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The Power of Contact on Our Journeys to Heal

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Yes, I too wondered what she meant by “contact” as she gently introduced the theme of the evening to myself and 12 other women in a small, warmly lit room. We were all here for healing, space, tranquillity and freedom in some way shape or form, so what did she mean by “contact”? And why did it scare us all so much?

My name is Charmaine. A 26-year-old diagnosed with depression, anxiety, BPD (borderline personality disorder) and on some days PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Some days I want to hug everything and everyone in sight. I want to hug the entire world in one tight, radiant squeeze. Other days, I call in sick to work, hide under my duvet with Netflix and dive into Ben and Jerry’s.

Who was “she” and what was “contact”?

“She” who introduced us to the nerve-wracking theme of “contact” was one of the Women’s Circle’s facilitators, and she absolutely glowed with love and warmth. And what about the “contact”? Well, it certainly didn’t mean picking up the phone or sending emails and letters, which is what I initially thought. Contact tonight was to touch. Human contact, human touch, contact with a surface of any sort upon your skin, that kind of contact. We all sat around the middle candle that made the room glow with comfort and held up our hands to admit we didn’t like the sound of this at all. We were all feeling uncomfortable, nervous and you could see eyes darting around the room for a quick exit. In a modern, cultural society like ours where we shake hands, hug hello and kiss goodbye, why were we so terrified?

Mental Health Healing

I was only diagnosed with BPD last year while I completely lost my mind in Australia. Saying that, when I look back now, my mind had always been misguided, lost and taken from me. Manipulated, brainwashed, pulled, pushed and quite “unknown” to me. I guess Australia marked my absolute limit. I wanted to die and I made attempts. Although I was diagnosed with BPD last year, depression has been with me from day one, like an unwanted twin. A shadow in the night, it was always there. I can see it now as we flick through family photos, I am always crying. Why was I so sad? I couldn’t remember a time in my childhood where I didn’t try to draw or write my way out of my sadness that my parents passed off as “grumpiness.” They refused to feed the flames with attention. As a result, I just got worse. So talking and writing about mental health isn’t anything new for me, it was the only thing that made sense to me as it pulled me through the thick, constant fog.

Yet tonight, as I have just had quite a mind-blowing evening, I wanted to take a different approach to talking about mental health healing and one important factor of recovery that maybe we don’t talk about that much. We’re under the impression that mental health healing has to do with what “I” can do for myself, what patterns I need to break, what routines and stability I need to create, what experiences I need to talk about in therapy, but never on my journey has “others” come up. What about healing with others?

Where Does “We” or “Us” Fit Into the Healing?

Contact. Where exactly does this fit into my life? Nowhere, I am sure. Recovery for me is like an orange with 28 different segments — pull one away and it all falls apart. So, how do I have time to tend to all my needs? I don’t, really. It’s a “balancing act,” as they call in it my program called STEPPS (Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving). The man in the diagram is standing, juggling five or six balls. Fine, you can learn to juggle five or six balls, maybe, if you’re really great. But how on earth do you juggle 20 or more? Thing is, for some people, it may be as simple as sleep. Showers. Eating properly. Yoga. Meditation. Running every day. Being around your pet. And, that’s great! However, some people may have the problem (or, no problem?) being a high-functioning depressive. “The more I do, the greater I feel!” Which is true, the more I do, the greater I feel. But then that also means I have to keep doing a lot, keep striving to beat yesterday, do something random today that beats yesterday, and do a greater act of kindness today that feels better than yesterday’s. Otherwise, each day is just the same. I have to keep progressing. I have to keep searching. I have to keep working on myself. Hard. Whoa, this is tiring! Therefore, occasionally, I drop my 28 balls I am trying to juggle and I crash, I burn. I break down. In this moment, you will usually find me curled up on the bed, crying my soul out until I cry myself to sleep. Why can’t I be simpler?

However, what’s the one thing I never truly considered before? Contact. A touch. A kiss. A cuddle. A stroke. A poke. A nuzzle. And you know, it doesn’t even have to be with someone else, but with something else, like the surfaces around you.

