Chapter 12 – Physical Self Care

Happy Friday! The Puppy Death Farts book club are reading Coping with Trauma Related Dissociation by Suzette Boon, Kathy Steele and Onno Van Der Hart. It’s educational, practical, and therapist-recommended.

Nick here, I’m one of the physical kids. I think the body is cool, even if it’s female and I think of myself as male. These tips helped me learn how to look after the body, and make difficult body situations much easier for all of us.

“Your emotions involve physiological changes in your body that produce physical sensations and movements; your beliefs and perceptions are mirrored in your posture, movements, and level of physical arousal. Your physical health affects your mental health, and vice versa. Many people who have experienced childhood abuse and neglect avoid dealing with their bodies or even find them disgusting or terrifying. Healing comes through more compassionate acceptance of mind and body as one together. This acceptance is not always easy or quick to accomplish, but it is an important goal for you and parts of yourself.”

There are a variety of reasons you may neglect your body, or dissociate when you try to work on self-care.

The first is the easiest to solve; you may not have learned how. If you grew up around people who treat their body like shit, it makes sense that you’d mimic that behavior. There is a wealth of information on the internet that can help here, when you’re ready to commit to looking after yourself. Shaving, hair, makeup, clothes, how to have an awesome bath, even how to make periods suck less. Any body problem you have, somebody out there has had it, and made a video showing the answer.

Next up, if you have a trauma based disorder, you may find your body repulsive. It was too weak to protect you, too desirable to resist, to ugly to be worth a parents love, and so on. Dissociative parts who are the opposite gender of the body are common because the child thinks “This couldn’t have happened if I was a boy”, and vice versa. Acknowledging the gender of the body brings painful reminders of abuse.

Dissociation involves altered physical sensations.

Parts can feel numb or have diminished pain sensitivity, and ignore physical needs like hunger, thirst and fatigue. Physical trauma can leave you with unexplained intrusive sensations that are frightening and confusing, and it’s it’s common not to know if these experiences are based on memories or physical injury and illness. You can become phobic of your own body sensations, leading to further dissociation.

“You, or parts of you, may have learned over time that physical pain could be intolerable; you may have associated your body with that abuse; subsequent intrusive dissociative experiences in your body were painful or frightening; and the physical experience of emotions (or thoughts) may have felt overwhelming to you.”

Additional topics in this section include the fear of doctors or physical examination, problems where self-care itself is a trigger, and risk-taking based on the idea that “this isn’t my body”. (This type of thinking is something you should tell your therapist immediately -Dee).

Alcohol, Illicit Drugs and Prescribed Medications – aka the fun stuff.

Substances temporarily calm inner chaos, depression, anxiety, flashbacks, loneliness and other emotional pain. Temporary is the key word. They don’t work long term because they prevent you from tackling your emotions. Dissociation in a bottle.

If you’re interested in a deep dive on this topic, including practical advice and techniques, I recommend Recovery from Trauma, Addiction, or Both by Lisa M. Najavits. It’s helping me, though I’m by no means “clean” yet. This shit is a journey, and this is a good guide book.

When it comes to prescriptions, on the other hand, don’t fuck around. Take the recommended dose on time and record your symptoms. If a drug is causing side effects, discuss them with your psychiatrist and your inner parts. It’s important to be aligned about which medications you plan to take, because random start/stops can cause incredibly serious side effects.

Homework time!

You’ll answer 40 questions designed to help spot problems in how you treat your body. Once complete, you’ll select a few target areas to work on. You’ll journal about the problem, set some objectives, analyze your inner conflict or concerns, and pick some concrete steps to make progress.

Do it. If you don’t, at least journal about why you can’t.

What help do you need to start treating your body better?


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