April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In honor of this month, I spent some time exploring the impacts of trauma on our bodies. This is a topic near and dear to my heart as a trauma survivor and a therapist who works with trauma survivors. I love this definition of trauma by Dr. Gabor Maté in episode 79 of the Therapy Chat podcast:
Trauma is not what happens externally. So trauma is not the sexual abuse. Trauma is not the being hit with the belt. Trauma is not watching somebody close to you be murdered. That's not what the trauma is. Trauma is what happens inside of you as the result of that event. And what happens inside you, is that you experience all kinds of emotions, such as rage, such as terror, such as fear, such as grief, and that then changes you. They change you because in order to deal with those difficult emotions, which are responses to life events, we have to be able to feel those emotions and express them. When these events occur in an environment where a child has no capacity to express herself, to be heard, to be seen, validated, and soothed, then those emotions become frozen in the body and the brain, basically. So the trauma is the freezing of emotions.
Now that I work in an integrated behavioral health setting with medical providers, I know there are real limitations to Western medicine to treat some of the most common problems such as chronic pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, insomnia, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. As a patient, I have also been disappointed by Western medicine for its limitations to diagnose and treat my chronic shoulder pain or a mysterious pain in my abdomen that makes me want to faint when I stand up. The only answer my doctor gave me was, "I don't know. Take some Ibuprofen and see?" This led me to do some more research and explore other forms of treatment.
Recently, I noticed some small but significant changes in my body since I turned 30. Looking into the mirror one day, I discovered a few moles that were not there before. My partner found a baby grey hair that was starting grow on my head. I I noticed that my clothes don't fit the way that they used to; I am gaining weight around my belly and my thighs. These cellulite, stretch marks, and wrinkles are here to stay. Given my past struggles in my relationship with my body, I was surprised to find that I did not react to these changes with criticism, disappointment, or panic. Instead, I found myself observing these changes with a sense of calm curiosity. I realized that I liked what I saw.
My partner and I recently started couples therapy. Phew! There, I said it. Admitting that I am going to therapy, especially couples therapy, makes my heart race and my face flush. Although I work in the mental health field, there is a stigma against the therapist having problems and seeking help. We expect ourselves to be superhumans who have it all figured out. After all, we can apply our training in helping others to help ourselves, right?
We created this blog to share information about living a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life. We are constantly learning new things and making mistakes along the way. This blog is our way of chronicling our discoveries, musing, and lessons learned as people and professionals. We invite you to come along on our journey of self reflection, discovery, and thriving with challenges. We also hope to exchange wisdom and enlightenment from you, our readers.
The information provided in this blog is not a substitute for professional mental health treatment.