My doctor, therapist, and psychiatrist had never inquired about my past abuse. They didn't ask me if I had suffered from child abuse, sexual assaults, or anything traumatic.
Why is the medical and psychiatry industry not asking these important questions? Why are they only focusing on symptoms? Because that is exactly what they are trained to do. They are trained to cover up symptoms with medicine.
They do not look outside the box. They neglect to look at patients as a whole person; body, mind, and spirit. Yet, we are not just a physical body. We are a whole human being with emotions and a soul. And some of us have deep trauma wounds that are still bleeding.
My fibro journey has been filled with many bumps in the road. Ups and downs, which led me to look outside of traditional medicine. Desperate moments to rescue my own self.
Cymbalta didn't help me. It hurt me. Benzodiazepines were a horrifying nightmare with wicked withdrawals. That in itself was traumatizing. These past ten years following my recovery, I have learned hard lessons. Talk about a wake up call!
Medicine, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, cause us to numb out. We cannot genuinely feel our emotions. We become detached, withdrawn, and unaware of past trauma.
While there is a time and place for medicine, it should not be the first or only option. It can be of some help temporarily. However, we must understand that long-term use of potent prescriptions can negatively harm are Central Nervous System, neurotransmitters, and the organs in our bodies. Simply stated, prescriptions can sabotage the recovery process for trauma patients.
Add fragmented memories and it complicates the situation. Most trauma survivors cannot recall every single detail about their hellish ordeal. Our bodies want to protect us. Therefore, it's typical for trauma survivors to dissociate.
Dissociation is linked to abuse and trauma; one time events and long-term. It is a coping strategy the brain uses subconsciously to cope with severe trauma and life after trauma. Dissociation is a mental process where a person disconnects from their thoughts, feelings, memories, or sense of identity.
During trauma, some people have an "out of body" experience. This is our body trying to protect us.
Oftentimes, our bodies and minds are on high alert. Even after the abuse or trauma ended. We find ourselves battling fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Even if we wanted to forget our traumatic events, our body and brain remembers. It can show up as triggers, nightmares, and physical pain.
In retrospect, I never needed medicine. Most certainly not mind-warping drugs. The root of my condition was not depression, anxiety, or instability.
The root was compounded trauma. The trauma was due to my early childhood neglect, abuse, dysfunctional family dynamics, and sexual assaults. It took me over 55 years to be correctly diagnosed with compounded trauma and Complex PTSD. This is ludicrous that it took this long!
The numbers linking fibromyalgia and trauma are shocking. According to the Institute for Chronic Pain, “Upwards of 90% of women with fibromyalgia syndrome report trauma in either their childhood or adulthood and 60% of those with arthritis report such a trauma history.”
One study looked at over 385 people over the age of 60 years, diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The results speak for themselves:
- Over 70% of women and 67% of men had experienced trauma.
- Over 50% of women and 60% of men experienced abuse or neglect.
- Over 54% of people had experienced physical abuse.
- Almost 50% of women had experienced sexual assault.
Following abuse and trauma, the body can manifest physical and emotional pain. It can show up years later after the actual trauma occurred.
My own physical pain and troubling symptoms appeared at least seven years before my fibromyalgia diagnosis. I was only 37 years old. My symptoms included fatigue, migraines, weakness, brain fog, insomnia, GI distress, muscular aches and pains, constipation, urinary problems, backaches, and joint stiffness. It hindered my ability to work and to function on a daily basis.
Back in those days, I never connected the dots to my trauma being the reason for my ongoing health challenges. It was not until 2017, a decade later, when I clearly understood the correlation between fibromyalgia and trauma.
My memoir, Soul Cry: Releasing & Healing the Wounds of Trauma, shares how the #MeToo movement helped to shine the light on such a dark experience. Here's an excerpt from my book:
"In 2017, after the Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault scandal went viral, the #MeToo movement grew like wildfire. It triggered my sexual trauma. Painful flashbacks. Increased anxiety and intense insomnia wrecked me. Old memories resurfaced. A floodgate of horrific injustices.
Like when I had been a little girl and my babysitter abused me. When I was 15 years old and a party turned into statutory rape. When I suffered sexual assault by my sister's husband in mid-life. When I endured a lifetime of abuse from my malicious mother. The atrocious incidents were reminders that I still hadn't recovered.
Each was a nightmare. I horror which I didn't want to relive. Layer upon layer of my deep wounds stung badly. Feeling betrayed, I questioned who I could trust. I lost confidence in my siblings and mom. They treated me worse than my enemies. The illusion of my “happy” family became dismantled.
