I am sitting in the bath, scissors in hand, feeling apprehensive. The water is lukewarm and getting colder with every minute that passes. I cannot put off the inevitable any longer. Holding the scissors firm I cut from the top of my thigh down towards my feet. The bandage is tough and soggy and in an effort to cut through it in one go, I forget that the nurse told me it would not be a pretty sight. Keeping my leg submerged in the water, the bloodied layers of gauze peel away without much pain. I gasp in shock, as tears instantly begin to roll down my face. My leg looks like someone has used it for target practice, where each bullet has lodged into the flesh and made a crater of blackened blood.
My first thought as I stare at my leg, which looks uglier than the green delta of puffed up varicose veins I'd just had stripped is, “How will I ever dare to wear a swimming costume again?” The tears run ever faster. I am 35 years old, too young to have varicose veins. I vow never to show my bare legs in public from that day on.
Around the time I had my leg operation, I was given a little blue book called ‘Heal Your Body’ by Louise Hay. It contained a list of diseases and physical ailments, with their related probable metaphysical causes. Ms Hay offered a simple and profound philosophy; that negative thought patterns contribute to the illnesses which manifest physically in our bodies, and that by loving ourselves and saying positive affirmations in the mirror daily, we can change these thought patterns and heal. Over time, this seemingly effortless process was to shift my entire relationship to my body.
Under the heading ‘varicose veins’ the Little Blue Book said: Standing in a situation you hate. Discouragement. Feeling overworked and overburdened.
I thought about where I was at in my life. I was living at home with my mother, in over my head in student debt, had left a job where I'd been working for a bully-boss, only to have substituted him in my new job for an anger-fuelled boss, who micro-managed my every move. I was unhappy, single and lonely. Was I standing in a situation I hated? No kidding!
But the positive affirmation that I was supposed to say to heal my life situation (I stand in truth and live and move in joy) felt unreal to me. It was so far from the experience of my life that just to read it, l felt a fraud. However, I was intrigued enough by the idea that I could take responsibility for my health, if only to be able to dance flamenco without pain in my leg, that I bought and read the book ‘You Can Heal Your Life,’ which explained the philosophy behind the Little Blue Book. Reading about the probable thoughts that were at the root of illnesses I'd had throughout my life, I began to see patterns of guilt, self-criticism and fear that flowed like a network of rivers through the beliefs I held deep down about myself and who I was.
With increased awareness, even as I began to change my job situation, paid off my debts, and bought a flat with my sister, the relationship to my body and loving myself unconditionally was still troublesome. I had trouble with saying the affirmations and instead, I started writing them in my journal. Over time, I felt that this simple act of being willing to write affirmations every day was somehow akin to giving my body and mind new instructions (just as when a toddler learns to walk, repetition is crucial) and the shifts I have experienced in my health, accepting my body, my sexuality, the confidence to love myself just as I am, has been phenomenal. So much so, that it is easy to forget to appreciate the profoundness of this process when the passing of time quietly continues to work its magic in changing my beliefs.
Over the past summer, I decided to do an intensive training in the Heal Your Life philosophy of Louise Hay, to deepen my understanding both for my own challenges, as well as in my mission to support my clients. With the news of her recent passing in August, at the age of 90, becoming certified to run workshops that transform people's lives seems to have been perfectly timed. I feel it is my privilege to take on the responsibility to continue her incredible life's work.
And I am saying my daily affirmations in the mirror now!