Healing From Emotional Abuse: Healing From Pain: with Dr. Heidi Cooke

Can you heal from abuse?  What do I do after leaving my narcissist? What does a healthy relationship look like? These concerns cross the minds of over 20 people every minute; over 28,800 people every day.  And the sad fact is, we still don’t talk about it enough.  Healing from Emotional Abuse isn’t a bandaid situation.  But it doesn’t have to take years either. The lives of millions of other survivors around the worlds have been impacted by their narcissist.  Yours doesn’t have to.  To show you how to live a free, confident and peaceful life, your host and Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, Marissa F. Cohen.

Marissa: Welcome back to Healing From Emotional Abuse. Today I have this amazing friend of mine, Heidi Cooke to come on and talk about chronic pain, and overall wellness and how to help survivors of abuse manage their chronic pain. So, Heidi attended Boise State University and received a Bachelors of Science in athletic training, while working for Boise State athletics — two seasons with their football, and one season with men’s basketball and various other sports. Including track and field women’s gymnastics, and women’s swimming dive. So, she’s like pretty knowledgeable about bodies. She graduated with the intention of going to physical therapy school and working in collegiate athletics. While in physical therapy school, she had her own powerful experience with wellness that shifted her focus to where she is today. She’s a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a business owner working with individuals to improve their overall wellness with evidence-based tools and skills. No fad diets, no herbs and supplements to reduce pain. Real, science-backed tools to reduce chronic illness risk. Welcome on Heidi. Oh my gosh, I’m so excited to talk to you.

Heidi: I’m so excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me,

Marissa: Of course. So, I’ve never had anyone like this on my podcast before. So, this is all brand-new information to me. So, I would love to hear what you do for people who have chronic pain.

Heidi: Yeah. So generally, I work with a very wide array of clients. From young, old, and everybody’s kind of dealing with their own experiences. So, I don’t really work with one specific patient or client population. Throughout my time in the PT world, I just kind of got more and more into this realm of overall wellness, just because I saw a huge need there. Like, only 25 to 26% of people that need physical therapy services, are getting in the doors of physical therapy clinics. And so, there’s this huge population of people that were missing. And while I was doing all my clinical rotations in school, I was just like, how do we find these people? How do we grasp onto these people? And how do we get this information out there to all these people that aren’t walking into our doors? And so that’s what I do Now. I capture and find these people that need this information and need these tools and need these skills, but may not be walking into the doors of a physical therapy clinic. In its physical sense. And so now I work with people on like lifestyle modifications, — through exercise, diet, mindfulness, rest. All of those kinds of different components, to address the entire puzzle of wellness. And for a lot of my clients, chronic pain is just one piece of their overall puzzle.

Marissa: That’s so interesting. So, I’m a big believer that emotional ailments manifest in physical symptoms, is that something that you find?

Heidi: Totally, totally. And that transitions well into kind of this idea that there was an old way of thinking about pain — you know, it was what we were told, growing up. It’s like that narrative that we have running through our head of, I roll my ankle, and my ankle hurts, and I have pain. Or I step on a nail and, Ouch, my foot hurts. There’s an input-output. That some sort of input causes pain. And that’s the old way of thinking. And luckily, we’re kind of getting out of that when it comes to mainstream thinking of pain. When we kind of go through the process, right, there’s the old way of thinking or the best that we had with the knowledge that we had, right, which is that old way of thinking. And then it gets, you know, kind of debunked, or we learn more like through research and with science, and then that community of people understands it. And then it becomes more further adopted within that community. So other physical therapists, other doctors, other health care providers start adopting that way of thinking. And then finally, it gets into the mainstream narrative. And so, we’re just kind of hitting like the tip of the iceberg there with the mainstream narrative of what pain is, and kind of the old way of thinking and this new way of thinking. And you kind of hit it right there, this new way of thinking. — And it has been scientifically proven, that pain isn’t just from one specific input, and it can manifest in a physical sense from any sort of emotional trauma, physical trauma, mental trauma, anything like that, and it can manifest into physical symptoms. But it also can stick around, right. It’s not one of those things where we have some sort of trauma and then we have some sort of output, right? Our bodies are complex, we have all of these different shared pathways. And we can’t look at it as this happened and we’re going to expect this sort of output, right. That’s why one person could experience the same emotional trauma that their neighbor experienced. But they could have totally different experiences after the fact.

Marissa: That’s so interesting that you say that. So, one thing that I’ve learned just in this work is that a lot of people who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia have had sexual abuse in their past. So, I’d love if you just talk about maybe how that happens a little bit.

