I recently listened with excited interest to a podcast that Prof. Paul Dieppe gave for “Healing Stories” in February of this year, where Paul discusses how he was able to later deal with the experience of being a hostage in Kuwait for four months. He moved forward in his healing journey by “reframing” this trauma. As a rheumatologist and professor at Exeter University his research on health and wellbeing is now studied throughout the world. Together with Prof. Bryan Harris, Paul was my PhD supervisor from 1987 to 1992. I was studying the mechanical effect of crystals on the wear of cartilage at the time in the Materials Science Department of the University of Bath and worked together with Paul and his rheumatology team at Bristol University.
Thirty years on, I too am now working in the field of healing therapy. I learnt the gentle bodywork method of orthobionomy, whilst living in Germany, qualifying in 2014. Orthobionomy uses the resources of the person being treated, creating the possibility to work functionally with the body, but also dynamically or energetically, i.e. hands-off. Originally educated as a physicist, and then having spent several years in the academic biomedical world, accepting that spooky energetic phenomena exist was quite a step (although as a physicist, maybe it shouldn’t have been!) I continue to be fascinated and in awe of the almost magical healing incidents that can occur. Learning that I was somehow able to communicate with the body on a non-verbal level was, and still is, quite a revelation.
Paul encourages us in his podcast to tell our story. Here, I tell a part of my story, a story that is linked to trauma, to an opportunity, to recovery and to the return to a full and vibrant life. This was I’m sure, as Paul states in the podcast, partly the result of experiencing a long-standing trauma and then eventually utilising this experience to redirect my future life. I left the UK in 1995, joining my German partner and future husband, who I had met in Bath. I had a job at this time in the biomedical industry. In 1999 we married and in 2000 our first daughter was born, and in 2003 our second daughter. Over time, living in a foreign country, speaking a foreign language, and looking after a young family without any personal creative input or output, began to take a silent, yet insidious toll on my energy levels. This was exacerbated by continually moving every 2-3 years to follow the career path of my husband. In 2006 I suffered a massive concussion after I hit my head on the side of a water slide whilst sliding with my daughter, and landed face-down unconscious in the water. Recovery was slow, almost non-existent and the medical profession had no answers. Finally, an orthobionomy practitioner put me back on my feet again within weeks. I had seen radical results previously with osteopathic treatment of my two children, which at the time had flummoxed me. So, I decided to study to become a Heilprakterin (Alternative Practitioner), hoping to find some answers to how this healing could have taken place. Simultaneously, I started the training to become an orthobionomy practitioner as without a medical background I was unable to study osteopathy.
However, halfway through my studies, in 2010, I again hit the wall, this time ending up in intensive care for 3 days with what the medical profession could only diagnose as a psychosomatic disorder, or burn-out. One month later I ended up in A&E and was referred immediately to the psychosomatic clinic where I stayed for 8 weeks before being allowed to return home to family life. During these 8 weeks, I had the opportunity to step out of real life and stop and this was the beginning of my 5-year recovery period. I was at this time totally exhausted, burnt out, as a result of having lived an intense, busy, full, yet totally unsatisfying and literally soul-destroying life. I had no energy left to give to anybody, yet had to begin to find some from somewhere so that I could begin to function again.
We have a saying in the orthobionomy: It is a case of trusting and letting go, when you are on the right path, things will happen with ease and the right doors will open at the right time. I turned this statement around, knowing that if things, a decision, felt easy then I was on the right path and the right doors would open at the right time. I still live my life now, following this philosophy, because it has worked for me for all the years since. My psychotherapist in the clinic stated incredulously, “Anna, you should have no energy, so where do you get it from?!” From deep inside myself, from listening to my soul, and knowing deep inside me what felt right and what felt easy, and what felt wrong. When I followed the path of what felt easy, I discovered again and again that this was the right path, the right path for me, maybe not for anybody else, but this gave me the energy to carry on, to find a new path and to head towards a new life.
It took some time! In 2017 my eldest daughter had received a scholarship to study in a United World College and was leaving home at 16 years old; my youngest daughter at 14 years, had stated categorically that she wanted to go to school in England and live there, and luckily her father let her go. So, in September 2017 we both came back home to the UK where I started up my practice, met a fantastically loving man, bought our own lovely home, and am now a happy part of a large extended family and a thriving local community.
As I also sometimes see in my work, I am convinced that the trauma I experienced was an opportunity that allowed me to open my eyes and listen to my soul. The soul, that feeling that we all have deep, deep down within ourselves but that we so often ignore. I believe that when the body shows pain, it is a sign, maybe a scream from the soul, that things down there just aren’t right and that the body, the mind and the soul require some healing. The body is connected to the mind and connected to the soul. As a body therapist, I feel very privileged to be allowed to accompany the healing effect on the soul, the gentle process of healing the person, by working together with the body.
Over the last twelve years or so, I have come into contact with many alternative therapies, some of which appeared more effective than others. I continue to be amazed by the apparent magic of working together with the body. There is much that happens during and after a treatment that I have no explanation for, but I know and I see that healing does happen.
Many people see change as something negative. The times of lockdown and the changes associated with the Covid pandemic have caused suffering, stress and anxiety for many people. June Meagher interviewed people who have learnt to embrace the changes in their lives, where often their worst experiences have been recognised and accepted as the biggest stepping stones into their future way of life. I was honoured to be a part of this project. You can watch the interview below.