I’m aware of what happened to me, I don’t need to explain it all here, although I would mention that I am no doubt the only Alexander Technique teacher who has been sectioned four times, for what were/are very common menopausal symptoms, albeit chronic, and yet I landed in two psychiatric hospitals, the first time occurring just a month or so following graduation in 2012, and latterly for most of 2016. Sadly this can happen given how little is known about all this. I am far from mentally disturbed, however all my symtoms, especially chronic insomnia, can lead to schizophrenia and psychotic episodes, also panic attacks, anxiety and confusion if acute. Due to depleted hormone levels, these can also present during menopause. Given the extent to which my hair was falling out, why else would one’s hair fall out to this degree if it were not menopause? I became aware that doctors in this country currently receive very little training when it comes to menopause, something of which I was not aware, equally I was aware how very important poise is and yet lost it in the environments in which I found myself. I’m not convinced psychiatrists were aware of how hormones can play a paart in all of this, given how many times I made reference to menopause and how each time this was completely swept aside. Clearly I had heard about oestrogen, but I had not heard that much about how progesterone impacts all this. All I knew was that I had undergone a partial thyroidectomy in 2007, was not on medication or HRT, and started experiencing all this.
I know I was responsible for not having taken better care of myself in the way in which I wished to take care of myself, namely choosing the natural way, however I had absolutely no idea that this work even existed and few women are also. I have an AT colleague who is also a personal friend, I only discovered in January that she knew about all this work, yet it was never mentioned, it happens, no doubt she was not fully aware of the severity of my symptom. I had been having homeopathy for symptoms during the course of my training, I eventually chose to stop because I could see it wasn’t helping. I also chose to stop the medication which I also knew wasn’t helping. I hadn’t explored every option, I didn’t know there were others until I came across the work of this country’s highly regarded natural menopause expert, which has very much helped, there’s no getting away from the fact, and this certainly isn’t about right doing or wrong doing because if you’re not familiar with something, can can you possibly know? This is a very important point, its importance cannot be stressed enough.
With the expert help of my teachers at CTC I’ve gradually been restoring things for a second time, what a tangled web is woven all round. All this completely interefered all the good work that had been undertaken by my teachers and myself over three years. It was absolutely essential to return and restore things, not just to how they had been but in fact better than this. As of December 2018, I have been sleeping without interruption, an absolutely massive change to how things had previously been, given that I was still waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep again into 2018. My metabolism and digestion have also improved. I lost some weight last summer without even needing to attend the gym and have kept it off. I hardly ever touch alcohol, coffee or tea and rarely chocolate, except on the odd occasion.
In the same way, we come to the Alexander Technique when we come to it, it actually makes no difference what age we are, we start where we start and continue on the learning path. Berating ourselves with hindsight for not having come to things in terms of learning sooner is absolutely pointless, instead of seeing that taking that first step is indeed a catalyst, a start which not everyone chooses to take. It is very much a decision we make ourselves, whether we wish to learn how to improve things for ourselves. It’s also very much worth reminding ourselves of FM Alexander’s words that we cannot know something by an instrument that is wrong, meaning that unless we choose to explore and come to appreciate the significance of improved forward and up head balance and everything else connected with this, we just cannot know about this, even if the reasons why knowing about this are so important, we require the experience of learning what it is means to prevent the opposite of this. Still to this day, family and friends still firmly believe I am mentally ill because I was diagnosed as such, however it is not my responsibility to educate them as to why this is not so.
What good does chastising ourselves for not knowing about things when we did? In my my mind it’s far more constructive to keep moving forwards. We can indeed learn from every moment, every circumstance, I would go so far as to say even every breath, we can also remind ourselves that learning isn’t just about getting things right and being kind to ourselves in this respect. I’ve noticed that I’m a slow learner, I usually need to stop to look at what I’m doing more closely before I finally am able to perform an activity with ease, I’m aware I usually make life more difficult for myself as a result, unhelpful and unconscious postural and co-ordination habits have much to do with all of this and I am far from alone! I need to stop and listen very carefully, even then I still get things “wrong” before I get them “right”. It’s fine, I am quite familiar with all of this by now and don’t tend to get frustrated with myself for not getting things ‘right’ the first time around, but rather observe what happens in the moment of stopping to look at things more closely, explore and learn. I have accepted this is how I learn. Perhaps what we like to refer to as a “mistake” isn’t actually a “mistake” as such, this is the way I like to look at it myself, it is something we impose on ourselves. I’m no different to anyone else in this respect.
Learning Alexander Technique is very much about unlearning how we habitually do things with ourselves, whatever we’re doing, however whilst we’re unlearning our habits, we’re also learning new ones in their place, so we’re simultaneously unlearning and learning about how the total pattern works as a unity, appreciating that the means-whereby is far more important than end-gaining. Observing how we interfere with this and what we can do to prevent this provides us with useful experiences which we then find we can apply. There are no mistakes, there are just paths of further learning, ongoing exploration, consideration, insight when it comes to stopping to consider unconscious habit in all of us.
Alexander Technique is taught in all drama and music schools and colleges worldwide, including the Royal College of Music, RADA and the Juliard. It is the only modality to have a peer-reviewed study in respect of back pain published in the British Medical Journal and is in the NICE guidelines in respect of Parkinson’s disease. Alexander Technique is also taught in such places as Victorinox, Google, UBS, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Disney, City Lit, and the British Library. Under Alexander Technique in Education on my homepage you’ll also discover the many educational establishments where Alexander Technique is taught worldwide.
Image 109939610 copyright Sri Nur Handini courtesy of www.123rf.com