Heidi: With fibromyalgia specifically, right, that’s a diagnosis that has been given. And for a lot of people like that helps with their experience, it helps them feel validated, it helps them to feel heard in what they’re feeling, how they’re feeling, and what they’re experiencing, which is really powerful. But at the same time, slapping a diagnosis on something doesn’t always we’re not addressing anything by putting a label on it. And so, for me, looking at fibromyalgia, and that diagnosis, specifically, for me is just another way of looking at chronic pain. So chronic pain can take many forms and this Fibromyalgia diagnosis has kind of been labelled under this little micro-category, under chronic pain. When really should be looked at and addressed as just another form of chronic pain. And when you say you know that an individual had some sort of sexual abuse or sexual trauma in their past, and that manifests into a physical symptom that goes for any sort of chronic pain, right? Not Fibromyalgia specifically, I think that’s where we get too far down a specific rabbit hole, when really the science around chronic pain and what is manifesting physically is the same in any of these cases. We have some sort of trauma, whether it be physical, whether it be emotional, sexual abuse, anything like that. And that affects our nervous system. For somebody who isn’t experiencing chronic pain or didn’t have a specific trauma in their past or whatever, we have this resting threshold that sits down here. And then there’s a pain threshold that sits is somewhere above it. So for you to reach that pain threshold, there has to be X amount of input to reach that pain threshold. So, for me, I’m not experiencing chronic pain right now. So, for me to experience some sort of physical pain in my body, the input has to be above a certain level for me to have some sort of pain response in my body. For somebody that has had physical abuse, narcissism, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, any of those sorts of things, right, it manifests in our body as a neurological response. So now for those people, our resting threshold is sitting much closer to that pain threshold. So little things like movement, and this rings true for, you know, individuals who have fibromyalgia, any sort of small movements, fine movements, going for a walk, any sort of thing that can manifest in physical pain, now that input is so much smaller to reach that pain threshold. So now, for them going for a walk or doing small tasks, you know, that is as little of an input as you need to have that pain response. And so that kind of manifests into this stress cycle of, I don’t want to move my body. I don’t want to do these things. We get into this fear avoidance cycle of not wanting to move, not wanting to participate in all of these things. And all that does is keep our resting threshold right next to our pain threshold, to where it’s a perpetuating cycle, if that makes sense.

Marissa: It does. Wow, that actually makes a lot of sense. And I have another question. I’m not entirely sure if this is in your ballpark, do you think somebody’s mindset and mentality has an influence on where they’re resting threshold and where their pain threshold are?

Heidi: Yes, and no, I mean, it’s easy. So that’s like one of those things that has kind of been, I know, it’s easy for coaches or health professionals or whatever, to look at somebody and say, you just need to fix your mindset. It’s easy to get really preachy with mindset. And while, part of that is true, if we’re stuck in this downward spiral of this is my life and these are my circumstances, and I’m not going to be able to move and I can’t move without pain. And I can’t do this. And I can’t do that. Absolutely. But it’s not as easy as telling somebody, hey, you need to fix your mindset so that we can get your chronic pain under control, right? It’s not that easy. It’s so much more complex than that. And it really goes into more of a realm of reducing those fear-avoidance behaviors and really just understanding pain. Understanding why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling is so empowering. And that can kind of lead you down the path of fixing that, “Mindset.” Because, you know, one of my favorite quotes is, “You don’t know, what you don’t know.” And so, if you’ve been going on throughout your entire life thinking that “I’m experiencing this pain, because there’s tissue damage happening,” that’s not true, right? Pain doesn’t equal tissue damage. Like I said, it can be something as small as going for a walk that’s making you reach that pain threshold and making you experience pain. And if you didn’t know that before, and if they didn’t know that before, then how are they expected to know that, right? You don’t know what you don’t know. And so, empowering yourself with knowledge, empowering yourself with the tools and skills is the first step. And then once you have those tools and skills, you can start to kind of approach those movements or those things that are causing pain, and desensitizing them, and it goes through like a graded exposure. If I experienced a ton of pain from going for a walk or moving in general, and I’m stuck in bed or stuck on the couch all day, I’m not going to sit here and say fix your mindset, you need to go run a 5K. That’s not going to help anybody And so we really need to look at it in a sense of — okay, we understand why we’re experiencing this type of pain. Your body is safe. You’re not experiencing tissue damage from getting up and going for a walk your body strong, your body isn’t fragile. But that doesn’t mean that the pain you’re experiencing isn’t real. The pain you’re experiencing is real, the feeling you’re having a super real. But we just need to retrain and desensitize your body into understanding that this activity is safe to perform. And we don’t want to have this fight or flight response from going for a walk, which is something that we should all be able to do pain free, right? And so maybe, you know, approaching it of, Okay, we’re going to walk from the bed to the couch, and you’re going to, you know, keep telling yourself, I’m safe, I’m strong, and my tissues aren’t being harmed in this activity. And then maybe tomorrow, we go downstairs. And maybe the next week, we go out and get the mail. And then maybe the next week after that we go for a short walk. And it’s a process of desensitizing our nervous system and bringing down that resting threshold.

