Reconnecting mind and body

About six months ago, an unspeakable tragedy occurred that has left a huge void in my heart. But during some of the darkest times following the death of our son, Joey, we had so many friends helping us then and now.

One of those friends, who also is an occupational therapist, volunteered her time to work with my husband, Randy, and me, using a noninvasive technique to reconnect our mind and body.

When she asked me if I would try this technique, I admit I was skeptical about my body being disconnected from my mind, but I prayed for willingness.

The treatment, called the Masgutova Method, was developed by a Russian psychologist and scientist, Svetlana Masgutova. His technique is aimed at addressing “reflexes gone astray” to restore the brain’s foundational structure on which higher level skills are built. Those higher level skills include attention, language, social finesse and academic learning.

Although I thought I was handling this trauma relatively well, my brain’s reaction to the trau­ma caus­ed irritability, sleeplessness, depression, memory problems and an inability to focus.

I was so involved in myself that I didn’t see how this trauma was affecting friends and more importantly those I love. What my friend did was help me with my trauma by offering a way for me to find a path that was safe so I could begin the healing pro­cess.​

Her focus was on grounding, balance and stability. The foot reflexes she used helped me to feel safer, as did grounding techniques, which also helped me to keep my mind and body connected and working together. Working on my stability has helped me to have the courage to address my fears.

Even though the treatments did a lot for me, it still won’t ever erase my past. But what it has done is help my brain compartmentalize much of what has happened.

I still have problems associated with Joey’s death, and I know I still need to give myself time. I miss him, and I wish I could turn back the clock when life included Joey. Since I can’t have that, then I need to look at ways to have inner peace.

My friend told me how a group of volunteers led by Masgutova went to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. They went to offer their expertise to the families, and I became hope­ful that if this technique could help the parents there, it could help me, too.

One of the people who lost her child at San­dy Hook was being treated by the team. The single mother, who had two sons, but now only one, said she and the remaining son were both severely traumatized by the nature of their loss and from their own experience.

The mother also talked about how her son was afraid of strangers following the tragedy, but credits the team and technique as helping him become more at ease with people he doesn’t know.

For survivors of PTSD or any kind of trauma, the body is in a state of constant reaction and alertness.

An example of “constant reaction and alertness” I read about involved a husband who returned home to his wife after serving in Iraq. In the beginning, this veteran showed signs of PTSD, ranging from depression, isolation, anger outbursts to impaired judgement and thinking of things that weren’t part of his history. His wife said he would stand outside in the yard for hours looking up to the sky as if he were lost.

Eventually, he found help with the Masgutova Method. After three sessions he was almost back to normal, but he still remembered the terrible situations he faced and saw. The only residual problem left was his uneasiness with large crowds, and when he would often mutter, “We are a huge target!”

After a few years, the family moved to another state. The Masgutova team had hoped he would have continued therapy because his wife believes he would have beaten his anxiety about large social gatherings.

Anything that causes emotional, physical or mental injury is trauma.

Being a survivor of earthquakes or other natural disasters, severe car accidents, domestic violence, childhood issues, or anything that overwhelms one’s ability to cope could be a traumatic event.

My friend suggested we should have another meeting soon. I agreed. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at success quite like this, but Masgu­tova said it’s having deep restorative sleep, a pain-free body, health, joy in the simple pleasures of life, confidence, resilience and optimism. She’s right, and I think it’s worth striving for no matter what age we are.

Patty Decker writes news and features for the Free Press. You can reach her at patty@hillsborofreepress.com