Somatization is a process where intense emotions are converted into physical symptoms. These physical symptoms often build up over time. I experience it as emotions spinning more and more out of control, until they become so intense they solidify into something that feels tangible.
My narcolepsy—or at least part of it—may be a result of somatization. I get intense physical sensations in my head during my sleeping spells that are hard to describe. It often feels like the inside of my head is being literally scrubbed with a rough sponge, which simultaneously chafes and scratches an itch. I feel pressure behind my eyes. Since these symptoms coincide with my jaw clenching problems, I also get intense soreness all over my face, jaw, and neck. When all these are combined, the end result is so overpowering it feels like being dosed with anesthesia. I can fight back via brute force and keep myself awake, but just barely.
I experience it as emotions spinning more and more out of control, until they become so intense they solidify into something that feels tangible.
After years of trying to push my way through these sleeping spells the hard way, I decided to try a different approach: I concentrated on a physical sensation and told myself, “This is probably a feeling.” This unfroze the physical tension and melted it into a flood of intense emotion. I now use this trick on other common symptoms as well: stomach pains, leg tension, that “brain fog” that makes it hard to think, etc. Most of the time, it has the same effect.
Different types of emotional pain are stored all over my body. Some areas hold pain that is so intense I can only thaw it for a split second before my body resists and freezes it back into physical pain. Sometimes this tug-of-war makes by body spasm. This probably explains a wide number of seizure-like symptoms I get that aren’t actually seizures.
This is what extreme trauma can do—it dramatically alters the way one functions and regulates emotion. The body copes with childhood trauma in creative but confusing ways. Some people may store this trauma in their neck, in their spine, in their groin—anywhere is fair game, really, even internally. With compounded trauma like mine, the areas can overlap and reinforce each other, creating a complicated knot that takes years or even decades to tease apart.