Autumn, the body keeps the score and a touch of midlife madness

Once upon a time I believed that there was an order to the world. That good things happened to good people, that the adults were largely in charge and that science and facts were what really mattered.

And then my daughter died and I had to find a different script. Whilst medical science is of course so often extraordinary – and there have been blockbuster breakthroughs albeit not that many – it sometimes remains powerless in the face of many illnesses that tend to affect younger people. There’s so much it can’t do, and when the doctors finally lay down their tools – we are on our own and it’s only then we have to search for new and different ways to cope/to live.

So my blog is partly powered by this deep seated desire to repaint my world and navigate something completely new. Happy ever after often doesn’t happen in life; and at such times the only thing we are left with is our ability to choose how we interpret our own individual trauma and re-sketch our life story.

Does anyone else notice how the air suddenly smells of “back to school”. A shift in the seasons indicating something ending and a whole new world opening again. Autumn is absolutely my favourite time of year. The golden browns of the landscape, the gentle chill in the air and a move towards a quieter reflection after the heady energy of Summer. A chance to restore and move a little more inwards.

I now take time to feel the shift and to meditate on all that means. Sadness, hope, loss, opportunity. All the emotions that make us human. I try hard, most of all, to sit with the pain. Back to school time is especially challenging as my daughter and our family missed so much of these firsts – as she got ill when she was 15 and each new school year felt like another big loss for us. I feel that pain deep deep within my body and know that it will be many many years – if at all – that I will release any of it. The strange thing is the pain helps the memory and I’m so terrified of losing the memory.

For solace I reach for the wonderfully transformative book “The Body keeps the Score”, written by one of the world’s foremost experts on traumatic stress Dr Bessel van der Kolk. Breathtaking in its scope and breadth, this book argues that trauma is one of the West’s most urgent public health issues and it offers a bold new paradigm for treatment moving away from standard talking and drug therapies and towards an alternative approach that heals mind, brain and body.

And trauma can come from many situations and can depend so much on a person’s general make-up. A bullying incident young can make the world seem a very unfair place from that moment onwards. It’s only by taking time and looking inwards that we can identify our own life stories and maybe our own trauma triggers. I so urge you to do this work – it is, for me, one of the central planks for building strength and resilience. And boy in this world we will need both in bucket fulls – if not now then at some time in the future. After all nobody doges loss and trauma.

Having practiced yoga for many years I have long been aware of how the body holds onto pain. As one learns to redirect their focus inwards, there is so much information to be found, I know the exact shoulder muscle that when stressed fires off a debilitating migraine that can floor me for days. Take care of the muscle and hey presto no migraine!

From Van der Kolk’s work I have crafted my own manual for heartbreak – and so far it’s served me well. Whereas the old me would raise an eyebrow scornfully at so called “new age” practices – I now keep clear of the drugs as far as I can, am losing interest in talking therapies and find my treatments of choice are centred around: journalling, dance, writing and yes massage, acupuncture, massage and even reflexology. I believe now that our body has energy and that trapped energy causes problems and releasing that energy/those thoughts is a route to better health.

Bonkers? Oh yes I do hope so. But really there is growing evidence and research to support this idea. As an ageing society there is likely to be way more illnesses and, if you know anything about medical research, fewer incentives to develop drugs for older age. If we want to live good, worthwhile and the best lives possible it makes sense to take care of ourselves and not expect our creeking – and SO precious – NHS to pick up all of the pieces.

Midlife Madness

Talking of picking up pieces – I will be making every effort to ensure I do not end up using NHS resources through my latest little foray into more adventurous living. It turns out I need to do a CBT motorcycle test before being let loose on my new Vespa (still feel so excited when I say that). Well actually, as my Vespa is only 50cc , I don’t have to do this (it’s only necessary for a 125cc engine) But family/friends are insistent that it is necessary for me and well – I do try and be a good citizen.

Friends seem genuinely shocked that I haven’t settled back into jam making, gardening or even quilting. All of which do have some appeal, it’s just that I have this spark of excitement in me that wants to do something a little edgy. One day I will settle; just not yet.

As an avid diary writer I thought I’d share my August gratitude list: I would LOVE to hear yours.

My August highlights

  • Arvon creative writing course in John Osbourne’s former home in Shropshire. I did my homework and there seems to be general consensus that this is the writing course for serious writers. Key takeaways: there are way too many super talented writers out there; writing makes me happier than (almost) anything else; there is no better way to spend four days of your life than listening to other people’s stories. I can’t recommend this highly enough – and the food is local, organic and gorgeous.
  • The Lake District is spectacularly beautiful. Yup I know you all knew that . But, despite being married to a Northerner for 14 years, I’d never been there. What a wasted life.
  • NOTHING on earth beats the sheer pleasure of taking one’s five and seven year old Grandchildren to the New Forest. Blackberry picking, dog walking, tracking ponies and general old English fun. #Iamsoinlove. My trip advisor score would be one million out of 10.
  • Love love love the film Mrs Lowrey and Son What the hell Vanessa Redgrave is 82!!! The best acting I’ve seen for years. Obviously Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was thrilling too and still have a mad crush on Brad Pitt. He’s just too handsome….
  • Mallorca is fab – especially those out of the way fincas. My favourite is Hotel Ca Sant in Soller. Family run, outstandingly beautiful and the best breakfast I’ve ever eaten.

Have a wonderful wonderful week.

Debbie xx

4 thoughts on “Autumn, the body keeps the score and a touch of midlife madness”

  1. Thanks for that uplifting and insightful Sunday reading. To me, it is unimportant if I agree or disagree or accept or reject your opinion and ideas, it is only important that I get to read and understand them. Every word opens up new avenues for me to consider if not immediately pursue. It really helps to learn another person’s perspective on dealing with the pain and of course, the happiness that fills this experience of life and living.


  2. Oh a bit mad is definitely the way to go!

    So much to be grateful for in August.

    The kindness of strangers supporting my work.
    Glamping with my family – simple stuff, bbq breakfast, board games, laughing.
    Realising I can still fly a trapeze another year older and this time get my son to join me.
    Spending time with those who do not have much time left.

    Paula xx


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