For the last 10 days or so I have had the strangest thing happen to my body. Now keep in mind I have had numerous bizarre health symptoms happen over the years, enough to fill an entire blog post for another time.
Last week I had a pretty intense flare, nothing unusual there, and then I started to break out in hives. At first I tried to wrack my brain sorting through what I had eaten or been exposed to that might have stimulated this outbreak and came up with nothing. As the days went on and the hives got worse I began to notice a pattern.
Anywhere I lightly scratched would quickly mutate into a hive, then the itch would become unbearable and spread. The more I would scratch, the more the welts and swelling would spread and the itch would become maddening.
Over the past few years my mindset, in regards to my health issues, have changed from resistance towards embrace.
With every new illness, every new diagnosis or symptom I have learned to surrender and go deep to listen to what my body needed me to hear.
With this, with the insanity that widespread itching can bring, I had to practice restraint in scratching. When your brain notices an itch the scratch is almost a reflex in nature. Our system is naturally wired to avoid discomfort, to do what we think is best to relieve the disturbance to our equilibrium. With pain we avoid, dissociate, or soothe. With an itch we scratch. In this case though scratching guaranteed unending discomfort.
So I became aware, check that HYPER aware or touching myself. The last few days I have spent countless hours in ball on the ground in tears, doing my best to not escape my body but instead going in, counting my breaths, following the itch, leaning in and noticing the parts of my body affected and those that were not. Mindful of each movement my hands would habitually take to relieve the itch, to scratch, and bringing them back to center.
Some times I would succeed and others I would be swept away by the weakness of habitual wiring and scratch away, fueling the fire.
And of course it made me think of the larger lesson here. Where else am I habitually scratching?
We all have it, that automatic response that comes from an itch. A knee jerk reaction to gloomy mood on a Monday morning, a quick to blame comment when things don’t go as planned, a glass of wine, an extra cookie or zoning out in front of the TV because we had a hard day.
Avoid the pain, itch the scratch, habitually do what we need to do to avoid discomfort. Mindlessly contributing to the irritation.
But all it does is feed into that short term gratification, the relief in the moment and not in line with our long term desires.
So what is it that you find yourself metaphorically scratching? What uneasiness do you avoid over and over again?
That is the first step, noticing where you habitually try to escape an uncomfortable feeling. And then, get curious, what if I stayed? What if I stayed with this sadness, or pain, or itch, then what? What is here?
Because growth doesn’t come by avoiding discomfort, it comes when we learn how to lean in when things are tough, how to courageously embrace those things we are fearful of and come out the other side stronger, braver and wiser.