Coyolxauqui has a baby: A theory about conflict and psoriasis

1 02 2012

The other day, my business partner commented that she had read that psoriasis was a symptom of deep seated rage.  Ay, hijo!  That just sounds entirely unpalatable.  In fact, aside from the obvious venting that I do on this blog, my days are filled with “awesome”s and “that’s so cool”, and “thank youthankyouthankyou!”  My life is really a blessing. Very few women have the opportunities that I have.  A Ph.D., my own business, a child, a husband.  I’ve worked hard for them.  But, some women work hard and never get there.  So, how could I be enraged?  It sounds so…quite frankly, unfeminine.  And with my skin, I already have issues with the “f” word.

I do, of course, know that stress affects psoriasis and can cause flare ups.  Then, just as fate would have it, I saw the article on yahoo about how conflict leads to psoriasis outbreaks.  And a lack of support.  This phrase, “lack of support” got me thinking.

I’ve had psoriasis all my life.  But, the big breakout happened about 3 1/2 years ago more or less.  I had just gotten pregnant, and I was miserable.  No part of my body worked right.  I was terrified.  I hated the neighbors.  I felt very much alone.  Around then, my longtime cat was run over.  I was devastated and angry.  And I remember distinctly telling myself that I couldn’t cry, that it would endanger the baby, and that I could cry after all of this was over.  Well, afterwards, I did cry–plenty.  But still, I made a conscious decision to choose emotional numbness as a survival strategy.  And that strategy stuck.

After the first cat died, our other cat needed more reassurance.  She started sleeping at my head and kneading it during the night.  That’s when the psoriasis started.  For several years, I didn’t know what it was–just a strange hot spot that I couldn’t seem to get rid of. I blamed the cat.

Back to that phrase “lack of support”. While pregnant, I went out to dinner on New Year’s Eve.  Something seemed off during dinner, but I chose to ignore it, thinking that I had better learn to not be such a hypochondriac.  The pains became worse, and then spotting, and then more pains, more regularly.  We called the nurse, who insisted that we go to the ER immediately.  As it turns out, I was having contractions, and my daughter was not at a viable stage.  I had 4 solid days of contractions, every 4-5 minutes.  No drug would work to stop them.  Finally, I tried acupuncture.  The acupuncturist, who was my friend as well, chose to just have a conversation with me.  And she started by asking me about how I felt in terms of the support that I was getting.  I gave her the patented answer that things were fine.  They were not fine.

We talked more and found the problem.  Basically, my identity prior to getting pregnant was that of tireless advocate, woman warrior.  In fact, in my dissertation, I refer (almost constantly upon a re-read of it) to the Aztec Goddess of the Moon:  Coyolxauqui.

Coyo is great.  The incredibly short and oversimplified version of her is that she was such a peacenik that before she was born, she knew that her twin brother Quetzalcoatl, the God of the Sun, was going to be a God of war, and that he would bring war to the Aztecs.  So, she tried to abort all of her mother’s children while still in the womb by stabbing and killing her mother.  Unfortunately for her, Quetzalcoatl survived, and beheaded her.  But, her face was so pure in its intention that it rose to become the moon.  Coyo is known for her protective qualities, for her ability to shed light on difficult subjects, for her guidance during difficult times. Yes, it is interesting that a woman who tried to kill her mother is seen as pure of intention.

Now, I don’t know why, but I related to Coyolxauqui during the last phases of my dissertation.  She was a warrior, a goddess, and even better, she was a martyr!  This identity stuck.  But, when I got pregnant, my role model of a mother-killing beheaded woman warrior obviously became problematic.  Suddenly, I wasn’t the woman warrior.  I was about to be the mother.  And we know what happened to her! To add to this, my daughter had a different blood type than me.  Any scratch in my placenta could mean big trouble.  And really, wasn’t this a lot of gore?

Further, being a protector isn’t the same thing as being a nurturer.  A protector is there to make sure you don’t get into trouble.  A nurturer ensures that you flourish.

So, she gave me the assignment to create an identity for me during my pregnancy that would be more about nurturing, growing, etc.  Honestly, I don’t know that I have that part down.  But, immediately upon leaving her office, I noticed that my contractions had stopped.

What does all of this have to do with psoriasis?

Well, to me it seems like hearing my business partner speak, and reading these articles gave me the epiphany of the obvious.  the Ph.Duh moment.  My business partner was right:  psoriasis is caused by rage.  Conflict.  Stress. When i changed my identity, I must have altered how my body processes itself on a cellular level.  And this change was needed.  Healthy, both for me and my daughter. It was in fact, critical.

But, my body resists.  It’s as if my body is my second cat, waiting until I sleep at night to seek reassurance, kneading hopelessly asking for her fellow cat.  It is Coyolxauqui, immature and awkwardly trying to save humanity, and losing sight of her own humanity in the process.

My job now is to nurture my body, to reassure it that it is not under attack, that humanity will be fine, that there are no O Positive bloodcells anywhere near that can hurt it. Shhhh, shhhh, shhhh.