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Looking after ourselves

Senior Contributor

The Body Keeps the Score - PTSD and change

A NEW thing...  maybe I CAN get past PTSD?


(Warning, some broad (not speciic) discussion of childhood trauma, adult physical and sexual assault)


Trauma and living with it. Can we ‘uncover and heal?”

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I started reading the book The Body Keeps the Score . I think it was @PeppiPatty  or @Appleblossom who might have recommended it in another discussion (?) if not, someone here ont he Forums did reccomend it and I thnak you for that. The book's full title is "The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma" by BA van der Kolk. 

I am only a little bit into the book because I am working hard on caring for my Mum at the moment so don’t have a lot of down time to read. But so far the discussions in the book of what happens to the brain and body as a result of trauma has given me an insight I hadn’t had before (even knowing as much as I do about neuroplasticity etc).

A bit of a breakthrough for me has happened over the past few days... And I want to share it in case it might resonate with others who sustained trauma as little kids, teens or into adult hood and for whom PTSD (or CPTSD) is one of the raft of issues we have to live with.


Moongal Background 

There is an obvious connection for me as a survivor of childhood emotional abuse, physical abuse, CSA, teen rape and adult Domestic violence (and rape) - Yes, I have been through the Body/Mind grinder for sure. This has caused my adrenal system (and other parts of the brain) to ‘learn’ the terrible job of trying to keep me safe and as a kid it couldn’t ‘cos I was just a kid, so it stuck into overdrive and has me on constant vigilant alert for danger. I skyrocket from my baseline (which is hyper-alert) to overload fight/flight in a nano second. This can be triggered by anything sudden - a car horn, a sudden rush of air brakes, a squeal of tires, a slamming door, a shout in the street, a loud bang, or a person; even people I trust well, suddenly touching me or turning up in a room when I didn’t hear the coming, or strangers acting suspiciously or aggressively. 

All of these things and more trigger me into a place where most of my brain shuts down and I am reduced to freeze, wail or run. Back when I as working my default mode was pretty much always 'I might be angry so keep your distance' facade. It is a horrible way to live.

What is worse is my own thoughts can take me there, even sub- or un-conscious ones. I am triggered by TV reports, news stories, movies, advertising, books and smells, memories etc. Something will suddenly bang the ALARM bell on in my brain and if I am lucky I can catch myself with my neocortex to stay still, remain calm, talk myself down, and acknowledge there is no REAL threat. But my body at this stage is betraying me - it is doing what it has always done. 50+ years of that response inside my bag of skin, that yells - There-IS-Trauma-Happeneing-Now!!!! and the resultant physiological and psychological cascade of reaction hijacks my body and mind. 

What I have had an insight into that I think is going to help

The book “The body keeps the score” describes the actual working of the various parts of the brain and the Amygdala (which is part of the reptile brain - the ‘first brain” ) plays a huge part in assessing immediate danger. As my Alert system was stuck on high for many years as a child, then re triggered over and over by various awful events happening to me up to my late 20’s. No treatment that I have ever been involved in, psychological or pharmacological ,has helped one iota on this part of my life.

Over the past months i have been forced by circumstance to be dealing almost daily with one of the people who abused me as a kid. At first I was being triggered many times a day, felt vulnerable, out of control and in a state of high anxiety. and OCD thinking was hijacking huge swathes of my day. My Body/mind has kept that particular score since I was in childhood - 4yo through 15.

After reading some of the book I have been reflecting on how I have never actually CHALLENGED myself to deconstruct, move all the building blocks of my PTSD into their separate piles and say - this REACTION is not real and not needed now. For my thinking brain (neo-cortex) to challenge and say this is a memory, this is ‘feeling’ generated by a psychological reaction. This is a “real reaction” but is utterly unwarranted and unuseful in my life towards ANY perceived ‘threat I might encounter in my day to day life NOW’.

It is a damaged system and maybe, just maybe I am seeing a way out of it, for the first time.

I have spoken about the abuse that occurred ad nauseum in therapy, and not once in any of the telling did I feel empowered, changed or better. It just triggered me into PTSD symptoms (the fight.flight/fear response), which invariably then rockets me into Hypo-mania (being Bi Polar as well as the cherry on the Mental Cake.). Every psych I have ever ‘worked” with are astounded by my wonderful insight and ‘recovery’ because I see them at first in a desperate / depressive state, and by the end the 6 sessions I was invariably in a hypomanic state.

My early days of being in hypo mania is attractive, sparkly and erudite, I become the star pupil, and seduce the practitioner with my amazing insight and change in character. I have not had ONE practitioner ever pick up that switch from week to week sessions as I ramped  into hypo-mania (as a result of having to re-live my traumas). They, I hypothesise, are just gratified that I am ‘doing so well” and maybe, not a bit self-congratualtory that they 'helped' me get there. (Note to Mental health care professionals - this is how I got to be 53 years old before being properly diagnosed with BPII.)

What I have never done is stand my ground firmly when I am in the face of the abuser (Trigger-person) or representatives thereof. I have ALWAYS just spiralled into PTSD panic, anxiety and OCD thinking. 

A Couple of Other things thrown into the Mix - Visualisations

A few weeks ago by suggestion of a psychologist, I constructed a strong visualisation to protect mySelf (in particualr the 8 year old) packing her off mentally to a wonderful island to be protected by Xena and a dozen Amazon warriors, and a few fun playmates, a place full of friendly wild animals and a luxurious cave to live in. She was safe.

