As I was running this past weekend in a 10k race I began to reminisce about my running journey. The journey that began over 10 years ago. A journey that started off as a journey that was all about fitness goals, losing weight, being able to run a certain amount of distance. That quickly turned into my escape, my way of getting away from all of my problems.
It was about 8 years ago that I embarked on a journey of running through trauma. As I was truly thinking in this run, I felt like I was running away from my problems and not dealing with the problems. Honesty the space that I was in I needed to escape, I needed to dissociate from what was going on in my life so that I could think from a clear mind.
The Healing Process
So often we think the healing process requires you to simply be still however, being still may not work for everyone. When your mind is racing and you have so many thoughts that are happening in your head the last thing a person wants to do is to be still. For me, allowing myself to move the energy through my body through running and overall movement helped me to dissociate between what were the good feelings and what were the bad feelings.
I remember telling people that I solved all of my problems through my runs. It was in that space where I was able to escape and truly look at my problems from a different lens. I was able to truly dissociate of what were the problem areas and where I felt safe.
Dissociation of Trauma
Let's dive into what the word Dissociation actually means. Dissociation is a process in which a person disconnects from their feelings, emotions, thoughts, behaviors, physical sensations, or sense of identity. When you see the term dissociation of Trauma it is sometimes described as a "mental escape" when you feel as if you can't physically escape or when a person is so emotionally overwhelmed that they can not cope longer.
For some people, it's hard to have a mental escape (Dissociation of Trauma) when you are simply being still through meditation, journal writing etc... Oftentimes the escape from your mind in being still is hard so therefore the dissociation of Trauma doesn't occur. This is where new found studies have shown the benefits of exercise in relations to dissociation. Studies have shown that running is a prime example of dissociation that often times people who experience trauma find serenity.
Running and Dissociation
I remember it like it was yesterday, my first run, and thinking to myself with each step ugh when am I going to get to that first half of a mile or that first mile? I remember saying I need to have music in my ears so that I don't think about running. I learned all about dissociating from the run. I remember telling myself to not think about how far I had to run or how long it would take but for me to simply focus on nature, listening to my breath. It was through running that I truly learned about dissociating.
It was through that concept that I found myself going through the most traumatic point of my in where I found serenity and peace through running. It was the dissociation that I had once learned through running that I was able to create this mental escape, I was able to regain this sense of strength, this safety that I felt in my body through each run. I was able to solve all of my problems or at least find stillness and peace. It was then that I truly learned what it truly meant to run through trauma.
Where do we go from here? Trauma Research
Researchers are beginning to truly understand how traumatic events are processed and stored in the brain. It is through this advancement that there has been more work in the understanding of trauma and the body. This new approach has allowed the approach of treating the entire system of the individual and not just the cognitive. It is through this newfound research that has helped merged the connection between talk therapy and movement.
We have always heard that exercise is good for us although it has always been publicized from a physical standpoint; weight loss, increase muscle mass, and overall health. However, sometimes we forget the positive effect it has on mood. What has not been appreciated fully is the healing and stabilizing effect of exercise. Research has shown that running along may work on the exact systems that are affected by trauma and traumatic stress. Now let me say this that it doesn't mean that every person should go out here and start running and it doesn't have to be "running"
Healing isn't linear
Healing isn't linear; so as we look at running through trauma we must understand that everyone heals differently. What may work for one may not work for the other person and that is okay. It's having these tools, strategies as extra skills to help support you during your trauma and healing process. It's realizing that it's okay if one thing doesn't work it's knowing that there are other coping skills and strategies out that they may support you for where you are right now; not where you use to be or where you think you need to be but where you are right now.