The Long-Term Effects of Trauma

Last December, I found this post on Facebook and it really stayed with me. I would really recommend reading the whole post as it is a beautiful example of what a strong child is capable of. The place that really got me was this quote: “Trauma infuses itself into every pore. Kids just don’t forget it. Their brains and bodies won’t let them.

When I was 17 I began to experience terrible pain that would come out of nowhere and leave me in tears, absolutely unable to cope. My joints would swell, my chest would ache, and breathing would become painful. The pains would last for hours and sometimes days. They were almost always followed with migraines.

My mom took me to doctor after doctor. The first few were ready to dismiss me after they learned my history. They suggested that I was experiencing a physical manifestation of the mental pain I had endured. I took that as them calling my sanity into question. I was tough. I was over my trauma and they could not convince me otherwise.

So, Mom kept pushing for someone to help me. There were scans and tests and blood draws. No cause could be found. Finally, a specialist diagnosed me with lupus. He admitted the diagnosis was shaky. The blood tests were borderline, and one symptom (mouth ulcers) could easily be explained by my braces. Still, it had been such a slog that I fully accepted the diagnosis. 20 years later, I definitely don’t have lupus, and I am ready to accept that the pain was due to what I had survived. Trauma had infused itself into my pores.

It never left me. All these years later I still experience stress as a physical symptom. First comes a tightness in the chest. Then, if I fail to take stock of the situation joint pain comes next. If I don’t pay attention to the signs that my body is sending me I will soon find myself unable to get through the day. I’ve learned to listen.

Processing trauma or PTSD doesn’t have a neat end date when all of a sudden you’re cured. We are learning that the after effects of trauma have lifelong effects. Here is a study that suggests a link between PTSD and dementia.

There is also research that shows childhood trauma can effect later generations. How awful is that? It seems so unfair. For all of the complications that I already deal with worrying about what kind of person my childhood made me, now I have to wonder about how it changed my children before they were ever created. I am sick enough when I think about refugee children and the children in cages at the US/Mexico border. It won’t end when they are set free. It won’t end when they have a safe home. Trauma is in their pores now. It is in their blood.

Thanks for joining me this week as I begin to explain the moments that made me who I am today. It means the world to me.

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