Everyone experiences stress pain. Whether it’s physically or mentally or both. Nobody is excluded, even the most ‘sorted’ person will have some life events that tip their balance.
It could be something seemingly innocent. Something not even consciously clocked, a mere notion of something can stimulate a memory of trauma or initiate habit thoughts causing distress.
It could start by watching a movie containing a disturbing life event, a slightly hidden bad experience. But, it’s not just visual, it can be something that we experience through input via any of our senses. A word we hear, we say to our self, the sound of fireworks, a voice tone, a look from someone, a car driving erratically, the scene of an accident, the smell of an old perfume, body odour, taste of food, touching something smooth, being touched roughly or gently.
Responses can be tripped by real or imagined memory of a true event or an exaggerated memory, a hidden memory or a bad dream. Everything triggers off nervous system responses, brain activity. Many times we just don’t know why we feel the way we do.
In a way, this was something that I experienced around 18 months ago. I was case managing someone with a mild acquired brain injury who was experiencing many symptoms. Physically she had a spinal cord injury with weakness and lack of capability. Cognitively, memory loss, organization issues, higher executive functioning troubles. Essentially she had minor versions of everything presenting with post concussive syndrome on top as well. She couldn’t remember how to cook a meal for the family, was unable to comprehend concepts, budget money, she felt depressed, her mood was labile. Worst of all, for me, it seemed her family were giving no support and seemed to be more interested in what the pay-out might be.
In a way, I began to feel highly protective towards her state and anxious about her situation. As my own anxieties grew and I started to feel unwell, I realized something more was going on. Through using some mind mapping processes, I came to understand that what I was reacting to was a part of my own history. I was re-enacting and reacting to something from my past.
Some 30 years previously my father experienced a brain injury. What I was seeing & hearing in my client was real, but it brought back memories of what my own father presented with.
But when my father had his accident what we knew about brain injury was much less than now. As a family, we had never known, back then, that all his behaviour was accident related. We just thought he was being difficult. As I worked with my client it was like facing all the signs & symptoms my father had and realizing how little we knew and how little we had helped and I felt sad.
When people arrive through the door of my Physiotherapist clinic and report pains, aches and tensioning in their body it may not be that they have given any thought to life events.
But, how we react to day to day life events, varies from person to person.
Stress is complex, it’s not simple. What makes one person excited, happy & motivated will induce fear and distress in another. In my case, the thought of going cave exploring, squeezing through tunnels, water on my face, is enough to make me shudder. But put me out in front of a large group to carry out a presentation and I don’t experience ‘stage fright’. I love the open & expansive and hate the confined. In my case, maybe this has some relation to a memory of being born with the umbilical cord around my throat, problems gasping for breath.
We are all brave in some bits of our life, have confidence in our ability. In other bits, we are anxious. This is a part of human nature. There are so many memories bubbling hidden below the surface.
Many years ago, as a clinician in healthcare, it became apparent that working only ‘on’ the body or ‘with’ the mind wasn’t enough. This was a catalyst to me exploring psychological responses & therapies.
For some people, recurrent pain is very distressing. It can appear seemingly unannounced, “I just woke up in pain!”, “I didn’t do anything! “. “I’ve not had a migraine for years, now this has come on”, “All I did was drive back home from Cornwall to Scotland and now I have severe pain”.
In the community, we still separate body symptoms & mind symptoms. We still separate body practitioners & mind practitioners, body doctors & mind doctors.
However, in science we understand this thinking isn’t true. There is plenty of evidence to show how thinking certain words can stimulate the brain circuitry to output felt physical pain. That a memory of a trauma can be hidden, but we still react, as in PTSD.
The fundamental message for people experiencing stress pain, it that it’s not a sign of weakness. Presentations of pain, aches, mind turmoil, worry, fear or anxiety are just as they are. Suggestions that these can be put to one side, that positive thinking will clear them away, that exercise will make you sleep despite thoughts running through your mind, is unrealistic.
Mental & physical unbalance is relatively commonplace and can be helped. Ongoing management for presenting physical or emotional signs usually involves a whole range of lifestyle adjustments. Just some may be pharmaceutical, diet, exercise, social activity, work life balance, talking or bodywork therapies.
Sometimes in clinic, people present with more cognitive, mind signs, at other times more physical, pain and ache signs. No matter what signs you get the most important message is to tell someone and talk to someone.
If you are having suicidal thoughts tell a medical professional, or call up a help line. There is always help at the other end of the phone, 24/7, 365 days a year.
If you know you have a history of going out of balance, watch out for warning signs and pick up a phone. If you have a family member or friend and you notice signs, then say something and help them get help. Often if people are unwell they don’t have the capability to get help for themselves.
Stress pain is real, no matter how resilient you are then at some point in life most people go out of balance. The good news is that in any community there are lots of people who are trained to help and most of those people have dedicated their life to helping others.
If you are experiencing stress pain and want to know if you can be helped then contact me via the contact form. Prior to booking the initial 15 minutes telephone consultation is only the cost of your phone provider company