Dee’s Story

Overcoming Stress & Chronic Pain

By Gina Calderone

Dee is a beautiful 49-year-old woman who began her work with me as a client seven years ago. She struggled with a lifetime of chronic muscle tension and joint stiffness combined with a stressful career. We completed ten sessions together and she learned some helpful exercises to strengthen her core and improve her flexibility, incorporating conscious breathing to manage her stress. Five years later, Dee returned to Physical Therapy with more intense neck and lower back pain with radiating symptoms down her right arm and leg. This time she was clearly stressed with her demanding career as a program manager for a large company. However, this time she also seemed stuck in life and depressed.

We completed our three months of Physical Therapy and like the previous time, she left with some useful tools to relieve her physical pain, but I could still sense deep emotional pain. I believed understanding the core emotional root of her physical pain would aide the therapy we had been doing, so I offered my service of archetypal and energy work. I felt strongly about gifting it to her so she could just focus on the work and her wellbeing, rather than more stress of how to come up with the money. This confirmed my vision of true health by investigating one’s story and how personal experience can affect their physical body. Dee graciously accepted and became Client #2 towards the vision before it became Empowered Health Foundation.

Dee had been suffering for two years from intense neck and back pain with radiating symptoms down her right arm and leg and had been diagnosed with Dupuytren’s Contracture, a thickening of the fibrous tissue layer underneath the skin of the palm and fingers. The thickness and tightness of this fibrous tissue caused her fingers to flex. She was caught up in the conundrum of a worker’s compensation claim, multiple doctor’s appointments and unsuccessful epidural injections. She was contemplating surgery for the seven bulging discs in her spine and surgery to release the tight tissue in her hands. In order to function, she kept herself medicated daily to manage the pain, antidepressants to stabilize her spirit while taking heavy sleep medication to battle her insomnia. As a client of Empowered Health Foundation, we were able to explore Dee’s life for painful and destructive patterns that matched the feelings within her body.

Dee is a gorgeous, always smiling woman who struggled to admit her unhappiness. She said that she felt very disconnected, unable to feel any joy and felt anti-social. She was angry and frustrated with her tattered body and dealing with financial stress regarding her home, a homeowner’s association lawsuit, and a demanding job with fear of lay-offs. This is not how she’d envisioned her life at 50 years old. She wanted to be peaceful and loving, spry and limber, refreshed and joyful. Our first step was to have Dee start journaling her pain.

It wasn’t natural for Dee to journal. She had trouble connecting to herself so I began to interview her. She summed up her pain emotionally to one word, “burning” and stated, “I am angry because I burned my body out for my job with the belief that this intense work schedule would further my career and yet I was now on the precipice of a job loss. Worse, family members were making increased demands on my limited energy and I’m tired of making everyone happy.” Dee was burnt out with her career and close people around her sapping her energies. At this stage of despair in her life we needed to assess her Sacred Contract and look at her Victim archetype that unveils itself in the fourth house of the “home.” The Victim archetype is one of the four survival patterns in our lives. For Dee, it started with drawing some personal boundaries in her life, but first, we needed to look at the root: the seed of the wounds in her childhood home.
Growing up, her stepfather was bi-polar and extremely violent. He physically abused her mother and brothers while leaving Dee to strive to be perfect so she wouldn’t be hit. This leaves fear and tension trapped within one’s body and soul. And it matched her “truth statements” she listed weeks prior.

• I am always afraid.
• I have always had low self-esteem.
• I have always been self-deprecating.

Traumatic roots like Dee’s have the potential to plant seeds of agony- such as the pain within her spine and the chronic tension in her body, so much that it caused her fingers to curl. She had a bulging disc at almost every level of her neck. Emotionally, the neck represents stubbornness and inflexibility. She explained herself as a “hard driver” and perhaps it’s because she needed that control to feel safe. When first working with Dee she seemed inflexible in her thoughts about the potential of her life, but she continued to journal making deeper connections and became more flexible in both mind and body. It was powerful for her to understand the boundaries she needed in her personal life and career, encouraging her self-esteem and self-worth.

The lower back is emotionally associated with financial stress. She was secretly struggling with the choice to file bankruptcy, which would typically have to do with her pride and ego. This situation filled another important area of her life and her Sacred Contract- the first house on the archetypal chart that exudes her Damsel archetype. The damsel is always beautiful, vulnerable and in need of rescue. Dee was in a financial bind with her home and overwhelmed with the stress. She humbly admitted she wasn’t good with money, but as the Damsel in distress this was a big lesson for her to become empowered and learn to take care of herself.

It was important for Dee to understand her “highest potential” as it housed her Orphaned Child archetype. This particular house physically correlates with the musculoskeletal system and her inner child has caused much of the deep-rooted pain. Orphaned children feel abandoned. Dee felt abandoned when her father, one of her biggest fans, died in a motorcycle accident. She felt this tragedy taught her humility and kindness, but she deeply misses her father’s love. She felt that several other family members were ripped out of her life by death or diagnosed with disease, including her mother, three brothers and sister. The loneliness and loss of support was a deep wound in her spine-the very supporting structure of our physical body. And a very strong path of healing for Dee.

Dee’s road to self-care came with asking her to make “fun” lists and be aware of when she is overextending herself. It was necessary for her to surround herself with supportive responsible people as she was becoming accountable. She made a major decision to take a long overdue medical leave. It wasn’t easy for her as she is such a dedicated employee, but she needed time to breathe and catch up on life. As she made one big decision, it opened the door to another…short-selling her home. Although it was her sanctuary, her goal was to rid all of the stress in her life.

Within ten sessions Dee was off all medications. She was not housebound anymore. She was having lunch with girlfriends, working out again, reconnecting and socializing with people. She was filling up her journal with life goals and appeared excited about potential. She said, “I feel like I am getting out of the riptide.” The light behind her smile beamed again, and at the end of our course she developed a personal positive affirmation for herself: “Be the bright light and set boundaries with the people I love because it is so hard to say ‘no’ to them.” Today she is aware and she is living her life pain-free.

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