Thursday, May 01, 2008

mirrored pain

I woke up two days ago with fairly extreme muscle soreness in my right thigh and left calf/ankle. By the afternoon, my shoulders were sore as well. At some point in the day it occurred to me as I watched Salina moving with her lame left front leg and swollen knee, that the way she was having to move must surely be stressing her upper right leg, lower left, and both her shoulders, as she tried to keep weight and pressure of that knee.

I've experienced mirrored pain before with Keil Bay, and I've been familiar for years with the symptoms of trauma my clients bring to my office and "share" with me - sometimes quite literally. I'm good at using the drive from office to home to clear my mind and body of the residual effects of this shared trauma. Sharing it helps me be a better therapist, but holding on to it would burn me out.

So I noted the soreness and moved on with the day.

Yesterday morning it was less but still there. I was sitting in my garret, window open, writing, when I heard Salina whinny. Then Rafer Johnson brayed. A few minutes later she whinnied again. I wondered if she were in pain, or if the geldings were doing something they shouldn't. But mostly I fretted about Salina and her lameness this week. I decided to cut my writing time short so I could check on her. When I stood up, both my knees were severely stiff and sore. I have never felt anything like it. I hobbled to the door, realizing I had to get down the stairs, and made my way down, one step at a time.

It was as if my knees had suddenly aged 30 years. I realized when I began to move them about that the range of motion of my RIGHT knee was exactly the same as Salina's is with her LEFT knee right now. And my LEFT mirrored her RIGHT. I walked around the living room, testing various strides and ways of turning, and then simply stood still, to see what it felt like to not move the joints at all. I could feel a mild ache when standing still, but it was the movement of the joints themselves that really hurt.

I wondered about tick-borne disease, briefly. And called my husband to consult. Within about 10 minutes the pain completely disappeared. No stiffness, no ache. It was simply gone.

I've been reading since this episode about mirrored pain, synesthesia, sympathy pain, and shared pain. Thus far I'm not finding much online. Mostly I'm fascinated with what happened yesterday morning. It came and it went in a very short span of time, and wasn't precipitated by anything I had done physically. I am so keenly aware of Salina every moment this week - I've had the windows open so I can hear clearly if she needs us.

I made sure she had a quiet day yesterday. I kept Rafer Johnson close and didn't let them have access to any bigger spaces. So far as I know, she didn't get excited and she didn't do more than a slow walk. Hopefully the gelding for Rafer will not be too hard on him or Salina. My thought is that she will be in the barn aisle where she can watch and supervise things or walk out into the small barnyard if she prefers some distance. I will use Rescue Remedy for both of them before the vet arrives, and she'll have a vet check herself and a hot stone massage after all that is over. By the time we get through the afternoon, we should know more and have an updated plan for treatment.

For now, I'm imagining circles of pure white light surrounding her knees, warming the joints, cooling them, lubricating them, healing them.


It has been quite a morning here. The baby barn swallows had left the nest yesterday but this morning one had returned.

Two Canadian geese landed in the front field and Salina, Rafer Johnson, my daughter, and I all watched with a front-row seat while the pony, Cody, and Keil Bay followed them around and then down the hill.

Salina seemed not to want to move much this morning and when I went down the hill to dump the wheelbarrow, I got tearful thinking that she might be in decline. At the bottom of the hill when I started to dump, I noticed a large feather. I think it's from a redtail hawk but will need to check with my bird experts later in the day to be sure. I brought it back up and stuck it on the outside of Salina's stall. In a few minutes she perked up and went out to the barnyard to graze. It was so good to see her moving and grazing.

When I came inside to fix lunch and take a quick break before the big event at one, I glanced out the front window. As big as the sky there was a gigantic V.

All these little things are helping the day move more easily and keeping our spirits up. And interestingly enough, I woke up this morning with my body completely clear of tension, aches, etc. I hope Salina can soon have some of that.


Grey Horse Matters said...

I'm finding the mirrored pain fascinating. You must be very tuned into her pain to feel it yourself. I have never experienced anything like this before. Hope all goes well today. The massage should help both of you. Poor Rafer doesn't know what's coming his way. I feel sorry for the little guy, but I'm sure he'll be fine.

billie said...

Arlene, I too am fascinated. This is probably the most extreme example I've had of this kind of thing.

I just noticed that the word of the day on the sidebar is prostration.

That's pretty much what this week feels like, and I am ready to let it pass.

It's funny - the odd way - I have been so worried about Rafer's gelding, but now that Salina has been lame, the gelding has taken its appropriate place in my mind. A normal, safe procedure that can certainly have complications, but doesn't usually.

It's such a good example of how one day and one new thing can totally shift one's perspective.

I'm heading out to the barn now to get the breakfast routine going.

Heidi the Hick said...

check out Dr John Sarno's work. I'm not sure I totally buy it but it is very interesting, makes sense, and gives you something to think about.

We are so pain focused in our culture. We have this attitude that pain is the actual problem when often it's really a warning that there is something else wrong.

You must be a very sensitive and intuitive person!

billie said...

Heidi, thanks so much - I just went to Amazon and put his latest book in my cart.

Victoria Cummings said...

Billie - I hope things are going better for you and Salina today. This is really stressful, and it always amazes me when we mirror our horses' pain. I'll be sending healthy vibes your way.

Rising Rainbow said...

I'm not sure what to think about mirrored pain but I know people who have experienced it. There is so much about the way we "work" that is unknown.

I hope Salina continues to do better and the gelding will go ok. Once in a while they can throw blood clots and that's a pain to deal with but that's about it. Nothing insurmountable, a couple of extra vet calls and some extra care but not nearly as scary as it sounds. Not to mention, they rarely happen.

Janet Roper said...

Amazing how many different ways we can tune in to the ones we love, and how they can tune in to us!

For the record, Louise L. Hay says knee problems represent pride and ego. Her mantra for that is "I am flexible and flowing."

My understanding of mirroring is that the someone you 'pick up' the pain from is inviting you to look at something in your own life ~ in other words, your life, or an issue in your life, is being mirrored back to you in order to draw your attention to it.

So, I'm wondering if this is a case of mirroring, or, because of your close connection with Salina, if you are intuitively picking up and feeling what she is experiencing.

It's two different animals, so to speak. ;-)

Whichever the case, it makes sense that you would experience on your right side what she experiences on her left.

Isn't it interesting that you experienced knee problems when you were fretting about Salina while in your garret, and when you talked to your husband the pain disappeared!

Mirroring or intuition in overdrive? Trust your gut as you search for the answer.

If it's mirroring, what is Salina mirroring to you? If your intuition is in overdrive, how do you work with someone you love so deeply without picking up their ailments? After all, taking on her pains is no good to anyone and it certainly doesn't sound as if you've lessened her pain.

Healing light is wonderful, especially when it comes with the love you have for her.

It's a great image of dumping the muck and finding a feather. Perhaps it's a great synchronicity also!

Keep me posted, and my best to you and Salina.
Janet Roper

billie said...

Victoria, MiKael, and Janet: Thank you all for the good wishes and the wonderful info. I'm posting an update instead of spilling it all here in the comments. What a day we've had!