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Moving Forward with Sickling Legs

October 2022, Issue 14 "The greatest wealth is health" - Virgil


By Harper Klay, Shonkinite Founder

6 minute read

Click on the video below to hear this Sketch in the author's voice

Smelling Red Series is birthed from the Founder’s personal journey recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury. We begin with her story.

In the last few months. I've been waking up to my toes curled and legs sickled.

The sensation is as if my bones are pulling and twisting from the knee below and want to press toward each other. My psoas muscle screams in pain, a bewildered and isolating symptom that is very new.

My body constantly surprises me. Even after nearly two decades of living with a Traumatic Brain Injury, I arrive at a, ‘well, that’s new.’ Sometimes sensations seep into my awareness, other times they arrive with a jarring suddenness.

My body does not lie and refuses to be ignored. I often wonder what it would be like to live in a body as an afterthought. Before relocating to Montana, I knew I needed to get my body into the best shape possible, as a relocation would require building a new healthcare team. For six months, I did two to four Gyrotonics sessions per week. My beloved instructor, Erin, was the first to introduce me to the term sickling. And point out what my legs were doing.

I had always known something was off with my legs as I didn’t feel my feet for the first nine years after the car accident. Still, I didn’t know why it was happening or the terminology. Erin is a retired ballerina with advanced certifications in Gyrotonics and a sister with a Traumatic Brain Injury. Her insights, observations, and training deepened my relationship with my body. I trained with her for six months and had weekly women’s health physical therapy sessions, including the Feldenkrais method.

There are discoveries within a body like mine. I often get into repetitive patterns of saying, “my brain injury, my brain injury,” but this means a breadth of sweeping and unpredictable, invisible symptoms.

Simultaneous with the leg pain, I push forward in my creative endeavors and build Shonkinite. And having Fernanda Ghi, a world tango champion, here in Montana was a treat. Going into an embrace with her and tango dancing for several days was a reminder of what my health is like when I’m dancing twenty hours per week.

Subconsciously I knew I couldn’t live in Montana when I was at the depths of sorting myself out with a TBI. And even now, despite all my progress, problems continue to arise, like puzzle pieces constantly falling into view, only occasionally finding their match.

As the sickling of my legs and curling toes worsened, I would wake up in the night to pain that would have me pacing my living room. After countless sleepless nights and immobile days, I realized I had let my practices and body care lapse.

Emergency rolfing sessions, a membership to the hot springs with routine cold plunges, and acupuncture are my life at the moment. In addition, another round of PNF physical therapy.

I get upset, near tears, often. But then I know I have to shift my thinking. My body is a miracle, and my body communicates to me how I am doing and being and enjoying my life.

I miss tango so much. Dancing it 2-3 hours per day is a lifestyle that could make my symptoms a distant memory. I think of how I am moving forward in my life now and with my stories and that my legs are symbols of projects moving forward.

Tango is all about the walk, and as I put one foot in front of the other, often unclear of the terrain before me, I am still moving forward.

A statement made in my recent Dzogchen meditation group was, “just keep moving” as long as I am alive, I am moving. And I am.

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