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Archive for the ‘Panic Attacks’ Category

Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s hoping that 2010 will be a kinder year. Last year was a very trying one for me.

On my blog entry entitled What is a Body Memory?, a reader posted the following comment:

I have had these ‘fits’ a few times where my body shakes, and it is hard to stop it. it always starts in my right leg, and then my right hand and moves to my body and then my head jerks a few times. I have been working with someone who believes they are body recalls of sexual abuse when I was younger. They only occur when I am talking about my dad. I have no specific memory of sexual abuse, but I know that I do not miss my dad from my life at all. (I haven’t seen him for 5 years). AFterwards I feel really out of my body and rather vulnerable in the world. Sometimes they happen at night. Once or twice it has happened to lesser degree when I have been sexually intimate with a man. And it also happened when I did rebirthing. It happened yesterday when I was in a counselling session with my mum. My mum was denying that dad could ever have done that and my body went into this state again. It really shocked them both. My speech dulls during and after the shaking, It is like I’ve had a stroke and it is really hard to talk properly. I speak really slowly. I want to know if anyone else experiences this?

I am not certain I was abused by my dad, but I am certain that my body is trying to tell me something, and I am certain that I don’t want to see my dad anymore.

I would like to hear of anyone who has experienced similar. I know I am not a nut job. In all other ways I am a relatively normal middle class girl. ~ Leaf

Considering that the body shakes happen in reaction to different triggers, they might very well be body memories. It is also possible that an alter part is being triggered and expressing itself. If so, this is likely the alter part who endured the worst of the trauma. Another possibility is that the body shaking has to do with releasing energy held by your body.

I used to struggle with body shakes, and this happened with regularity throughout my life from when I was in my teens until I was pretty far along in therapy. The body shaking is similar to what you describe. It starts in my thighs and then moves outward until my entire body is shaking. Sometimes my head will shake as well. I had to control my breathing to prevent myself from hyperventilating.

The difference is in the aftermath. For me, I felt really good after one of these episodes. It felt like my body had released a lot of pent-up anxiety. My muscles would relax, and I would actually sleep better afterward.

I posted about this on Isurvive, and one member had an interesting theory. She said that, after a rabbit escapes with its life, it will stop and shake. This is the rabbit’s way of releasing the adrenaline that flooded its body when it was in danger. The shaking is actually a way of bringing the rabbit’s body back into a healthy state again. I have chosen to view my episodes this way. As I said, since working through therapy, I rarely have these episodes any longer.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Throughout my life, I have struggled with panic attacks. I rarely get them any longer since I started the child abuse healing process. However, I got them with regularity throughout my adult life before then.

I still remember the first time I had one. I was in my teens (maybe 14), and my body would not stop shaking. It scared me because I did not know what was going on. To my knowledge, there was no trigger involved. My baseline was always anxious, but suddenly I could not hold it in any longer.

I remember calling out to my father from the hallway and asking him what was wrong with me. I kept shaking – violently shaking – and I could not stop. I was hyperventilating. I thought I was losing my mind. My father had no idea what was going on with me, either.

After that first time, I had panic attacks with regularity. About every two or three months, the anxiety would build to a crescendo, and then the panic attack would come. I would lie in my bed, and the shaking would begin. It would start with my head and move down to my entire body. My body would jerk so violently that my headboard would thump against the wall and disturb everyone in the house. It would get harder and harder until it felt like my body was going into convulsions.

I would hyperventilate while my body shook. I would usually cry because I was so frightened. This would go on for about ten to fifteen minutes and then abruptly stop. My body would feel relaxed, and I would then feel soooo much better. I would sleep better than I had in weeks.

I heard other people talk about panic attacks, but theirs did not sound like mine. I never heard about another person having a similar type of panic attack until I read the book, Safe Passage to Healing, by Chrystine Oksana, who is also a ritual abuse survivor. Finally, my panic attacks made sense.

I finally worked up the courage to talk about my panic attacks over on Isurvive, which is a message board for child abuse survivors. One of the members explained to me that my panic attacks were a normal (and effective) way of managing my overwhelming anxiety. She explained that wild rabbits are routinely traumatized by being chased by numerous types of animals. When they get away and are safe, their bodies shake. This is how they work the adrenaline out of their bodies and succeed in going about their lives, even though they are traumatized routinely by being chased with the potential of being another animal’s lunch.

I don’t know if the comparison is correct or not, but it does make sense. I think the panic attacks were a way for me to manage the overwhelming terror from the ritual abuse memories.

Related Topic:

Trauma Tuesday: Panic Attacks and the Adopted Child

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Storm clouds (c) Lynda BernhardtI used to have panic attacks on a regular basis after suffering from child abuse. They only stopped after I did the hard work of healing from the child abuse. Until then, I had panic attacks every couple of months. I knew this was not normal, and I had no idea what caused them. I only knew that I felt much, much better after having one.

I would feel the anxiety building up for several days before having a panic attack. I knew that the only way to relieve the anxiety was to allow myself to have a panic attack. I got really good at holding myself together until I could be alone and let loose.

I would lie down in my bed and start to shake. At first, it would only be my knees. Then, the shaking would travel to my thighs and calves. Next, it would move upward until every part of my body was shaking violently. Sometimes, I would shake so hard that the headboard would beat against the wall. I would often jerk my head rhythmically, kind of like head-banging into the air instead of into a wall or pillow. I would hyperventilate and force myself to breathe more deeply. Otherwise, I would get lightheaded.

This would go on for 10 to 20 minutes until it ran its course. Then, I would just stop. My body would feel amazing. All of my muscles would feel very relaxed, and I would sleep more deeply than I had in months (or since the previous episode).

I never told anyone about my panic attacks because I was embarrassed by them. I did not understand why I had them, and I feared it meant that I was crazy. I have since learned that some other child abuse survivors have them, too.

One abuse survivor told me that wild animals shake their bodies like this to release the adrenaline. She said that rabbits are constantly in danger, but they cannot function if they are in a state of terror all the time. So, after they are chased and escape with their lives, their bodies shake to release the adrenaline, and then they go back to normal.

I wonder if that is what my body was doing. Was I just releasing adrenaline? I don’t know. All I know is that I had panic attacks for decades, and I don’t anymore now that I have healed.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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