I woke up today with a slight headache, a symptom that took me back to the days when I suffered with the unending headache pain and insomnia that accompanied my illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. I thought, "Could I be getting sick again?"…. "Am I really out of the woods?", and tried not to let my mind wander down those deeply traveled neural networks of my brain.
Like anyone who has suffered from severe chronic illness and come out the other side, I try to forget how bad those times were, hoping that by not thinking about it, it will never come back to haunt me. It's alarming how quickly I can get fearful by just the thought of living another day like that. But that's what severe trauma can do to the brain in an effort to keep us from danger.
It's in the past, and I want to keep it that way.
Maybe that's why I haven't shared more of my story with you… it brings back too many unpleasant memories. I don't want to think about the fear and desperation I lived with each day. Fearful of every new thing that could cause a reaction….Living in a state of survival, not even enjoying life anymore. And the underlying feeling that I was losing my mind…. the physical suffering was starting to cause mental problems. Honestly, how do people with chronic illness hold it together? I was starting to unravel around the edges after just a few years! Thank God the answer came when it did, or I don't know what would have happened.
My mess is my message.
Deep down I know the reason I must share more of my story with you: My mess is my message. Through my pain and depression came the light that illuminated the way out of it all. I found answers to my health problems once I hit rock bottom and cried out to God. He brought the answer to me in a way I didn't expect. And through it all, I found a God who loved me and that I could trust to get me out of this mess I was in.
Through my suffering, I learned that the mind is powerful and a single thought can take hold and begin to grow. When I was sick, I noticed that negative thoughts of fear and panic would override my rational mind and hold me hostage. This would keep my adrenals stuck in fight/flight mode, and my body flooded with adrenalin that only made me sicker.
Certain negative thoughts would keep playing over and over in my head, like a broken record, and nothing would stop the cycle. Even as my health improved, my mind kept me stuck- always thinking I would still react. I had to find a way to allow my mind to heal along with my body….or I would NEVER get well.
Finally one day, I discovered the one thing that enabled me to override my fear and panic: affirmations spoken out loud. I took those thoughts that kept racing in my mind and turned them around by speaking the exact opposite of it. For example, my negative thought was, "The world is not a safe place. My body is weak."
So, for my affirmation, I spoke this outloud: "The world is a safe place, and my body is healthy and strong." At first, it felt stupid and like I was lying to myself. But as I continued to say it twice a day, after a few days, I started to believe it.
This simple technique started changing how I felt as I began to retrain my brain in healthier thought patterns. Trauma causes our brain to get stuck in fear and leads to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but there is a way to break free of this. I found this way of speaking affirmations combined with trust in God and prayer to be the way out of my mental torment.
So, as I sit here with this very mild headache right now, it makes me realize how grateful I am for my health. Because I KNOW that I am healthy and well, and I'm not going to let a tiny symptom turn into a mountain in my mind by focusing on it. That is what sick people do, and I'm not that anymore. I am healthy and strong. I will not give any extra meaning to a symptom that is simply no big deal.