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It’s amazing what emotional stress can do to your body.  There are many theories today that emotional and physical trauma is one of the sources of chronic pain and illness.  I might be proof of that theory.

According to a study reported in Arthritis Today, people who were physically abused in their lifetime were more likely to report that they struggled with health conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and other similar chronic illnesses.  Nearly 5 years ago, my symptoms starting showing up.  I was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship for almost 6 years, where near the end I struggled for my life and my happiness.  The chronic pain started showing up when the conditions became severe, where I used to spend countless hours crying on the bathroom floor that the situation would just get better.  The pain caused me to see numerous doctors who could not pin point the source for all of my health issues — ranging from stomach sensitivities, food allergies, and full-body pain.  Probably because we weren’t looking at my emotional stresses from the people in my life.

It’s interesting how your body can tell you so much about your mind and emotional condition.  Researchers pointed out in a Psychology Today article that “many people are already familiar with the fact that emotional stress can lead to stomachaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and headaches, but might not know that it can also cause other physical complaints and even chronic pain.” It’s your body’s way of telling you that you have some emotional issues to deal with that are unresolved.  Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) has also been found as a source of chronic pain.  Three years after the abusive relationship ended, I was faced with these unresolved issues and was being haunted by PTSD, according to my therapist.  And that was also the year that I was in the hospital nearly every month with another health condition or flare-up.  My body was telling me that I was not done with working through my emotional scars and pain.

All the time in the hospital also made me look at my everyday life, not just my past.  Doctors have concluded that it is possible that chronic stress makes you more sensitive to pain.  Which means that if my body is telling me I have emotional distress in my life through RA flare-ups, insomnia and loss of appetite, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the things in my life — everything from the people in my life to my career and hobbies. Maybe something I’m keeping around is causing me to have significant emotional stress and it’s not helping my chronic condition.

Believe me when I say that limiting emotional stress in life is not as easy as it sounds.  Especially when life causes us to continuously go over hurdles and challenges.  I know that the stress didn’t cause my arthritis – my family genetics predisposed me to the chronic RA. But the emotional and physical stress that I lived through 5 years ago triggered a state of distress that made me more vulnerable to developing the Rheumatoid Arthritis when I did.  And now the level of my flare-ups and pain varies depending on the level of stress going on my life currently.

It’s time to let go, to slow down, step back and let myself emotionally heal from all the emotional stress in my present and in my past — so I can give my physical illness a chance to heal.