Endometriosis, Chronic Illnesses, and Childhood Trauma
In the first installment of this two-part series, I’m exploring the connection between endometriosis, chronic illnesses, and childhood trauma…
When I was first diagnosed with endometriosis, it was a relief to finally have an answer to my symptoms. For a while, I was able to lump all my symptoms into one, they all made sense. But then as I began reducing my key symptoms, such as my pain, I noticed that others weren’t going away, and as my pain died off, new pains emerged that had been overshadowed.
My other health conditions
The annoying bladder issues I had gradually worsened, to the point where I now can’t sleep without an essential oil patch across my pelvis to dull the pain. I get constant dizzy spells, I have daily bloating and stomach sensitivities, my nose runs all the freaking time and has done for years, I have skin conditions, allergies, intolerances, fatigue, painful joints, severe anxiety, bouts of depression… The list goes on.
Trauma in my past
Another list that goes on is the level of trauma I experienced as a child and an adolescent. It has always been acutely obvious to me that I didn’t have an easy upbringing, whilst I have some wonderful memories about the sanctuary of my grandparent’s home or the summer’s with my cousins, my home life was a constant battle ground and I was always aware that there was never enough money.
Throughout these years, I experienced a series of events which are now regarded as ACES, ACERS, and ‘invisible’ ACEs. By the time I was in secondary school, I developed an eating disorder that spanned my entire adolescence and into my early twenties. At 17, I had a significant car accident, breaking my spine, pubic ramus, pelvis, left hip, and a couple of ribs for good measure. My dad left within a year of my return home from hospital, at the same time I found myself in my first real relationship, which quickly turned out to be abusive and went on for another six years of my life. At 18, I began experiencing painful sex in this relationship, and then the excruciating period pain began. It seems that the camel's back had finally broken and the various traumas I had experienced were now being reflected in my body.
How trauma has impacted my health
I always suspected that the impact of these various experiences would eventually cause some damage. The mental damage to me was already pretty obvious, but the physical seemed slower to accumulate (though now I look back, I can see the early warning signs).
It has only been in the past few years during my training as an endometriosis health coach, that I’ve began to really understand the impact. There is a significant body of evidence connecting ACEs to autoimmune disease and chronic illness.1
The ACEs Connection network shares:2
“For every increase in the ACE score of 1 point, risk for developing an autoimmune disease such as type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and many others goes up by 20%. An ACE score of only 2 - which can happen if your parents divorced and one of your parents had to cope with a common mental illness such as anxiety or depression - increases the chances of being hospitalized for an autoimmune disease by 70 to 80%.”
Whilst my family often marvel at the ‘mysteries’ of the various autoimmune and chronic illnesses my siblings and I share, I can now see the connection.
So what can one do about it?
In the final installment of this series, I’ll be exploring the various ways you can begin recovering from trauma in order to improve your wellbeing.
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