The Healing Power of Tapping
Sara Bachraty’s sister’s breast cancer diagnosis spurred her to get genetic testing and a preventative mastectomy. The sister’s simultaneous struggle put strain on their relationship. Fortunately, Sara found avenues for support.
Sara: This whole thing started with my sister, Hanna. I have felt really lost and lonely because of the opposite situation we dealt with at the same time. She had cancer, and I was able to take preventative action. She was four years younger.
Brilliantly: That must have been really difficult.
Sara: We already had an on-and-off-again relationship. I moved to Colorado, and after my parents’ late divorce, my mom moved here, too. Then my sister decided to also move to Colorado. We both wanted a stronger relationship and thought being closer would help make that happen. When she was diagnosed, it just amplified all of our difficult and painful stuff.
After her diagnosis, she quickly took action and had her double mastectomy two weeks later. She also had genetic testing. We weren’t expecting to find anything. We moved from Sweden, and no one in our family has had breast cancer before, and when BRCA showed up, it was shocking.
When I got tested and had the mutation, I was overcome with guilt. I had the opportunity to take preventative action and my younger sister, who had a five-year-old and a two-year-old, had cancer. I felt awful because we were already struggling, and supporting each other wasn’t easy.
Brilliantly: Did you and your sister talk about your guilty feelings?
Sara: Not really. She didn’t want to talk about it. All the attention was on my sister and maybe rightfully so. But I had to do a lot of hard things as well, and I didn't have support. It hurt to feel alone on this journey. Nobody checked in with me. I didn't feel safe saying that I needed help. I forced myself to be quiet. I struggled with having to stop nursing my 13-month-old but was aware that my sister was nursing when she got diagnosed and also had to stop prematurely.
Brilliantly: I am sorry you didn’t feel supported. The situation sounds complicated. Were you able to find the support you needed outside of your immediate family?
Sara: A few days before my double mastectomy, I posted on Facebook about how grateful I was that I knew about my mutation, that I could take care of it. It wasn't a pity post—I meant it to be inspirational and uplifting. The post really upset Hanna, and I don't think she forgave me for it until maybe the very end of her life. At the time I posted it, she was so upset, and it created even more distance between us.
She was very private about her diagnosis, especially in the beginning. She didn't want anyone to feel sorry for her or treat her differently. My Facebook post also put Hanna in the spotlight in a way that made her uncomfortable, which wasn’t my intention. So, I stopped using Facebook for support. I didn't talk about what was happening to me for a long time. Eventually I figured out that there were more people processing experiences like mine on Instagram. My sister wasn’t on Instagram, and neither were our common friends. Instagram became my safe space.
Brilliantly: Finding a new space, your space, was obviously important. It's so difficult because everyone processes differently. I can imagine if you're in the same family and it's happening at the same time, that creates a very heightened state for everyone. And of course, you should have your space where you're allowed to talk about your experience, and she doesn’t feel exposed.
Sara: Totally. We didn't have good communication set up before this happened. And, she wasn’t someone who liked to talk about what was happening.
Hanna did so many amazing things. She's so brave, so strong, and she did it silently. It actually brings me to tears sometimes when I read about survivors and what they're doing and how they show up for each other and wonder how my sister did that all by herself. She didn't talk about the struggle and the pain and what she was thinking.
Brilliantly: That must have made it hard for you to show up for her. It’s difficult to know someone’s needs when they aren't super communicative. You don't want to assume that they're feeling a certain way or force them to talk about it, but then how can you be available and show up to support them?
Sara: It was hard. Towards the end of her life, she was really weak and would just stay in bed most of the time. I would come over and we would just hang out in bed. She wouldn't talk much. I don't think she had any energy. But I could feel energetically that she accepted my presence, and it felt comforting. I would use essential oils on her back, put on soft music and try to make her feel comfortable. She surrendered at that point. She was okay with everyone being around and didn't want to be alone. That felt good, like the energy felt different.
Brilliantly: I’m glad to hear that you guys got to that place.
Sara: Yes, finally she liked having me there. The morning that she passed, I could feel that she loved me, she understood me. Now I feel like she has my back, she’s in a different space.
Brilliantly: It must be comforting to have that feeling. Especially after what sounds like such a difficult situation. Now that you’re so active on Instagram, do you feel as if you’ve found people who support you? Or are you still working to find what you need?
