Because our training in Mind-Body Medicine was interrupted by election riots in December, we scheduled half day workshops for our December trainees on January 11th, 2011. It was a place for us to share feelings just before the anniversary of the earthquake, a refresher course, a time for questions and guidance, the opportunity to gather and sit and eat together in our new CMBM Port-au-Prince office. What a treat to have space for people to come- 60 or 80 at a time if we need it – windows that shed light, and a kitchen to cook in.
Linda Metayer, our Haitian Program Director, tells me that the response to her phone calls and emails a few days earlier was “formidable”. And it shows: 85-90 people out of 120 from our December training come to the morning or afternoon sessions; others, too far away, out of the country, or tied up in emergencies of cholera care, are regretful. Already 118 out of 120 (I’m not sure I’m hearing Linda correctly, but she assures me her count is precise) have committed to the continuation of our training in February.
Listening to “check-in” – Laurent Scheineider a former prison guard who is bringing our work to the Petionville tent camps which he helps to organize translates in the morning, Rene Domersant, a high ranking Ministry of Health official who recognizes the pressing need for self-care, in the afternoon – I am touched and amazed by how deeply our approach and our techniques have penetrated and improved the daily lives, and even more so the nighttime lives, of so many.
For the first time since January 12, 2010, “je dors tous les soirs (I sleep every night)” say half a dozen; “tres reposant, (very restful)”. Men and women not accustomed to writing or reflection are keeping journals, “dialoguing with symptoms”, with me today and on their own at home. They are discovering in the words, images and drawings that emerge from the wisdom of their unconscious mind that they need to slow down, spend more time with their children, or deal more honestly with”orgeuil”, the pride that distances them from others . Migraines have disappeared and fears dissipated, the promise of mind-body medicine fulfilled in their remarkable experimentalism and commitment to practice.
The anniversary has however awakened old fears and symptoms that had abated, sometimes in every member of their households. We hear about children shaken by nightmares of earthquakes that do not end, about headaches erupting once again, and family members who have gone to the countryside and refuse to return to Port-au-Prince till after the day of the anniversary.
At the end of our time together we sit silently for a few minutes, morning and afternoon, remembering losses, allowing tears to wet our cheeks and spot our clothes. And then we hear about the help that these men and women are already offering others — in hospitals, schools, churches and tent camps. We make plans for how we will work together with Haitian people everywhere, and the ways we will continue to share ourselves and what we are learning.
James S. Gordon, MD is Founder and Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine; Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Family Medicine; Georgetown University School of Medicine and author of Manifesto for a New Medicine, Comprehensive Cancer Care, and Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey out of Depression.