A while back I listened to this podcast where Mastin Kipp talks about trauma and how it effects us. He says basically that trauma is at the root of all of our problems and I think it is a major causal factor in so many of our problems. Especially mental health issues.
So I started trying to heal my trauma. And it’s been really hard.
First off, maybe I should talk about what trauma is in this context.
Dr. Gabor Mate says that trauma isn’t what happens to you. It’s what happens in you. So when we go through something painful, but we do it alone, without support and comfort and acceptance, we become traumatized. This happens particularly when we are children. But it can happen at any time.
So we experience this painful, traumatic thing, and then we don’t have the compassion and acceptance and support to create an emotionally safe place to process it, so it just sort of gets stuck in the body.
And then it comes back up over and over again throughout the rest of our lives because the body remembers the pain and wants to protect us from it in the future.
So then any situation that reminds our subconscious mind of the situation from our past that caused us pain will trigger anxiety. It’s the fear response and it’s just trying to keep us from more pain.
And that really makes a lot of sense to me.
Mastin goes on to talk about releasing trauma from the body and using things like myofascial release, which is like a form of massage. And that made sense to me, too, because my Dad is a massage therapist and he has told me many times that we store stress in the soft tissues of the body. And I know that when I get stressed my muscles tense up and over time my neck and shoulders have become more and more tense and tight. To the point where they are basically always in pain.
So it resonated with me.
And I decided to work on my trauma and try to heal it.
I knew I had a lot of trauma. I’ve had a lot of emotional issues throughout my life. Anxiety. Depression. Lots of depression. When do people start developing mental illness usually? I think the ages are getting younger and younger. That’s the way it seems. But I think I had a lot of depression from a pretty early age. But I don’t know. It was a long time ago. I definitely have had really low self-esteem from an early age. But at what point I would have been considered depressed I’m not sure.
Depression is a weird one for me because it’s so sneaky. Like I don’t always realize when I’m depressed. Anxious, yes absolutely. That one is obvious. But depression often just feels like exhaustion. A little discouragement maybe. And then a few days in and I realize, “Oh, I’m depressed”.
But so when I heard about trauma being at the root I just really felt like that was a huge answer to me. Like something I really needed to pay attention to. Something I needed to address.
I have been sort of obsessed with learning how to heal mental illness for the last few years.
But obsession isn’t always healthy. Maybe it’s never healthy? I’m not sure. It probably depends on your motivation. Or maybe obsession is determined by motivation. Maybe if it’s a healthy motivation it’s not considered obsession. I don’t know.
Like if you are chasing something or running from something I think it can be unhealthy. A lot of the time in American Culture we are running from our pain, or chasing connection. And that seems to be the motivator for a lot of our behavior culturally right now.
Take addiction. Dr. Mate actually worked with heroin addicts in Vancouver for a number of years and says that all addicts are traumatized. That addiction really is about trauma. It’s a coping mechanism. Trying to find something to let us escape from the emotional pain. Or something to connect to. Some way to feel good. To feel okay.
So if the motivator for a behavior (like in my case trying to find the “cure” to mental illness) is a coping mechanism for trauma, trying to escape the trauma itself, maybe it’s more of an obsession and maybe it’s a little unhealthy.
So maybe my search for health has been a little unhealthy.
Especially because I’ve recently realized how often I feel like I can’t move forward in my life, or be happy, or put myself out there and connect with people until I’m healthy.
And another more recent discovery is that mental health, and the healing of trauma, is largely dependent on connection with other people. So the vulnerability and the connection, before I am healthy is actually a major part of the healing process.
But the challenge there for me is the social anxiety part of the mental illness. I’ve always really struggled socially. I’m not sure exactly why. I mean, I have the ability to connect with people. I can sometimes even be really good at it.
It’s just that I have to sort of get out of my head first in order to be able to do it.
And I struggle to do that.
So most of the time every interaction with every person fills me with panic. Or at least some level of stress. Talking on the phone. Walking past someone. Everything. Just fight or flight. Panic. Dread. Stress. Exhaustion.
I mean, I keep trying to get better, but sometimes I just get too exhausted to do anything.
So then I’m not connecting. And I’m more isolated. And more anxious, and more depressed.
So I know that connection is so key.
And that’s sort of what this blog/podcast is about for me I guess.
It was originally supposed to be me sharing the answers. Sharing the “cure”. But now it’s more about connection. Vulnerability. Not worrying so much about what I should say or how I should say it.
Like with this post. I don’t know if it’s very good. I think there are probably lots of grammatical imperfections or logical imperfections. There are probably confusing bits. It’s not very concise. Lots of runaway thoughts and ideas. And maybe nobody will read this or care.
But I’m using it as sort of a journal in a way. A way to start sharing a little more. Start trying to find some vulnerability. So I’m just going to share this post without going back and editing.
It is what it is.