Marissa: That’s awesome. So outside of what you just said, do you have any tips and tricks that you use for your clients that you could maybe impart on us?

Heidi: Yeah, absolutely. So, one would be really understanding your personal experience. So, you didn’t get to where you are today, You didn’t experience any physical or emotional trauma by yourself, right? That was due to the circumstances and the people that were around you at that time. So, we put all this pressure on ourselves to fix it ourselves, or to address it ourselves. But you didn’t get there by yourself. So why are you expected to go through the healing process by yourself. So, seeking out professional help to address that emotional trauma that you experienced, is key. You aren’t expected to know everything and be able to navigate this world on your own. So seeking help, and really putting in the work to address those feelings that we may be kind of burying deep inside that might be manifesting as physical pain. So, doing that work and seeking the professional help to help you put that work in. The second one is moving your body. Oh my gosh. It’s one of those things that seems counterintuitive, right? When I move, I have pain. But like I said before movement really breaks that stress pain cycle that I was talking about previously. And movement and desensitizing the body slowly, like I said, not all at once. There’s such things as people will talk about, “Flares,” right that they’re having and, I go for a walk and I get this flare. Well, then maybe we back down the walk. Your nervous system isn’t going to learn something right off the bat. It takes time and it takes, like I said, graded exposure, and you can seek professional help. Physical Therapists can help with chronic pain. There are physical therapists that specialize in working with people with chronic pain, and will help you develop a plan. A graded exposure plan to help you get moving again. And break that stress pain cycle and lower your resting threshold. And then the last thing, remember that you’re not alone. Seek a community of people, and really dive into that community. Dive into it in a way that is positive for you, and helpful for you. It’s not helpful when you’re diving into a community, and everybody is kind of perpetuating everybody’s symptoms instead of being encouraging and helpful. And so, seeking out an encouraging and helpful community of people that are experiencing what you’re experiencing, just really helps you kind of go through this process, and realize that you’re not alone in this at all.

Marissa: Thank you so much for that. I can’t stress enough how grateful I am that you encourage people to find a community for them, because I think everybody, especially right now, during COVID, feel so isolated from other people. And we all just feel so alone in our lives, right? Like, I’m going to stress or this anxiety because I’m stuck in my house and can’t go to the grocery store, because I’m terrified for my life. And they get stuck, like you said, in a cycle. And not having a community that’s safe and empowering, it really is debilitating. And I think that goes twice for people that are experiencing chronic pain or abuse, because we already feel so isolated from people physically or emotionally. So, thank you for that. How can people get in touch with you if they would like to work with you?

Heidi: Yeah, so easiest way, if you want to just find me is on
Instagram: @Pro.Motion.Wellness

and if you want to work with me, personally, shoot me an email: ProMotionWellness@gmail.com.

And then I also have a website where you can find all of the plans and packages and pricing and all that stuff to work one on one. I also do group and buddy coaching, which helps a lot of people again, find that community find that accountability partner. And it really just helps some people feel a little bit more comfortable to have a familiar face there. And a lot of times, you know, our friends or our family members are all going through the same things we are, and asking those questions and stuff can kind of help break the ice in a group setting. And you can find that on my website at Pro-Motion-Wellness.com 

And I’ll have all of those links in the description if you’re interested.

Marissa: Thank you so much for being here. Heidi. Oh my gosh, I’m so excited about all this information you gave us. Thank you. Thank you, thank you.

Heidi: Of course. And one last little titbit This was a like super Reader’s Digest version of pain. And we really just skimmed the surface of it. Like I’d mentioned in the beginning. It’s super complex. And we’re learning more and more about chronic pain every single day. And so, if you want to dive a little bit deeper and get into more of the nitty gritty and learn more, I have two episodes on my podcast that dives specifically into pain. I have a colleague of mine, Dr. Bill Walters, who comes on and we discuss chronic pain and kind of bust some myths around chronic pain. And it’s a two-episode series. So, two hours total. So, if you go to the ProMotion U Podcast on iTunes or Spotify, it’s Episode 18 and 19.

Marissa: Thank you so much for being here Heidi. Oh my gosh, we are so grateful for all of your information. And I hope that my listeners are encouraged if you are experiencing chronic pain to reach out to Heidi because not only is she knowledgeable but she is fun and awesome too.

If you enjoyed this podcast, you have to check out www.MarissaFayeCohen.com/Private-Coaching. Marissa would love to develop a made-for-you healing plan to heal from emotional abuse. She does all the work, and you just show up. Stop feeling stuck, alone, and hurt, and live a free, confident, and peaceful life.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the Healing From Emotional Abuse podcast, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marissafcohen, and instagram @Marissa.Faye.Cohen. We’d love to see you there!

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