Body Memories: Reflecting on Coping techniques for pain management

Body Memories

The traumatic experiences (aka memories) of past abuse held in one’s physical body.  Can cause feelings of physical pain, illness, muscle tension, digestive problems, and other issues related to the body.

Coping Techniques – a short analysis

 

I (we mostly think of ourselves as a single unit these days so “I” is appropriate) have been searching for coping strategies that help with body memories for quite a few years now.  In past posts, I’ve mentioned trying some strategies that were partially effective or not effective at that point in my recovery.  Part of the lack of success had to do with my place in recovery.  Part had to do with environmental triggers.  And part had to do with shame.

  • Sensori-motor psychotherapy – I was ready to try something new.  My alters were ready to try something new.  None of us really  trusted the individual recommended to us.  And the scheduling became an issue.  Then, something happened in a session (only the alters involved remember exact details), but suddenly this person and this treatment didn’t feel safe anymore.
  • Trauma-sensitive yoga – My mind was ready.  My body wasn’t.  I didn’t know how much physical pain I carried until after trying different types of yoga at different studios and with different instructors.  With recurring nightmares, triggers, dealing with so many people around me, not always feeling emotionally safe, and instructors sometimes being rude, stopping for a while seemed to be the right thing to do.
  • Acupuncture part 1 – in my old home state, I tried acupuncture.  It helped a little.  But then I stopped feeling comfortable with the person who treated me.  And I started feeling anxiety about the long commute.  The treatments stopped working.  And the nightmares started up again.  So I decided to wait on continuing this.
  • Acupuncture part 2 – in my new home state, acupuncture is combined with other parts of Traditional Chinese medicine like body work and massage.  I feel very safe at this clinic and trust both the intern practitioner and the supervisors there.  My body memories are starting to lessen and cause fewer incidences of moderate/severe symptoms.  The physical pain is also lessening.  My body is changing and getting healthier on the inside where the worst damage is.
  • Chiropractic part 1 – Chiropractic helped a lot when I went to a practitioner I trusted.  My spinal health and back muscles improved a lot.  I started to be mobile again.  Optimism and hope propelled me forward in the first phase of recovery.  Then I moved away from that practice and started with a recommended group closer to my new place and job.  But I didn’t feel as safe or comfortable there.  And I didn’t trust those people as much.  After 1 year or so without progress (I think I actually regressed), the main chiropractor talked to me about next steps in a private meeting.  We agreed that I could stop for now since the spinal manipulation wasn’t working.
  • Chiropractic part 2 – Part of the reasons the second round of treatments didn’t work was because my parents stepped up the pressure with more emotional and verbal abuse.  I was making a lot of progress; had a well-paying job; lived on my own; and started making plans for my future.  Plans that were opposed to what they wanted of me.  Between their manipulations and the stress of being “independent” for the first time, my trauma memories and nightmares trumped any progress the chiropractor might have made.  I learned, then, that trust between myself and the practitioner was a key element to progress and recovery.
  • Chiropractic part 3 – In the new home state, I am ready to look for a chiropractor and start treatments again.  My counselor says that a multi-pronged approach to physical healing will help a lot.  Since chiropractors focus on spinal health and spinal manipulation, I feel hopeful that my next round of treatments will help.
  • Massage Therapy – Yesterday I had my first massage in a long time.  It felt amazing.  And I trusted this massage therapist a lot.  We had a long conversation before my first visit and also discussed the approach and boundaries before starting the session.  I felt safe in the massage therapist’s care.  And my muscles felt so much better afterwards.  By better I mean less painful and tense.  Physically, my head, neck, shoulders, and back felt lighter too.  Yesterday evening, I slept better than I had in a long time.  So I am hopeful this will help too.

Expenses and Scheduling

All of these treatments cost money and time.  I am lucky to live in a place that has a lot of options within walking distance and others that are accessible by Uber or public transportation.  Medical insurance helps with more traditional therapeutic modalities like psychotherapy,  medicine, and medical doctors.  If you are lucky, sometimes your insurance also provides discounts for alternative medicine providers in their network.  Other times, it’s a matter of deciding what is necessary and then figuring out how to find affordable, reliable, professional care.

