I felt it was time to just get vulnerable and communicate how I am doing on my journey to health and wellness while living with chronic pain. I am so happy to just chit chat a little about my progress with each of you. Thank you for all your continued support through this entire ordeal.
My head is spinning when I think of all the things I want to write. I have been consumed with the launch of my new business and my writing is long overdue. I am filled with passion and love as I start this new chapter of my life. I still have pain some days but the amount of joy I feel seems to surpass that.
That being said, the other day I volunteered at my daughters dance performance. It was a special moment in my life. Tears of joy streamed down my cheeks as I watched her dance from behind stage. I have truly become the mother I have always dreamed I would be. My mother is amazing and beautiful. Most of my personal characteristics that I love most about myself have come from her. My mother was a single parent and worked hard long hours to provide the life we shared. Because of the work she put in for our family she was rarely available to take me to extracurricular or show up to childhood shows. I have memories of my childhood school choir recitals of me looking into the crowed searching and when I found no one those moments lost the specialness. Perhaps because it felt as though I had no one to share those moments with. The times she made my performances stick out the most. When she could be there it meant so much to me. One year in second or third grade I waved to her out of excitement and was pulled down off the risers and reprimanded for waving. It was worth it! Love you mom.
Ok I am off topic here. I cried because my daughter is growing and thanks to god I am not missing a moment. Not a single moment! I write about my orthopedic struggles so here is the kicker. As we bustled around working for hours helping young girls put in buns and pig tails, taking them potty and changing costumes I started to hurt. I was surrounded by other mothers my age and I had a moment just a moment where I found myself thinking…. I’m only in my thirties and I am in so much pain how will I ever be able to function in ten years? How will I ever be ok? I want to be like these moms. I want to not be thinking of the stiffness that is beginning and the pain that is coming. I let the thought go and distracted myself by the organized chaos around me. I did need to leave before the final cleanup and a slight feeling of guilt washed over me. The guilt was caused because I thought I needed to stay or I should have stayed. My truth was that although I wanted to stay and others were able to stay I had given all I had to give. My body was telling me it was time to go.
I left the school filled with joy, love and gratitude. As we sat in the car to leave I knew I was in trouble. I had over done it. I still believe it was all worth it. That seems to be the way my life is. I just have to decide what is truly worth pushing through the pain for. I drove home sitting stiff and in a hurry. I rushed in grabbed my giant ice bag and laid down with a sigh of relief. My daughter was exhausted mixed with excitement and I was hurting mixed with joy. That’s how life is. I can’t have the bitter without the sweet. Life is a mixture of feelings. Sometimes all good like joy, excitement and gratitude all at once. Sometime pain, grief and despair. Often it is a mixture of positive and negative feelings. Fear and excitement, determination and anxiety. Or in the example of my day, pain and joy. Today I am ok with what life looks like in its entirety. The day passed and I moved forward on my journey to healing. Luckily due to the tools I have acquired with chronic pain, my pain did not carry over to the next day. Oh but the joy sure did.
Thank you for reading my blog!
As I began my study exploring trauma and the effect it has on a person’s body in response to chronic pain and/or autoimmune disease, I became very intrigued. I have started to explore my past experiences in order to relate and attempt different healing techniques. I want to be sure that the techniques I offer in my business as a wellness coach are effective and worthwhile. To accomplish that, it has become imperative that I stay in the forefront of my own pain and my voyage through wellness.
This journey into my past has been anything but easy. I am determined, though, because I no longer wish to be held captive by trauma. I understand that even though my mind has learned how to ignore the misfiring of my neurological system, my body has not. Acknowledging my past does not make me weak or whiny. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Acknowledging my life and all its events makes me strong because I have to face myself with courage and endure any painful memories in order to make sense of them. If I continue to deny any struggles, the struggles repeat themselves over and over in my life. That is a form of imprisonment I no longer will endure. So if you find yourself reading this and thinking, Yeah, yeah, we all had struggles growing up, but we just move on, I ask you: Have you really moved on? How do you know you have moved on? Do you have one lesson that keeps repeating itself over and over again that you can make no sense of?
As a toddler, I eagerly awaited to meet my biological father. There was a lot of hype buzzing in the air about this meeting, and even when I was very young I could feel it. I was supposed to feel excited, or maybe I was excited. I knew I was missing a father, but I never felt a great loss because my grandfather filled that spot. Well, he filled it until years later when I would appoint the job of father to another man who was and still is my father to this day.
