Woman with stomach pain

In the article on letting your emotions out, we explored safe ways to “let off steam” and allow natural human emotions to be felt and then released. While it’s quite common for survivors of toxic partners or emotionally unavailable parents to maintain an extraordinary level of emotional control, it is also quite unhealthy. The medical term for what this causes in your body is called “somatization”, but you may have heard of it as the Mind-Body Connection.

“Mystery” Illnesses

Most survivors of any type of abuse will tell you they had a string of “mystery illnesses” or symptoms no one could address. These usually include headaches, gastrointestinal issues, joint pain or autoimmune-type afflictions, even unexplained hair loss. We can tell you how we were treated for this, that, and the other, but never with a definitive diagnosis.

It appears to be…” is the favorite opening line of a doctor diagnosing us with something, even though the evidence isn’t clear. Unfortunately, we are also frequently labeled as hypochondriacs or “drama queens”.

Abuse Should Be a Diagnosis

Shortly after I developed PTSD due to my ex-husband’s continued stalking, threats, and court filings, I began to truly understand the physical devastation caused by non-physical trauma. I couldn’t eat, didn’t sleep, had horrible joint pain, my heart would race for no particular reason, and my blood pressure would spike even when I was otherwise relaxed. The worst part was during my commute, in which the Maryland Commuter Rail acronym flashed my ex’s name in my face repeatedly each day.

My trauma therapist worked with me to help give voice and outlet to a lot of the feelings I was dealing with. It’s common to think that “being the bigger person” equates to not ever, as I jokingly call it, staging a nutty. Sometimes, having a complete temper tantrum is the best thing for your mind and body as you release all the pent-up feelings. One of my personal favorites was the night I let it rip—literally—and shredded my wedding gown with my bare hands. It felt so good!

The “Hypochondriac” Label

Oh, how he loved to call me a hypochondriac; to say I was making up physical illnesses for attention! It was another way for him to portray me as “crazy” or somehow unstable. Truthfully. I was just as baffled as the doctors. The physicians I saw were not trauma informed enough to ask me questions to get to the root of my “mystery illnesses”.

Until I saw an internist recommended by my trauma therapist and an endocrinologist—both of whom told me that the abuse and terror were the direct causes of the current illnesses—nothing was addressed. I had chronic headaches and belly problems of all sorts. I had chest pains once so badly that I was sure I was having a heart attack. The ER said “probably gallbladder”. The expensive tests said, “Nothing’s wrong.”

While it’s quite common for survivors of toxic partners or emotionally unavailable parents to maintain an extraordinary level of emotional control, it is also quite unhealthy. The medical term for what this causes in your body is called “somatization”, but you may have heard of it as the Mind-Body Connection.

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Do Whatever Helps

Some people are simply not comfortable physically acting out their feelings; believing that it makes them “violent” like the abuser. In fact, any physical exertion will help. Run, walk, climb, pound nails; anything that will transfer the energy out of your body and into something else. Practitioners of natural healing will tell you that letting negative energy out of your body is the best thing for your health.You can’t imagine how true that is until you experience it!

Sometimes, just thinking about how he continues the abuse and lies still immediately causes a physical reaction.

Like now. So I have a date with my hammer and the dirt outside.

Aubrey Cole

Aubrey Cole

I survived a quarter century of psychological, emotional, economic and sexual abuse. When I got out, I vowed to help others do the same and founded the Emotional Abuse Survivors Network project in 2012. Now, I offer hope and healing to others on their journey as they rediscover themselves. My forthcoming books, Bodies in the Basement and Define Winning, chronicle my experiences, escape, and recovery. There is nothing so special about me that others can't emerge and thrive.
Aubrey Cole

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