I was guided to read up on Jean-Martin Charcot yesterday and his work in Hysteria. Back in the day, the 1800s, early 1900s, women were often locked away if they received such a diagnosis.
Interestingly enough, Charcot was also an expert in neuropathy including arthritic and diabetic conditions. It got me thinking... there must be a link! Many have long considered the links between our mental health and our physical health and experienced the connection between the two. 'Charcot's Joint' is an indication of swelling and atrophy of the joints and is thought in part to be due to compromised myelination of our nervous fibres. This interests me as I had previously come across some research linking vagus nerve health with balanced melatonin levels (from healthy circadian rhythms and sleep patterns) which can influence the myelination of our nervous fibres. So of course, life experiences and traumatic events that put us under stress will influence not only our mental health but the function of our peripheral nervous system also.
As a female of the species, I can relate to the notion of hysteria, although it no longer exists as a medical diagnosis. I definitely experienced episodes of such whilst under pressure in my 'previous life' during my early 30s. I write about it here during one point in time, I spectacularly down spiralled (excerpt from my book):
'Plutonic Forces: ‘Have you seen this?!’ He marched over to my desk as I had just taken my jacket off and sat down.
‘Um, no, I think it came out pretty late last night.’
My eyes searched side to side, for something I had missed, some other magical pot of hours in the day I’d missed to have been able to review the proposal in full before now. The email had been sent at 11.30pm the previous evening from our proposals teams and I had just arrived at work after dropping my four-year-old girl off with our child-minder and commuting through traffic for 40 minutes. I arrived at 9.30am, that was ok with our flexi-working policy. I got the impression, Ronald, my new boss, didn’t agree that it was ok. It had been a crazy week. We had two multi-million-dollar proposals to get out to a Japanese pharma company that I had helped win a preferred provider contract with. The first had gone on late Wednesday night after a couple of weeks of late-night coffee fuelled delirium. I was hanging on by a thread and my whole body tensed in preparation of Ronald’s wrath as he loomed over me and thrashed some papers around his belly. My eyes seemed to be stuck around that vicinity, not daring to look up.
‘It’s a disgrace! I might as well throw it in the bin!’ And he proceeded to do so. Landing the papers in the metal bin at the side of my desk before he blustered off. I stared at them, red eyed. Wondering what the hell he expected from me. Some kind of superhuman feat of proposal wizardry no doubt. The proposals were my responsibility, I managed the proposals team and was overseeing the pulling together of medical, operational, technical tailored information and all the detailed costs. I was also responsible for supporting the team who were too, hanging by a thread by this point. Ironically, looking back after the covid-insanity of recent years, the latter proposal was for a flu vaccine trial, maybe it belonged in the bin.
Ronald’s words rang in my ears. I’m not sure if I had always been ultra-sensitive to criticism, but at this point my defences were worn away, I had none. Three months earlier, I had discovered the love of my life, Gray had been living a more duplicitous life than I had hoped for.
I had only just recently returned to work after being signed off with anxiety for a month after the soul-shock of my discovery. It wasn’t just the recent months of consecrated aching; it was the loops and spirals of the previous three and a half years of trying to make our relationship work. I could type on and on here about gas-lighting, narcissistic traits verging into socio-pathology, no matter the terminology, in reality, we were both broken. The only difference was I was breaking open whilst he was armouring up and soldiering on. Dysfunctional, our relationship continued, impossible to escape heightened feelings when we worked in an enclosed space together.
‘Walk in with your head held high.’ My mum had said when I returned after being signed off.
I appreciated her support, but the shame was hard hitting, most of the time I just felt like I was floating in a blurry buffer of a bubble, spaced out having disconnected away from the hurt. The hurt from my broken marriage and the guilt from it being my decision, the guilt from my deception as I had distanced myself in my marriage utterly consumed within my new magnetic connection. The hurt of only being able to see my toddler daughter half the week, the hurt of not being able to be with the man I really loved, the shame of circumstances surrounding us, the hurt from the hurt I had caused, and feeling like all of it was my fault. Around the same time, my Dad in his late seventies had been subject to fraud from his business partner who stole thousands and almost sunk his business whilst he attempted to save for his retirement and my brother was falsely accused and subjected to parental alienation from his newly born daughter. It wasn’t all surprising Ronald had thrown the proposal in the bin. The sky seemed to be falling in.
The redness from my eyes seemed to spread through my whole body as the heat and hurt from my heart spread out around my chest, over my shoulders, up my neck to my ears and into my cheeks so that it had to release through tears and sobs once there was nowhere left to go internally. Heaving, gulping sobs. At my desk at the edge of our thirty-something full open planned office, I felt all the eyes of my colleagues like darts. I scurried into the room behind me and turned my back on it's floor to ceiling windows out into the open planned office. The room wasn’t very soundproof, and the gulping and sobbing wouldn’t quieten down. My whole body convulsing. Daz, my friendly colleague from Business Development who was also up to his neck in the proposal nightmare knocked to come in, in support. I let him. He spent most of the time shaking his head in sympathy agreeing we weren’t equipped for such feats. The next minute, our female colleague, Meg from proposals joined us. Tears were also streaming down her face, maybe she had been next on Ronald’s list. The three of us sat in some kind of ritual purge in the meeting room.
Hysteria had hit.
I know my proposals colleague had also been going through some tough personal challenges. I wonder now, what others saw, heard, and thought. I remember Daz saying the word ‘ridiculous’ quite a lot and finally offering to fetch our HR representative from the adjoining office since our tears, sobs and heaves weren’t showing any sign of abating, rivers flowed.
Breakdowns and burnouts aren’t pretty.
Our HR rep sat listening to our tales of long working hours on projects of which we hadn’t seen the likes of before and the lack of compassionate leadership from our Chief Operating Officer. Eventually it was decided we should see our CEO, Rabia. This meant I had to walk puffy faced through the open plan office, within sight of Gray. At least the sobbing had stopped. For the previous three years, I had reported directly to our CEO. We had a mutual fondness and respect within our working relationship, and she gave me a hug as I walked into her office overlooking the river. I am a hugger.
After a chat, it was decided that the proposals would be re-assigned, and Meg and I would be treated to some herbal tea at the Blytheswood Square Hotel. As well as this, Rabia had her PA set up a 1-2-1 yoga session later that afternoon with her personal yoga teacher. As emergency burn-out treatment goes, I can’t fault it. Sia, her yoga teacher prescribed me some Frankincense and Citrous essential oils, breath-work and tapping techniques to calm my over-driven nervous system. After delving a bit deeper into my personal problems, she prescribed a ‘womb chakra healing’ session and a ‘soul retrieval’ session with her husband who was a nurse, a PhD student, and also a shaman. Righto. Funny if you think about the fact, we were all working in pharmaceutical research. My company offered to pay for these sessions that were set up over the following month of March. Within two weeks of finishing the work with Sia and her husband, I resigned from my job as Director of Global Clinical Operations. The healing had begun. These were the healing times.'
As I made the necessary changes within my professional and personal life, my physical health imbalances began to heal as well (with the help of some other amazing healers and new connections: Dawn, Kaivalyananda, Pamela, that I've written about previously). It's interesting that Charcot, back in the 1800s was interested in a form of Hypnotherapy to treat Hysteria called Mesmerism.
Mesmerism seems to include concepts from Reiki, Theta state healing and Biomagnetism, which are not dissimilar from the therapeutic yoga and sub-conscious programming modalities that I was drawn toward. I hope these words can help others! You can find more information at my website, my recovery and empowerment personal development programme 'The Voyage' and my retreats.