Sexual trauma is quite complex and individualized. The magnitude of my trauma felt paralyzing. For many years, I couldn't face it. The severity was too burdensome for me to process. I felt powerless to help my own self. Part of me wanted to erase the nightmare from my mind.
Yet, it kept cropping up out of nowhere. Unconsciously, I dissociated from my trauma. Mentally, I withdrew from the situation. I buried my horrible memories. I tried everything within my ability to drown out the voices screaming for help."
Dear friend, I hear your soul cry. I know firsthand the shame and pain of trauma. Perhaps, you are still wrestling with your past abuse? Or you were silenced by those who had betrayed you? Trust that you are not alone.
Bessel A. van der Kolk, who is an author, educator, and psychiatrist brings wisdom, understanding, and insight into how trauma impacts the body, mind, and brain. He's the author of the bestselling book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.
He states, "The trauma caused by childhood neglect, sexual or domestic abuse, and war wreaks havoc on our bodies. Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves."
One concern for the fibromyalgia community is that they rarely address the connection with trauma. They mainly focus on symptoms, prescriptions, and invasive procedures, which can directly lead to more negative symptoms. This becomes a vicious cycle. Isn't it time to jump off the medical merry go round?
Unresolved trauma can hinder the healing pathway. Denial is a coping mechanism. It keeps patients stuck.
We must understand that we cannot ignore past trauma. We must not pretend it never happened or try to "get over it" without even dealing with it. That is actually not the least bit effective or helpful. Rather, it will keep you going in circles.
Doesn't it make logical sense to get to the root of the problem? To unravel the core issues. To dig into the depth of your soul to acknowledge, address, and confront what's hurting you.
Dr. Gabor Mate', who is a bestselling author, speaker, and physician, states, "The attempt to escape from pain is what creates more pain."
If you are still hurting from past pain, I ask you to consider talking to at least one trustworthy person. It can be a close friend, family, or trauma informed therapist. Another therapeutic method is journaling. To write where it hurts. To let the tears flow. And to be honest with yourself about those who have harmed you.
It takes great courage and strength to acknowledge, confront, and process trauma. To admit to yourself, "Yes, it did happen. Yes, it really was that bad."
It's been two decades of ongoing challenges with my health. I've fought for my life. I have fought for my body, mind, and recovery. If there's nothing else that I've learned about myself when it comes to the toll of trauma, it is this: I am a courageous survivor.
I have empowered myself to regain 80% of my health. Was it hard? Absolutely! It was an atrocious ordeal. Despite how traumatic and dreadful it's been, I am worth fighting for. My life matters.
Another amazing revelation is coming to see that I have been transformed. I've grown as a human being, gained insight about pharmaceutical drugs, and learned about a holistic approach. I’ve found my voice and I am flourishing.
This has led to my becoming a voice for the voiceless. To give hope to the hopeless. To advocate on behalf of others who are survivors of sexual assault, child abuse, Complex
PTSD, and trauma.
Tips to Healing Trauma:
- Become a truth seeker - Be honest with yourself about your past abuse, sexual assaults, grief, loss, and negative experiences.
- Don't block or bury pain - Avoid blocking, burying, or running away from your pain.
- Feel it to heal it - Give yourself permission to feel your authentic emotions that come to the surface. It's okay to not feel okay.
- Grief & loss - Understand the five stages of grief; denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. It's common for trauma survivors to feel angry about their past abuse. Find productive ways to release your anger. Exercise. Punch a pillow. Scream. Vent. Cuss. Cry.
- Avoid self-medicating - Do not abuse alcohol or drugs, including prescription medicine. It is not a healthy coping mechanism. Rather, it's destructive and harmful to you and your recovery.
- Forgive yourself - You have been through a traumatic event. Give yourself grace and forgiveness. Please know that it is not your fault that you were abused or assaulted.
- Self-care - Offer yourself kindness, tenderness, and nurturing. Soak in a warm Epsom salt bath. Diffuse soothing essential oils. Take good care of yourself. Spend time enjoying the sunshine and nature.
- Seek support - Reach out to a trauma informed therapist, a close friend, or an online community with like-minded folks. You do not have to be a lone ranger. Instead, connect with trustworthy people who have compassion and empathy.
- Educate Yourself - Be open to learning about natural ways to decrease fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and trauma. There are countless holistic methods for helping trauma patients move through their memories and pain. (Somatic Experiencing, Emotional Freedom Technique, Body work, professional massage therapy, aqua therapy, acupuncture, etc.)
We each have a trauma story. We each deserve to heal. Today, may this inspire you to bravely raise your own voice. To not permit others to silence or shame you. To create healthy boundaries. And to become proactive in your recovery process.
Best wishes to you and your healing journey!