This month we have been taking a deep dive into the connection between childhood maltreatment, and chronic pain and disease.
Pain is something that is ever prevalent for survivors. Both physically and psychologically. Regardless of the source, pain has many consequences that are compounding.
Chronic pain impacts our life in all its facets. When we are in pain we struggle to fall asleep. When we cannot sleep we are constantly tired and suffer with low mood. When we are constantly tired, life becomes very wearying. When we feel beaten down, we are more prone to depression.
Research also connects pain, sleep and depression as linked to the neurotransmitter serotonin- which may have connections to instances of childhood trauma. (1) In other words, our history of trauma may cause problems with serotonin in our systems. This then promotes sleep disturbance, pain and depression. These items then compound on one another in real time.
When we read these lines, it can make us angry. It is fundamentally unfair that what was done to us has so negatively impacted our biology. It is unfair that such biology then is played out in symptoms. It is unfair that these symptoms only build on one another to trap us into pain and suffering.
It is normal to be angry. It is normal to want to fight against the injustice of this situation.
I applaud your desire to fight. Just don’t fight the wrong thing.
I was so angry that I couldn’t sleep because of the pain. I didn’t understand why my body had to do this to me. Why did I have to suffer when other people were fine? Why did I have to endure more suffering when I’d already been abused and violated? Wasn’t that enough? This anger only made me more upset, more desperate. I felt more violated. These thoughts were only making my pain and suffering worse. By getting caught up in anger at my body and my situation, I was only promoting my own suffering. It wasn’t until I could let go of the emotional suffering that I could tend to the physical root. This is when I finally started taking real action to manage my pain.
We must come to accept that we cannot undo what was done to us. Throwing stones at god cannot change our reality.
This one is hard, so be patient with yourself.
- Notice your pain. Notice the thoughts ABOUT your pain. These are two very different things. We cannot control our pain. We can change our thoughts about it.
- Allow your pain to be there, without making it worse by adding negative thoughts. When you being your mental dialogue about how it isn’t fair, or can’t be happening just say – ‘allow’ or ‘this is here’ or ‘this is just a physical sensation’.
- Know its okay for the anger, fear and sadness to be there. Just as you would when comforting a child, say ‘its okay to be sad that you are in pain’ or ‘its okay to be scared that this pain might not go away.’ Let the emotions being there without going into thoughts. Just let your experiences be present.
This is HARD. However, it is truly incredible just how much of our pain and suffering is due solely to our thoughts ABOUT the pain. Once we are able to let these go, we have a much more manageable task.
Check out this meditation on allowing on insight timer. If you have chronic pain, use it every night at bed time. This is the most common time we feel and have negative thoughts about our pain.
If you know someone who struggles with chronic pain, please pass along this tool. It is so valuable for managing our difficult experiences.