However, tonight, it was with others. Tonight, I went to the bi-monthly Women’s Circle ran by two wonderful women. They are both trained therapists, and deeply involved in spiritual healing.

The Power of Feminine Energy

Being a woman in a room filled with other women, the energy, color and positivity lit up our surroundings. Not just that, but when you are all there for the same reason like in this case, for healing, the atmosphere is lit like the milky way in the middle of the countryside. The theme was brought to the circle about “contact,” and we all did a sharing. Everyone was tight, resistant, heavy and low. It felt damp, and I felt sad to see many beautiful, radiant women feeling so low. Then we did two exercises, which changed everything.

First, we were asked to find a space and have our body lead the way to ensure that we were making contact with the surfaces around us. I chose the floor, I closed my eyes, and let my body guide me. Not a single limb, not a patch of skin on my body missed out on sliding across the floor. I noticed that from the outside, this must have looked quite beautiful. We all must have looked beautiful and mesmerizing. Although I wasn’t aware of what I was planning to do next with my body, I was aware that my body was in control and guiding me, sliding, bending, folding, curling, down, up, in, out, using every corner of my body to support and move me.

Then, we were asked to lie down and just roll. The first woman we touched would be our partner for the next exercise. We were rolling around like magnets attracting our polar opposite. As my body touched another’s, I opened my eyes. This beauty was lying on her side, hand under her face, already staring into my eyes with a graceful, angel-like smile. She truly was the pinnacle of beauty.

I was already feeling quite loose and in my body, so I was ready. I was on my knees, eyes closed, while my partner guided me. I was the seaweed, she was the waves. She would move my body as if the waves, and I just loosely following her movements, as if the seaweed. My trust was entirely in her hands, her sways, her hand-made rocky waves as I closed my eyes and focused on her tight grip pushing and pulling my body.

After 10 minutes, we swapped. The whole time almost thinking a mixture of “eek! I feel nervous” and “go with it.” But mostly the latter. I moved her body as if it were my own, I guided and protected it with all I had. I was a calmer ocean, and she was tougher seaweed.

Following this exercise, we did some dancing in our own spaces, we were invited to make eye contact, to hug and embrace, and then we were finally brought back to the circle to share again.

The Effects of Human Contact

Well, I have never in my life seen so many beautiful, wonderful eyes light up before, smiles gleaming, relaxed bodies and an overwhelming sense of safety, comfort, excitement, tiredness and love. It was hard to pinpoint when exactly things may have shifted, or perhaps it was just a gradual process, but suddenly, there were no more sad faces. No more heaviness, greyness, sluggishness. We felt in our own bodies, and we felt connected, cared for, carried and warm. All in two and a half hours, may I add. If that isn’t spiritual healing, I don’t know what is. We had all transformed! And while sharing, we laughed, giggled and commented on how scared we were initially when “contact” was brought to the room.

It was simple. In a big, scary world like ours, we are afraid to open up to strangers, to trust strangers, especially when it came to trusting them to protect something as valuable and fragile as our own bodies.

As a mother’s touch to a child signifies, “I’m here, you are safe and I love you,” so did our contact with each other tonight.

So again, I ask myself, where does contact fit into my life to ensure a safe, happy, healthy balance within me? Actually, it fits into all I do. My hands on my yoga mat as I move into downward dog, my fingers on my paintbrush, the clothes on my skin, the hug from a friend I haven’t seen in over a year, the embrace from my partner, the feel of his lips on mine, the cuddle from my dad, holding hands with my Nan down the street, massaging the shoulders of the beautiful women in my circle, contact is in all I do. And, as I bring mindfulness and life into all I do and all I touch, the more I fulfill my need for contact. Mental and spiritual healing begins with me, it begins with you. And, it continues with we and us.

Now, I ask you. Where does contact fit into your life?

Image provided by contributor

Originally published: July 25, 2019
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