Frozen into action

My writing began with a slight flicker of my right eyelid.

I was working at home on the computer one afternoon 15 years ago when it started. I thought it was just a tiredness-induced tick, but within half an hour my eye was watering and I couldn’t close my eyelid properly.

My housemates looked at me and spoke in concerned tones about a stroke and told me to get myself quickly to the emergency ward at the local hospital, where the nurse at the counter said reassuringly: “Looks like Bell’s Palsy to me – you’ll be fine.”

Bell’s what? I’d never heard of it. A doctor came and examined me and confirmed the nurse’s on-the-spot diagnosis. At least it wasn’t a stroke. But it wasn’t all exactly good news. After he explained the mechanics of the condition – a facial nerve which travels through a bony passage in the skull swells and becomes inflamed, causing the blood and oxygen flow to the nerve to be restricted and resulting in paralysis of one side of the face – he told me casually, “It might last two weeks or so, it might be permanent.”

My blind faith in my body and rude good health dissolved there and then within the clinical lighting of the ward. At home that night, I struggled to make sense of what was happening to me and – more importantly – why.

Two and half weeks later, my face still frozen and my mind sliding from side to side with panic at the thought of being permanently paralysed, I went and visited a ‘special’ woman, D, in the small town I lived in who had been recommended to me by friends. She was known as a ‘kinesiologist’ and practised what I, brought up on a rigidly boxed diet of science and maths, thought of as ‘hocus-pocus’. But she always was fully booked – a good sign – plus my face wasn’t getting any better, so I had nothing to lose.

D said to me as I walked in the door of what looked like a typical massage room: “You’re a mess, aren’t you? But you’re already healing – and we’ll speed that up.”

I lay down on the table in the room, and she explained to me how she could ‘see’ energy. For the next hour D proceeded to touch me lightly on the arms, legs, back and shoulders, move my body into different positions, all the while telling me in a very matter-of-fact way about who I was, what had happened in my life to that point, what I liked and why this had happened. At one point she clicked some strange apparatus behind me, and later placed what looked like six or more polished stones around my lower back as I sat up on the table. She even spoke of some significant event that had occurred between my mother and father while I was still in the womb.

My science background has still never meant my mind is completely closed to possibilities, and D’s non-flaky language and confidence in her ability to heal helped me trust in what she was doing. As I listened to her mention too many things about me that only I could know for them not to be simple guesses, I tried intently to remember every word she was saying. At the end of the session, after she said, “Yes, you’ve got more colour in that part of your face already,” I thanked her and, in a pleasant daze of openness to previously unknown possibilities I walked home, my head full of her divinations and advice.

A few hours later I noticed in the mirror that I could move my right eyebrow a little.

I grabbed a plain notepad I had sporadically dawdled and scribbled in odd ideas over the last year or so and calmly, but also in a hyper-alert state, began to furiously write down what I could remember of what D had told me while I was lying on her table. A couple of hours of blabbing into the pad later, I looked up and started reading back some of what I had written. There was actually some insight there, and I even enjoyed parts of it.

So I kept writing.

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