And it’s a bit scary to be honest.
I’ve known it for a while deep down but only really in an intellectual way. I’ve known about the mind/body connection and that trauma could be stored in the body since I was 15 and studying psychology formally for the first time. But it was the definition of trauma that I didn’t really understand, and I’ve come to learn that this, like ‘how to connect with our bodies’ is not widely understood.
When I thought of trauma, I thought it referred to only catastrophic things. People who have lived through REALLY BAD things. I didn’t think of myself and my white middle class upbringing. I didn’t think anything I experience was ‘bad enough’ to be called trauma.
I reduced my experiences constantly. I downgraded and reduced my teenage sexual assault experience down to ‘bullying’ in my mind because I didn’t think it was really bad enough to be considered proper sexual assault.
I was always comparing my experiences to things that I knew were worse, and rating my experiences according to the worst-case scenario bench mark.
But I was wrong. I have trauma (in fact most of us do) and for me, it’s stored in my body.
It turns out that trauma is anything that rattles your nervous system enough to do damage. Our nervous systems are rattled by all sorts of seemingly normal life experiences. For me it was quite significant bullying in both primary school and high school, followed by workplace bullying, difficulties with my parents and their separation, among other things.
Stuff that some of you may be reading and thinking ‘so what?’ and ‘big deal’.
But it turns out it was a big deal.
Because, like many of us, I didn’t learn how to deal with big emotions, I stored them to try and stop myself from having to feel them.
Brene Brown talks about this, and says that we deal with big emotions in various ways,
a) take them out on other people immediately
b) push it down and push it down until we explode
c) we store/stockpile it in our body until our body says STOP NO MORE, I can’t hold anymore of this.
“The body keeps score and it always wins”.
We can’t lie to our body, our body knows we are hurt when we pretend we aren’t.
So for me, every huge emotional experience I had was stored in my system until my body said ENOUGH.
There is so much research to suggest that past trauma and autoimmune diseases go hand in hand. That our bodies in hyper stress, like a car running with both the accelerator and the break on, can develop symptoms like anxiety, depression, autoimmune disorders, insomnia, digestive issues, brain fog etc.
To get sciencey for a minute, endocrinologist Hans Selye named this concept of trauma leading to physical disease symptoms, ‘Adaptation Syndrome', a stress-induced disease that results from abnormalities in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system and sympathetic-adrenal system, neuroendocrine axes which coordinate the long and short term responses of the body and brain to environmental stress.
I spoke in my last post about how not knowing how to listen to my body resulted in serious health issues for me. This is another factor that I am only recently learning it’s significance.
I thought it was important to not only share the stuff I have overcome and now deeply understand, but also the stuff I am journeying with right now. I am going to go see trauma specialist practitioner and start working through some of this in a professional way and I’m looking forward to seeing the effect it has on the health of my body.