Pain researchers have noted that people who have had trauma in their lives (especially as children) tend to have more pain. One explanation is that the mind and body are one. Whatever is in the mind will be manifested in the body—even subconscious thoughts and feelings will show up in the body. While earning my doctorate in psychology, I studied under Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a world-renowned traumatologist. He said,”The body keeps the score.” And that is so true! People with unresolved trauma tend to have that trauma show up in the body. Until we deal with our emotions, our body will continue to manifest our feelings. This is interesting for those of us who have had a traumatic withdrawal or for those of us who were put on a benzo for anxiety, panic, grief, trauma, etc. If we haven’t worked through our emotions, we may be unwittingly generating some uncomfortable body sensations.
This was never more evident to me than when I had to face an event that triggered some very old and deeply ingrained emotions. I was mostly bedridden that day with a very tangible increase in withdrawal symptoms. I knew it couldn’t be a coincidence. Even though I felt that I was in no way driving my symptoms, I knew that there had to be a part of my brain that was behind the scenes causing havoc. The next day, I was much better, which proved my point for myself.
I’m now using an app called Curable to work with my emotional/trauma load. It is an app used for pain such as migraines, but so far, it seems to be helping me navigate my way to a healthier place. One of the exercises in the app is called expressive writing. It helps us get to the core of the hidden and deep-seated emotions that may drive our symptoms. I need this exercise because I can get into a vicious cycle of symptoms and fear. For example, I had been dizzy. Every time I stood up the world lurched below my feet. I hated the sensation and began to fear feeling dizzy which in turn caused me to avoid standing up. The avoidance sent an unconscious message to the fear center in my brain, telling it that I was in danger. Which then created even more dizziness and more avoidance. Writing about my feelings helped stop the cycle.
It’s interesting to note that Ann Hopper, a woman who had such severe chemical sensitivities that she lived outdoors in a tent for some time, cured herself (and many others) of her symptoms. She did so with a program that she created called Dynamic Neural Retraining System. She felt that her symptoms stemmed from an overactive amygdala, the brain’s fight or flight region. By learning to not give into the anxiety that her symptoms caused, she was able to extinguish them by rewiring the brain. Can we (especially those of us in protracted withdrawal) learn to avoid getting hooked into our symptoms so that we don’t give them any fuel to increase and thereby create a new, healthier wiring in our brain? I think so. I tried Ann’s program and it did give me some relief.
We have a chemical brain injury that causes our symptoms. There is no disputing that. But we can unlearn some of the behaviors and emotions we’ve created that keep some of our symptoms going. We can do the work of addressing trauma and or intense emotions when we are stable enough to do that work (Curable is a good app for this), and we can avoid giving our symptoms any energy (Which is the premise of Dynamic Neural Retraining System.). We don’t want to become Pavlov’s dog and have our symptoms kick in every time we have a slight trigger.
By the way, I celebrated seven years of being benzo free on the 23rd of this month. I still have some lingering symptoms from my setback last summer. But I am working towards the goal of being symptom-free with the new app called Curable as well as my faith and my determination, one step at a time.