Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Body memories (also known as Somatic Memories) have plagued a fair amount of my recovery and healing in my life. At times, they subside and things become much easier for me. However, when they are in full force, I just want to go in a cave and hide from the world and everything around me.
My definition of body memories would be something very physical that happens for no known reason or cause and continues in some type of pattern whether it is from day to day, night to night or some other frequency. Body memories are often accompanied by strong emotions, anxiety, intense fear and often can be associated with body temperature/heart rate or other physical changes in the body. They are a very physical symptom almost as if whatever event they connect to is replaying as if you were going through the same thing in the current moment. During these episodes, it is almost difficult to distinguish what is actually happening and what is replaying out in the body. It is as if the subconscious mind is in control and acting out through the physical body.
Some of the things I have experienced range from more of a nightmare type scenario to times where you could physically see the effects on my body. Without being too graphic here, I have had times where my anal area feels as if I am being raped in the moment with all the pain that brings with it. There have been times that I have been awakened at night by my face being in so much pain and actually swelling up to the point where I had to put an ice pack on it before it would let up. I remember feeling at times like I was being pinned down and held against the bed with no way to physically move. It was as if a weight was actually bearing down upon myself. There have been times where I felt like I was being choked or times when I actually thought one of my own abusers was in the room. Some of the other things I experience are waking up in the middle of the night with deep pain in my groin area but the pain goes and quickly as it arrives. Often it is accompanied by sweating or an intense body heat and extremely restlessness. These are just a few of the things that I've experienced.
The hardest part when you are going through body memories is trying to tell yourself that this is not happening now. It is not actually taking place in this current moment. Yet, I know all to well, that these things give every impression, feel and sensation as if they are taking place in the moment. The physical symptoms are all there, yet the actions that they connect to are not taking place. Keep reminding yourself that these events are not taking place in this moment and that you are safe.
The next hardest part of body memories is trying to keep yourself from thinking you are completely crazy and you've lost track of what is reality. It gets very tough during these times because the lines get so blurred. You've got to keep telling yourself that you are not crazy and these things will pass.
Not giving into the fear but by trying to take the fear on, will give you power over it. Yes, the fear is strong but that is what it is. It is nothing more than fears of something that happened in some previous time. I often think of the bible story about David and Goliath where Goliath the Giant is the fear. Little ol David managed to take down the fear with nothing more than one small rock.
For me, trying to write about these things in my journal is a big help. Often times, these things involve moments that were very embarrassing and filled with shame. They were times when we were powerless against what was going on. So even to give the memories a voice through writing can be a very healing support exercise for anyone going through this. In my own case, trying to talk to anyone about it was very difficult and so writing was my only way of beginning to get this out. I still struggle with wanting to tell anyone about it because of the embarrassment and shame.
Sometimes, I just had to find a way to let some steam off and scream or find some type of physical activity to participate in. Anything that helps you move your arms and body in an intense way followed by some restful moments is a big help in discharging all that comes up during these times of body memories. Anger was always a big part of these things and some times I felt like I wanted to go into a full rage against anything that crossed my path.
While I know that these events can be doorways to further healing, they are still difficult to deal with and keep one's self grounded and centered. If anything will knock you off your center, it is body memories. Trying to help yourself realize that the fear is greater than the reality of the moment is a way to help yourself move through this. Fears can be so great and they give so much energy to body memories but once again, keep telling yourself that these events are not happening right now.
Most of all, find someone you can trust and talk to them. Share as much as you can or as little as you can. If you can find someone that will just be there for you during these times even if it is to sit with you until you feel safe again, do it. For someone that is around people experiencing body memories, sometimes the most you can do for a person in this state is just be there with them and stay with them. The support of someone during this time is tremendous, even if you feel you are not doing much for them. Keep reassuring them that they are ok and that they are going to be ok even though they feel like they won't be. Sometimes, touching them in these moments may not be the best thing unless they can differentiate between you and the act going on. You have to be very grounded yourself to touch them during these times and be prepared for all kinds of emotions to surface.
Body memories are rough and I've went through many episodes of them. Sometimes it gets easier and sometimes it is still rough. Just having support of others who care means so much and helping remind myself that this too shall pass gives me another ounce of energy to make it through the day.