I have been thinking a lot lately about the link between childhood trauma and stress related disorders (post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc) and Multiple Sclerosis.
According to numerous studies throughout the years there is significant evidence that persons who experienced childhood trauma or prolonged stress and anxiety as a child were at a remarkably higher risk for autoimmune disease. These studies are ongoing and are still working out exactly how and why this happens in the body.
Those of you who have read my story you will know that I was abused as a teen by an older man who I met through community theater. Luckily, my family fought tooth and nail for years to keep me from completely slipping away into the clutches of this monster, and eventually it paid off. I was able to make the decision to end my “relationship” with him and remove him from my life.
But those years left scars on me emotionally. I was always an anxious child and started treatment for my anxiety and depression at a young age (around 15 or 16). But after the mistreatment and trauma caused by this man my anxiety only got worse.
A few years ago I stared experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, severe levels of anxiety, panic attacks and other unpleasant symptoms. I started seeing a psychiatrist and going to regular therapy. Through this I was diagnosed with PTSD. It was only about three years later that I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
It is somewhat amazing to think about what a powerful impact stress and trauma can have on the body, even years later. Not just emotionally, but manifesting itself into physical illnesses, and in some cases, autoimmune diseases.
When I first discovered this information I was MAD. I was mad at the man who abused me for all of those years. He took so many things from me. My childhood, my innocence, my trust, my confidence and independence and so much more. But now, to learn that years later my health is now leaving me too and it could be linked to the trauma he caused me…
But the longer I have sat with this information the more my anger has slowly ebbed away. By no means do I forgive what that man did to me. It is unforgivable and to quote my girl Kesha;
Some things only god can forgive.” – Praying, Kesha
However, I do not harbor as much anger and resentment towards him as I once did. The struggles and the pain that I endured because of him shaped me into the woman who I am today. I learned to be strong and to shape my own opinions, I learned to be true to myself because I am enough, I learned the importance and the constant love of my family, I learned that I will never let anyone control me or push me around ever again.
They were hard lessons and took me years to finally start addressing, but now that I have I have found a peace that can only be described as liberating.
I do not want to live with hate in my life. I do not want to live in the past. I do not want to live resenting someone for their crimes against me. I have a good life. Even with PTSD, Anxiety, and Multiple Sclerosis I would say I have it pretty damn good.
I have a husband who not only loves, cares, and understands me…he is my best friend too. I have a family that is my rock, always there to support me and to lean on. I have a wonderful dog who keeps me on my toes and makes me laugh every day. I have a beautiful home with my own little garden and plants and I get to share it with Sparrow Mom and her family too!
(Brief update on Sparrow Mom. I know ya’ll care A LOT. Since she moved out, her three babes have made the great leap of life and taken wing. I could not be more proud of them. Bravo little birds, bravo. The nest is currently unoccupied, despite my daily real-estate efforts. Not to mention the multiple phone calls and coffee dates I had with a robin that seemed very interested…ANYWAYS I have a new friend in my backyard oasis and his name is Mr. Toad. More on him later.)
So I take this newfound information regarding my past (and how it could still be affecting my body in the present) and I am choosing to look at it not as painful reminder of things that once were, but as a positive sign for the future.
This research means that we are making progress in understanding these very mysterious diseases. And understanding is the first step towards finding a cure or a way to prevent them!
It is also a reminder of how impactful stress can be. We know that stress can trigger a relapse with Multiple Sclerosis. So now, more than ever, it is so very important for me to practice mindfulness, tackle my problems one day at a time, and take time to breathe and just relax!
No matter where you are in your life I encourage you to take a moment today to think of a few things you are grateful for, take a couple of minutes to just let yourself relax and enjoy those things, and take a few calming deep breaths. It’s a good day to let go of a little stress!