deep empathy and compassion for the little unknown growth in my uterus. Rather than thinking of as an area of pain (a lot of it is referred pain) I imagined it as a particular point of pain and that it has a visual quality (I have seen it on ultrasound so have a vague impression of it’s shape and size).

I took art supplies with me yesterday and as soon as the session was over I sat outside in the winter sun and drew what emerged. It created an opportunity to give visual form to my imaginings which happened during the body work.

Breathe into the interconnected tissue

Natalya Garden-Thompson, Little Adeno Growth, watercolour pastel & pencil on paper, 9th July 2016

Giving the pain a visual shape offers me a completely different persecutive. It allows for distance and perspective and an opportunity to start to have a conversation with this “Little Adeno Growth”. I am looking forward to amplifying this representation in a different medium as soon as I can.

I am also feeling a sense of clarity after having written this post and feel that there is some meaningful content to explore in relation to my body and my emotional landscape.

Right now my right wrist is throbbing and my body is feeling rather jammed as I have sat here typing for an hour and a half. So now to do some relaxation before bed.

Thanks for reading,

Creative Natalya






2 thoughts on “A Journey with Pain

  1. Hi Natalya, the revelations that are coming to you now are the truth and will help many people that have been caught in their pain. Wonderful to read!!
    Gay Xx

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