Sara: On Instagram, I’ve connected with people who have a common experience, and there is so much less fear and judgment and comparison and criticizing. I didn't know anybody else was going through this except for a couple of my cousins, and Instagram made me feel like I had a place to use my voice.
Brilliantly: It’s so important to have that. Even a good moment, a positive moment of your life, can feel isolating if you can't celebrate it or feel supported.
Sara: It's true. During the time I hadn’t found that community is when I started Tapping (more on this below). It was a year into knowing about BRCA and I was having surgery.
When I was with my tapping mentor, I was allowed to say all the things I didn’t feel like I could say to my family: ‘I'm really mad that I had to stop nursing my baby. And I'm really mad that I had to take these healthy body parts off.’ I processed the sadness and grieving about what happened while I tapped. It was a time where no one judged me. I was able to voice and work through something and allow myself to find a better feeling. Tapping let me see this differently and gave me permission to feel the way I'm feeling.
Brilliantly: And will you tell me a little bit about tapping? What exactly is it?
Sara: There's so much tapping philosophy! Your body has an energy highway, meridians, and energy flows through your body but can get blocked. When the energy is blocked, that's when you're not in flow, you can have pain or emotions or negativity. And you tap on the pathways opening the blockages and interrupting the fight-or-flight response. So, when you're having anxiety or panic or just a negative emotion that you don't like, you're putting the brakes on that thinking.
Brilliantly: That’s fascinating.
Sara: It's almost like a breath. I can slow down, and I can see things differently. It allows me to have a better feeling or way of seeing a situation. A new perspective.
Brilliantly: What a great tool for shifting your state of mind. And do you do it with people, or is it a thing you do solo? Or do you go and learn it, and then it's a practice, like a meditation practice that you do on your own?
Sara: You can definitely do it on your own. I have tapping videos that you can just follow along with, or I just do it myself because I’ve done it for a long time. I also enjoy working with a practitioner.
Brilliantly: So it’s like if you were going to a yoga class even though you're a yoga instructor.
Sara: Yes, exactly. I continue going to grow and let go of old beliefs or trauma. I'm still constantly working on myself. I have clients, too. It's become one of my favorite things to use because it's so gentle but so incredibly powerful.
Brilliantly: It makes sense to me that you would want to slow down during a really complicated emotional time to process. You're the perfect example of how those situations can continue to build. You've known your sister your whole life. You have decades of your relationship that need sorting out and unpacking that so you can move on.
Sara: The tapping is kind of like allowing a wave to come in, allowing all the feelings to feel exactly the way they are right now. It’s important to acknowledge the feelings so you can release them. For example, fear. If you were afraid, you’d tap to remove the scared, By acknowledging what you are scared about you can believe that you're brave and that you're greater.
Brilliantly: I love that. I think there is so much focus right now on being overwhelmingly positive in a way that isn't real. We are all human. Even the people who are doing really well still have difficult days. It’s critical to figure out a way to acknowledge what is hard and not get stuck and move on.
Sara: It's the idea of releasing to receive. Tapping helps with that.
Brilliantly: Did you do any tapping with your sister?
Sara: Only once. Had she been open to it, I would have done it every day.
But, I tapped on her from far away. Let me explain. The cool thing about EFT tapping is that you can do it as a mindset. And so I would do that because I felt like I could help from a distance from a heart space where I wasn't triggering Hanna. It made me feel like I was still doing something good for her.
Brilliantly: You were putting positive energy out for her. Like a prayer. That's beautiful.
Sara: I would just sit down and focus on Hanna, and I would voice the things that I thought maybe she was feeling, or I would use tapping to affirm all the good things that I wanted her to feel from my own space.
Brilliantly: That’s an interesting way of thinking about loving someone without smothering them with your love.
Sara: Yeah, it's so powerful for someone to hold space for you. EFT tapping is a powerful self-help tool. Once you know how to do it, you can practice your own, but sometimes we are unable to guide ourselves out of the spot we're in. That's when it's good to have someone holding the space and seeing the bigger picture and new possibilities. Like, what if
I could feel a little bit better today than I did yesterday? What if I'm ready to believe that I am magnificent? What I found is people need a little bit of hope. For someone else to hope for them and with them.
[NOTE: For more information on Tapping, check out The Tapping Solution website, or reach out to Sara directly]