About five years ago, my close friend Marion rushed over to me in the cafeteria at Vermont College. “You have to see Hitaji and have an energy healing.” Marion is a serious woman, never taken lightly.
I thought of Hitaji, very different than I am, larger than life, unaffected by her overwhelming presence. She studied and embraced her African American heritage, bringing healing and wisdom into her world. I simply did not know what to make of her. When overcome by the spirits, she broke into boisterous chanting and dancing. As a rooted, earthy New Englander, I admired her from afar, not knowing or trusting myself at the time how to react or respond.
Unaware of the possibilities and deeply absorbed in my exploratory study process, I rejected the idea. Agitated at my uncertainty, I wondered what I feared.
Marion grabbed me by the arm and pulled me towards Hitaji, who sat quietly, enjoying her lunch. Marion was not a physical person; her intensity was unsettling.
Hitaji did not look up; she continued eating her lunch and told me when and where to meet her and to make sure that my hands and feet were clean.
I returned to my room and wondered if my feet were clean enough, as I had taken a shower a few hours before. I washed my hands and stared at my reflection in the mirror. What was I doing?
The dorms at Vermont College are very old and traditional New England with bricks, cinder blocks and old tile floors like what they have in hospitals, only these are not shiny. I hesitated as I took the flight of stairs down to the lower level and approached the seemingly empty dorm room. Hitaji sat on an antique wooden desk chair, her head lowered in meditation. I paused.
“Come in, Mj. Don’t be afraid.” Her voice penetrated; I sweat. She knew.
She dragged another chair before her, got up, flipped off the light and returned to her seat. She sat in front of me rubbing lavender oil in her palms. She instructed me to close my eyes as she massaged the oil on my rigid hands. My fear lingered. I struggled to take slow and even breaths until I finally relaxed.
She brought me face to face with generations of women in my family. She asked for their presence so that they would stand with me. Much of my research is based on my paternal lineage of grandmothers reaching as far back as the early 1600’s. I already knew a great deal about them, their lives and interesting journeys through the passage of time. Hitaji summoned them into my circle.
After reaching a relaxing place and state, she then told me that it was time to let go of the fear and trauma of the accident that I had as an infant. She instructed me to advise my inner child that it was okay and that (I) Maryjane, the adult, would protect her. I was floored. What accident?
At the end of the session, she asked me about the ‘accident’, that I encountered as a child. I had no idea. She suggested that I seek answers.
That was it, so I thought. I knew that I did not have any memory of an accident and that no one spoke anything of the like.
During my entire life, as far back as I can remember, I suffered from night terrors. I believed them to be bad dreams or nightmares. I have no recollection of any part of the dream that would offer clues as to their origin – no colors, sounds or specific people. I used to think that my blood curdling screams actually scared the memory of the dream from my consciousness. I could not explain the dreams or terrors, nor could I trace them to any particular event or person.
When in the dream state, I envisioned being in a very dark, silent place, the darkest place that I had ever encountered. It was almost like a vacuum. My conscious self tried to make sense of this, so I labeled it a cellar or dungeon. Sometimes I thought that I was in a coffin because it was so tight fitting that I could not move and felt wildly claustrophobic. The root of the terror was that my life was in extreme danger and no one knew I was in there, hence the loud screaming that often left me hoarse.
These dream events were so common, that people in my life became accustomed to them – sisters, parents, husband, children, roommates…I simply screamed at least three or four nights a week and woke up in a sweat with my heart racing and then I apologized and went back to sleep. It became an ordinary part of who I was.
After my return from Vermont College, I had dinner with my parents and my sister, Susan. I asked them if they recalled any accident that I was in or that I may have witnessed as a baby. Everyone shook their heads no and continued on to other topics of conversation.
Suddenly my father interrupted and looked at my mother. “How about when you were pregnant with Maryjane and you fell down the stairs. You were holding onto Susan and you had to go to the hospital.”
Everyone was quiet. I couldn’t believe that I had never heard this story. However, the science of my parents’ generation was not as advanced as today; they had no reason to think of PTSD in utero. My mother went on to tell me that she fell down a steep staircase with Susan – my older sister – who had to have stitches in her chin and that she (my mother) went to the hospital and remained there under doctors’ care for two weeks until my birth. I was born slightly prematurely because of this accident. Perhaps I was really going to be a Leo instead of a Cancer. Another thought to ponder, although I am a typical Cancer with strong Cancerian traits.
I knew that when my mother discovered that she was pregnant with me, her doctors advised her to have an abortion because they believed it was a tubal pregnancy. Obviously, she refused. I did not know about the accident on the stairs. I talked with my family about the probability that my lifetime of night terror and fears stemmed from this in utero experience. I was proud of my father – born in the 1920’s – for having the insight to consider that my trauma was in fact prior to my birth.
Later on that night, I meditated. I faced my frightened inner child with conscious awareness of the accident. I assured her that she was safe. I fell into a deep sleep.
Since this truth unfolded, I have not experienced a night terror. I have an active dream life; I acknowledge my dreams and record them in a journal. The trauma of my pre-birth accident, which resulted in a lifetime of Post Traumatic Stress, has been resolved.
Thank you, Hitaji for your gift of healing. Thank you, Dad for considering all possibilities. Thank you, Mom for ignoring the doctors. Thank you, Sophia for your infinite wisdom and guidance.