At the end of the video is a questionnaire, a shortened version of the one on his website. If you have a high ACE score, you’ll score high on this one. But if your ACE score is low, but you still have the nagging sense that something was off, this is useful.
We’re always tense, always on guard, those of us with CPTSD.
Muscle armoring goes along with hypervigilance. The body is perpetually preparing for flight, preparing to fight, or stuck in freeze. There’s often pain when the muscles are constantly tensed and overworked. There can also be body imbalances, fibromyalgia, and breathing problems due to the ribcage muscles being locked up. Muscle armoring is another coping mechanism developed in an unstable childhood where you never knew when or where the next attack, verbal, physical, even silent, was coming from.
According to Urbanfitt.com:
FUNCTIONS OF MUSCULAR ARMOR:
* Keeps potentially explosive emotions contained
*Acts as a protective coping mechanism resulting from the fight or flight impulse being continually inhibited into a state of freeze often experienced in victims of abuse. See Polyvagal Theory
*Wards off the emotions of others and provide a physical barrier to external stress or threat like a protective container.
*Creates a sense of physical safety and containment as a coping mechanism to deal with chronic stressful life events
Body armor and character armor are essentially the same. Their function is trying to protect yourself against the pain of not expressing things that society says you may not express. Muscular armor is character armor expressed in body, muscular rigidity.
Armoring is the sum total of the muscular attitudes which a person develops as a defense against the breakthrough of emotions, especially anxiety, rage, sexual excitation. Character armor is the sum total of all the years of the muscular attitudes that have also been incorporated in the person’s character through a more stimulated habitual nervous system response.
An armored person doesn’t feel their armor because it develops over time and, as such, we wouldn’t notice the accumulation of muscular tension, fascial adhesions and blocks. What is body armor made of? Hypertonic fascia. We accumulate denser connective tissue (that is, fascia) when we engage in body armoring.http://urbanfitt.com/the-bodybraid-somatic-healing-and-body-armoring/
Urbanfitt.com offers the Body Braid as a way to reprogram body armor. I have not tried it, but it sounds very intriguing.
- This will be painful. These abusive behaviors travel through families until someone makes the decision to feel the pain. That is part of stopping the cycle. You will survive it and a good trauma therapist or group can make it easier to bear. Consult with a psychiatrist about an anti-depressant. I found that bupropion (generic for Wellbutrin) gave me an inner platform to stand on in order to face the worst of what happened to me when I was a child. EMDR worked for me in that regard as well.
- A good therapist who has been trained in trauma is invaluable. You may have to pay out of pocket, but there are also some very good therapists in the Medicare system in the U.S. If you need help finding one, look for someone who has training in EMDR. Whether or not you decide to pursue EMDR, it is an indicator that they are familiar with trauma and its after effects.
- Do not rule out medication in consultation with a psychiatrist, again, one familiar with trauma. If you’re a trauma survivor, you may have Complex PTSD. If so, you may also be hypersensitive to medication.I found that a tiny dose of an antidepressant gave me enough of an internal platform to be able to look at the worst of what happened to me. Exercise,diet, and so on only go so far and do not let yourself be shamed by anyone else into foregoing prescription drug(s) that might help you. Take ownership of your healing and what’s right for you. Advice from others on natural or prescription drugs is not helpful because each of us is unique in how we react and what combination is right for our situation. No one has your background, genetic makeup, biochemistry, circumstances, reactions, etc. Take all suggestions with a very big grain of salt.
- Try meetings that align with your issues and maybe some that don’t: AlAnon, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Debtors Anonymous,Gamblers Anonymous, etc. If 12-step isn’t right for you, there are the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA), and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Sometimes it helps to hear familiar stories and circumstances to not feel so alone. Also, just because one doesn’t work doesn’t mean another won’t.If you don’t like one, try another. For me, the 12-step concept of powerlessness didn’t work because with childhood trauma, I always felt powerless. My life was not unmanageable and I did not have addictions, so for me it was more helpful to go to meetings with DBSA, SIA, and NAMI.