There was a knock on the door, and every one tensed up. I stood next to my grandfather and gave my best smile. The door creakily swung open, and there stood a man and a lady who were holding a small baby. We all stood staring at each other for what seemed like forever but probably lasted only seconds. I felt awkward, so I began to act silly in hopes of engaging him in laughter. For years, this move has summed me up in a nutshell. Mandy = acting silly in hopes of engaging you in laughter. Just as I did that, he turned around and walked out of my life. He would never attempt to contact me again. Of course, I did find him when I was nineteen years old, and we would have a distant and strained relationship, if any at all.
These last few months I have been searching my memories and my inner thoughts. I have been focused mostly on different traumas but also on core beliefs. As I explored many different traumas, one core belief kept presenting itself over and over again. This core belief, which was false to begin with, began the moment my father shut the door. The thought I experienced was: “I have done something wrong.” When he left, I thought I had done something wrong. A belief is a thought that I think over and over again.
This thought was the beginning of a faulty belief that would play in my mind time and again, each time reinforcing itself and getting stronger. The worst part of all is that it would serve absolutely no purpose in my well-being or happiness. Later in life, when violence would erupt in my home, I would think: I have done something wrong. When I was taken into state custody and put into foster care twice the thought that I had done something wrong would echo in my mind. When I would be forced to move to a new school every six months, I would think I had done something wrong. Each time any person was angry, I would believe I had done something wrong. This belief had become so imbedded in my day-to-day life I did not even recognize I was having the thought. After each day and each interaction with another person, I would be left thinking the same thought, and each time my shoulders would tense and anxiety would drop into my gut like a little bomb that I could not stop. I could not stop this reaction with any amount of positive self-talk. Only now, in my thirties, have I identified this unpleasant belief.
So how did this one experience install a thought that became a belief that somehow turned into…I am wrong? How do I change years of negative programming? By facing it and uncovering it! Now if my mind begins to even try to think that thought, I catch it and counteract it in my mind. I know this problem will take time to change, because the neural pathways in my brain for it are deep and worn. But today I have begun to heal, and today I know that I am not wrong. I know that sometimes I can be wrong without being wrong as a person. I am allowed to make mistakes, and not everything has to do with me. I don’t have to solely focus on me and my wrongs; I understand sometimes people are just having a bad day. I don’t have to push so hard to always be right, for fear of being wrong. Today my body does not have to tense up and endure extreme stress, because it has begun to settle the score and let it go.
I get that many people have faced adversity and difficulty and have beautiful and productive lives. I am one of them; however, that does not negate or nullify the importance of my experiences. Your experiences, no matter how big or small they may seem, are important. I have learned so much about trauma and how it presents itself in an individual’s life. There are families who are war-torn within them. These people and their families experience pain, loss, fear, insecurities, threats, and trauma. From experience I have witnessed that a strong, perceptive, and intuitive person can be made out of these ashes. A person who is solid and determined to make a difference in our world. A person who will not settle. Most of all, a person who will survive.
And why do I blog
Since I was ten, I have kept a journal. It currently includes about eight volumes. Why so few? My creative bursts come randomly, and my need to journal presents itself in waves. In a way, this blog has become my next journal, though I struggle with how real I can be on here. Obviously, I do not wish to embarrass myself or my family, but the bloggers I admire the most put it “all” out there.
Most people I know this blog exists, and I am ok with that. I also know that a few close friends read it to learn how I’m doing, because our lives have become so busy we rarely get time together. Being wives and mothers of small children takes the majority of our time. Our lives, as beautiful as they are, become so rushed we often forget to find time for ourselves. There are also people who read this just to make fun of me and find fault in my perception. That is ok. I don’t have to hide who I am or pretend to be something I’m not anymore. I feel free in that way. Journaling/blogging is a very healing experience for me. Knowing that my experience or outlook may help someone else is relieving. It makes the parts of my life I don’t understand have a purpose. Writing and speaking help put in words the events in my life that don’t make sense. This helps me process and heal, and for that I am grateful.
I don’t want to care about what others think of me. I was taught that it was none of my business what other people thought or said about me. Of course, there will always be a part of me that wants to feel accepted, for that is the human condition. I know if I approve of and accept myself entirely, then what you think becomes far less important. I tend to yo-yo back and forth between these states as my spiritual condition wavers. When I remember that no matter what you think, I like who I am, I always feel like a weight has been lifted.
