Is it all in my head?

Maybe you’ve heard or read something saying that our thoughts have an impact on our physical health? After being officially diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS for short) type 3 by Dr. Ansari in June of 2016, and breast cancer in February of 2015, I decided to dig deeper into this idea.

I started by asking myself how two people can go through the same trauma have different outcomes? How does one survive and go on to live life and the other not? What is it that allows some to better themselves and be happy no matter where they come from while others can have all the advantages and never be happy. How our beliefs and views can help us endure tremendously difficult situations and give us the strength to survive.

One way I made it through 13 surgeries which included 2/ingunial hernia repairs, a neck fusion, back fusion, double mastectomy, reconstruction, fat graph, ex-plant to remove the implants that I had a negative reaction to, shoulder surgery, ovaries removed and more in my future was to learn and accept everything that happens to me doesn’t really happen TO me but FOR me. Let me explain.

Maybe it’s the western mindset that views life as happening to us. But when I started thinking that life doesn’t happen to us, it happens for us to learn and grow, my perspective started to change. I started looking at what some would consider hardships as a character lesson. An opportunity for me to work on a weakness in my character that I probably wasn’t even aware I had. We tend to see character faults in others fairly accurately but not so much when it comes to ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, I know some women, myself included, will beat ourselves up without any outside help, but that’s usually more focused on our physical appearance. Or is it?

Beating myself up mentally and physically probably sped up some of my injuries. I use to believe that in order to be valued, I had to have the fittest body. My body was my identity. I honestly thought that if my body wasn’t perfect I would be a loser and nobody would want me. This horrible idea came from my childhood, but at the time I wasn’t mature enough to understand how to heal my distorted thinking or where to go for help. This thinking led to over-exercising and bulimia among a few other self-destructive habits.

The saying is true, “if I knew then what I know now” things would’ve been different. We are so fortunate in this day and age to have research and knowledge to understand how thoughts impact our health. I’ve read somewhere that when we have a negative thought about ourselves or our situation that thought will cause a measurable change in our brain. According to some research, a negative thought will be hardwired into our nervous system, change the structure in the neurons of the brain and becomes the brains “default” system. This will cause a person to become “stuck” in that way of thinking. The brain will naturally default to the negative and that negative self-talk is now the new normal way the brain thinks! An example would be like this, if you believe you have a hard life you WILL have a hard life.

That’s not all. Negativity causes stress and stress cause inflammation. Most diseases, including chronic pain, are linked to inflammation. When we are stressed our body releases cortisol, cortisol shrinks the hippocampus (https://www.news-medical.net/health/Hippocampus-Functions.aspx) which is the part of the brain responsible for memory, especially long term memory and it increases the size of the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for detecting fear and preparing for emergencies (https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/amygdala.htm). If stress becomes hardwired into the brain it will have a negative effect on memories and will be in a constant “on edge” state of mind and the limbic system will be jacked up. Having a jacked up limbic system is not a good thing.

A healthy brain should be a calm and relaxed mode. But the stressed brain is in fight or flight, or survival mode which is unhealthy. Thankfully there are ways to reverse this with neurofeedback or using mind shift techniques.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/neurofeedback

https://mindshift.ninja/blog/

For the person like me who has EDS, that causes chronic pain and fatigue, being in the fight or flight mode is like pouring salt on an open wound. It just makes everything worse. Positive self-talk and having an attitude of gratitude needs to be a daily part of my life. It’s not easy and takes some work but (in my opinion) it needs to be a priority. I knew instinctively that if I wanted to feel any better I’d need to start “rewiring” my brain. Here are a few things I did.

I got rid of the thoughts that my pain was due to any sin. I had been told this by several different people at several different churches. By the way, that’s a bunch of B.S. I left the church and the guilt behind and I’m closer to G-d then I’ve ever been.

I stopped trying to give my pain a “reason” and just accepted it. I still went to the doctor, took my medication, and did physical therapy. I didn’t sit back and just accept it, I stayed proactive.

I did my research and became a fierce advocate for my health.

I made doctors listen to me. After my neck fusion and back fusion, I found out I needed to have shoulder surgery. That’s when I started connecting the dots and brought my research to my doctor’s attention. I printed out medical information about EDS, highlighted ALL the issues I had and showed it to him. He referred me to Dr. Ansari who tested me for EDS and after 30+ years of no answers, I finally had an accurate diagnosis. This changed my life. It changed how I exercised and all future medical procedures.

I started working on my self-talk. I had issues from my childhood, as I’m sure we all do, that needed to be dealt with. I learned that most of the beliefs about ourselves are unconscious and stem from childhood. I took the A.C.E test, (Adverse Childhood Experiences https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/02/387007941/take-the-ace-quiz-and-learn-what-it-does-and-doesnt-mean) and scored an 8 out of 10. I knew that our memories are actually stored in the body not the mind and realized that if I worked on the emotional pain of my past I could improve the physical pain of my present. It didn’t take all of the physical pain away, but it made it easier to manage and I feel better overall so all the work is worth it. Some days are better than others but the feeling of being a burden to my family and other negative thoughts slowly went away. I have hope now.

Since beliefs determine our behavior and emotions I focused on changing my beliefs. Instead of every single day posting on Facebook about how much pain I was in or what I couldn’t do I started posting the things I could do and how good I felt. I will still on occasion post about the pain, but it’s not as frequent as it used to be and usually, I’m asking for prayers.

For me, having a mind shift was a must. I didn’t want to be stuck in the cycle anymore, and I sure didn’t want to make the pain any worse. I wanted to push forward and show my kids how it’s our choice to turn any situation into a positive. I took classes where they taught us to start a journal where you write down 5 things you did that day. It could be as simple as taking a shower or changing clothes. I’d write down “Today I took a shower, good for me.” I’d read it out loud to myself to get the full effect. Speaking it and hearing it helps the brain to hard wire the positive words into the brain. Writing it down gave me an easy way to look at what I did all week or all month. This exercise is meant to build up self-esteem and it worked for me. I even taught it to my 15-year-old who also felt the positive effects as well.

Another trick that I learned from a beginners Qigong video (https://youtu.be/IyINAjEoTIs) is to stand with my feet shoulders width apart, smile and GENTLY shake my body. The shaking releases stress and prompt the body’s healing mechanisms, (according to the lady in the video) while smiling releases chemicals to reduce stress.

Last but not least, and my least favorite is a cold shower. The goal is to stay under the cold for 2 minutes, making sure to turn your body around to get all angles. Doing this helps reduce inflammation and trains the brain and body to overcome uncomfortable situations. When other uncomfortable situations pop up in life your brain will know that you’ve been uncomfortable before and succeeded in overcoming it, and you can do it again. It also increases your white blood cells, lowers inflammation and raises your metabolic rate. I do this at the end of my shower turning it to lukewarm, turning around, make it colder, turn around, repeating this while counting until I reach 2 minutes or I can’t endure anymore.

https://www.medicaldaily.com/cold-shower-benefits-12-reasons-why-you-should-take-cool-showers-every-day-430724

There you have it. Thank you for staying with me and I look forward to sharing more with you his week.

Until next time! 😜

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s