My Journey of Releasing Stuck Emotional Trauma From My Physical Body
- Published on: 29 January, 2019
- Last update: 29 January, 2019
I have a gooood story to tell you today. It’s a continuation of the saga I’ve been going through this past month, where it feels like I am finally releasing a chunk of the emotional clutter I’ve been working through ever since I moved out of my parents’ house and began life on my own. I’ve been detailing this journey on my Instagram stories, and I’d like to give you some more background here before I go into what happened to me yesterday.
PART 1: THE BACKGROUND STORY
As you may know from the personal posts I’ve shared on my site over the years, I (like most of us) had some difficulties in my childhood that left a lasting impression on me. We’ve all been wounded in some way during those formative years, and I am constantly floored by how the seemingly “insignificant” events from our younger years stay with us in the deep pockets of our physical and emotional bodies. Something I’ve done since the very beginning of my journey on social media is speak about this trauma openly, because this is the root of so much of the anxiety, depression, self-loathing, addiction, and maladaptive coping mechanisms so many of us battle with behind closed doors.
My particular childhood trauma stems from my relationship with my mother who has always grappled with mental illness. It was very difficult to live under her wrath, and my healing only began when I was able to completely get away from the emotional and verbal vitriol. That’s when I was able to meet my true self for the first time in a long time, because I realized at one point that I had to become the monster I was fighting in order to survive. This caused me to hate myself for far too long, and turned me into someone my soul could not recognize.
Sometimes people ask me why I choose to share such personal details that could offend my family members and while I understand that risk, I also understand that it’s even more important to end the taboo nature and stigma surrounding this topic. The reality is, parents are humans doing their best with what they’ve been given. Parents are wounded too, and hurt people go on to hurt people. I will make mistakes just like my mother did, but I want to take care of my mental health now before it gets to that point. I know that my mother only became “the monster” in order to survive her mother… and she had it even worse than me. That cycle continues back as far as I can trace and I will be the daughter to break it. If we don’t talk about it, we can’t end it. And every time I *do* speak about what I’ve gone through, I get messages from hundreds of women who thought they were alone dealing with trauma due to a parent-child relationship.
We are not alone, and we shouldn’t be quiet because the more we share what’s working for us, the more we can help each other heal.
The year that I moved out was possibly the hardest I can recall. I thought I was free… and from my logic, it should have been the best year of my life, unchained and liberated from the rage and manipulation. What I didn’t realize was that years of surviving an “abnormal” situation often leaves you with “abnormal” coping mechanisms, “abnormal” neural pathways (anxiety, negative self-talk, looping thought patterns, self-doubt), and “abnormal” mental health status; not to mention brand new chains of your own that exist in the most sacred place that the trauma invades: the mind you live in every day. I put “abnormal” in quotes because there is no such thing as normal, period. It’s just the best way I can describe it.
I realize now that my mother’s voice became integrated with my own. I had to learn to catch when I was beating myself up, and realize these are not my words – I have the power to create a new narrative (easier said than done). It wasn’t as simple as just escaping the situation. Anyone who grew up in a chaotic/dysfunctional home, or survived a traumatic relationship of any kind, knows that it stays with you longer than you’d like. The anger you feel towards that person, and eventually towards yourself feels like it will never leave.
It all started with plain old therapy.
I was not the happy and fully functioning person I expected to be once I started my “new life,” especially when it came to relationships with others and self-worth/self-love (because how can you love others if you can’t love yourself?) I was mean to myself, mean to Nick at times, and felt out of control. I was acting just like her (including isolating myself) and I was miserable.
I knew I needed help. Unfortunately, I had to go through 5 or 6 therapists until I found the right fit, and the one who actually made a difference for me does not accept insurance so it’s a hefty expense. This is something that saddens me about the mental health industry. The “best” therapists are usually the ones who invest in continuing education to explore the latest and greatest integrative techniques. This means they charge more to fund their education. This is a field that shouldn’t fuel the cliche “you get what you pay for,” but I have found it to be all too true. I realize that having access to this type of care is a huge privilege and that is another reason I continually speak about what I learn and take away from my own therapy sessions. I want to share as much as I can.
