My journey through Lyme Disease- Healing my body and mind.

People Pleasers Don’t Heal

on August 24, 2013

Whether you have Lyme Disease, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, or a similar chronic illness; you have likely found that your symptoms worsen with emotional stress. This is absolutely true for me. It’s a fact that has probably been noticed by many chronic illness patients, but has not been given solid scientific explanation. A recent experience that I had with expressing tightly contained anger and the resulting symptom relief, lead me to the work of Dr. Gabor Mate. I will explain my experience with anger expression and the positive effects it had on my well-being after you watch the video interview with Dr. Gabor Mate below. It’s worth 10 minutes of your time. Take a few minutes away from your kitten and puppy videos to watch something that could possibly change your life and hopefully the landscape of medicine in the future. (Sidenote: I am also a kitten and puppy video addict, so I get it.)

As described by Dr. Gabor Mate in the video below, unexpressed anger and the inability to say no, depresses immunity. This is not a bizarre concept in “alternative medicine”. It is proven scientific fact. There have been well-organized published studies that have shown this to be true.  Why have we not taken these studies more seriously in modern healthcare?

It is time that we pay more attention to the mind-body connection. The western ideal that the mind and body are two separate entities is false.

My debilitating Late-Stage Lyme Disease symptoms hit me with full force about a year after I went through a divorce. At the same time, I was stressing my body and mind by racing mountain bikes.  After my diagnosis and finding a doctor who could successfully treat my Lyme Disease with drugs, I started to think about the fact that it likely wasn’t just antibiotics and supplements that I needed to completely heal. I needed to find a way to emotionally heal as well. At the time, I had no knowledge of the work of Dr. Gabor Mate and others. I just intuitively felt this to be true. That questioning lead me to my mental health counselor and my Rolfer,  who both focus on mind-body work. I will introduce those two and how their work has helped me in more detail in a future blog post. I introduced them briefly here, because it is through working with them that I have learned the dramatic impact unexpressed emotion can have on health.

Which leads me to a little story that I want to share about an experience I had last week. It started around the middle of my workday on Friday. I began to get a migraine, which I know well, and those always lead to a lost evening in on the couch. In addition to the migraine, I was having muscle and joint pain. The muscles in my upper back were burning and aching. My knees started giving out as I was walking. I began to feel light-headed, dizzy, and fatigued. I had plans to meet up with friends that evening for dinner and a movie and really didn’t want to cancel.

By the time I made it home from work, my symptoms had progressed to the distracting point and I knew socializing with friends was likely not in my immediate future. I sat on the couch with my partner and the minute he said, “how are you feeling?”, the tears started to roll. It is beyond frustrating to have such a good healthy week be ended with pain and fatigue. I sobbed for a little bit and then from deep inside my gut, I felt intense anger. I suddenly felt like yelling, “NO! I am NOT going to let this stupid infection ruin my evening”. Instead of quietly sitting and accepting my fate, which would be my usual mode of operation, I decided to actually listen to that anger a bit. I felt moved to somehow strongly express that anger, instead of letting it sit in my body with nowhere to go. I needed to give it a voice. I needed for it to be heard. So, I turned to my partner and said, “I think I need to fight this today by yelling, NO!” He of course told me to go for it. My ego stepped in and said, “but he’ll think you’re weird yelling and screaming at nothing”. Then he said, “Go into the bedroom, shut the door, and scream into a pillow if you want.”

So, I did. I went into the bedroom. Laid on the bed. Closed my eyes and really sent my mind deeply into my body. What did it need? Then the intense crying began, followed by the overwhelming urge to scream. It wasn’t a high-pitch girly scream that I would do if surprised by something. In fact, it was a noise I have never made in my 31 years of life. It was a deep and aggressive yell that came from the pit of my abdomen. I questioned nothing and went with it. The scream was followed by hitting the bed with my arms in a quick downward stroke and simultaneously yelling “NO!” The final expression was more yelling and hitting and kicking quickly on the bed. It all came to a natural ending and I simply laid there and felt into my body. I felt like I was living more inside of my body instead of outside in the spaces between other people. I felt my nervous system calm and drop into a safe and serene place. I felt my breath go into a more satisfying rhythm. I laid for a few minutes and when I felt moved to get up, I did. I opened the bedroom door and grounded myself with a hug from my partner and a high-five from my dog.

I totally sounded like a psychopath, it’s true. But, what I am realizing now is that the most crazy thing is that we expect ourselves to contain and tightly control our emotions thanks to our egos. Our emotions are there for a reason. They function each as different cues for our nervous system. Following my anger expression event, my muscle pain and joint pain decreased to nearly nothing. My migraine transformed into just a small headache and I was able to function comfortably in a social environment for the rest of the night. No, it was not a sudden cure that left me feeling 100% better, but it was a dramatic decrease in symptoms. I felt lighter and more whole.  It was not a trivial experience and I will be paying more attention to the intuition of my body in the future.

Have you had personal experience with an increase in symptoms during a time of emotional stress? Are you a people-pleaser that has experienced the increase in symptoms when you are unable to set boundaries and say no. Would you be able to let your guard down and express yourself loudly without feeling ashamed? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Don’t forget to follow my blog if you find it to be useful or interesting. Thanks!

As always, much love to you all! ~Lyndsey

8 responses to “People Pleasers Don’t Heal

  1. Monique Miller says:

    Thanks for that insight is so true, seems that everyone should listen to their bodies stress indicators and be more attuned to the causes of our chronic symptoms, it is really difficult in todays world to step back and listen, sometimes we feel that we need to trudge along and get through or difficulties without acknowledging our own inner needs. Thanks for bringing attention to an all to common problem….scream on!

  2. It takes a lot of courage to release in the way you did and I am with Rocky giving you a high-five. Not just feeling the pain but actually being with it, deep inside yourself, is not for the lighthearted. Working with the same practitioners I know exactly what you felt but haven’t been able to let it out this way yet. Thank you so much for sharing these personal experiences, you encourage me to keep it up and that being strong isn’t always the answer. If you ever want to take a drive out to the country or deep in the woods and scream away let me know! Love you girl!

    • lilneeds says:

      Learning to really let go is a loooooong journey, for sure. It’s also difficult to really send your mind to painful parts of your experience that you would just like to forget. What we seem to not understand, though, is that those painful parts are frozen in us and causing us pain. So, even though it seems difficult to “go there”, it’s more difficult to live with strong emotions that aren’t given a voice. I am so happy that your are on your journey and that we can relate on this level. Love you, too!

  3. dawnhosking says:

    That’s interesting, thanks 🙂

  4. Terri L says:

    Excellent blog! ! Write on! Releasing anger is so important for our health; otherwise, it just keeps us sick. I often feel it’s so much easier to laugh than scream and cry but I always feel SO much better and recharged after a good cry. A good scream sounds like a great prescription for dealing with stress and chronic health problems. Excuse me while I scream away!

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