Personal Story – Why We Need to Speak Our Truth

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

I just had surgery to remove a lump in my neck. It was small (about the size of a dime) but had been there for almost 2 years. It revealed itself just after I had my daughter, and my OBGYN said that it was normal – the result of hormonal fluctuations – and that after I was finished breastfeeding, it would probably disappear.

Almost 2 years later, it didn’t seem to be going anywhere, so I went back to him asking what we could do. He had a look and did a quick ultrasound with a machine he used for pregnant ladies in his office. He said it was nothing to worry about, but I might consider having it removed. I said yes, please.

To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about this lump simply because I didn’t have the time or energy to give it. I was raising 2 babies in a foreign land and taking care of them, as well as all the other things that life throws at you was all consuming. I believed my OB when he said it was a normal result of hormone fluctuations following pregnancy and birth – and I was certainly experiencing those in all kinds of ways – so I hoped one day it would simply disappear.

When it didn’t, and several people asked me what was that thing in my neck – I decided it was time to deal with it.

For the first time, I brought my focus to it – this lump in my neck – thinking about what it was, and why it might be there… and suddenly,

I made a connection.

Coming to Costa Rica

Two and a half years ago, my husband and I arrived in Costa Rica with our then eleven-month-old baby boy. The stresses of moving to a foreign country were overwhelming and continued to be so long after we arrived. When we got here, I found out that I was pregnant. I was happy, but the news added a new layer of overwhelming to the picture. I was now going to have to figure out how to go about the delicate business of having a baby in another country.

After a lot of research, I thankfully found a much loved and well-respected doctor. He was willing to deliver the baby at home, without medications and in water which was my preference. I was so relieved. He was less than an hour of where I was living, so I went to my monthly appointments, and everything with my pregnancy went smoothly and I anxiously awaited the arrival of our baby girl.

One afternoon, about 3 days before my due date (which was my birthday, amazingly), the doctor arrived at the house. He said he wanted to check and see how everything was going. We had a big Tupperware bin with an inflatable pool and all the doctor’s gear by the door, waiting for when I went into labour. After the doctor checked me out, he said the baby was very low and he could touch the top of her head. He said she would arrive any moment now and that my labour would be very quick, just like my first.

We sat quietly on the couch and he seemed distracted and slightly uncomfortable. I offered some tea. Finally, he looked at me seriously and said he needed to talk to me about something. I said, “ok, of course” – my mind racing. What is going on?, I wondered. He said that he needed to go to a conference in the US – a gynaecological conference he goes to every year and that he had spoken to a colleague who would come and deliver the baby… at this point, his voice got very faint and I wasn’t listening… my mind was all over the place, trying to wrap itself around this new information. I came back and he was finished, looking at me expectantly.

I allowed myself to breathe for a moment and smiled. I said, “well, she is due any day now, when do you have to leave?” He took a deep breath and said: “in the morning”.

I am not exactly sure what happened after that except I felt a surge of emotions flood through me and everything was going in slow motion. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, being lifted up and down, losing my equilibrium. I suddenly felt quite sick and must have grimaced as the doctor said – oh, I think you don’t feel well. And then it slowly became clear. I said – “I think I am in labour.” He looked serious, and said, “yes, I can see that.”

At that moment, everyone scattered. My mother swooped in and took my son to her house (which was down the hill). My husband and the doctor disappeared, and I was left, sitting alone on the couch. Another contraction came and felt like a wave of pain smashing into me. I thought I would have a warm shower which might help the pain.

When I got out, my husband was there. I asked where the doctor was? I assumed he had gone out to his car to get something. He said – Oh, he left. I said, left?? What do you mean? Where did he go? He told me he had gone back to the city to get some things.

I sat hard on the couch, confused. Disappointed. Hurt.

“He left?”

He didn’t say a word to me. He didn’t check to see how far apart my contractions were. Talk to me to see how I was feeling. He just left.

Without going into details, what followed was an extremely intense, painful and scary labour and birth. My contractions became very intense and close together very quickly, and my poor husband was frantically blowing up the inflatable pool so that I could get into it and have our baby. The problem was, that because he was blowing up the pool, and the doctor was gone, I was alone. My husband would run in for a contraction summoned by my shrieks, then race out again and continue blowing up the pool. He never did get it blown up…

From the time of my first contraction sitting on the couch to the moment my daughter emerged was one hour and 20 minutes. It was the scariest hour and 20 minutes of my life. I had been alone through a process where I desperately wanted support and comfort, and there was none. I had no friends, and my only family were occupied and not able to help. The pain had been unimaginable, and I am sure this was intensified by my fear and anxiety. Both my husband and I had tried over and over to reach the doctor to ask where he was and were not able to connect to him.

