Trauma Survivors and Chronic Illness

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I have read several articles about how trauma survivors tend to suffer from chronic illness, more so than any other person that has not dealt with severe trauma. So I was curious to find out if there was any truth about this and why.

Ok, so what is considered a “traumatic event”, you may ask? A traumatic event is an event that leads to emotional or physical stress. It can be a one time event, such as a car accident, or repeated events such as sexual abuse. Common traumatic events occur when something is unexpected, you were unprepared for, something that made you feel powerless, something horrible happened repeatedly, or someone was intentionally cruel to you.

A traumatic event to one person can be insignificant to another. Everyone is different. Commonly overlooked events include sports injuries, surgeries, break-ups, or the discovery of a life-threatening or disabling condition. Yep. All the people who spent YEARS trying to figure out what was wrong with them. It is also hard for anyone to walk into a doctors office for some knee pain or a numb leg, like myself, and have been treated for nearly a year, with 7 months of IV treatments. I am sure many of you with Lyme had NO IDEA what you were in for. I sure didn’t!

One of the books that I have read, well tried to read (still too big a paragraphs) believes that is there is depression from a trauma that has not been dealt with, it may not even be possible for people with Lyme to heal if there is an underlying emotional stressor, causing disease-promoting inflammation.

No pity parties here, but I have dealt with my fair share of trauma in life. But shit happens. You rise above it and move on with your life, the best you can. One of the biggest traumas in my life was my car accident and how that changed my high school years. I explained everything in my 10 year anniversary of my accident, my August 4th entry.

Another big trauma of mine that was much more recent was when I started out my own little side cleaning business. I was so excited to have my first client, a middle age man, but I was cautious. I did not know him, so I even looked him up on the sex offender registry. All clear, good to go. I won’t get into details as it was an indecent exposure case (you can use your imagination here a bit and figure it out), but he definitely ended up being a completely sick, disgusting pervert.
I was so incredibly angry to find out that this disgusting man did the same thing to FOUR other women (that are known of anyway, some might have been to afraid to come forward, I am sure there are others) !! Two of which filed complaints but were too scared to press charges. And two more came forward filing reports after hearing about my case but were too scared to press charges. Not me though. I would have felt awful if because of me not taking a stand, what happened could happen to another woman, or he could do even more harm. It was my OBLIGATION to fight, and fight I did. One of the women did end up pressing charges against him once she knew I did too, but was too afraid to face him in court.

A chain of events came to follow, including him harassing me on the phone even though I had a restraining order against him ( I was told by the police it was too much legwork even though I handed them phone records and a copy of the restraining order), waiting for court for over 9 months, and the embarrassment of my attorney saying what happened and having me stand for everyone to see.

It ended up being perfect timing, as he had an ongoing case (they should really have a pending case website with a disclaimer stating indicted, not convicted) as he had tried to pick up a 13 year old girl on the internet ( which was a sting by Florida police). Paints a picture of his character.

Either way, between the two cases, he served I believe 60 days in jail, had an ankle bracelet and was confined to his home for a year, a five year restraining order against me (my attorney made it very clear there was no longer going to be police issues), if he as much breathes near me he gets an automatic seven year prison sentence, no longer is allowed to have internet access, and has to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.  I use to wish he would die every single day, but I only wonder what happened to him that made him such a bad man. I almost pity him.

But, not long after dealing with all of this, is when I started going downhill and had more frequent pass outs, “fibro” flareups, and eventually my left leg numbness that brought me to Dr. S. It could have broke the straw off the camels back. Is that how the saying goes? I don’t know. Brain fart. LOL

So, coincidence, or is there truth to it. I had to delve a little bit, as I was definitely typing in the wrong thing apparently on Google, as it basically said traumatic event = later crazy person. Damnit! I wanted health wise. Ok. Found what I was looking for.

The experience of traumatic events, specifically childhood events, have been associated with long term health effects. There was a study that was shown specifically in children that their health declined significantly over a 10 year-period than those who did not experience a traumatic event, whether it was psychological or physical victimization. In adulthood, these people were the most likely to experience pain, unexplained somatic symptoms, stress related illness, and suppressed immune functioning.

Childhood abuse brings a much higher risk of heart disease, autoimmune disease, depression, and addiction, according to one source.

Another site shared their belief was what happens to us emotionally happens to us physically. Hmm.

Even longer term chronic effects I found to be linked to childhood trauma: allergies, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Unfortunately, the website I used to research this ALSO said it was likely contributing factors that these people might have had lower mental health, making them have a disadvantage. Well excuuuuuuseeee me. I think I have handled myself very well in all the situations brought my way. Fuck off. I am assuming they probably referring to those that have PTSD, or dissociative disorders, but either way.

