I learned a lesson about doubt this week.
As mentioned in previous posts, August is a trigger month for me. The first half of the month has to do with family reunions, get togethers with friends and connections, and camps. The second half of the month is birthdays – egg donor and her mother’s birthdays to be exact. With my therapist on vacation and an unusual increase in remembering, I and my alters doubted we would be able to get through the last week on our own.
But, I forgot about all of the wonderful people in my life now. And my alters forgot about the toolbox of shared coping strategies in our memory banks. But most important, we forgot about how far we’ve come since those first baby steps. Doubt, fear, shame, and pain clouded our senses and distorted reality for a while. So we hope this quote helps you the way it helped us.
With remembering comes pain. Sometimes the pain is physical; other times it is emotional or spiritual. Often the pain is a combination of sensations that trigger other memories, thoughts, or feelings. I am always in pain; what level of pain I experience determines how functional I will be throughout the day. My body hurts from the damage I did with anorexia and from the damage done to me when I was abused. Pain management without drugs, alcohol, and other chemicals has been one of my long-standing quests.
Working with my therapist and reading about trauma has taught me that trauma lives in my body as much as or more than it lives in my mind. Talk therapy helps with my emotional and spiritual (mental) symptoms – i.e. nightmares, panic attacks, anxiety, feeling emotionally unsafe, dissociation – but not so much with my physical symptoms – i.e. panic attacks, body memories, somatic symptoms masking as colds, allergies, asthma, muscle pain, migraines, joint stiffness, lack of coordination. We have both been searching for more resources to help cope with the body memories and physical pain that worsens or lessens depending on the amount of triggers and anxiety occurring at the time.
Pain is our constant companion. It comes in many forms: soreness; aches in muscles and joints; discomfort; bruises; tendon and cartilage stiffness; cramps, etc. And it manifests in different places at different times. The scary part comes when the pain is triggered by body memories. For anyone who is not comfortable reading descriptions about physical or sexual body memories, please skip to the next section.
Some of our best friends are of varied and different sexual orientations. That does not matter to us. What matters is that they are amazing, unique, compassionate, wonderful, reliable friends and connections. Please remember that we strive to celebrate and accept all individuals as they are as you read this section.
I’ve been plagued with body memories where I relive sexual abuse. My body gets aroused, flushed, goes cold, calms down, feels sensitive in places I did not know could feel sensitive, and so on when I am asleep or get triggered by a sensation that reminds me of past experiences. It scares different alters, wakes everyone up, causes sleep paralysis, nightmares, night sweats, and a whole host of other problems.
During the day, at work or outside the home, it gets embarrassing sometimes because my body re-enacts the trauma when triggered. I and my parts are not homosexual, but we were sexually abused by many females. So when certain kinds of interactions between us and other females take place, triggers occur and sexual feelings get aroused. Sexual behaviors sometimes get expressed even though none of us are experiencing sexual interest in the female(s). That causes misinterpretations and other problems along with feelings of shame, guilt, and confusion. We are heterosexual; this was discovered late in high school and in college. But arousal feelings scare us because were sexually abused by males. They trigger similar memories as described earlier and cause us to panic and hide or get angry to push the interested / interesting males away.
These conclusions came at a high cost of working through many tangled memories and fragments. And now, we struggle to cope with the memories as they come together to narrate mind/body experiences that deserved to be honored and understood in order to move forward.
Alternative Coping Techniques and Strategies
I added a new Pinterest link with images and videos of some alternative coping techniques you might be interested in learning about to my Resources page. Yes, the page still says it is under construction. We have decided to leave it up there for now because the page will be evolving as more links and information gets added.
Some of the coping techniques on the Pinterest page are:
- Tai Chi
- Sound healing
- Massage therapy with trauma trained professionals
- Bodywork therapy with trauma trained professionals
I have tried almost all of these with different degrees of success. The ones I go back to most are qigong, sound healing, massage, and acupuncture. Chiropractic helped me at the beginning of my recovery when I stopped being able to exercise because of serious knee pain that physical therapy couldn’t fix and the specialist said required knee replacement surgery; the MRIs, X-rays, etc. couldn’t find anything wrong. But I was 22 at the time, and no one wanted me to have replacement surgery; instead the specialist told me I had to stop exercising and live with the limited movement caused by the pain.
Yoga is amazing and wonderful in so many ways. I wish I could practice it, but my body memories surface and cause panic attacks/flashbacks that make me physically and emotionally ill. Someday, when I am more comfortable in my body, I will practice yoga on a regular basis. Not everyone has this strong a reaction to yoga. And I tried yoga in regular classes, not trauma-sensitive classes. So please do not be discouraged. It may work for someone in similar situation with different body reactions.
Qigong is a form of energy healing that combines sound healing, meditation, and movement. I am not sure how to describe it. All I can tell you is that the meditation practices combined with standing and moving exercises are not as triggering as yoga and still effective at calming my internal systems when I can use them. Tai Chi is a martial art that has its roots in qigong and is good for people who want something more like yoga – a routine and set of movements in a pattern and rhythm that also teach individuals how to protect themselves physically.
Acupuncture is relatively new to all of us. When we tried it, the needling helped manage the pain and anxiety so that everything was calm and quiet for a time. But the backlash was too hard to handle. And the commute after work was very triggering. So we stopped for now.
If any of you readers and guest suffer from body memories or pain, I hope some of these resources offer you some new avenues to explore. Be well.