An exploration of the poetry of

Trauma isn’t just in your head

In my last post I talked about how I was working on some significant trauma in my therapy session on Monday. And it becomes clearer and clearer to me that trauma is not just an issue in our minds. There is a huge physical component to it. I don’t know if I ever noticed the connection before working with my counsellor who works with somatic healing modalities, and with my therapist/doctor who knows a lot about working with trauma and the mind/body connection. He studies with Gabor Mate, and uses a Compassionate Enquiry approach.

On a side note, I have understood the mind/body connection in many other areas of life. For instance I have actually gotten a qualification in hypnosis and used to teach HypnoBirthing, which I used myself in childbirth. But somehow I have not recognised what’s happening in my body as a result of trauma. I think that where trauma is concerned, the way I’ve adapted to it is to try to ignore it. If it’s been an underlying cause of anxiety, it’s been easier to focus on the physical sensations and symptoms as a potential physical health condition.

Last night, I didn’t sleep well. I woke up with reflux, and my chest was sore. My chest being sore isn’t a new thing. I don’t have great posture and tend to hold a lot of tension in my upper body. I roll my shoulders forward a lot. But I think that because I’ve been stressed and overwhelmed, I started to worry that I was going to have a heart attack. I did what helps – listened to guided meditations. Reached out to touch my husband, knowing that if things got really bad, I could wake him up.

And this morning, I felt really sick. And so I didn’t eat breakfast, and tried to just get on with things. But around 10:00 I decided to journal to help me get down the thoughts that have been running through my head since my appointment on Monday. And the first thing I noticed was how much tightness was in my body. My stomach was sore and tight. My chest was tight. My throat was tight. I felt the tension in my jaw as well. A bit of a headache. And as I began to write, I could feel some of that ease at times, and at other times before I committed my pen to paper, knowing I was going to write something that would be difficult to write, or to see on paper, I would feel that tension rising up again. I would feel really nauseous at times.

And after handwriting sixteen pages, I felt more relaxed. But hungry. I connected a bit with my husband before he left to see his clients. Having his arm around me helped. I didn’t want to talk much about what I had written, but told him that I was feeling a bit uneasy, like it would be hard to focus on my to-do list. He told me to relax, have something to eat, maybe watch some mindless TV before trying to tackle anything else.

And when he left I did some light housework, made some food, and sat down to eat. And then I felt a pain in my chest. See, the anxiety hasn’t gone. It hasn’t gone away just because I wrote shit down or just because I distracted myself. I can’t just pencil in some ‘processing time’ and then get on with things and expect that I won’t feel the aftershocks of what I’ve talked about on Monday, and what I’ve written about today.

Yesterday I wanted solitude, but today I wish my husband was here to be my support. So I could have someone to tell me I’m only feeling the same things I feel when I get anxious. And maybe now it’s not my hormones, so instead of focusing on my abdomen, I am focusing on my heart. I guess I know what he would say, and I’ve said it to myself but somehow that reassurance is really helpful to me. So all I can do now is reassure myself. Remind myself that my mother-in-law lives in the neighbourhood if I am really not doing well. And that my husband would come home if I needed him. And that while feeling things can be jarring, I’ve felt these sensations and pains before and they haven’t meant I am going to have a heart attack and drop dead. I’m still here. And I suppose that if things got really bad I wouldn’t have to ask the question about whether they are bad. Side note: Does anyone else get old advertisements stuck in their head that frighten you? There’s a heart attack one that always runs through my head when I get these sensations.

And while I would like to ‘get on with things’ and do my client work, I think that it might be best to take a little time and just be. Relax under the weighted blanket. Listen to a guided meditation. Accept that I cannot avoid all discomforts in life, but I can take a time out and indulge in some things that do comfort me. So that’s what I am going to do now.