Several years ago I went through a season of having daily stomach pain. I went to a Gastroenterologist but test results showed I was as healthy as could be. I tried noticing every food I put in my body to see if there was a food “culprit” for the pain but nothing I eliminated made a difference. Over time though my symptoms oddly went away and I started to feel good again. Great, even. I would have never guess the issue was trauma.
Until about a year ago. Shortly after having my daughter I noticed the pain coming back. At the time I was dairy-free due to a food sensitivity in my baby. It was easy for me to blame the pain on not having enough probiotics in my system. I hated being dairy-free and the daily pain in my gut just furthered my frustration.
I’ve been back on dairy for months now and what I thought would make my stomach pain disappear, didn’t. It’s rare for me to go a whole day without experiencing excruciating pain in my gut.
I guess though I should back up and share more of my story. While the two periods of my life when stomach pain was at its height seemingly have nothing to do with each other, there IS a common denominator. Stress. Stress due to insecurity to be exact.
You see, when I was having the stomach pain a few years ago I had also recently become a first time home owner…all while starting a private practice and taking risks in a new career. Much like the season I’m in now, it was a time of extreme self-doubt.
Becoming a mother has shaken my identity. It’s where I least want to fail and most frequently see myself making mistakes. The question of whether I am a “good enough” mom is, unfortunately, always in the back of my mind. Consequently this causes me to be less present with my daughter. This in turn only exasperates my negative belief that I am not good enough.
Now in case you’re thinking, “that sucks but what does it have to do with stomach aches?”, allow me to back up even further in my story. For over a decade I struggled with an eating disorder. As a confused teen I turned to food to avoid unwanted emotions. For years, my gut bore the weight of my trauma. For years, my gut held that trauma until my brain had the capacity to process it in a healthy way.
Having read Bessel Van Der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score, I’m fully aware of how trauma can get stored in our bodies. And it only makes sense that in times of incredible stress my gut will be my red flag that something deep within me needs tending to.
So while Kombucha and ginger shots make me feel like I’m “taking charge of my pain,” it will only scratch the surface if I don’t do the deeper work. Kolk writes, “the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going on inside ourselves.”
For me the path to healing my gut is the same path of healing my soul. It’s being honest with myself, before God, and with others about my insecurities as a mother. It’s choosing to show up and look at the things that are hard.
Thankfully I’m not going at this journey alone. Perhaps you don’t feel trauma in your gut like I do but you do feel it somewhere. If that’s your story know that you too don’t have to go at it alone.
Learn more about author & therapist, Lindsay Buono here.