What my sore achilles heel can teach me
by Andy Howie
I have a very sore achilles tendon and it’s restricting my movement and activities. I’m walking less and I’ve stopped playing tennis. I am seeing a physiotherapist but what the tendon really needs is time to heal and repair. Treatment accelerates the process, but ultimately my body needs to do its job and for that it needs time and rest, so I can’t continue to walk and play tennis as I did before. I’ve had to make adjustments.
This mix of time, rest and help from others does not only restore us physically. It can also renew us mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and for that side of life I sometimes see another kind of therapist: a psychotherapist. Strangely, I’m more reluctant to share about my psychological therapist than I am to share about my physical therapist, but I need them for the same purpose – to prompt and encourage healing and repair. My physiotherapist helps me to keep moving despite my sore achilles and the psychotherapist helps me to be less fragmented and more integrated despite life’s challenges. Both need my cooperation for their treatment to be effective. Between physiotherapy appointments I do regular exercises and alongside psychotherapy I practise meditation and write ‘morning pages’.
I’m aware that as I get older the process of physical healing can slow down and I’m happy not to rush because I don’t want to break down again. So I am being pragmatic and have made deliberate choices to stop playing tennis for a while, slow down when walking and avoid longer strenuous walks. This brings in alternatives, such as riding my bike.
This patient approach is infusing other aspects of my being, so the impact goes beyond my achilles. Likewise, psychotherapy and meditation and morning pages help me to manage relationships, cope with disappointments, live life less frantically, spend more time with family and not get consumed by others’ needs and agendas.
My Qigong instructor says “we have to live with genetic inheritance, but we can take responsibility around it.” So what responsibility can I take for my inner life? For example, I see that, at times, I’ve piled into my mum’s situation as she has struggled to settle into a care home, and I’ve felt overwhelmed and tired. I must have done the same to my achilles and it’s become inflamed and sore. But now I am making space for healing to occur to my body, mind and spirit.
Therapy has a lot to offer and perhaps all kinds of it should be used more in workplaces. Body, mind and spirit are closely connected and all can impact on relationships. If we increase our understanding of what goes on inside and between people, relationships can improve. For example, we can bring the past into our current relationships without knowing; our responses in the present can be to ghosts of the past. Therapy can help us to understand this. In a similar way I’ll know how to avoid damage to my achilles in the future.
I don’t fully understand how my achilles is healing but I know my body has a level of innate intelligence to repair itself. Perhaps the same is true of my mind and spirit. But sometimes I need a little help.