This week's Lewy Body Dialogue Chapter

Ch. 77  The Body Keeps the Score

February 2021

          Bessel Van der Kolk wrote a book with this title in 2014. It was a breakthrough book because it was one of the first to discuss how one’s body may be affected by trauma. Basically, he argued that people may repress the awareness of trauma but that there will often be telltale signs of it in the ways we hold our bodies and move about. An individual may think he is fine but his or her body will hint otherwise.  

          The main message in his book: Listen to your body. It tells the truth.

          I believe that Lewy Body can be traumatic both for the person with Lewy Body and that person’s caregivers. So, it makes sense for us to watch our bodies for signs of discomfort that we aren’t consciously aware of. Here is my personal example.

          I am a “doer” kind of person. I like to stay busy. Taking on the many tasks of a care partner such as cooking, laundry, and shopping keep me going. I tell myself that I am “fine” when I am busy. I also tell myself that I am perfectly healthy and physically quite capable of being a long-term care partner. I’d like to think I could do this forever, virtually without help, especially in this pandemic world we live in. Unfortunately, my stomach and bowels don’t agree.  They have increasingly tried to tell me I am not doing as well as I think I am. “Don’t ignore us,” they seem to say, “or you’ll get really sick soon.”

          Last week I gave in. I made an appointment in the gastroenterology department at Eau Claire’s Mayo Clinic. The receptionist making the appointment told me I would be seeing a nurse practitioner whose first name is Hope (That seemed rather providential). The receptionist also mentioned that I would be seeing Hope again! Apparently, I saw her last year, but I had completely forgotten.  How’s that for repression?  I’m sure my body remembered the past appointment, though, even if I could not.

          I asked my daughter Jenny to stay with Pat while I saw the doctor. This was only the second or third time I’ve sought relief in the eleven months since the Covid shutdown began. Jenny was willing. Pat was happy. They had a good time being with each other and I didn’t have to worry about what might be going wrong while I was away from home.

          Hope and I discussed my symptoms (loose bowels, stomach aches, bloating), ordered some tests, and reassured me that I almost certainly wasn’t going to die from colon cancer. She ordered one medication and rearranged the time of day I take a couple others. Hope also gave me a little praise for taking care of myself by coming in for this appointment.

          My body does keep the score. It sends messages as well. And today’s message is that I need to take care of myself better. I hear it now. But I wouldn’t be surprised if about this time next year, I call the gastroenterology department and make another “first time” appointment with Hope.

Pat’s comments on The Body Keeps the Score.”

Ron to Pat: “Do you think Ron will actually take better care of himself?

          Pat: I don’t know if he will take better care of himself. I’m not doubting it. I just don’t know.

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