My name is Darcie and I’m an OIF II vet. I’m 37 and have been a middle school English teacher for the past eleven years. This last year teaching, however, was my most challenging. I’d never had a workload like this before and I allowed it to greatly affect my physical and mental health. As soon as the school year ended, I developed a pretty powerful bout of restless leg syndrome. Any time I tried to rest or sleep, my legs would start twitching. Badly. A week after this began, I spent a week at a Buddhist monastery - the most peaceful place I have ever been to - where there was no contact with the chaos of the outside world, where we meditated throughout each day, and shared our experiences with a loving community. And still, the RLS worsened. I assumed it was from some vitamin deficiency and learned that calcium or magnesium could help. And they did, at the beginning.
I went to the VA to have blood work done while I continued to take more and more calcium, magnesium, gabba; I tried smoking marijuana (not a fan, but thought it might help), then realized the only things that somewhat quelled these damned spasms were alcohol or benzos, both of which were clearly not healthy options. Then I received the results from my blood work: all negative. Nothing out of the ordinary. My incredulity quickly led to dismay as I accepted that this was all in my head?
That Friday, I drove down to Palo Alto for a weekend course in Mindful Resilience with the Veterans Yoga Project. I had just finished a week of summer camp with a group of 5 year-olds and I was proper exhausted. So when Dan Libby, one of the trainers for the VYP program said we’d be doing a yoga nidra (a guided meditation) at the end of the session, I was grateful. Until I laid down into a comfortable position and almost immediately my legs started twitching again. “Come on!” I said to myself, so damn frustrated. I was so sick of my body not listening to my pleas. All these peaceful places and courses, the meditations, the vitamins—when is this going to stop?
Dan began a body scan meditation where we focus awareness on each part of the body. I tried to settle in and just listened. “Focus your awareness on your right thumb, your right index finger, your right middle finger . . . “ and by the time we reached our right shoulder I was crying. And I didn’t understand why. It was as if each body part I gave awareness to was suddenly being reconnected with my mind, my heart, and I was holding it, giving it space, acknowledging its existence, giving it —myself— the love it hadn’t been receiving in what, a year? As we moved through the body, my tears subsided and a great calm came over me. My nerves relaxed, released, and everything felt warm, like my body was humming in perfect harmony with the peace my mind was experiencing, like everything had finally been reconnected, like I was a whole being again.
Let me tell you, I didn’t need any more meds after that. No magnesium. No sleeping pills. Nothing. Every now and then a little twitch will pop up and I breathe awareness into my legs and it stops. And I’ve been doing that ever since. The ability to heal ourselves through yoga and meditation was made apparent that evening, and I’d been doing yoga for over a decade. The Veterans Yoga Project helped me help myself naturally, and I could not be more grateful.