Chronic Pain, Depression and Somatic Trauma: How Focusing on My Body’s Strength Makes Me Less Angry



After only recently learning of my trauma — of the somatic trauma that occurred 25 years ago — I’m just starting to understand my injuries. Injuries that didn’t make sense for decades. Like why I have a herniated disc in my back. Which also sends pain down my arm and leg. And activates my sciatic nerve. Why my hip pops out of place. And my ribs. And my neck. And my jaw. Why I have endometriosis and scar tissue. TMJ and GI complications. Inflammation and loss of circulation. Every single day, never-ending pain.


And that’s just the physical pain. The chronic pain. The pain that I can now trace back to one incident — to one night of my life — an awareness that induces every primal sense of anger. Of rage. Just knowing where my pain comes from makes me thirsty for blood. And induces a lack of control that sends me straight into a deep depression.


Like when my body doesn’t function the way it’s supposed to. The way I want it to. For there few feelings better than that of being physically free. Of dancing. Running. Swimming. Moving fluidly. So when I can’t move without pain, there is a feeling of being restricted. Limited. Trapped. Catapulting me back to my trauma.


It’s that dark, stale feeling that seems to go nowhere. Making me feel stagnant. Stuck. Zapping me of my strength. Taking me away from my power. Putting me right back in the position I was in when I was a victim. Making my anger work against me.


But I’m learning that by focusing more on my body’s strength instead of on why I have the pain to begin with, I can make my anger work for me. Allowing it to catapult me forward instead of backward. So focusing on my strength it shall be. Because anger gets us nowhere except in the same place we started — only angrier.


Focusing on my strength is something I’m tested by often. A test I struggle to pass. My most recent test has come from the herniated discs in my back. Not only has the day-to-day pain been unbearable, but the anger that comes with knowing why I have a herniated disc has been too much to bear. I do what I'm supposed to to take care of it. I’ve been going to the chiropractor three times a week to try to re-stabilize it. Getting massages. And I am starting physical therapy. But I find that even having to spend all of this time and money on an injury due to my trauma makes me angry. So I'm further tested.


In my trauma recovery, I’ve been learning to move through the anger. Through the pain. By exercising and doing yoga. Engaging my vestibular and proprioceptive senses to reregulate my nervous system. Moving the prana energy that is my life's force. But with a herniated disc, I can’t do the exercises and yoga moves that used to help me get through the day. I can’t run. Many days, I can barely walk. I can’t lean forward without risking the disc popping back out of place, taking away most of my yoga moves and stretches. And preventing me from doing hundreds of daily tasks. Simple things I used to take for granted like picking up something I’ve dropped or leaning over the sink to wash my face. Adding challenges to my day that can quickly send me over the edge.


But I’m learning. I'm learning how to compensate for my lack of being able to move. I'm doing stretches to strengthen my back. Taking more walks. And I can now pick up almost anything with my toes. But I’ve noticed that it’s the things I say to myself and to my body that affect my level of anger too.


Saying, "I'm angry," invites the depression back in. Being pissed I can't do something makes me angrier. But focusing on my strength melts the anger away. For example, when I’m unable to walk without limping, and I feel that angry twinge arise, I’ve started to rub my leg and say, “Thank you for your strength,” or, “Thank you for all that you do for me,” or, “Thank you for carrying my weight.” While my physical pain does not subside, I've noticed my anger does. I feel more nurturing to myself than wishing to harm the person who brought on my pain. Or to harm myself for not knowing to take care of it sooner.


And anytime we can trump our anger with love, the stronger we become.


If you suffer from chronic pain, I hope you find ways to relieve your anger and depression. To focus on your strength. And to show yourself some love.


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