Shake it Off

“I don’t feel trauma in your body,” said the massage therapist calmly.  At the time, I was lying on my back with eyes closed, feeling Kerri’s expert fingers pressing a pressure point on the bottom of my left foot. “Really?” I said. “That’s great!”

For the last half an hour Kerri and I had been chatting slowly and sporadically about my life over the last few years. She wanted to know how my body had experienced the simultaneous death of my mom and the end of my marriage. The question alone made me cry. I cried because endings are so hard. I cried for the brutality of the memory. I cried remember how fragile and fractured I felt.

I used to shake. That’s what I told Kerri, the massage therapist. I would shake after speaking with my mom’s hospice nurse on the phone. I’d shake after forgetting one of my kid’s lunchboxes at home. I’d shake after seeing my ex-husband. Stress will do crazy things to the body. Shaking is one of them. It’s called neurogenic tremors and happens when we’re in fight flight.

Animals naturally shake to release tension after a life-threatening situation. We tell people to “shake off” bad situations. There’s even the Taylor Swift pop song, “Shake it Off” that testifies to the benefit of not allowing the darkness to seep too deep. All this to say that our bodies are wise and have systems to help manage and release trauma. I’m not saying shaking wasn’t disturbing, or in any way completely prevented my body from absorbing trauma. I’ve done lots of counseling to support healing. And there are certainly other ways to manage anxiety and panic. But I do think the body’s maintenance system kicks in during hard times to help navigate incredibly difficult chapters of life. Have you had the shakes? Let me know your thoughts.

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