Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Body Never Lies...or Somatic Causes?

This is my third attempt to sit down and write this post. The first draft got lost, the second draft felt too vulnerable, and now I'm hoping the 3rd time is a charm.

My last post talked about some changes that have been going on over here. While I'm still focusing on my physical health (eating well, taking Juice+, resting, magnesium baths, sleep), I've been working most intensely on my emotional health. One of the major things that came to light during the winter is how my emotional traumas/wounds/scars have affected my body. Through therapies such as counseling ("talk therapy"), cranio-sacral, massage, and reiki/body work, it's as though my nerves have all been awakened. I'm incredibly aware of every part of my body that aches from emotional wounds that haven't healed. I work with other people occasionally, but most of the work is on my own. I spend time working on these physical knots in my body, helping to loosen them and work through whatever memory or emotion caused them. (Although a benefit of body therapy is that the body can release the emotions without necessarily going back to the memory. But sometimes the memories do come up.) I pray over them and, honestly, offer thanks for everything that's brought me here, everything I've been through, and even for the aches (which are merely my body protecting itself). This is usually done while in bed, either before falling asleep or before getting up for the day.  Eventually, some of the things worked through come out through paintings. (You can see some of them here.)

During one of these sessions I was working on my abdomen, in the middle between my diaphragm and belly button.  I've had stomach aches for years and years - at times chronically - radiating from this area.  I know, now, that these were purely emotional. I can tell you the date they started and the cause of them. (But I won't.) While working on this spot, an image came to me: my pregnant body was trying to relax and open and grow to make room for my growing baby, but the knots in my stomach wouldn't open or relax. The knots grew tighter and tighter until they made me vomit.

 That imagery made me wonder how much did my unresolved emotional wounds effect my body in the case of hyperemesis? How much of my HG was somatic?

Now, this is not to say psychosomatic, which has historically been used to suggest that hyperemesis was caused by deranged women who wanted secondary gains from their pregnancies and thereby made themselves wretchedly ill (thanks misogyny, you suck).  Hyperemsis is NOT "all in the head". It is absolutely not. But could it be in the body? Could it be somatic?

There's not much more I can pursue on this topic, so this post is more or less inconclusive. I did find this little abstract from 1946 which, despite it's slightly misogynistic phrasing, caught my eye:

Nineteen cases of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy of varying intensity, ranging from the exaggeration of physiologic vomiting to true hyperemesis gravidarum, who obtained little or no relief following a wide variety of symptomatic treatments, were completely relieved of their subjective symptoms following the use of hypnosis, either with direct suggestion or with hypno-analysis and age regression. All patients except two were completely relieved utilizing these methods.  
This form of therapy may act either by raising the vomiting threshold directly or by preventing contractions from the gastrointestinal tract reaching the higher sensorium. Again, the method of eliciting latent psychogenic factors responsible for the nausea and vomiting and bringing these to the surface and integrating them into consciousness is also a convenient, timesaving, and most effective therapeutic procedure for permanently relieving this ordinarily refractory condition.
Not knowing anything about hypnosis, I wondered if it could work by relaxing the body from the things it unconsciously holds onto. Perhaps it could work. Perhaps, in it's own way, it supports my somatic idea.  I'd be willing to try! (Maybe. Probably not.)

Here is an article about cranio-sacral therapy in pregnancy. Although it doesn't talk specifically about nausea or vomiting. It's just not a therapy the general public are aware of. I was honored with the opportunity to learn CST from my midwife's assistant for a year and a half. It's been a very helpful tool in my bag both as a parent and as a labor-assistant/wanna-be-doula.

This article is about a study to prove that hyperemesis is not psychosomatic. The author argues that, according to their study, the brain chemistry of women suffering with HG is significantly different from their brain chemistry when not pregnant. Which, doesn't really prove anything to me, honestly. Yeah, vomiting and worrying constantly, and not being able to eat well will definitely mess a person up. I guess the good news is that we can stop saying women are "trying" to be sick. But it doesn't disprove that there could be an emotional/somatic component to HG to begin with.

I don't know...what do you think?


  1. Wow. That's really fascinating stuff, and I can say that that's one road I've never been down!

    One thing I have learned over the past year or two is that your health stems from your history. I learned to write down my life as a timeline, putting all of the significant events and health events on it, and to start seeing my health as a story rather than just a current state divorced from the past. Past events really DO affect our present state - physically, mentally, emotionally. That might be along the same lines.

    Thanks for bringing this up. I always love new material to think about.

    1. I like that "seeing my life as a story". My dear friend calls it "your narrative". But same thing. Hmm...maybe I need to write down my story. I still have this raging need to just CRY it all out of me, and I'm wondering if writing it is what I need to do.

      And thanks for your input! I always look forward to your comments :)