• Kathryn Hulland

Trauma timeline and calming the nervous system

Something I've been interested in and looking at as a route to my chronic pain is my trauma timeline. I've always felt the amount of trauma I've experienced over the years has built up within my body. With each new trauma my pain and fatigue has been exacerbated further. It's like my body got stuck in a survival fight mode, inflammation rising to fend off threats that aren't actually there. It's had so many threats it doesn't know how to calm any more and so I need to retrain it.

They say fibromyalgia is over sensitivity of the nervous system, this makes sense to me and it's why I think meditation, mindfulness and reiki really support me, they help keep me in tune and connected to my body and mind giving me the tools to help soothe it. I notice things as they arise rather than staying in an auto pilot survival mode resulting in more stored trauma. It means I can work to release what needs releasing because I am aware.

My trauma started at 18 months old when I suffered full degree burns to the whole of my left leg, wrists and some other smaller patches over my body. I was hospitalised for 3 months, away from my parents at times as my mum gave birth to my brother whilst I was there. I had skin graphs taken from various areas too leaving more scars.

West Suffolk Hospital after my burn injury!

At 8 I was diagnosed with auto immune hemolytic anemia. I had numerous hospitalisations including at Great Ormond Street, tests, anesthetics, blood transfusions and again was left at times away from the security that was my parents. The condition abated when I was about 11.

At 12 I fell off my bike smashing up my face and losing 1 front tooth and pretty much destroying the other so now have 2 false teeth.

My happy place on a pony. This show was raising funds for Great Ormond Street to say thanks for keeping me alive!

At 19 the anemia reappeared. More tests including many painful ones, transfusions, hospitalisations, trials of treatments which is still ongoing periodically. In my 20s I had my spleen removed to hopefully cure the anemia, it didn't work and it was at this point my body started screaming and a few years later I was diagnosed with ME then Fibromyalgia. In my 30s I had a missed miscarriage and had to have an operation. I also had a C-Section when Grace was born.

In my 40s I had breast cancer which included chemotherapy, radiotherapy and lumpectomy with node removal. Many of the procedures through treatment were painful and traumatic. I then had severe pneumonia a few months after treatment. I went through all that in the height of a pandemic and have had 3 cancer scares since.

One of my hospitalisations during cancer treatment!

Time and time again my body has suffered major trauma on both a physical and emotional level. It's no wonder it's over reactive. I've wondered before just what the body does when procedures are done under general anesthetic. We may be unconscious and unaware of what's happening on one level, but on a subconscious level you can be sure the body is well aware something is happening and feels under attack, that trauma is inevitably held somewhere in the body.

I think the body needs time to reset, to relax, to feel no threat after a trauma, to come down from over sensitive mode; but if the trauma just keeps coming that never happens and as you get more sensitive smaller things get bigger reactions and every day stresses can be triggers to the body, even just trying to rush around getting Grace out to school on time will raise the stress levels starting something off!

We don't give ourselves enough time to recover from trauma, we get focused on getting well enough to get back to work and will fight through fatigue and pain to get our jobs done, when really what we need is proper rest and recuperation for a period of time.

It's one reason I think pacing helps support chronic conditions, pacing done correctly hopefully gives your body time to rest in between anything that may raise these fight levels, and time to calm - I see it like a balloon deflating slowly and gently, then when you do something it slowly inflates and if you keep doing too much without allowing the deflate time, or if you do too much too quickly the balloon structure gets tenser and tenser until it bursts- and then you're left with a balloon (or your body) to patch up before you can even attempt to start again!

Pacing will differ for each person. For some it might be doing a mile walk instead of 5 miles, for some working part time instead of full time, for others it might be standing for 2 minutes a day and that's it.

I feel I need to retune my body to a different setting. To find a more calm way of being to keep that balloon deflated as much as possible, to learn to stop when I feel it rising in an attempt to stop my body firing on all cylinders about something that isn't really a threat. I've been trying various things to do this over the years, most recently I've been having massage, reflexology and started a mild yoga practice. Reiki, mindfulness, meditation and relaxed time in nature with ponies are key to my healing and continued better health.

I have had a couple of yoga sessions now and it will be interesting to see how it assists, certainly the breathing exercises have already started to help with the ongoing pain I get in my lung which was left over from the pneumonia earlier this year. The sessions I am having are 121 designed to let my body feel how to be in a different way and reconnect itself. I see my body as having as breaks in its pathways that need reattaching or rerouting down a different road. Healing is often all about experimenting, you have to keep trying until you find what works for you, never lose hope and give your body the time it needs! I may never be rid of these conditions but I can find ways to make it more bearable to live with.

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