Trauma is Like a Sucker Punch to the Kidneys

Years ago, during one of my reckless periods I was amateur kickboxing. Yes, amateur kickboxing. There I was a mother of two young children, punching and kicking other people and getting punched and kicked in rings with audiences. It wasn’t until I had to explain a black eye when picking my kids up from school that I had to ask myself, “What are you thinking?”  Obviously, I was not. 

Ouch! I just got sucker punched! 

I think about a specific moment when I was sparring with a man that “sucker punched” me in one of my kidneys. If you have never been sucker punched in a kidney, I doubt you can imagine the pain and the body’s immediate response to the trauma. Upon impact, you literally lose your breath and fall to your knees. It takes a moment to one, figure out what just happened, and two, gather yourself. After recovering from the impact, I got back up and with unstable footing continued to spar, not really thinking about what had happened to me. 

Not long ago when I was discussing trauma with a colleague, I said to him, “I realize that the most challenging experiences of my life were like “sucker punches to the kidney.” Each experience completely caught me off guard. I didn’t see it coming.   

When my mother suffered a fatal stroke in the early morning, we had just sat and talked hours before going to bed. 

When I got the call that my brother had died by suicide, we had just spoken on the phone about my engagement to my now husband. 

Other traumatic events were no different. They just happened, without warning. 

All I know was that I immediately felt intense pain, lost my breath and physically and/or emotionally fell to my knees. However, the mistake I made was just like that day when I was sparring, I would pop back up and just go, failing to recognize that I was unstable, failing to recognize the need to stabilize myself before I moved forward. 

I have learned through my own healing journey and as I have supported others, that it is better if you are stable before you move forward. 

Ironically, this is something that I recognize as a therapist and a trainer that most people have often fail to do, stabilize before they move mentally and physically forward. 

Stabilize before you mentally move forward

As a therapist, significant work goes into helping clients stabilize what is currently going on in their lives, before we start addressing past challenges or trauma, or setting lofty goals for the future.   

“I have found that if you fail to work from a stable mindset, pain from the past, stressors from current life, and anxieties about the future can put you into an unhealthy state of instability that in of itself can be traumatic.” 

We also often experience feelings of overwhelm when we take on additional work or more responsibilities before we have yet to stabilize our current load or effectively manage our current responsibilities.   

How many times have you taken on another project, scheduled another appointment, accepted another account before you really had a handle on what you were already doing? 

It is important before you say yes or add more to your plate that you make sure you have a system and a structure that is handling what you already have.   

Honestly, this is an area of growth for me, as I am at a time of my life after a lot of years of hard work and dedication that opportunities are coming at a pace that often exceed my capacity, so right now I am constantly working to stabilize.  

Stabilize before you physically move forward

As a trainer, there is also significant time and effort dedicated to stabilizing tendons, ligaments, and joints as well as the core — lumbo pelvic hip complex and attaching muscles — before I allow my clients to lift heavy weights or perform dynamic movements.   

If you perform exercises from an unstable position, the stress from physical activity, load of the weights, and force of dynamic movement can cause injury and be traumatic to the body.” 

“The body will suffer an injury if you take on a load that is heavier than you can handle or if the body is not adequately prepared to react to a sudden force or change in direction.” 

It is important to perform stabilization, muscular endurance, and balance training to adequately prepare the body to handle heavier weights, as well as transitional, dynamic, and multi-directional movements.  

Mental and physical stability are the foundation from which a healthy life is built.  Understanding how to stabilize that foundation when challenged is key to lifelong success. 

I have dedicated my life to healing and strengthening the minds and nurturing and strengthening the bodies of others through my mental and physical health services. I know that you cannot separate the mind from the body. 

Who would have ever thought that a sucker punch to the kidney would teach me so much about healing and health. I have to say as I continue on my journey of healing from a place of health, I hope that another sucker punch to the kidney won’t be necessary. 

Opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or its subsidiaries and affiliates. 

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Photo credit: Courtesy of Angela Moore

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