For example:

  • psychotherapy with a trauma specialist is #1 on my priority list, so I found someone in-network with my medical insurance.  This means I pay a monthly premium for medical insurance and a reasonable co-pay at every session instead of the full fee; my insurance covers the rest.  Luckily, I found a practitioner within walking distance of my apartment, so transportation doesn’t cost anything unless I have to pay for Uber during bad weather.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (the acupuncture and body work parts) helps a lot, but the treatments are expensive without insurance.  And finding a practitioner in my neighborhood and with evening/weekend scheduling options can be difficult.  So I go to the student clinic at a teaching college for treatments.  The price per treatment is reasonable; the interns and supervisors provide quality care; but transportation can get expensive since I have to either use public transit or a Uber ride.  Still, the combined costs are less expensive than if I went with a private practice for weekly treatments.
  • Massage Therapy is new to me.  I could find someone in-network so that a discount is applied to pricing, but I prefer referrals from people I trust for this sort of hands-on experience.  Finding someone closer would lower the transportation cost.  But since I won’t have to go for massage treatments as often as the other kinds of therapy, I think I’ll be sticking with this massage therapist team for a while.  Besides, they have evening appointments (big plus).
  • Chiropractic is one treatment that I will use my medical discounts for.  Also I will hope to find someone within walking distance of my apartment.  From what I remember, chiropractic treatments are sometimes a lot harder on my body than the other kinds.  Being local means I can take my time walking home and not have to stress out about transportation or anxiety attacks on the commute.  There are many safe places I can stop in for a break if necessary.
  • Routine medical treatment is something I plan on using my medical insurance for also.  But finding a practitioner who is also trauma sensitive has been difficult.  I definitely will have to build in transportation costs, extra travel time, and time spent looking for a provider on this.  Patience will get me what I want though.  Last time I rushed into making this kind of decision, I ended up really sick and with an upswing in PTSD symptoms.  Lesson learned.  And hopefully the small co-pay will even out the transportation cost.

Conclusion

I am lucky to have a full time job with flexibility in my work schedule.  The money I make allows me to cover the cost of medical care and still be able to make ends meet.  Living in my new city helps too.  Except for food, the cost of living here is a lot lower than where I used to live.  And my work/travel expenses are lower since I work from home.

But even when I lived in the other place, recovery treatment and managing my money properly were high on my priority list.  Sometimes I worked a lot of over time and had crazy hours.  Sometimes I couldn’t save a lot of money or zeroed out my accounts to pay all of  the bills.  Sometimes, I had to go into a little bit of debt to make myself safe.  But having a plan and understanding my finances (i.e. how much I made and where my money went) helped me make good choices of where to live and how to make the most out of what I had with limited resources and lack of a support network.

And since two of my favorite distraction/grounding/meditation coping strategies are reading and researching information, I used the quest to learn about personal finance and financial planning to help with many sleepless nights.  Maybe it’s too much for you to think about now, but understanding how and where your money goes can provide a sense of emotional safety, self-confidence, and independence.  The best part, though, is that anyone can manage his or her own finances.

It doesn’t matter how bad you are or think you are with math…

It doesn’t matter how much math or thinking about math scares you…

Maybe if math is a trigger, that could cause problems in the beginning…

Personal finance is less about numbers and more about knowing yourself, understanding your spending and saving patterns, and being able to make your own choices about where your money goes.  

Math is the tool that helps you understand these concepts through numbers.

Thanks for reading.

Recovery: From Survival Mode to Long-Term Care Mode

Survival Mode

Since moving out-of-state, my alters and I have moved out of survival mode.  Most of the every day triggers are gone.  All of us feel emotionally and physically safe here.  We are integrating with each other to create an “I” on the inside and integrating with our new community on the outside.

The coping challenges are different.  The strategies that help are not quite the same either.  We all have more down time between panic attacks and other escalating symptoms now.  No one is worried about maintaining calm and sanity every moment of every day.

None of us feel crazy or insane or bad anymore.  We go for days without major dissociation and lost time.  We can focus better and be slightly more active.  We can cook and do some basic housekeeping with better self-care too.

Present Care Mode

Problem-solving and working on issues that cause problems every day:

  • physical pain from body memories
  • internal body injuries related to spine and muscles
  • digestion problems
  • dental care and rehabilitation
  • lack of energy
  • mild agoraphobia
  • hygiene

These issues focus on different kinds of strategies and self-care that have not yet been explored on this blog.

The other issues and mental coping strategies will not be ignored or abandoned.

If at any time someone wants me to re-visit a mental coping strategy or some other issue, please let me know in the comments.

But there will be more focus on strategies and techniques for physical coping and related issues as our recovery moves to different phases.

Some of the issues being discussed this year include:

  • Pain management without medicine
  • Chiropractic medicine
  • Massage therapy
  • Financial planning and strategies for repayment
  • Dental-related coping strategies
  • Working to find providers with and without insurance
  • Oral hygiene in spite of panic attack level triggers
  • And planning a timeline for all of this to happen before I go back to graduate school

Conclusion

I am grateful for my job, my co-workers and colleagues, my early lessons in financial planning and debt repayment, and medical/dental insurance.  I am grateful for a support network of mental health and physical health providers that will expand this year.  And I am grateful for you guests who visit this website and blog.