Then a few weeks later I created a strong visualisation of every time I had to deal with the Trigger-Person I would have several strong women (all real people in my life) standing with me, one to my right, one to my left AND most importantly - my STRONGEST CALMEST Warrior self behind me. I saw in a nano-second that I was ‘split’. I have been split for a very long time. So I invited my strongest, calmest, warrior self inside me where she belongs. That was amazing experience, that I doubted was ‘real’ for a while but can see that it is she is back, in here, part of me, no longer split. [1] Thanks to @Faith-and-Hope for that wonderful reframing)

Insight in the middle of the night.

So armed with the tiniest slither of this Book (The body keeps the score) a I started positioning myself mentally/emotionally before I spoke to Trigger-person about anything. I was not being chucked about as badly physiologically or psychologically. I found myself reacting and acting from my strongest, calmest, warrior self. Sticking up for myself, sometimes with real force of character, when the person (as is their wont) was trying to bully me (monstering me as he always did) into accepting something, or challenging ‘my reality’. 

I am standing my ground and with every interaction I realised the power-over this Trigger-person had of me, was unravelling. Instead of ME unravelling, the SPELL, the DANGER, the Learned-response of fear was disintegrating.

LAst night in the middle of the night I woke up out of a nightmare, heart pounding, sweat-a-lather and had this thought. You are in control of yourself, your brain and body are not 'out there' by themselves, you are the captain, the pilot, the leader now. And I went immeditely back to sleep peaceful and calm.

Every now and then, in an extremis of emotion and worry and fraught tiredness and physical pain over the past fortnight I have found myself ramping back up, not en-guard and suddenly chucked into a  PTSD state, I have been able with each practice, within 20 minutes, to think my way OUT of it.

And I notice - even though my body is still on hyper-vigil, I am able to bring myself DOWN to neutral-calm again quicker than ever before if triggered by those myriad other nuetral triggers like loud nises, sudden touch or unexepected event.. 

I kind of ‘knew’ that my adrenal/.cortisol system was terrible broken because of the trauma I lived through (and relived that trauma with alarming regularity) but I never knew how to do something about it.

I am not saying I am anywhere near cured, perhaps there is no cure per se - but what I have here, what I am doing here IS MAKING A DIFFERENCE. 

I am repositioning myself, mentally/emotionally./spiritually to be an adult dealing with another adult and an adult world, rather than standing inside my damaged ‘child’ to try to manage every situation (which of course she cannot).

I wonder what the rest of the book might reveal! 

Thanks if you made reading it this far. 



[1] Re: The Fast Turnaround, Dizzy one day, Deathly the next Post by @Faith-and-Hope11 Jun 2016 08:23 PM




Re: The Body Keeps the Score - PTSD and change

Wow, thats pretty amazing stuff @MoonGal,

Re: The Body Keeps the Score - PTSD and change

That is sooooo awe-SOME @MoonGal ❣

So glad you are finding your sub-personalities and how to put it all back together in there ❣

Take the time you need ...... once the "housekeeping" starts up it will follow a bit of a natural progression I'm sure.  That's so wonderful .......


Re: The Body Keeps the Score - PTSD and change

Glad that the book is working for you @MoonGal I think it was @PeppiPatty who read it.  I have no doubt its right on the mark though.

I am more old fashioned and frugal.  The kind of books in my shelves about that kind of thing are old paperbacks .. which I thought I'd list .. as it might open up dialogue... not the latest and greatest .. but good for people who cant afford that.

Psych Etc etc:

The Anatomy of Mental Illness ... by Primal Therapy Founder .. very body based modality

The Betrayal of the Body .. Alexander Lowen .. case histories

The Way to Vibrant Heath .. A Lowen & L Lowen  ... simple exercises

The Alexander Technique: the revolutionary way to use your body for total energy

Yoga in 10 lessons ... Dechanet .. by French monk who incorporated teachings of the East with christianity

Shiatzu .. Anika Bergson and Vlad Tuchak

Plus all the stuff I did at uni in Psychoanalysis and Social Theory



Eg Jeannete Winterson who wrote both

Sexing the Cherry and Written in the Body



I did all these body therapies over time.  Would sit in circle with ex husband and 2 girls from 2 onwards and I know in my heart it is what helped him and his oldest daughter survive and thrive.  She and I both had 2 schizophrenic parents.  Nothing was forced i ... I was doing lots of kinder gym and swimming with them.  when my neck went it became the only way that I could hold them or play in a light hearted fashion ... as the buoyancy of the water supported them and I could just have fun with them.

Call out to @Angels333 The water is SO therapuetic isnt it .. dont give up entirely cos you couldnt make it a few times... health cannot always for a week in advance.

The weird thing was that when I was 26 I did not have a concept that I had been damaged or had PTSD or anything .. though I quickly learned I was not Miss Invincible.Woman FrustratedWoman SadWoman EmbarassedWoman Mad


My ex and kids and I would would dga and other exercises from w

Re: The Body Keeps the Score - PTSD and change

@Appleblossum - I borrowed the book from my library (took about 5 weeks t come because SO many people had it on interlibrary loan. 33 people had booked it and there were 11 copies. So I was frugal too! Thanks for the other titles and sounds like you have done some awesome work with yourself, kids. <3

Re: The Body Keeps the Score - PTSD and change

New mantra - when PTSD images/feeling/cascade kicks in.

That was then. This is now.

Re: The Body Keeps the Score - PTSD and change

Love it Mood Gal, i'm gonna put it in todays new thread, thanks Smiley Happy

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