A Sense of Separation
Sunday, October 1, 2000
by: Bettina Morphett-Savage

Section: Recovery

Surviving health difficulties while living as an expatriate for many years saps the system. This story touches on how a sense of separation from home roots, culture, self, and almost from life itself in Near Death Experiences, has been overcome by one Australian woman. Zoe's "lifeline" and source of survival from multiple collapses has been the Feldenkrais Method®, along with her own indomitable life force.

Zoe was referred to me by her distant colleague, also a Feldenkrais® practitioner.

On twice yearly visits to her family's city, Zoe found my Feldenkrais "hands-on" sessions assisted greatly in finding delicate balance in her structurally challenged spine. X-rays showed a compromised cervical spine, with thoracic involvement, imbalance and neuro-muscular tensions. We both knew the gentleness required. Zoe and I developed strong ties as she applied herself to understanding the Feldenkrais Method during these brief urgent stays in Australia. Back in her Asian home, she used Feldenkrais tapes, books, as well as swimming to expand awareness, reduce pain, and help maintain stability. Night time especially, some vital power over her pain was gained by her practice of Awareness Through Movement® lessons.

Outside of her professional training as a singer and musician, Zoe held important positions in culture and music while supporting her husband in his international work. Because of her practiced smile and stoic calm (despite core pain and fatigue), attempts to explain her health needs weren't well understood. Healthwise, this situation was explosive, as each collapse attenuated Zoe's strength. Our email contact became important in maintaining her "home roots."

Zoe and family arrived in Australia for a joyous Christmas. On January 4th, after surfing, the first Near Death Experience occurred; later that day, a total collapse. Zoe entered four hospitals in two days. Exhaustive tests implicated her neck (simulating a hemiplegia), with respiratory, sensory and motor involvement - drastic for a musician/singer. An urgent one-month-away date was set for a specialist's neck-stabilizing operation (titanium plating and arthrodesis of three intervertebral joints).

It's now history. Seven months post-operation, Zoe was catapulted into her slow, slow, non-swallowing, hardly-speaking, unbalanced, pot-holey, but upwardly swinging path to life anew. The life-saving operation protected Zoe's vital nerve supplies, even as it removed most of her singing voice. Breathing, arm function, sensory impairment, ordinary speech, swallowing, bodily pain and drain are all being steadily upgraded.

The touchstone of recovery came in mid-August, when I was a guest with Zoe's family in Asia. Zoe had a Feldenkrais session most days, often twice daily, and the resistant spinal pain was on the run. Despite those plated cervical joints, overall movement was coming more freely. To this triumphant "pain breakthrough" on the physical plane, was added a psychological bonus.

I was invited to address an expatriate group on "Wellbeing with Feldenkrais." Zoe gathered herself psychologically, spoke of her experience of the Feldenkrais Method as a "source of optimism," and introduced me. Thus she laid claim to her "whole" self again. For some, survival (pro tem) means coping by ignoring their own needs. In critical phases of separation from self, mere survival skills are not enough. Zoe fortunately had in place her Feldenkrais learning, the basis of awareness that allowed her to travel back from Near Death Experiences and massive collapses, to put together her fragmented self. What an experience it was for us all!
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