When he did finally arrive, I was crouched on our bedroom floor, holding a screaming baby on my knees, shivering and in shock. I was not able to pull the baby up to my chest because the umbilical cord was so short it would not reach. It was quite a sight. It was almost half an hour after the baby was born.

The doctor helped cut the cord, deliver the placenta and cleaned up, then left. I was still in shock.

I didn’t hear from him for more than a week. I finally texted him asking if he would like to see the baby and make sure everything was ok? He wrote back saying yes, come in tomorrow.

When I went to see him, he acted like everything was fine. The emotions I was feeling were still so raw that I was on the edge of tears the whole time, being angry and hurt at the whole situation. The fact that he had not reached out since had only poured salt on a very open wound.

And here is the connection.

Everything is Energy, & Energy is Everything

In India, the Hindu’s believe we all have seven chakras which are centres of energy. One of them, the fifth chakra, resides in the throat. It is responsible for our ability to express our feelings, needs and desires. To speak our truths. To be honest with ourselves, and express that truth to others.


Here is a chart which briefly describes each of the chakras
Image from Andrew Noske

The symbol for the throat chakra

In Chinese Medicine, the emotions are actually considered a cause of disease.

In Chinese Medicine, there is an acupuncture point that I have used for this exact purpose for many, many years. It is called REN 22 and is located at the base of the throat, on the midline, in the depression between the two clavicles. Using this point clears any stagnation occurring there and helps the recipient to express themselves freely.

Ren 22 Acupuncture Point – From A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman

When Emotions are Unresolved

The pain and trauma of the birth of my daughter lingered, unresolved, and unexpressed. Shock was followed by a deep depression which has lingered and is still with me, like an uninvited friend.

Interestingly, I have been doing a lot of research on grief for a new project I am working on. One of the books I was reading was written by a woman who had lost her infant daughter, shortly after she was born. She never recovered from her death and ended up making a career counselling others suffering with traumatic grief – something she deeply understood. Her story was both heartbreaking and uplifting, and the book was filled with stories of her clients and the horrific stories that lead to their own grief. I found myself crying a lot reading those stories, and some of the times I tried to hold back my tears, something interesting happened.

I felt a pain.

A searing pain, and the epicentre was the lump in my neck.

My grief had literally manifested as a mass right next to my throat chakra.

 

I know this may seem far fetched to some people, and I understand. But from everything I know and have learned in my life and work, and the feelings that came when I made these connections, I believe this is what happened.

Many doctors visits, consultations, tests and ultrasounds later, I did have that lump removed in a surgery a couple of weeks ago. That process alone was an exercise in expressing what I needed and was very cathartic. The surgeon told me that the lump was in fact much bigger and went much deeper than expected, but that the surgery went well and they got everything out. A biopsy revealed that it was benign. Buddha bless me.

My husband tells me that after the surgery when I was still under the effects of the sedative, they brought in a little bottle and showed me the lump itself. He said I looked at it for a long time. I don’t remember anything from those few hours afterwards, which deeply disappointed my husband because he said he was being so wonderful, loving and attentive. Ha.

The Moral of the Story

So, why am I telling you this? I am sharing this story because I believe that it is relevant. I have seen so much of this with the people I know in my life and with my patients over the years. So many of us have things that have hurt us. Demons we are running from, pains that we dragging from our pasts into our present and things that are hurting us in our everyday lives, as we live them. It is unavoidable. It isn’t always easy to express those feelings and the thing about our society is that many of us have never been taught how to do so. Emotional intelligence is so important for our health and wellbeing, and yet, so many of us struggle to become aware of how we feel, acknowledge how we feel, and then allow ourselves to feel it.

When I was able to finally take some time and think about this lump in my neck, then look back on what was happening in my life when I first remember it being there, I was able to make the connection. And the more I thought about it, the more obvious it became. This was a hugely painful event that I was not able to verbalize, even to myself. I was trying to be thankful for having a healthy baby girl and not focus on the negative. And this is what we are told. Be positive. Look on the bright side. And while that is all well and good, sometimes there are unpleasant things that are happening, and we must acknowledge that they are there and deal with them, too. I am saying this to myself (maybe more) as much as to you. But it was so clear, that it felt like a huge lesson from the universe, and I am passing it on in the hope that it may help you, too.

P.S.

 


Here is a photo of the scar. It will forever be a reminder of how important it is that I express
my feelings and speak my truth, to others, and to myself. 

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Featured image by

Matt Botsford

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