Author Anna McKerrow reveals how spirituality transformed her own healing journey
Healing is not always pretty. When I say healing, I mean emotional and spiritual healing. (Although, healing from surgery isn’t the most gorgeous thing either, I think we can all agree – scarring, soreness, physiotherapy – but usually worth it. Plus: hospital-grade painkillers! Hurrah!) As someone who has pursued a variety of what we might call non-traditional healing approaches for my emotional pain and mental health, I can reassure you, hand on heart, that the most effective therapies and breakthroughs I’ve had have been accompanied by plenty of:snot, panda eyes, unattractive grunting and bawling.
Getting your sh**t together
Some of this is hard to write, but I am writing it, because reiki, breathwork, witchcraft and communing with angels, and all the other stuff I include in this book,has enabled me to process enough of my pain to sit in front of you and bare my soul without fear. No mean feat for (actually) a very private person. So if you ask me, how do I know it worked? Well, if it hadn’t, I would probably be dead about now. Seriously: there was a dark time I thought I would never get through. It also worked well enough for me to get my shit together and write this book. So, I’m alive (yay), and I’m telling you what happened in the hope that it will help you. Why should you read this? Well, hopefully it’ll make you smile here and there. Some of the things I’ve done in the pursuit of healing are ridiculous. I’m happy to own that. But also, maybe, you might relate to some of it.
If you’ve come this far, you might come a little further with me. Maybe you too have experienced loss, or illness, or held your new baby in your arms and thought, Fuck, I’m not up to this. Maybe you have had a seriously sick child and spent time in the hospital with them. Maybe you have experienced some other terrible trauma: war, rape, miscarriage. Maybe you have grown up believing that life is all about suffering, or you find it impossible to find peace in the world as it is today. You might have experienced depression and anxiety like so many of us. The healing modalities explained in this book may seem unglamorous or just plain odd, but for me they have offered something that mainstream solutions didn’t. First, all these approaches saw me as a whole person. I wasn’t a person with a wonky brain that needed fixing with some kind of magical wonder drug; I wasn’t a lost cause or a burden or a weirdo. I was simply a human, having a human experience of trauma. Second, they offered me real answers about what had caused my symptoms (what you choose to believe about those answers are up to you) and, often, a real structure that explained physical, spiritual and mental health in a much more logical way than I had found elsewhere.
Last, and most importantly, they worked. It’s worth repeating here that, for many, drugs, cognitive behavioural therapy and traditional talking therapy also work. All I’m doing is presenting my experiences and the things that worked for me.
Finding your path
I’m someone who has always believed in there being more to the world than meets the eye. I was brought up to be open to ideas like life after death, reincarnation and the spirit world. So maybe that meant that I wasn’t as resistant to alternative healing techniques as some might be. Nowadays I’m a Reiki Master and I’ve found my belief system best expressed by a pagan world view (that all nature is sacred, and that there are many gods and goddesses I can connect to), as well as that of modern witchcraft, which teaches us that we can be active agents in our own growth by recognizing the subtle energies that exist in the world.
However, I’m also a mum, I have a normal job, I spend what seems like endless hours every week vacuuming and loading and unloading the dishwasher, and I spend most of my time doing normal things like binge-watching detective TV series, food shopping, cycling around rainyparks and gossiping with my friends.
So,yes, by having some alternative world views to start with, I might have had fewer mental obstacles in my way when starting my healing path than some. But if that makes me a more experienced healer friend for you, then that’s a good thing, right? Whoever you are, if you’ve never thought about where healing could take you, let me at least show you where it’s taken me. What have you got to lose?
The Healing Manifesto
1 We all need healing
I hope, if there is one takeaway for anyone reading this (and having got all the way to this bit, thanks!) it is this. As humans, we are immersed in this ocean of existence that for all of us will create reasons to need healing. We’re all alive. Life is engineered to knock us about a bit. Ergo, we can all heal. There is not one person on Earth who doesn’t need it.
2 Healing is for everyone
Let go of your expectations that healing is all gong baths with hipsters and aromatherapy massage in Bali. I hope by now I have demonstrated that normal people are doing it every day in underwhelming conditions.
3 You never come to the end of healing
Your stuff is always your stuff, and during the process of healing, you may come back to certain issues more than once – hence the title of this book. What happens, though, is that you tend to come back to some of the same issues to heal them on another level as time goes by. So that might mean that if you have a big operation, first you heal at the physical level. Then, later, you might come back around to some emotional trauma caused by the surgery or whatever put you in the hospital. And even after you’ve been through that once, you might need to come back to it again later. These things can take time.
4 Healing your emotions can be gritty
At the same time, going through a process of healing is never as scary as your mind expects it to be (and
therefore invents reasons why you shouldn’t do it). Healing the trauma will never be as bad as living through the original trauma. Feelings can easily make us believe things that aren’t true, too.
Edited extract taken from The Path to Healing is a Spiral: One Woman’s Journey to Emotional Healing by Anna McKerrow (Watkins). Available at any good book retailer.