All these years, I have had to remind myself that being kind and showing love to others is unconditional, and I do not require their approval to do so. I love because I am passionate about doing so. Because I know what it is like to not feel important. I am kind because, in my family, kindness is an important value. Kindness and love have been passed down generation to generation. If you met my family, you would see that the love and kindness they extend does not even stop with our neighbors but also includes all living creatures. I was raised to love and be kind to family, friends, and every animal. I love because it is who I am.
This all comes to mind because I have been pondering “Who am I?” When what makes me “me” is taken away, what happens next? When something such as my marital status, career, or physical ability defines a majority of who I am, then who am I when it changes? There is a process of healing and changing that occurs after this. Time spent wondering what makes me “me.” What are my strengths, and where will I be most helpful to my family and society as a whole? A large part is grief and the process of letting go. Another part is taking on a new identity. Redefining myself and my purpose. I have seen this occur when a person goes through divorce, medical issues, loss of a loved one, career change, loss of a job, or even when children grow up and move away. Each one of these relationships demands a certain amount of daily time, energy, and effort. When one ends or changes, a window of time opens, and I find that people retreat into themselves to figure out what to do with it. Where do I best invest that effort and energy? How will I define myself in this next chapter of my life? Who do I want to be, and what am I going to do?
I don’t know how many people are out there that are asking themselves right now, who am I? I do know each one of them is not alone and that it is ok to heal. It is ok to take the time you need to figure it out.
YOUR BODY HEARS EVERYTHING YOUR MIND SAYS
I have been studying trauma and the effects trauma has on a person’s body. The more I understand the neurological functions of a person’s body and the way we respond to trauma, the more fascinated I become. There are many studies that relate emotional trauma to chronic pain or disease in the body. In the moments beyond fear when a person believes they may die, the neurological system kicks in, and our body enters fight-or-flight mode. The system then bottles up the energy and closes that energy off in an attempt to survive. Often times, this process will result in repressed memories. This energy becomes trapped in the body. Many studies show that the energy will wreak havoc on a person’s body. That is the best way I can describe my understanding of it, so far. I am only scratching the surface of my studies in this area.
According to the American Psychology Association, “Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Long-term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms, like headaches or nausea.” Webster defines it as, “A very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems, usually for a long time” or, “A serious injury to a person’s body.”
I’m not saying that everyone with chronic pain, auto immune or medical issues has had childhood trauma. I am saying there is a possibility of a link between the two. I have noticed a pattern with some people that directly correlates between medical issues and major trauma. This observation is what intrigued me, and I related it to myself and my experiences in life. As a child and a few short years as an adult I endured many traumatic experiences. This was directly related to the lifestyle I grew up in. I was fortunate to have had those experiences because it is through difficulty that I was made strong. Many of my greatest gifts “personality wise” have come from my childhood experiences. There were many terrifying nights and days but I felt very fortunate to have a mother who was hardworking, kind and loved me. I actually knew other children who had less so I never want to sound like I am complaining. I have learned how to overcome and succeed despite my past. I have dedicated years of my life trying to help others achieve the same results. I believe no one should be left feeling as afraid, desperate and hopeless as I felt at that time in my life. It saddens me to think that a person could make it through the fires only to have the remaining scars still causing them harm…
I am dedicating a portion of my time to researching the best way to resolve these types of issues. I have more to learn in this area. So, what do you think…can trapped trauma tear a body apart from the inside? Is there a way to resolve inner conflict, such as past traumas? Some of the solutions that have presented themselves are EFT, tapping, intense psychotherapy and cognitive therapy. There are also some visualizations and neurological work a person can do to put past experiences behind them. My personal favorite is of course prayer, because I know God answers prayers. This solution can be tricky because often I am looking to see if god actually healed me when in truth god has sent someone to guide or teach me in healing. I usually have a fair amount of work to do on my part as well. For example my part may be listening to my physical therapist, eating right, thinking positively, and making time for relaxation. Another way to participate in my wellness is by being open minded to a suggestion made from someone in a similar situation. Even if this suggestion makes no sense at all. This has been my experience with God and prayer.
My next question is, can a person heal these parts of themselves without another person guiding them? I ask this because often people with PTSD choose isolation. It would seem like such a contradiction if a hurt person who avoids social interactions actually needs people in order to heal the hurt. One thing is for sure…I will definitely be exploring this further.