Friday, November 06, 2009
Feeling the Pain
Yuck. I don't like this part.
Did I really sign up for this?
You've got to be kidding me!
I have to just sit here and feel for two whole minutes?
This "sitting with the sword" isn't easy, Ms. Shelton.
I don't wanna do it, but I will...
"Finding Angela Shelton" - Day Two...
While studying trauma and the brain, I've learned that there are three different responses to threatening situations in the animal kingdom: fight, flight, or freeze. Dissociation would fall under the "freeze" category. When an animal "freezes" during a traumatic or threatening situation, its brain stores the trauma. The animal's body also stores the trauma. This is often why people who have been through traumatic situations have somatic symptoms. Somatic (stress-related, or trauma-related) symptoms are the body's way of manifesting psychological distress. Some examples of somatic symptoms are heart palpitations, headaches, muscle fatigue, and nausea... what I've studied tells me that until the psychological distress is dealt with, either with some type of therapy or medication or a combination of the two, the somatic symptoms will most likely remain.
When I was going through the abuse as a child I was able to separate myself from what was happening. My body was present, but my mind was not. Dissociation became a coping technique for me. After all, it's only natural. I didn't fight. I didn't run... what else was there to do?
For a person who has dissociated during their traumatic experiences, part of the healing process is to find the feelings they suppressed through dissociation and allow themselves to actually feel the pain. By feeling the pain, being present in the pain and recalling the emotions that were buried, that person is usually able to eventually find some relief from both the psychological and physical effects of the traumatic experience.
Working through pain is not easy. I have spent hours upon hours with therapists and doctors. I've written journal entries no one will ever see. I've shredded papers. I've burned notebooks full of detailed descriptions of what I have been through. I've screamed. I've cried. I've walked through it. I've talked through it. I've prayed through it. It hasn't been easy, but I've done what needs to be done to move on with the healing process... and I'm genuinely glad that I have. Because fighting the pain and hiding the pain and denying the pain didn't work so well for me, and on the other side of letting myself feel - of letting go - I've found hope.
I'd like to think that all these years of hard work would save me from ever feeling the pain again... but the pain is still real and still present in so many ways. On days like today, when faced with the pain, I make a choice. I can choose to suppress it again, or I can choose to process it by feeling it. Each time I allow myself to feel it I am able to unravel the knot in my stomach just a little more, and I am left with just a little more hope and a little more joy... and I am left with just a little more strength to face tomorrow with my head held high, knowing I am strong enough to fight my demons... one day at a time.