Mind and Body

This past week has been difficult because I’ve had to deal with some health issues. People with chronic trauma often develop physical symptoms like frequent pain and other medical conditions. A child who experienced repetitive trauma is likely to have an overactive nervous system and more stress hormones released into their body. Stress hormones cause inflammation and over time damage organs, which can lead to chronic conditions. I believe that trauma increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and autoimmune diseases.

When I was a child I had frequent bronchitis, almost every time I got a cold. My pediatrician diagnosed me with chronic bronchitis, which is rare in children. It can be related to asthma and exposure to second hand smoke, but there were no smokers in my home, and my asthma was very mild. When I became an adult, I didn’t have as many lung problems. I had bronchitis only a few times, like when I was really stressed at work. Then I got covid last year. Apparently my childhood health issues made me susceptible to the virus. I had severe shortness of breath and ended up in urgent care and the ER a lot. The chest xray showed atelectasis. I was put on daily inhalers and Prednisone. I’m grateful the steroids helped, but it took months to heal my lungs.

Last week I went to urgent care with chest and back pain, and I also had shortness of breath. I knew the pain was probably from a memory. I’d had a difficult realization in therapy the day before. I woke up the next morning in pain. My body relives the trauma. Unfortunately it was a coincidence that my shortness of breath had gotten bad as well. My doctor told me to go to urgent care. They did an EKG that was normal, but still made me go to the hospital. I hated that I had multiple EKGs and was hooked up to wires for psychosomatic pain, but I knew they were just being careful.

The difficult part for me was the chest xray they did. My heart was fine, but my lungs weren’t. The chest xray showed atelectasis again, as well as evidence of COPD. I was really upset obviously. I haven’t smoked cigarettes in 15 years and quit weed last year. I knew the damage was from covid. I had a bad cold recently, so my doctor is hoping that the respiratory illness just made it look bad on the xray. I’m going to see a pulmonologist, and I’m hopeful that it was just an acute situation and not a chronic illness. The thought of covid doing long term damage to my lungs is scary and makes me angry. I still run and swim, I’m not going to let it stop me. Sometimes it’s harder to do those things. Sometimes I even get winded doing laundry or taking care of my daughter, but I’m hopeful it can get better. I healed after last year’s lung problems, so I believe I can again. Today I ran 10 miles. Running and swimming helps my lungs, so I’ll never stop.

The chest xray also showed degeneration in my spine. I remember that showing up on a back xray before. I went to a chiropractor who was perplexed about where the damage was in my spine. He said it wasn’t a common place to see this issue. He asked if I’d had an injury, because it looked like it had happened from an impact. I said no. He kept asking, are you sure you haven’t been in a car accident or something? No. I didn’t tell him about my abuse history, but all of a sudden I knew that was the answer.

In the phone call to my doctor last week, we talked about my back as well as my lungs. I told her about the chiropractor’s questions. She said unfortunately, she has seen abuse cause arthritis and other degenerative issues in joints and backs that affect people throughout their life. The body never forgets. It makes me angry because not only did my abusers give me brain damage and shattered my mind, but they also damaged my body irreparably. It makes me angry that they didn’t go to jail or pay for what they’ve done to me and other children. I fight every day to be healthy because I refuse to let them win. I run and swim faster than most people even with my pain and lung problems.

I know my body hurts a lot, and I try to listen to it. I feel empowered when I can run so long without getting tired, or when I see how strong my body is now. Most of my life I’ve ignored my body. I was ashamed of it, maybe even angry at it. I’m not ignoring it anymore. If it hurts, I use a heating pad or ice. I take medication that helps, and I don’t put chemicals in my body like alcohol or drugs. I still sometimes eat almost a whole pizza in one night, but generally I eat healthy too. I slow down when I’m running if my ankle feels sore or needs to be stretched. I actually take time to stretch even though I used to hate it because it’s boring.

I even accept my battle scars, and I have a lot of them. They are part of me; they are the proof that I’m strong and have endured a lot. Some of the scars are visible, but many are not. I don’t know how long I have left in this body. I don’t know how many more decades I can ask it to function for me before it deteriorates. All I know is that I’m going to make the best of it, and I’m not going to stop moving. I’m grateful that my mind and body never gave up, in fact I’m amazed sometimes that I’m still here. Today I ran in the beautiful spring weather, and I felt so alive.

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