You are part of a different kind of support network and community that I never thought I could be part of.

And while many of you might wonder how advanced planning and being financially savvy are coping techniques for physical and body related issues, I do know how important knowledge in both areas are from personal experience.  Maybe these tips and experiences will help.  Maybe not.

All I ask is that you read with an open mind.  Use what helps, and ignore the rest.

Thanks for reading.

Shame: Mistakes do not make a bad person

Sometimes life throws a curve ball.  Plans change.  Priorities change.

I thought my Chinese medicine treatments were over for the semester (winter break) and didn’t plan on one over the weekend.  Instead, the goal was knitting on Saturday and sewing on Sunday with some cooking and relaxing thrown in.  My friend’s scarf has been delayed long enough.  And I need to show some progress for the lessons I paid for.

But I had a treatment on Saturday.  I use treatment because each one is more than acupuncture; the needling is only one aspect of practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Along with the acupuncture, my practitioner used cupping and massage to help with the memories and muscle tension along my spine.  She warned me that the intensity of this  treatment (our goals were less anxiety and helping with cold symptoms) might cause some discomfort for a day or two as my body continued to heal.

This has happened before, so I wasn’t worried.  What I forgot to take into account was the over time and lack of sleep from the week before along with lots of memories.  So instead of sewing and cleaning house, I slept most of the day.  Was awake for maybe 8 hours total throughout the day.

And so, here I am writing my post a day late and feeling like a bad person for not meeting my self-imposed deadline.  And while I know I’m not a bad person, I still feel bad about not posting a late message.  On the other hand, I recognize that I am not perfect.  I do make mistakes.  And sometimes life gets in the way and there’s nothing to be done about that.

I needed to sleep.  My alters needed to regroup.  Our body needed to rest and feel safe.  Yesterday was a lesson.  Self-compassion. Self-care.  Listen to those inner voices.  Some do care.

Because the weekend got me thinking about anxiety, here’s a quote from the Dalai Lama.  I hope it helps you as much as it helps me.

dalai-lama-quote

Thanks for reading xo

PTSD: When my angry energy makes me tired

Fear keeps me awake.  Anxiety disturbs my thinking processes/cognitive ability.  Adrenaline gives an energy boost until the crash.

But anger???  Anger does two things:

  1. In the moment, I feel like I could take on a legion of warriors and win.  Energy is swirling around me and adding strength to my muscles.  Not so much aggression (although it looks like that to most outsiders) as battle-readiness
  2. After that, or if the anger lasts a long time, I feel exhausted.  Instead of waking up ready to take on the day, eating or doing chores, or enjoying myself with people and hobbies, I feel sleepy.  And if I don’t listen and sleep, I start to feel sleep deprivation even though I am not sleep deprived.

Why talk about it now?  Because I don’t want to feel tired when I am this angry.  I want to find a safe way to let it out so that my body/mind/spirit can feel some relief.  I want to listen and attend to the needs of my physical self through exercise, and yes, a punching bag or some kind of activity that involves self-defense/fighting.

Growing up, I didn’t like sparring, but I also didn’t fear it.  Sparring taught me a lot and helped me feel confident I could protect myself.  Not until the teachers and classmates started criticizing and humiliating me on purpose did I start to fear classes.  And when the flashbacks started in college, I couldn’t stop the rage from taking over and making me more aggressive during sparring and practice sessions.  Something that did not go over well with my teacher, younger brother, friends, or other classmates.

Eventually, I got so scared of hurting someone that I stopped all together.  When you can’t tell what’s real and what’s not, it’s hard to feel in control and able to spar without hurting someone.  And when everyone around you is talking about you behind your back and watching you like you’re going to “lose it” and hurt someone, you just want to get out and leave.  Or at least, we felt that way.

I want to not be afraid of going into the “zone” of rage and dissociation whenever I feel angry or scared.  I’d like those parts of me to come out into the light and be an active part of our system.  I am proud of them.  The other parts in our system are proud of them.  We want to feel what they feel when they defend us.  We want to participate in learning self-defense and protection.  We want them to be able to use our body and experience the endorphins and happiness that comes from physical activity too.

But enough of that for now.  I am tired.  My parts are tired.  Yesterday at therapy was intense.  And the self care we did after our morning session was even more tiring.  So a nap is in order for now.  Then following up on our new routine and some more self-care to get ready for work tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.