So… what about traumatic events in adulthood? According to one site, there are many physical and emotional responses your body will react to such as being more susceptible to colds or other illnesses, fibro like aches and pains, IBS, emotional swings, isolation or detachment, memory loss and difficulty concentrating. The same as childhood traumas, there is a higher risk for many types of illnesses.

Some interesting information I found is that it is not necessarily one that went through something themselves, there is a term called secondary trauma that can effect those just the same, when they see something horrible or help in a stressful situation. Those who suffer from this are generally doctors, nurses, firemen, police, and mental health professionals.

For dealing with a traumatic event, there are some steps to help you cope and begin to heal. 

1) Forgive those that have wronged you in the past. I think this is the biggest one. Without forgiveness, you will never heal… even if something so horrible happened to you, you have to forgive. NOT saying forget, but forgive.

2) Try to replace your harmful beliefs or thought patterns with healthy ones. Once one realizes that they are important and value themselves, which can be hard to to, it is much easier to begin this process. This can take awhile, but it can be done!

3) This is specifically chronic disease related. Motivate yourself for wellness! Not saying everyone that is really sick wants to be sick, but some have a subconscious desire to be ill, resulting from emotional trauma. The disease protects these people from the world, shelters them, or believe that they are not worthy of good health. I specifically know of a woman that suffers from this. She has had chronic illness for many years, and it seems as if she DOESN’T want to get better, and gives herself a label of being a victim. It is sad because she would be an amazing advocate with what she has been through, but her attitude completely stinks. I think she was so hurt in her past she doesn’t think she is worthy of being healthy and considers herself a victim and has such a negative attitude instead of a positive light. I think she identifies herself with this disease, not identifies herself as her. I honestly don’t think she will ever get better if she doesn’t change her frame of mind.

4) Find support and love within a group of people that you can share, and be true about yourself. Sometimes, this is a benefit of being part of online groups, especially if one has a hard time making friends or relationships. There are even some recovery groups that can help you heal from your trauma and give you healthier ways of thinking. Try to befriend your neighbors, give your friend a call, have your family visit (if they are supportive, some I know are not, unfortunately), go visit the church. Feeling isolated and alone will not help you. I know this can be extremely hard for some, but it will make you feel better.

5) When you DO find your support people, make sure your support doesn’t focus on you being ill. MANY people do this to me. I don’t mind a quick, “how are you doing?” But I really don’t want to talk about it all day long. Some people I will choose to share but anyone that asks me “how it’s going?” I always reply, “It’s going!” I want to hear about your stories, how your day went, what you have been up to. Also, make it be known that you might be having a hard time concentrating, so you don’t seem like you are not listening to what they have to say.

6) Another helpful tip is to write a list down of activities that you CAN do at the very moment, (not just researching treatments…ahem…KimmieCakes…) and commit to at least ONE of these activities a day. It could be watching a funny movie, reading a book on the beach, painting, a very light yoga, pilates, or rieki (extremely relaxing if you have never done so), or taking a walk if you are able to do so. One of my happy things as ridiculously sounds is painting my nails. It is very hard and time consuming having shaky hands, but the end result makes me very happy. I always look online for cute nail designs I want to tackle. I think PacMan nails are in my near future 🙂

7) Sometimes even the thoughts of getting well, emotionally and physically can be overwhelming. Do not take shame if you need to talk to a mentor, counselor, friend, or therapist if you need to sort these thoughts out. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. Even if you are not particularly religious, it lifts your spirit and gives you hope.

A good website I found with symptoms and coping mechanisms, I suggest http://www.trauma-pages.com/s/t-facts.php 

Bottom line: I would agree stress might be the culprit here, and traumatic events could very well trigger it, even subconsciously. Remember, good health includes not only your body, but your mind and spirit.

—–Have you had a traumatic event and are suffering from chronic illness? Have you had a traumatic experience and your body flared with new symptoms that you haven’t had before? Feel free to share your experience!

And of course, have a lovely weekend. 🙂 🙂

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3153850/, http://www.urbanchildinstitute.org/articles/editorials/early-childhood-trauma-linked-to-adult-disease, Beyond Lyme Disease – Connie Strasheim http://www.trauma-pages.com/trauma.php, http://www.trauma-pages.com/s/t-facts.php, http://www.cancerincytes.org/#!childhood-trauma-linked-to-chronic-diseases-in-adulthood/c1jot

3 thoughts on “Trauma Survivors and Chronic Illness

    • Thank you, Becca! I think many of us relate and completely believe that when our mind and body is not in a good place, even subconciously, it can severly affect one’s health.

  1. Pingback: Determination and Love of Sports Drove Young Man with Traumatic Brain Injury | What Makes Us Stronger

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