Healing from trauma: ‘Women’s pain is easily put down to “her lot” – as if it is to be expected’

Guest post by surgery coach and pharmacist Paula Ralph

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PaulaRalph

The pain that a woman presents with after birth, from hysterectomy, or during endometriosis is easily put down to – ‘her lot’. As if it is to be expected.

When a woman has a birthing experience that is traumatic, her body tenses up and moves
straight into the fight/flight or even freeze state. All senses are on alert, and the whole event is neurologically installed so that the memory creates a feeling and emotion (and vice versa).

The body gets stuck in that loop and, after a little while, as the physical wounds start to heal, the psychological wound is still very present. This actually delays the healing of the body – neurologically the body is still in fight/flight, rather than rest and repair. So much illness and disease is the result of this ‘sympathetic state’ of living in and underpinned by trauma (often received as a child and re-experienced later or during the birth).

Months later, the woman is still in pain – one woman I am working with is still in agony 11 weeks postpartum, and can’t sit for long car rides or movies due to tearing, and pain in her tail bone. But what do the medical professionals do? They do all that they know to do: suppress the physical symptoms. They generally look at the single, physical symptom, instead of addressing the real problem: trauma.

Trauma is individual to every person. What looks good on paper could have been a
nightmare for that woman, and what is a dream experience for one woman can be a horror for another. So every woman I work with is on a case-by-case basis. And if she says she is in pain, I believe her. If she says she is traumatised, I believe her. It is like two people being in a car accident and one is ok about it, yet the other one is a mess.

With endometriosis, so much is not yet understood. Surgery and hormonal treatment is the standard therapy, yet that requires specialised training and interest in the topic. Even still, surgery is not always successful as much of the tissue (which is similar but not the same as uterine tissue – which is why men and babies can have it) is missed. Endo can occur on the bladder, bowel, eyes, throat and brain and even the nerves of the pelvis (just recently discovered). No wonder it is so often missed.

And hysterectomy (often, and sometimes mistakenly, given to help endometriosis) is the
removal of an incredibly important feminine organ. Our pelvic nerves and organs form an intricate and easily damaged network of nerves, intimately linked to those of the enteric nervous system.

The effect on a woman of even a simple exploratory procedure can be immense, leaving her feeling violated, upset and emotional, lost and separated from her mojo and vitality for days and days. Some women say they don’t feel healed even two years after a hysterectomy. Some children say ‘mum was never the same’ after that operation.

However, my focus is not on how the woman finds the surgeon to perform magic. It is about being in charge and at the helm of the team to HELP her heal. And to do this I bring her attention inwards.

cybernetic loop
I work by coaching to the disease. One of the presuppositions that I work with is that every behaviour has a positive intention. We don’t always like the way it presents, yet during coaching we are able to access what it is trying to bring the attention to. This is often a surprise but utterly understood when we figure it out.

I use particular language and methods that allow direct coaching to the pelvis and the gut especially – I am incredibly interested in pelvic health. But remembering that we are a system (a human system); impacting one part of the system will change the others as well.

For this reason, in order to be ‘aligned’, I work with the head, heart, gut, pelvis and the
autonomic nervous system, using mBraining at Master Coach level. Each of those parts have a special ‘job’ to do (and when other parts try to do it, they don’t do very well – like trying to love with your head, or kidding yourself that you love your job and forcing yourself to do it anyway).

The pelvis is the special centre of personal drive, mojo, nurture, co-creation – not just making babies. The gut, which is actually called the second brain, is the centre for identity, safety, courage and boundaries – not just stinky plumbing. No wonder the pelvic and gut centres are so linked. Not just physically, as in proximity and interlinking, but in the effect of pelvic illness or procedures have on a woman at the ‘Who Am I’ level, and the drive to be that woman.

Most of the time there is a trauma present and I unlink the emotions from the experience
and then put the event back into the rightful place of distant memory. Recently I shared a
post about a Delete Button in the brain that has 145,500 views – there are a lot of people
wishing to forget things. That however, is not a great idea. You see, there is a lot of learning that goes on and it is more useful to take those learnings, and then put that memory in the correct place, removing the emotion at the same time. This takes the body out of that unconscious fight or flight, which is the opposite of repairing.

Sometimes there is deep grief – from a loved one to a dream lost or unfulfilled. That
‘supports’ ill health. One woman came to me for birth trauma and realised that the death of her mother ten years before was severely impacting her ability to heal from that.

The medical system needs to get better at looking at the human body as a system. The organs in a woman’s pelvis is not only for baby making. They are integral in not only the physical functions of a being a woman and the ebb and flow of that (like the moon and tides, compared to a man, who is quite linear. They are the source of her vitality and drive, linked to her identity – physically and metaphysically. Understand that.

The medical system, could take a peek at that too. Get their heads out of the books and
really listen. There is a groundswell of women who are saying this is not good enough. Surely if one woman is saying something, there are more who are thinking it – and they would be right.

Medicine needs to move away from the labels of ‘drama queen’, ‘hysterical’, and all those terms that Freud and others gave women, which are absolutely destabilising and not at all helpful. To move medicine into a more feminine modality around care, nurture and listening, rather than profits and force. Compassion all around – compassion for those within the system doing the best with what they know, compassion for those needing their help, and compassion for selves.

It wasn’t so long ago that medicine was the ‘alternative’ yet now it is the mainstream, but
there are some fantastic healing modalities out there. I believe that science has its egos, and the noisiest ego is the one that is listened to. But science is also catching up to ancient teachings and wisdom. Finally.


You can find Paula online, on Twitter and on Instagram

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