I had a strange wave of terror take me over at Whole Foods Wednesday night. It caught me off-balance. It lasted for hours. I got home, only to relive memories of old trauma. It was a terrifying night. The following morning I felt better, but exhausted. You can imagine my desire to not experience that again. So when I felt a wave of panic rising up in me tonight, I asked myself, what would help you process these feelings? I knew what I needed to do. I needed to run!
The memories that haunt me the most, and cause my anxiety levels to spike quickly, are all base in the same emotion. I was trapped as a child. I could not fight back, nor run, both instinctual responses to trauma. The fear I felt as a little girl is still trapped in my body on a cellular level. The body remembers.
I was lucky enough to study one weekend under Dr. Peter Levine, an expert on trauma when I was in grad school. He (and others) believes that humans experience PTSD and other anxiety syndromes because we do not discharge the initial trauma from our bodies. Studies of animals in the wild reveal that they shake after they have escaped harm. The shaking is natures tranquilizer in a way. (That is a crude distillation of the science, but you get my point.)
Remembering Dr. Levine’s work, and my thwarted ability to run from harm, I sat on my couch tonight and I ran in place. I pumped my arms next to my body and I moved my legs over and over, running in place. My emotions surged quickly. I felt six years old again, scared. Alone. But as I moved my legs and shouted, “I am running away!” “I can get away!” the old fearful emotions subsided. I kept running in place until I felt I was done. I laid on the couch afterwards and shook and cried. When I finally sat back up, I felt huge relief! Not only that, but the withdrawal symptoms I had prior had been reduced about 75%.
It dawned on me that we may be able to “run away” from withdrawals. If your symptoms are revved up by any old trauma, you can move through the underlying emotions by doing just what I did. Run, shake and cry if you need to.
I suggest you google Dr. Peter Levine’s work. He has numerous books out about trauma. He also has a great MP3 you can purchase from Amazon about healing sexual abuse wounds.
I know now when my symptoms get intense, I can run in place and discharge any hidden fear underneath. I have not tried to reduce my withdrawal symptoms that are present everyday: burning skin, nerve pain, sore muscles etc. But who knows? Maybe it will help.
I clearly have work to do to heal my old wounds that prompted the doctor to put me on Klonopin 18 years ago. Withdrawal has brought back the memories in sharp focus. But this time, when I feel traumatized, I can run away and discharge the old pent-up emotional memory in my body. I can literally rewire my brain.
Lace up your jogging shoes the next time you feel overly anxious or panicky. Sit down and run! Talk to yourself. Let the emotions out. Keep running in place until you feel better. If you can shake afterwards, all the better.
To your healing,