Have you ever wonder if there is a connection to having gut issues and being under stress? Why do some people always seem to be sick? Why is it that when facing a lot of issues some people end up with sore tummies and other disturbances? It is because of the connection to the autonomic nervous system.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is a division of the peripheral nervous system that influences the function of internal organs. The autonomic nervous system is a control system that acts largely unconsciously and regulates bodily functions such as the heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination, and sexual arousal. This system is the primary mechanism in control of the fight-or-flight response and the freeze-and-dissociate response. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomic_nervous_system
This is the system that regulates how we physically adapt (or not) to pressure and challenging situations. It is the system that keeps animals safe and helps them to employ tactics such as being able to run at super speed or feign death in a freeze like mode. This system triggers chemical such as adrenalin and cortisol to help the being physically have the juice it needs to do what it needs to do in the form of flight, fit or freeze.
People have the same ability of flight, fit or freeze. We adapt to situations with the ramp up of the same chemical juices during times of stress. For people who are in stressful situations all the time, this chemical and nervous system process does not have time to deregulate. The human never goes back to “normal”. Hence: Post-traumatic stress syndrome. PTSD.
We think children have a natural resilience and are not affected by stressful things. We dismiss their stress with sayings like: “They will get over it.” Or “they are too young to understand what is happening.”
What really happens is that the child internalizes it. It may be hard for parents to see that their child senses stress differently and how that correlates into health issues in the child. It is also complicated by the fact that two people can be exposed to the same stressful situation and one will react and be done with it and the other will have it affect them harder and for a long time. We add to that sensitive child’s issues by naming that child a sissy and telling them that their issues is insignificant . That adds a layer of guilt on top of it and makes the child withdraw further.
The same situation happens with adults. Some people do not deal well with stress and have learned to not say anything, because there can be a layer of judgment that comes from people, including medical providers. Even people who teach tools such as mediation and mindfulness can be critical of those who struggle to “find their zone.” We are all hardwired differently and all meditating in the world cannot really change that.
The Ace Study was a scientific research study that identified the link to maltreatment of children and chronic illness. They program has grown and is now widely accepted yet many providers still do not know about this epic study. It states emphatically that there is a correlation to childhood trauma and adult stress and chronic illness.
What needs to happen in the medical world is a change in thinking. Current medical practice is symptom management. There is a medical issue we throw medicine at it to eliminate the symptoms. When people return over and over for the same issue, there probably is more there and the illness is not actually the main problem. This is what being trauma informed is all about.
For those of you like me who have chronic issues, there is a new thinking out there that really is helping me cope. I wish I could find the article but I cannot so I will have to paraphrase. This was from a young man who has multiple disabilities and chronic illness. He is currently in a monastery and is not writing.
He said instead of trying to cope and bury your issues, live with them. We are a society where other people’s suffering makes us uncomfortable. He said that is why people want to help. It is not really about the sufferer, it is about the dis-ease that suffering generates. We want to eradicate it before we become part of it. I will write more about this in another post.
But for the sufferer, they are taught to move on, get over it or take a pill. It dismisses the being. It diminishes their lives and their history. What would happen if we all were allowed to live with our baggage instead of struggling to remove it? What if we accepted our plights and accept what comes our way as being human. Instead of guilt and anger, we would learn honor and virtue. Being human is messy. It does not come with instructions and no one has the same path.
This is the current direction of the ACE movement. The focus is to help children who live in violence and maltreatment to speak up. They are encouraged to talk about their situation and ask for help and without shame or guilt. But what about all the adults who grew up in households that were littered with dirty little secrets like incest and drunken violence. We were told to never tell.
All though this post rambled on through many different topics, they really are all connected. We are human. We have uncontrollable systems within our bodies that regulate physical reactions. We taught at an early age to cope. But we don’t really; we camouflage our emotions that eventually manifest in illness.
What do you think would happen if there was a change that allowed people to say, “yeah, I am really struggling here?” and have the reply not be…. “let me fix that or let me change you?”