- Volunteer with your kids and teach them that there are many things larger than themselves and other people with an entire spectrum of problems and difficulties. There’s almost always someone worse off or simply with a different set of problems. Helping others helps you as well. It can help get you out of your head and out of the house. I would recommend volunteering with an established organization, either religious or secular according to your preference. One of the activities my children and I did was a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless at our parish. All priests in residence (usually six) were in attendance as well as police officers. Most of the people are fine, but some have untreated mental health issues or character issues. With eight hundred to twelve hundred people being fed, having security was a necessary precaution. There unfortunately have been people harmed going out on their own. Please stay safe. And have fun.
The hippocampus is part of the limbic system. It is roughly the shape of a seahorse and, as with the amygdalae, there is one in each temporal lobe in the middle bottom of the brain and they are about the size of your thumbs.
Stress affects the amygdala,the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, often with lasting changes. Given the complexity of the brain, there are no easy answers and it’s entirely possible that both things may be true. These areas play a major role in anger and fear, memory, and motivations and play a major role in the “fight, freeze, or flight” response. The hippocampus is believed to be responsible for the processing of long-term memory and emotional responses. Some with CPTSD will have trouble retrieving memories and others will retain vivid memories of trauma and abuse. The elements of the limbic system can shrink in the presence of persistent ongoing childhood trauma. There is ongoing research as to whether a smaller hippocampus puts one at greater risk of PTSD rather than trauma impacting the structure. It makes sense though that for young children,the trauma alters the brain chemistry and the structures of in the developing brain.
Fortunately for victims of childhood trauma, the hippocampus demonstrates an unusual capacity for neuronal plasticity and regeneration. Exercise can regenerate neurons in the hippocampus. Growing up in La Jolla with an active lifestyle, bodysurfing, walking up Nautilus Street every day probably healed some of what the house I grew up did to me at least as far as my hippocampi were concerned.
Complex PTSD results from prolonged or chronic traumatic exposure as is the case with child abuse. For a child, there’s no viable escape and the people who are supposed to love, protect, and care for the child… don’t. Most child abuse includes just enough carrots – good times – to be utterly confusing. The good times always seem like they will last… until the next insult, punch, grope, withdrawal…. Child abuse includes psychological abuse, such as threats of violence, gaslighting, game playing, name calling, insults, and withholding love. The silent treatment is emotional abuse and very destructive. Physical abuse and sexual abuse of children rarely exist without some form of psychological abuse and sometimes the additional awful uncertainty of someone under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
The amygdala is generally understood as the fear center of the brain. Amygdala comes from the Greek word for almond (αμύγδαλο or amygdalo) and there are actually two almond-shaped structures, one in each hemisphere of the brain. When amygdalae were removed in rats, the rats lost their fear of everything, including cats.
The amygdala of an abused child experiences increased and persistent activation. The brain is a complex organ that we’re still learning about, but it is clear that chronic child abuse alters both brain chemistry and brain structures.
The alterations to amygdala can create problems with emotional regulation, a propensity to emotional extremes, as well as reactions to triggers, particularly emotional triggers. Essential to decoding emotions, changes in the amygdala affect one’s perceptions of one’s own emotions, emotional situations, and the emotions of others. Obviously, these kinds of misperceptions can make relationships, and life in general, difficult.
Childhood sexual abuse changes who you are. It changed generations of women on my mother’s side of the family. I’ve been on high alert all my life. I have trouble sleeping, I prefer to sit along a wall in a restaurant so no one can come up behind me, I constantly scan people, places, crowds for danger. I am forever imagining worst case scenarios and the means of escape. For decades, I was terrified of what people might say next if they paused in conversation. And on and on.
With constant fear come hypervigilance and anxiety. Hypervigilance, in turn, may be accompanied by muscle armoring, all of which (and more) will be explored in this series. Next up is the hippocampus, another crucial brain structure affected by child abuse.