I have TMJ. It translates to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder and, in actual terms, when occuring, a horrendous pain in my left jaw. Fortunately a few years back, to try help ease the discomfort, I was offered acupuncture on the NHS through my dentist. I love acupuncture and it can be very effective in treating TMJ, so I jumped at the opportunity.
I was referred to the Eastman Dental Hospital in London and from there onto the Royal Homeopathic Hospital for the acupuncture itself and, as with all courses of treatment, I was seen for an initial consultation. The doctor was a man, maybe ten years or so older than me, amiable in his professionalism. I completed a comprehensive questionnaire about my health and history of TMJ, which he then followed up verbally.
Now one thing I have learned over the years about the nature of my journey so far; it is akin to peeling layers of an onion. And, over the last two and half decades, each time I’m ready and able, a new layer of the onion reveals itself, which makes thus my journey of discovery and learning an ongoing one.
At one point, in discussing the history of my health with the doctor, I tried to explain this to him. He abruptly dismissed my thinking, responding that he believes everyone should go to therapy once to sort everything out and then it’s done and dusted. Realising he and I were on different pages and feeling somewhat patronised, I chose to keep my experience to myself for the rest of the consultation.
In the coming weeks I went on to receive treatment. It was wonderful to be in receipt of acupuncture on the NHS but I soon found the approach of the Royal Homeopathic wasn’t as holistic as I had hoped for. From my initial consultation that seemed to take a global stance of my history, albeit a very narrow one, the treatment was simply topical and, sadly, I found it less effective than the acupuncture I had received before. I soon stopped returning which was a great shame but, similar to the doctor’s response, I felt I needed something deeper to help me with the TMJ.
My daughter was a few months old at the time and in the years that have followed since attending the hospital, it is with much gratitude, MANY layers of my onion have been peeling back, ready to be seen. I can say now I am grateful but so often at the time, each one has been painful and raw and usually I’ve wanted to shift somewhere far more comfortable than where I have often found myself.
But, I truly believe, each layer presents itself when the time is right and, most importantly, when I have previously laid the ground sufficiently enough, for me to be able to learn and love through what is revealed.
Over the last two and half-years, light began to fall into a crevice that I never before had been able to crack open. It was less my intent at trying to prise it apart, more my falling apart that, over time, presented enough space to suddenly see inside. It’s a place that, unknowingly, I have hidden so deeply in my interior landscape to protect myself. But, over decades, it has knocked and knocked and knocked, wanting my attention and now, it seems, at last I am in.
Perhaps because of what I have learned as a mother in recent years or perhaps otherwise, increasingly more of this space I am able to connect to. It is still very tender, wholly tender, but for the first time I feel I am beginning to Peaceful Parent the little one within me who was violated so painfully as a child. The loving arms that I have learned to hold with patience and kindness for our son and daughter, I am now inwardly being able to offer myself. The same dialogues that I invite with our children, I am now inviting within. And, the little girl who for so long stood petrified and frozen, I am now able to hear.
It is very early days and it makes me think of our beautiful Ginger Tom. He was a birthday present for our creature obsessed son last year. He had been a stray who we rescued from cat home. A gentle chap, he was nonetheless a cat, whom like most, liked his own space. Sitting on laps or being held didn’t really happen. The kids have had to be patient whilst he has learned us. I’ve had to be patient as I too have yearned to snuggled him into me. Yet now, a year on, our boy loves lying in our arms, on our laps, around our shoulders. We gave him the space he required and, in his own time, he’s yielded into us.
And so, patience is my way forward for the little one within me, who has been so brave to reveal what she’s been longing to. I am learning to trust her words, rather than the stories of others. Those that were created to protect them and many of which, sadly, I took on myself. I am learning, when I don’t give her my presence and she starts to scream for my attendance, to peacefully and lovingly re-connect with her. I am understanding my patterns more.
Next time I put forth my peeling the onion and my readiness to do so theory and it is rebuked, I might argue my case a bit more. But I might again decide not to. I’m learning what I need to for my journey and, as rip-roaringly painful as it can be, I love it’s unfolding. It matters far less, these days, as I hold and love my own, what anyone else thinks.
This cat is coming home!
Image: Sylvia Karle-Marquet