About Mary Ruth Velicki

Mary Ruth Velicki MS, DPT combines her experiences of healing through debilitating pelvic pain with her background as a physical therapist to provide inspiration and information for others who are suffering. In her memoir, Healing Through Chronic Pain, she describes how she used the body-mind-spirit connection to restore her health and well-being.

Navy Seal Demonstrates “Unwinding”

This Navy Seal and I did not know that the body had an innate capability to spontaneous release in this way until we experienced it ourselves. This physical response can also be accompanied by a release of emotion or recollections of past experiences/traumas. My CranioSacral therapist, Karen Axelrod CMT, D-CST, sent me this link and told me that the movements demonstrated in this video mimicked how my body moved during our treatment sessions. These spontaneous movements are often called “unwinding” and they can take many different forms. When my pain condition ramps up- moving in this way calms my nervous system, relaxes the muscles throughout my pelvic area and legs, and decreases my pain.

Healing Quotes

 

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A psychologist who treats clients with pelvic pain told me, “Enjoy your healing”. In the depths of pain I could never have wrapped my mind around this.. but now I can see that painful challenge can also be an unfolding process of self-discovery and growth.

 

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I used to think: “My pain is rearing up and pulling me out of life.” Now I understand: “My pain is signaling me to get the most out of my life.”

 

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“What you hold emotionally can bind your body. Letting go helps love and life to flow.”
Photo: Katherine Velicki

 

 

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When my pain reared up I used to tell myself, “My body is broken; I have a chronic pain condition.” Now I think: “My body is a messenger that has been finely tuned through my struggle. What is it teaching me today?”

 

 

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“It takes a lot of energy for the mind to convince the heart that it is not hurting.”

 

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“Sometimes you need to look within in order to climb out.”

 

 

 

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My body no longer screams in pain when I’m stressed. But when it whispers, I listen.

 

 

 

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“It is possible to experience physical or emotional pain and not suffer.”

 

 

 

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“Escape from the Chronic Pain Trap” was the title of a recent essay in the Wall Street Journal. Let’s change it to: “Heal through the Chronic Pain Experience”

 

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When you find yourself frustrated with someone who is in chronic physical or emotional pain, consider how hard it would be to remain calm and collected with your feet in the fire.

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We often have no idea how broken we are until we start fixing ourselves.
Photo: Kelly Hughes

 

 

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When it gets really windy in life, stay grounded and go with the flow.
Photo: Kelly Hughes

 

 

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I recently heard these song lyrics…”We will get there. Heaven knows how we will get there. But we know we will.” Believing you can feel better helps you get there.
Photo: Tom Heimerman

 

 

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When the path seems unclear, have faith that you are still moving forward.

 

 

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When times get tough, consider switching your perspective of yourself and others from “problems to manage” to “people to love.”

 

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8. Compassion is all about connection and equality. It is moving from feeling “for” someone to feeling “with” them.
Photo: Mary Clare Carlson

 

 

 

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9. What is intimacy? Iben Larssen, my life coach on this journey to wellness, once described intimacy as: “into me you see”. As we heal, we gradually and gently inch toward intimacy.

 

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Personal growth is like a pulsating rhythm- constriction becomes expansion, and when this new point feels tight and restrictive it breaks open and expands once again. This growth pulses ever outward- pushing the boundary of what IS to become what is possible.
Photo: Mary Clare Carlson

 

Ten Healing Thoughts

To celebrate the one year anniversary of the book/website- here are ten healing thoughts which were posted on Facebook this past year. Did you miss any?

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1. What you create is a unique expression of you. It doesn’t need to be validated by the world in order to be true, valuable and right.

 

 

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2. Thinking you’ve “arrived” really limits how far you can go. It is the recognition of the unknown that opens up the possibility of experiencing it.

 

 

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3. We often have no idea how broken we are until we start fixing ourselves.

 

 

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4. When it gets really windy in life, stay grounded and go with the flow.

 

 

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5. I recently heard these song lyrics…”We will get there. Heaven knows how we will get there. But we know we will.” Believing you can be better helps you get there.

 

 

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6. When the path seems unclear, have faith that you are still moving forward.

 

 

 

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7. When times get tough, consider switching your perspective of yourself and others from “problems to manage” to “people to love.”

 

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8. Compassion is all about connection and equality. It is moving from feeling “for” someone to feeling “with” them.

 

 

 

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9. What is intimacy? Iben Larssen, my life coach on this journey to wellness, once described intimacy as: “into me you see”. As we heal, we gradually and gently inch toward intimacy.

 

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10. Personal growth is like a pulsating rhythm- constriction becomes expansion, and when this new point feels tight and restrictive it breaks open and expands once again. This growth pulses ever outward- pushing the boundary of what IS to become what is possible.

 

Photo credits: 1- Mariane Gabriel; 3,4- Kelly Hughes; 5-Tom Heimerman; 8,10- Mary Clare Carlson

Going with the Flow

13006_474828765911174_1995764747_nI was going through a stressful time, and my pain condition was starting to ramp up again. My life coach, Iben, encouraged me to go to the ocean. She said that I could fill up my internal reserves and connect with God/the Universe in nature and especially at the ocean.

The minute I sat down in the sand, tears poured out. After about fifteen minutes my emotions calmed, and I said out loud, “Show me how to move forward here.”

Immediately I noticed a flock of mini sandpipers. They ran in as the waves retreated, and ran out just ahead of the rush of water, and all the time they poked their beaks in trying to get a meal. Then I noticed another flock of birds flying above the crashing waves and thought, “I need to be above it all, just like those birds.”

Then I realized that it wasn’t two separate flocks, and the same birds were both soaring and scrambling. And when the birds were on the ground, they never got tumbled up in the waves.

