After sharing a post on social media earlier today, we thought it was very much worth bringing here since it's an informative, cursory introduction to the topic of trauma and its effect on the body. ...a topic we're rather passionate about because it is quite a challenge to find a trauma survivor with C-PTSD or DID who doesn't also struggle with their physical health in some way (some more profound than others). Too often, the survivors we help are often put in the unfair position of having to decide whether to spend their time, money and energy addressing their chronic health conditions first, or putting that same effort into therapy first. It is possible to do both, simultaneously, and can be quite beneficial to do them in tandem, but only in the hands of experienced, trauma-informed clinicians who TRULY understand the mind's relationship to the body. For now, hopefully this will at least get some of the wheels turning and we can dive into this topic more deeply in the future!
For decades most of us have been well-aware of the psychological ramifications that can come post-trauma, but for some reason the depths of physical unwellness have largely been left out. Trauma in and of itself is an attack not only on the survivors mind, but their neurological system. And, what follows in the coming months and years, frequently causes an ADDITIONAL kind of damage to their bodies. The welling fear and anxiety, the hypervigilance, the emotional outbursts, and/or spontaneous crying are often each suppressed to the best of the survivor's ability, with intense commitment. "It's not appropriate to cry in public", "If I dive under my desk at work after a sudden sound, I could get fired", "If a co-worker pranks me or comes up behind me and I turn and whack 'em in fear, they could press charges", "If I lash out at my loved one, I'll hurt them and they might leave me". All these concerns and more keep us shutting off these physiological responses our bodies are cued to make as they navigate the circuitry of a traumatized brain. But, in having to exhaust such energy and physical stamina to pull this off, as well as emotionally numb ourselves from our natural responses, the distress it causes the body is remarkable.
You'll be hard-pressed to find a long-term trauma survivor who doesn't have some kind of unexplained pain, fibromyalgia, migraines, allergies, autoimmune disorders, intense insomnia, or chronic fatigue -- and the number of survivors with POTS, EDS, or some other form of dysautonomia (autonomic nervous system dysfunction) is something of note in many trauma circles. The majority of these conditions come as the result of a collection of physical and psychological processes that tell our bodies how to respond, as well as us ignoring those responses, and how drained of its resources the body becomes over time. It's why it's crucial for therapy to address the whole body, and for the body to find some way to get all this energy OUT. ...be it through some kind of movement, rhythm or other expression. Talk therapy does wonders for cognitive understanding and processing through traumatic material, but can at times embed these traumatic responses deeper into our bodies (especially as we pretzel ourselves up tight and try stifling some of the terror and/or emotion that spills out into our bodies when we talk about it). The suppression of all that intensity and not allowing the adrenaline and neural energy to process out, find a place to go or level itself out naturally, leaves our bodies having to find their own creative ways to do so (or just makes it harder and harder for it to ever find homeostasis on its own). ...which often leads to some of these chronic illnesses.
The good news, however, is that there are ways to find wellness again - physical and psychological. Treating the whole body, honoring its natural responses while finding a safe and healing place to channel them, and even just simply recognizing what your body is experiencing more, can all make a dramatic difference in your recovery. Finding therapists and physicians who are aware of this mind/body connection in trauma can also go a very long way in leading you to the proper care your body needs and deserves. And, we also can't recommend enough looking more into this topic in the meantime. Bessel A van der Kolk, and many of his colleagues, have done some really amazing work and research in this field, and we still firmly believe The Body Keeps the Score is a brilliant and invaluable book on the topic.
We are sending you an abundance of love and compassion, hope this was helpful, and hope you remain eager for a few upcoming posts we have planned. From new imagery skills for flashbacks, emotions and intrusive symptoms; to Jade's continued series on Trauma and Attachment; and even doing a slightly deeper dive into Healing is Not Linear! We'll see you soon!
MORE INFORMATIVE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:
- DID Myths: Dispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative identity Disorder
- Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
- Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
- Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201: Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
- Imagery 101: Healing Pool and Healing Light