Therapy helped, but it wasn’t the full picture. Talking to someone for 1 hour a week is wonderful, but you must help yourself the other 167. One of the things my therapist told me was to “schedule” both mental-health-supporting activities (like journaling) and fun (like cooking classes or friend dates) into my life the same way I schedule work or appointments. Turns out fun, joy, and passion are extremely important when healing from trauma, and something we deny ourselves when we don’t feel worthy. My next step was to schedule voice lessons each week to get back to singing, an important emotional and mental escape for me as a child, and something I stopped doing when I wanted to “fit in” and disappear into the crowd. Voice lessons have helped me just as much as therapy has because it allowed me to get the pent up emotion and energy out (and, it was something just for me – an act of self love). When we’ve been hurt or neglected by a caretaker, we often resist taking care of ourselves in ways that remind us of how they didn’t.
I then began seeing my incredible functional medicine doctor (Dr. Gabrielle Lyon) in NYC who helped me take care of my physical body in a way I never did. Because I’m in the health field, I was stubborn and had an “I can do it myself” attitude. Number one rule that I’ve learned: just because you’re good at helping others doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help yourself. You deserve to be taken care of as much as everyone else does and you don’t have to do it on your own. In fact, health practitioners treating themselves is not a good idea because of your own blind spots and biases. Dr. Lyon saw the best version of me within the current ‘me’ sitting in front of her and spoke to me as such from day one. She held me to the high standards and expectations I was capable of and looked me right in the eyes when she said “YOU ARE NOT HER.” When you are a woman with a mother wound, having a strong woman genuinely love and believe in you is everything.
After beginning my journey with Dr. Lyon, I began moving my body consistently again with daily walks (something I realized I stopped doing literally within weeks of moving out on my own). I started losing fat and building muscle, and I felt so much happier with just this step. I had been eating so healthy and taking all these fabulous herbs for years, yet was sedentary and missing the movement piece entirely. There’s a reason for that (which I’ll talk more about in another post): I knew that stirring up the body meant stirring up the trauma stored in the physical.
I have always said I “hated” exercise… but that’s because my body is great at tucking away and protecting me from the things I don’t want to feel. Exercise isn’t hard for me physically, it’s hard for me emotionally. The vulnerability and connection to self is what actually burns. Hating myself was far easier than showing up for myself.
The whole time I was punishing my body by being sedentary, I was unknowingly living in an apartment where I was exposed to mold. This made everything ten times worse and I thank God that I started exercising again because it has been the most important thing I’ve done for mold recovery (other than sauna!)
Now we have the therapy, the voice lessons, the huge step of allowing someone to care for me and my physical health, plus the exercise piece. I felt more stable and supported than ever. I continued to have huge breakthroughs in therapy, which were so much more powerful and intense when I did all these other positive things for myself each week.
Keep in mind though that I was really only walking and occasionally playing around with the 3 machines in my apartment gym. I wasn’t really challenging my physical body, which was fine because I’m glad I took it slow. One day Dr. Lyon saw that I was hitting a bit of a plateau both physically and emotionally, and she recommended Dr. Sylva Dvorak to me, her “hypnotist” as she described it. Sylva is actually like another therapist who yes, incorporates hypnotherapy, but also many other techniques via our Skype sessions such as guided meditations, visualizations, EMDR, inner child work, and more. I switched to seeing my regular therapist every other week so that I could also see Sylva since they are similar in price. She is the person I recommend to those who are not local to me since she works remotely with people around the country. All of a sudden my weeks were packed with lots of ‘work work’ (as I’ve been building my passion and company this whole time), but also lots of ‘self-care work’ that was just for me. The more I scheduled this time for me and showed up for myself, the more I showed up in my career.
Then I met Cato.
Christopher Cato is a massage therapist, personal trainer, and shaman/energy work practitioner who I met by chance through Zeel. I woke up one day and my back was killing me, so I downloaded this little app on my phone and ordered a couple’s massage right to my house. Cato showed up for me alongside another therapist for Nick, and I had no idea what was about to happen. I prepared myself for a relaxing massage and instead received what I can only describe as the most powerful reiki session you can imagine. I immediately knew this was no coincidence and asked Cato if he realized how powerful he was. “I have an idea,” he said… “I just work differently.” Different is what I like, so I booked with him for the next week and it’s been history ever since.
