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  • Writer's pictureWJ Kehewin

Monkeys In The Brain

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

I am nearing my 50's and can finally say I have reached scratched the surface of my trauma; enough to understand it at least and not carry it around like a ratty old backpack not even the owner wants...never mind anyone else in the world; especially those not trauma informed.

Trauma lives in the body, mind and spirit creating a life of constant struggle with the monkeys in the brain which are basically all the negative thoughts floating around in my head. Those thoughts are what I have learned to think of monkeys in the brain? Those little voices in your head? telling you you're not good enough, telling you you don't deserve to be loved, or that you're too fat, or that no one will ever truly love you, or that you are in an imposter at your job, or that you are a horrible mother...the list goes on. My counsellor calls them monkeys in the brain. Those monkeys run rampant when we are triggered into our trauma. I wonder how I survived all the years the monkeys in my brain jumped around in my head like a safe space for bad monkeys to grow into physical symptoms like Fibro Myalgia.

What is trauma? Well since I am not a doctor, I only can speak to it from personal experience. I have experienced it for years upon years never fully realizing just how damaging it was and is to carry it around like an old ratty backpack. It's like that ratty old back pack is still on you even when you try to sleep at night. Sometimes guzzling a mouthful of a cherry flavored sleep medicine from the local pharmacy just to be able to try to get to a place where your brain shuts down for the night and bles-sed sleep comes, especially when those monkeys are throwing a party and all you want to do is sleep.

Where did those monkeys I never even wanted come from? They came from my traumatic childhood. They came from all the broken people around me who were also in survival mode just trying to make it through the day. Believe me when I say it took me years to forgive them and still I am learning every day. Those monkeys were given to me by my family and others around me like the foster parents who still thought of me as a useless object meant to be worked to the bone and abused in all the ways you can imagine. I won't say what ways in this post, because I already wrote about them in my first two books of poetry. Now it is time to change the narrative for my self and learn to control the monkeys. I have installed cages!

I had to learn to live with the monkeys in my brain because they will never go away and the trick is to 'put them in their cages' with tools like recognition! Recognizing those negative thoughts as being a part of my survival but that they need to go back in their cages without shaming the monkeys or myself. The monkeys in my brain are a part of me and since I can't change them, I might as well take great care of myself and the monkeys by giving myself the permission to put the monkeys to sleep in their cages...sounds crazy but how else can those negative thoughts be explained in a way that makes sense. It's a great analogy for sure.

How do I put the monkeys back in their cages? By recognizing when those monkeys are having a free for all in my brain sending shots of cortisol (stress chemical) through my body. No I am not a doctor but can say when those monkeys are jumping around screaming, my body releases the stress chemical,cortisol through my body and I know I'll feel like crap after. That's what happens when those monkeys have a party in my brain and I join them in all their craziness. Then, I'll be down for the count and want to sleep, eat and avoid...

The trick is to stop the thoughts by realizing they come from somewhere in my past (like I said my first two books talk about it; there you can meet the monkeys personally) and knowing that what comes next is shots of the stress hormone will be continuously sent throughout my body if I dwell on it. I have to go beyond the monkeys and gently lead them to their cages and tell them I know they are just trying to self preserve and that they are used to being so scared, but it's ok, I've got it now...we will be ok.

We are all human beings, and we all have monkeys in the brain, some more than others (I have a monkey sanctuary!) You are not alone. A great counsellor can help and if the counsellor does not make you feel comfortable then find one who does. This is all for now...the monkeys are asleep--at least til the next time I have to round them up again.

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