Those birds were my teacher that day.  I realized that I can view my life from a  higher perspective and then drop down to participate in my life- messy as it is.  And while I was down here trying to get my needs met, I could avoid getting tumbled up in the chaos by staying in tune with the nature around me and going with the flow.

Photo by: Mariane Gabriel

 

Beyond Biology

10014532_676680822392633_7017490545619221985_nBefore my illness, I wondered if spiritual experiences were simply the result of activating the brain in a different way. When I read Eckart Tolle’s description of living peacefully in the moment, I thought that in response to his depression- he had simply learned to decrease the activity of the brain’s frontal lobes and to increase the activity of other parts of his brain. This notion was confirmed when I read that certain brain areas are active on functional MRI when people feel connected to the Universe/God in deep meditation.

But then during the peak of my chronic pelvic pain, I looked up one night as I was taking out the trash and for the first time I really saw the moon and stars. Over years and years of healing, I looked up more and more often. I began to appreciate that, like the brain, the universe is vast, mostly unknown, and full of potential. It occurred to me that as human beings, the only way we experience the world is through our biological system, and if we are connecting to something more it would be reflected in our physiology.

This idea that there was more to the world than I had previously considered, and perhaps more to me than my basic biology- opened up new ways of perceiving and experiencing my life. When you think you have all the answers, you probably have all you are going to get! It is this openness to the idea that there is more, to us and to the world, that creates the possibility of experiencing it.

Photo by: Mariane Gabriel

A Cry for Connection?

2014-03-08 13.39.13My life coach, Iben, once told me that some people with chronic pain stay in that state to get nurturing and attention. I bristled at this comment because no one wants a pain condition to be discounted as manipulation. One has to be very careful in making these connections. The pain is real and usually many factors contribute to it.

I was only able to consider this possibility when she clarified that this is often a subconscious reaction rather than a conscious choice. It helped me move from judgement to compassion when I considered that these people are trying to fill a core void however they can. On a subconscious level, they are hurting themselves physically to avoid dying emotionally.

Staying Present

DSCN0931About four years into my pain condition, I was having blood drawn. As soon as I saw the needle, I noticed that my mind was somewhere else, leaving my body alone to deal with it. At that moment, I realized that this was a dominant pattern in my life; I automatically moved my awareness up and away whenever I sensed potential emotional or physical pain.

During my second Myofascial Release course, the instructor said that you can feel when someone “left their body”. This seemed a bit out there to me, but then I noticed that sometimes when I was working with someone in the course- his/her body would suddenly  feel less animated and more dense. On a few occasions the person told me that at that time they had shut off the emotions or physical sensations they were experiencing at the time.

So as the needle was inserted, I made a conscious decision to stay present. I felt the pain and sent loving energy to my body. And in some subtle way, the whole experience was different.

Over the healing years, I got better at staying present, feeling my pain and loving myself through it. It became clear that, for me, staying present was a crucial part of healing.

 

Staying Strong

1491592_627565667304149_1279721523_nphoto by Mariane Gabriel

At the beginning of my illness, my doctor told me that I was strong and stoic and when I described my pain as a 4 on a scale of 1-10 she knew that many of her other patients would describe this same level of pain as a 10. This was curious to me because at the time, I thought I was weak and emotional. But over time I discovered that suppressing negative emotions had been my modus-operandi throughout life.

I was a good little soldier, and I got so good at hiding my emotions that I often tucked them inside before I felt anything. It took me years to recognize that there was an emotional component to my illness, and even longer to decide to look at what I was carrying.

I began to appreciate that I wasn’t weak; I had tried to stay strong for too long.

Everything Strange Is Not Pathology

A few years ago, I joined a discussion group that shared information that pertained to reality beyond what one could pick up with the five senses. People brought in information from science, religion and personal experience, so one week I shared my experience with spontaneous movements often referred to as “unwinding”. (See “unwinding” blog post for a description).

When I finished speaking, a woman frowned at me and said, “A few years ago, whenever I saw pizza it smelled like popcorn. I went to the doctor and found out I had a brain tumor.”
“Are you suggesting I get an MRI?” I asked.
“Yes.”

I understood this woman’s viewpoint, because before my illness I would have written off many of my experiences as an alteration in the brain due to the chronic pain, depression, or the side effect of some medication. I still don’t have concrete explanations for these happenings. But for me they are real and related to my personal healing, and not just a sign of pathology.

After one doctor heard about some of my experiences, she commented that it was important to first rule out that the changes weren’t happening because of some disease process, and then you could entertain that it was related to something more.

Over the years, these happenings gradually shifted my perspective and I began to accept them as real, meaningful and related to my healing. I learned that everything strange is not pathology.

Painful Hierarchy

2014-03-08 13.30.36During a course for the alternative treatment, Myofascial Release, the instructor described how unexpressed emotional trauma can sometimes show up as symptoms in the body. When the topic was opened for discussion, I shared with the group how my repressed sexual abuse was related to chronic pelvic pain.

During the break, a fellow participant approached me and said, “I feel so sorry for you. You have had to deal with horrific pain in your life. It’s not like so many of the people around here who are upset or crying about the stupidest things.”

When I thought about this comment, I realized that putting information in a hierarchy and judging the relative importance of things is a great tool of the analytical mind. But this capability, which helps us focus and survive, can also be used to discount our pain or the pain of others.

I have to admit that on occasion, I have felt impatient with people who were struggling with emotional or physical pain, and even a bit superior. I have also compared my level of suffering to other people’s pain and deemed that mine was less intense and therefore not really valid.

But pain is pain, and for the person who is hurting it is always real. When we switch from hierarchy to equality and from judgment to compassion, we help ourselves and each other feel safe enough to feel and express our pain. And this is the way to healing.