After 2 months of weekly massages, I began feeling emotionally better than I ever had in my life. When I would miss a week, I could completely feel the shift in my energy. He was moving out so much stagnation and it would build back up when I wasn’t actively working through it. He gently suggested to me that this could be avoided if I would just freakin’ stretch and utilize weight-bearing exercise (lifting) to manually pump my lymphatic stagnation. Of course I resisted, cause that’s what I learned to do: resist what I needed most. Luckily he is an angel and like Dr. Lyon, saw the potential in me. Because I had recommended him to so many friends and family members via Instagram and real life, he gifted me with 8 personal training sessions (1 month, 2x a week) as a Christmas present. This changed my world because I would not have done it on my own if it wasn’t a gift. And now I can’t imagine my life without it.
I began personal training January 1st and I have had more emotional release and growth this month than in the 5+ years since I first moved out. I have never exercised “like this” because I never had anyone show me how to. It’s been so long since I had a chance to physically release the emotions I was storing in my musculature, fascia, and fat cells – and that’s what was missing from all this emotional work.
More importantly, I never felt safe enough to be vulnerable with someone about where I actually am physically. I never let anyone help me. For the first time in my life I’m actually building muscle, seeing changes, feeling different, and wanting to move. I can officially say I enjoy exercise with all of my heart because I am enjoying taking care of myself. Having someone create that safe space was essential for my success in this area. This is a common theme here: DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP. We need other people whether they are professionals, communities, or friends.
At the week 3 point, I had a major breakthrough. I talked about this on my IG stories under the highlight titled “mind BLOWN.” I showed up for my workout one morning and after 100 jumping jacks, I broke down in tears. I was embarrassed at first. “You’re very good at being vulnerable with strangers on the internet, but not so good at opening up to the tribe around you,” he said. That hit me hard. “It’s normal to feel this… those jumping jacks have a way of digging.” I let it all out the rest of the workout as he took it easy with me and focused on gently moving the emotions out. During our closing stretches I cried harder than I’ve allowed myself to in a long time, especially when it came to the hips where women hold so much pain and shame.
It felt like years of gunk were being ripped out of me in the best way. The next night, we had our usual massage which is basically a 2 hour meditation where you’re forced to be silent and alone with your own consciousness. For the first time, I understood the “bliss” and “higher planes” people talk about achieving via meditation, and I truly entered another realm. My whole body began vibrating and I started seeing visions of all my greatest hopes and dreams of helping others and fulfilling my purpose. I saw myself hosting retreats, community classes, I saw my wedding, and all I kept thinking was how can we all win more?! How can we all heal together? How can I do more for this world and community? I felt pure joy for the first time (something I always had trouble feeling) and felt like life was actually good. I felt so much gratitude for everyone in my life…. especially for myself because I showed up to do this work… and felt like I actually deserved to be happy. I was basically on mushrooms minus the fungi. More about this on my Instagram highlights if you’re curious!
PART 2: THE CURRENT STORY
Now that I’ve written a novel, let me tell you the story I came here here to tell. It’s been a week since the blissful meditation experience and I’ve already had my second brush with an unexplained phenomenon.
To give you a touch more context, I want to start by saying that our bodies are extremely intelligent. Because of this, the body will actually store fat to protect us. Sometimes that means physical protection (when we’re exposed to lead for example the body up-regulates fat storage to protect the vital organs from the lead). Other times, that means emotional protection: when we feel angry, unloved, alone, etc… we also build up fat as “protection” or “padding” from the external world that we do not trust (and from others who have hurt us).
So clearly, I’m already experiencing an emotional revolution this month ever since I started exercising because I’m finally having to deal with all the stored emotions that my body fat was keeping safe within my body. I was sedentary for so long because I didn’t want to feel things. It was easier to be still and not stir it up. When you move it out, you actually have to deal with it and feel it once more to release it.
