BOTTOM LINE: Reduced spikes in my physical pain.
Somatic Experiencing (SE™) was developed by Peter Levine and I highly recommend his book:
The book was invaluable in helping me understand my body's physical reaction to past trauma. Levine explains that after trauma our bodies sometimes hold in energy and tension, causing physical pain. Our bodies need to release that energy, similar to how an animal shivers after a close encounter with a predator. Without dissipating the energy and tension, we can get locked in chronic pain. Other books I’ve read of his have also been very helpful, for example:
In November 2015, I started seeing a therapist who offers SE™ therapy as well as eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR). These two methods so far have helped expose some of my deeply hidden emotions and both methods (independently) have miraculously brought down spikes in my pain on a couple of occasions.
I don’t know if these therapies would have resolved my physical pain had I continued, but I had to stop seeing that therapist after ten months because my husband got a new job and we moved to another state. I felt we addressed important issues and I was able to understand some of my body’s automatic reactions better, but full resolution of my symptoms didn’t happen after ten months of therapy. I may try to continue this therapy, but it will take time to get a new therapist up to speed to where I was with the first therapist.
Through this therapy, I discovered that deeply learned reactions to overwhelming circumstances from the past are still driving my body’s physical reactions today. For example, a symptom that started in 2011, six years after my chronic pain started, is losing cognitive function while driving. Sometimes when my neck pain is high, I’m unfamiliar with the roads, and I have to drive for more than ten or twenty minutes, my brain starts to shut down. My mind feels confused and my head starts to feel numb. Tension in my neck is high and I begin to lose the ability to comprehend the rules of the road and how to operate the vehicle I’m driving. I’ve had to stop the car and pull over on the side of the road. When that has happened, closing my eyes and taking a short nap has helped.
Through the EMDR and SE™ therapies, I began to understand that when my body feels overwhelmed (like in the driving scenario above), my learned response is to shut down. It seems similar to how my body continues the cycle of chronic pain. My body presents pain in response to some overwhelming sense of danger from past trauma. I try to use this knowledge to avert the cognitive deficit feeling I get when driving, or the pain I feel on a daily basis; however, it’s often too late once I realize it while driving, or it hasn't penetrated my ongoing daily pain (yet).
I tell myself I’m safe and I can handle whatever overwhelming feelings my body is experiencing. When I'm driving, this helps me make it home safely. I also try to use this knowledge to combat my daily physical pain, but it hasn’t eliminated my pain. I do believe, however, that understanding the roots of my pain and physical reactions to trauma are what have brought my pain down significantly since I first developed chronic pain. In addition to Levine's books listed above,
Described below is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain: