I’m reading a book at the moment which has been on my to-read list for SO long; The Body Keeps the Score by Bessell Van Der Kolk.
At the moment I’m reading a section about safety and reciprocity, about how being able to feel safe with other people is “probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives”.
Later in the chapter, he describes the three different levels of safety and how after trauma, the world is experienced with a different nervous system that has an altered perception of risk and safety.
He describes the many branches of the vagus nerve which is central to understanding how people deal with trauma.
As I was reading this, I found myself getting a different understanding of the chronic pain I’ve experienced for so many years in different ways, all starting in 2010 during a relationship filled with trauma alongside multiple other traumatic events such as losing friends to suicide and nearly losing others. 🥺
My partner of three years at the time was either in manic psychosis or major depression.
He would cheat on me and tell me about it, because in his deluded mind it was all fine with me.
I financially supported both of us when he couldn’t/wouldn’t work.
I slipped a couple of discs in my back and was signed off work, unable to do much including exercise – work and exercise had been my only respite from the hecticness of my relationship at the time. 😖
After I left this relationship and moved to Australia I then was in an eight year relationship who was emotionally, mentally and financially abusive to me and was angry all the time. 🤬
He took his anger out on me, on the dogs, on his son regularly.
My response during both of these relationships was to withdraw, go into a different room, or freeze. 😳
I was always treading on eggshells.
Eventually I ended up in depression, and got myself out of that too.
I left that relationship too, and quickly found myself in another one that wasn’t good for me for a short time before that all ended in a heap and I found myself confronted with some seriously painful core wounds of abandonment and rejection. 🥴
By this time the chronic pain in my body had been in my neck for around eight years, going through periods where it was relatively ok and other times where I couldn’t do much except lay on the floor all day. 🤕
Around that time, a couple of years ago now, I found the app Curable.
Curable is full of amazing education, transformational stories and other things that help you reframe how chronic pain is a nervous system response, not always a physical response.
I’ve had two scans on my neck over the last 10 years and know the physical problem (a 3mm disc bulge on one disc and a compromised disc above it, probably caused by landing on my head when I wrote off a motorbike 10 years ago), hasn’t gotten any worse.
Since I reframed it as a nervous system response, I’ve been much more of an observer of it when the pain is worse.
I do many things to calm my nervous system; meditation, exercise, beach walks, calming music, yoga, reading, time in nature, healing, saunas. 🧖🏼♀️
But I also still work in environments where I’m surrounded by people who have a lot of trauma, who are living chaotic lives, reading and writing about trauma constantly.
It’s where my brain thrives, and I’m intellectually stimulated by it.
But I’ve come to learn and accept (sometimes still trying to accept, if I’m honest), that my nervous system doesn’t love it as much as my mind does.
It’s curious to me how something will be kicking off at work or in the community, where someone is going completely mental, and I have zero visceral response to it. It doesn’t affect my nervous system. I’m very well trained at dealing with conflict and calming down situations.
But Cam will drop cutlery on the floor when I’m in a relaxed state and I feel an immediate rush of cortisol and pain in my neck. 🥄
So reading this about the vagus nerve is just sparking a few thoughts for me about how my past trauma has locked itself away in my nervous system and comes out at sometimes the weirdest moments.
Body, I’m listening. 👂🏼
I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you in the past.
I know you still love me anyway. 💕
I love you too. 🏻
Thank you for being such a trooper.
I promise I’ll keep looking after you way more than I ever used to. 🤗
I’m sorry I took you for granted in the past.
Does this resonate?
I’d love to hear what your thoughts are about this topic.
And come over and join my free group here.
Catcha on the flip side,