Now, I didn’t connect it until yesterday, but recently I’ve been doing cryotherapy fat freezing sessions with my friend Tonya at a place called The Nordic Edge. My goal with this was to accelerate my results from training and work on stubborn areas. Last Monday, I had a session on my stomach and they say you’ll be peeing out the debris from the fat cells over the next 72 hours. Because of this, you have to exercise or get a lymphatic massage to move everything out of your lymph. That Wednesday was the day I cried during exercise, and that Thursday I had my vibration meditation experience because I released so much and was mentally/physically lighter.
This led me to believe that all the emotional and spiritual acceleration I experienced last week was partly due to physically freezing the fat and moving it out through exercise… all the emotions stored in those fat cells were stirred up and released too.
Yesterday, I had a cryotherapy session on the back of my thighs to target cellulite. I’m not even being hard on myself, I’m just being honest when I say that this is my problem area and my cellulite is extremely pronounced compared to almost all other women that I’ve seen. My mom is the same way and it’s all on the back of her legs like me. I’ve always felt this is very symbolic and is related to stored/hardened emotional baggage. I also find it interesting that I store so much body fat and emotion in a place that I can easily hide with all clothing except a bathing suit (so I don’t have to ‘show my pain to others’ – back to vulnerability!)
After the cryotherapy, my friend Nasya and I did a personal training session with Cato around 2:30. Once we finished, he proceeded to stretch/mini-massage us since that’s part of his whole integrative style.
He started with Nasya, then he moved on to me…. and mind you, I didn’t tell him where I got my fat frozen whatsoever. I just joked that we “froze ourselves” earlier so we had to workout. He had me lay on my stomach and immediately went directly to the area of my thighs where the cellulite was treated like he was a human metal detector. He got stuck there and couldn’t leave; Nasya said he just kept pulling things out of me reiki-style. She told me his face looked like he was in immense physical and emotional pain.
Once he finished, he stood up and looked like he was about to collapse, You could see the exhaustion written all over his face. He dropped to his knees and his tears began flowing. It was the deepest, saddest cry I have ever seen and it felt debilitating for me to watch him because it was my pain that he was working through. I knew what I was storing there. Apparently freezing your fat accelerates the rate at which you release those stored emotions, so buyer beware! Haha.
Of course I had to dig deeper and understand what I released from that area, so I started looking up specific emotions that get stored in specific parts of the body. Here’s something I found about the back side of the body:
“Your back side reflects private and unconscious elements of your life. This side becomes the storehouse for everything you don’t want to deal with or don’t want other people to see. Hidden or unexpressed feelings become frozen into the structure of your body. That means a lot of negative emotions become stored along your spine and in the backs of your legs. Most of your powerful emotions such as anger and fear are stored here.”
Then I went deeper to look for what the thighs would mean, since it was the back of my thighs that we treated. I found this:
“Fat is the receptacle for a range of angers; on the arms it signifies being denied love, on the belly it is about being denied nourishment, the hips hold stubborn anger towards parents, and thighs are packed with childhood anger (often rage at the father).”
I meditated on “rage at the father” because this is something I have realized over the last few years that I deal with but have not faced fully. I feel that I have one of the greatest and kindest fathers on the planet, yet this is also his downfall. He takes care of everyone but himself. He always chose my mother over me. He did whatever to appease her and keep her from verbally abusing him, unfortunately at the sake of his own child who took the heat instead. He never defended me or protected me from her even though he knew the pain that she was causing (because she was doing the same to him). The same way he never fought for me, he never fought for himself.
It’s very easy for me to talk about my mother and everything I’ve been through with her. But I’m not so quick to say “I’m angry with my father because he didn’t protect me from her.” Yet I realized, that hurts 10x more than what she did because he was the one I trusted… the only one I had. I knew she had issues, but I always held out hope that he would help me.
So now… it makes perfect sense. That’s the “private and unconscious element” that even I didn’t want to deal with and surely didn’t want to express to others. I’m so glad that I’m aware of this pain now so that I can unpack it with my therapist and perhaps even express to my father how I feel.
It’s been a crazy ride and this feels like it’s only the beginning of the healing process. I want everyone out there who is currently struggling to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – you just have to walk towards it. Keep doing the small things each day or each week that bring you back to yourself and remind you that you deserve love. It’s not an easy journey, but it’s one that we’re on together. I love you, I see you, keep going!