That was how the phone was answered when I rang to follow up about a specialist appointment.

Ouch! It felt like a punch in the gut. I stammered a little, but managed to absorb the arrangements that had been made for my MRI and appointment with the neurologist.

Shush, don’t talk about that

I do feel a little self-absorbed as I write this, but I recognise that there are so many people experiencing frightening health scares, the anxiety of waiting for results and further information. So it might be of interest to some. I don’t think it would usually be the topic for a blog post, but I do like to write, and talk, about things that we’re not supposed to talk about.

Sadly, I think these conversations often go underground or are confined to the hushed spaces of the specialist’s rooms. Not the stuff of pleasant, casual conversation. It might be due to other people’s discomfort about being privy to the news and not really knowing how to handle it (I can certainly recognise this in myself). Sometimes I think it’s a personal preference to “stay positive” and not give any credence to the potential outcome or path that lies ahead. The fight response so often used in health languaging – e.g. “battle with cancer”.

Survival response

I’ve never been good at denial. I function much more at the other end of the spectrum going down rabbit holes and being completely consumed by whatever worry or concern has me in its grips. I recognise my current health situation as an opportunity to spotlight my habitual responses. To use the yogic parlance – my samskaras.

I feel completely overwhelmed. I observe with interest my desire to shut down, give up – my freeze response. This is my ‘go to’. The pattern that’s been operating in my nervous system throughout my life. With my understanding of polyvagal theory, I recognise how I just slide on through the mobilisation phase (the fight/flight response) and head with a beeline to freeze. It feels like home. We all have our own unique pattern of survival wired into our system. For many of us, it’s out-dated, we need re-wiring.

Do not pass go, do not collect $200

This time, I can see it. The tendency to collapse, to go directly to hopelessness, do not pass go, do not collect $200. I can choose another path. I’ll go slowly, and gently. Not do too little, not do too much, find some balance. It feels odd, hard, and at the same time there’s a mist of liberation. Ok. One day at a time. What do I have to do today? What can I do today? What do I want to do today?

There is of course an intelligence in this well-worn path in my nervous system. The freeze response, which usually lands me in depression, is trying to keep me safe. However, I’m evolving. Depression is not a place I want to go to this time. In the words of Deb Dana, author of The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy “when we shut down to survive it’s a long way back to feeling safe and social and a painful path to follow”. No. This time, I’ll go slowly and gently, and not in the direction of that well-worn path, I’ll forge a new way.

Dr Google

It turns out this brain condition is something I was born with. At the time of writing, I don’t know very much about it. I’m waiting for my specialist appointment and refusing to consult Dr Google. It is part of my svabhava, yogic speak for that which I was born with, and how I respond to it, is my work, my life.


On this current voyage I’ve met a couple of women…..drum roll……who’ve had brain surgery! What is that? I’ve not ever in my life met anyone who’s had brain surgery, and two in two weeks? Two beautiful women who’ve had brain surgery and are totally fine. It’s like when you get a new car and suddenly you see those cars everywhere. Serendipity I guess, how life gives you just what you need.

The dance of life

I think more than anything this is a journey for me about finding balance. If I’m dying (and I’m not being dramatic, we all are right?). But, if the pathway towards that moment is actually becoming the main route, I want to be on that path without resistence, refusal or denial. I want to die dying. I don’t want to pretend and do anything to buy more time. Equally, I want to live until I say goodbye. Fully, whole-heartedly, authentically and spontaneously within the constraints that life has set for me. The dance of life.

For the last few years there’s been a heavy sense of things not working out the way I had planned. There’s a sense of disappointment and often a sense of failure. I’m trying to learn to give these emotions some space, not identify with them, not try to shoo them away, but recognise them as completely reasonable responses. What is their message, what wisdom do they impart?

A new slow dance

It’s a work in progress. At times I’m consumed. There is a new slow dance happening though, I can feel it. I’m ok, and I can keep going gently and slowly discovering, finding a new path as I relinquish my habitual survival response. Slowly, I’m learning to welcome even the darkest of feelings, without being overwhelmed by them.

The kleshas

To continue the exploration of my current situation within a yogic framework, asmita, one of the kleshas (underlying causes of psycho-emotional suffering) which translates as an attachment to identity, is in full swing. I’m a fit, healthy person, a yogi! I’m pretty heavily invested in that identity. It’s tough to have that challenged.

Abhinivesa, another of the kleshas, which translates to fear of dying, or fear of non-existence, is pretty foreground at the moment too. Death has been a distinctive thread woven through my life experience. It has to be healthy to come to terms with death, before it’s upon you, doesn’t it? It’s not coming easily. Yet somehow, I can’t abandon this project. I’m drawn to it like a moth to a flame. As long as I can’t be at peace with death, I can’t be at peace with life. There doesn’t seem a lot of support around me, as I pursue this personal project. Let’s just keep pretending.

Dying isn’t failing

I’ve witnessed death; suddenly, slowly, painfully, peacefully, with resistance and refusal, with grace and acceptance. Just like life, we all have our unique approach, our unique experience. I’ve noticed that no matter the attitude, the dying still happens. We’re not in charge of the whole story. All we have is our best response to each moment as it arises. I do know that dying isn’t failing. It’s the natural, beautiful conclusion to our story.