My Body Keeps Every Score

“Well, the body keeps the score,” I sighed, as my arthritic fingers struggled to open the bottle of pills in my hand. The phrase is the title of one of the most important and widely recommended books on trauma, but it also become a mantra of sorts for me—a reminder I could repeat whenever I felt tempted to chastise myself. A reminder that the physical manifestations of my own trauma weren’t my fault. My body was too damaged in the past to behave sensibly in the present. As a child I had experienced hunger and neglect, so my body struggled with a relationship to food, hygiene, and self care. As a child I had experienced abandonment and loss, so my body lived in a constant state of heightened alertness, always preparing to be either abandoned by those I love or to have them otherwise ripped away from me somehow. As a child I had experienced harm at the hands of a caregiver, and so my body bore an invisible set of scars that manifested itself in not only my mental health, but my physical health as well. My body truly did keep the score, and I deeply resented it for that fact. 

With Mother’s Day was just around the corner I was needing the mantra more and more. A flare up of health issues left me feeling only barely functional. But I wasn’t surprised, I would be hard-pressed to find a birthday or Mother’s Day where I hadn’t been sick in some way, a pattern I would learn from my therapist is rather common in adoptees, especially those with traumatic beginnings. 

When I was first diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), I had assumed that therapy would mean finally learning how to ignore my body’s misplaced cues of crisis and danger. I expected to gain tools to desensitize myself to all the false alarms, and learn how to separate my logical mind from the body that had unhitched from it. Except learning how to separate my “good” mind from that “bad” malfunctioning body wasn’t what I would be learning in therapy at all. 

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