Emotional pain is every bit as real as physical pain, In essence they are the same, you get hurt, you feel pain, it’s the ‘you can heal bit’ that people with emotional pain struggle with.
If you have a physical hurt, ie pull a muscle, trap a nerve then you have something to hang your hat on – and these do heal with time and patience.
It is only after the required rest period or the treatment period has completed that if it still ‘hurts’ and turns into chronic pain that is has morphed into emotional pain.
We are of course, completely unaware of the trigger(s) of when this occurs but your mind isn’t. It’s sneaky in that way. It waits in obeisance. As your body keeps the score and for whatever reason you are unable to deal with past or present trauma(s) at that particular time, or your subconscious decides you’re not ready for this yet – it keeps hold of these traumas as it decides for you that this might come in handy at a later date that your real pain begins.
Just a niggle here and there, stiffness in your muscles from the stress and stressors of everyday.
The creeping tiredness of not getting enough time to relax, the nights of little or poor sleep as you mind can’t shut down properly. Constantly thinking and replaying, could I have done that differently, better, the injustices or perceived injustices of the everyday, your parents, your teachers, your in laws, your partner, your co-workers or boss – all building up to the perfect storm.
Grief, endings and new beginnings all add up to this melting pot of emotions that bubble away, and the thick skin forms on this emotional soup we let it simmer away, occasionally giving it a stir or turning the heat down. But gradually the pot burns dry and then ‘BOOM’! you’re in a place you have no wish to be. How did that happen? How much more stupid could I have been? I just don’t know what to do next.
So, you pick up what is salvaged, and go through the whole thing again, and you might do this a couple or several times, but each time it gets harder, the climbs steeper, the fall outs and fall backs more and more difficult to navigate, so you reach for anything that might help you…
By now your experiencing all kinds of symptoms, IBS, Forgetfulness, Difficulty concentrating, you would do anything for some sleep, your snappy, you cry, you close down. You don’t recognise who you are.
‘Go see your GP’ someone cries, as you struggle through another day of a blinding headache, stressful work day, as you reach for the chocolate and coffee to give you a much needed boost of energy; and eventually you do.
Because, by now you are out of ideas, can’t think straight, can’t read a paragraph without forgetting what you have read, and the painkillers just don’t do their job as you moved through paracetamol, ibuprofen, added codeine in but nothing, absolutely nothing is touching these flu like symptoms and constant pain you are experiencing.
So, now you are at the fork in the road.
The GP says it depression, is it? And you believe what they say, they sign you off work, but things just get worse – to the point where you’re boss calls and says this is not working for us and I am sorry we have to let you go. And you agree, because you are a people pleaser, haven’t go the energy to argue your case.
From your initial symptom’s life has passed you by and your now three or four years into whatever is happening to you, it smashes into your self-confidence, your self-esteem, your feelings of self-worth. Your relationships start to crack and flounder, at its worst you are told:
- Pull yourself together
- Get an interest
- If you got a job you would feel better about yourself
At best you realise that this is not depression, it’s not normal so you give up taking the pills thinking that maybe it’s the fault of the medication, but even then the aches, pains and lethargy don’t go away.
By this time your GP is no longer seeing you, only giving you repeat after repeat prescription, increasing dosages, adding other pharmaceuticals, he is stumped too.
In medical parlance you have what they call ‘Medically Unexplained Symptoms or MSU’. Then the referrals to consultants begin; Neurology, Gastroenterology, Mental Health Team, Rheumatology – that is if you are able to get up, get dressed and get to the hospital to attend the outpatient appointments.
Additional pressures mount as financially you are in the sewer. The banks, loan companies, debt collectors are knocking on the door, your scared, exhausted, completely defeated, when one of the consultants suggests ‘Fibromyalgia, or CFS/M.E, but it’s tricky to identify. The symptomatology is difficult to define, but you are ticking many of the boxes so let’s go for that diagnosis.
You’re not happy – another label, can this really be true? You’ve read the leaflet, googled what’s out there to find out more, it’s a chronic condition that will only get worse over time and your likely to end up in a wheelchair. The forums and the people on them describe that much worse is still to come and what’s more worryingly no-one knows why you get these chronic conditions that defeat you daily, hourly, minute by minute.
Eventually, 5 years in or sooner if you are lucky your referred to the M.E/CFS team – the one requirement, you have to attend every appointment, are they kidding? The clinic is miles away, they have limited numbers who can attend, a long waiting list of people just like you, stuck, waiting for some miracle, and, try as hard as you can, the expectation to attend a clinic so far away and at a particular time is not sustainable. By now you have no pride, desire or avenue to go down, you’ve hit the wall literally and figuratively.
Then out of nowhere or so it seems, you start to see emails and items on social media that say ‘recovery is possible.'
You self-doubt, those old worries and emotions get triggered, all those beliefs from childhood, your worries the real ones and the imagined ones surface, but there is a spark of something that means you reach out, wanting to not just survive but thrive.
It’s a long journey, as you peel your emotional onion, each layer showing a new truth, each layer reviving old hurts, dysfunctional relationships, traumas from childhood, but as you become more and more informed you change your relationship to yourself and instead of just ‘thinking’ start to ‘feel’ with help and support you gradually climb the ladder to acceptance of events and yourself, each time you feel a resurgence of pain you start to recognise the triggers and adapt and work through the emotional component, it takes time, sometimes years to rebalance and redefine what makes you you.
As your awareness and understanding grows and life starts to take shape and you shred the old and allow in the new, and yes, there is sadness, and yes there is rage, and yes there is avoidance, but these are all good because finally you recognise that in order to live a life you need to feel and recognise emotions both good and bad it is what you do with them and how you address them that will define life going forward.
Strange as it may sound, I am glad that I was given this opportunity to relearn and grow into a new life, one now that is full. I am fully recovered from Fibromyalgia and CFS, approach life very differently, putting my health at the heart of my decision making. I retrained as a psychotherapist and have an online clinic that supports clients like myself into recovery from the emotional component of Chronic Pain associated with CFS, M.E/Fibromyalgia. Recovery is absolutely possible, but you have to allow vulnerability, and openness, and honesty into your life, and that includes telling your story just as I have today.