This is the story of Neal, in his own words:
“This image depicts my upper back and neck, particularly the right side, as being overcome and consumed by rust, robbing it of natural, easy function and movement. My spine appears as links of chain that will begin to break down and malfunction as it succumbs to the rust, turning me into a figure whose physical capabilities are restricted, like the Tin Man from ‘The Wizard of Oz’, when he is in desperate need of oil just so he can move again.
I lived with acute pain throughout my neck for around 11 years, following a physical assault that I could not have prepared for or defended myself against until it was already happening. As a child I experienced repeated similar attacks from within my family and it is fair to say that a large portion of my formative years were spent in a state of heightened nervousness. Fearing for my safety and well-being became normality, tension within my body and mind were never far from the surface.
I firmly believe that the attack on me (at the age of 34) brought back a wave of tension that had been long forgotten, as though something that laid dormant within my soul had been released and spread through my body, finally settling in to a new home in my neck and back.
After so many years and so many dollars spent seeking and trying a range of treatments to somehow reduce my pain my body responded (finally!) in the manner in which I truly thought it never would. I feel pretty much ‘normal’ these days thanks to physical treatment and my own mindfulness, although there remains, at times, some restriction and varying degrees of muscle tension. The rust returns but can be minimised, even banished, with the right set of tools. My body remains a work in progress to some extent, something that I can happily rely on now.”
📌In his testimony, Neal connects his pain with childhood trauma, and fear. The concept of memory also applies to the body. If our body remembers automatically how to ride a bike, how to ski, how to walk, how to scream, or run when in danger, our body can react with the same defence mechanism (tension/pain/unpleasant sensations) to a trigger that reminds us of a past traumatic (or scary) event. Our body stores information, our body remembers in order to protect us.
🤡 Stupid example, after getting really drunk on Lychee liqueur when I was 18, it took me yeeears to be able to eat the actual fruit without gagging! I even nearly spewed once on Christmas day because there were lychees in my fruit salad. Anyway…!
📚 For more information about the impact of trauma on the brain, the mind and the body, I would recommend this book: The Body Keeps the Score by Dr Bessel van der Kolk.