What’s Your Trigger?

Fibro Haven:

How can we begin to heal if we do not understand why we are ill?

Healing from chronic illness is so much more complicated than just treating the symptoms. Prescription meds may help us cope, but they do not correct the original imbalances that led to dis-ease. And with difficult-to-understand illnesses like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, it is not always possible to pinpoint just one specific cause. Often it is a series of causes like a traumatic event experienced while in the midsts of some other type of recurring life stressors. There are many different types of traumas that can lead to chronic illness – physical, emotional, viral, environmental. With so many possible factors, it is easy to see why treatment is so difficult.

Knowing your trigger.

When putting together my blueprint, it was easy for me to pinpoint the exact moment when my trigger was switched – the day I broke the porcelain toilet with my head. Yes, I would definitely say that qualifies as a trigger. And the immediate downward spiral of my health from that day on is a clear indicator that the physical trauma opened the door to chronic illness. So I can with confidence say that my trigger was physical. That is the easy part. But what I must also consider is how my lifestyle leading up to the trauma left me predisposed to developing chronic illness.

Not everyone who suffers a debilitation head trauma ends up with fibromyalgia.

The concussion and brain trauma that resulted were expected outcomes to the physical trauma, but the pain and fatigue that increased daily were not. So why did I end up with fibromyalgia after the head trauma? Was I genetically predisposed to it? Did my lifestyle leading up to the accident leave me vulnerable to chronic illness? In both cases I believe the answer to be yes. But I am not a medical professional, and I cannot change or debate my genetics, so I am only going to focus on my lifestyle leading up to the event.

Busier is not always better.

I had what I thought at the time to be a very healthy and active lifestyle. I had a great job, a fun and active social life, I exercised regularly, ate well, was in a healthy relationship  – sounds pretty perfect, right? Well upon reflection it was not so perfect after all. In reality I was wound so tight that I was just waiting to snap. I never said no to anything. I was always on the go, never really taking the time to relax and enjoy my life. I was simply pushing through one experience to get to the next, like a small child who won’t drift off to sleep for fear of missing out on something. I had to be engaged and involved in everything because it was how I defined myself – “I am Dannette, the girl with the most active and full life ever!” With or without the head trauma, my lifestyle was eventually going to catch up with me. A crash was inevitable.

So while I can easily state that my trigger was physical, the depleted state of my being leading up to the physical trauma likely left me vulnerable to the prolonged crash of chronic illness.

Why is it so important to understand all of this? Again, I am not a medical professional, so this is all theory on my part based on living many years with chronic illness, and my current experience with improved health. The reason I think it is so important to understand the trigger is because I believe it will best inform how we should approach our own unique blueprints for healing.

My trauma was physical and so is my treatment.

Unless this is your first time reading my blog, you know that I directly attribute the healing I am experiencing to my regular practice of yoga. I was very athletic leading up to my accident, and tried many times over the course of the first 13 years of my illness to return to my former athletic ways, only to fail and end up in miserable pain. When I discovered the healing powers of gentle and restorative yoga, my body responded immediately. I found movement without pain! And because of the neurological nature of FM, yoga is an excellent mindful movement to practice as it regulates and balances the central nervous system.

I did not have any viral issues to address, like so many people with FM and CFS do, so in a way I am fortunate. My blueprint is pretty direct. I have seen tremendous improvements by incorporating gentle movement back into my life, and by addressing several other contributing issues like food allergies (eliminating gluten), and toxicity (heavy metals).

Of course this is a simplified explanation of the many years of trial and error it took me to piece my blueprint together, but I believe if each of us take the steps to really address and acknowledge our triggers, we can begin to piece together a blueprint for healing. Take a long and truthful glance back on your life before the trigger. Were there other factors of your lifestyle that may have left you vulnerable? A difficult marriage or childhood? This would require adding an emotional healing component to your blueprint. Do you see where I am going with this?

I am no longer the girl who thinks I need to say yes to everyone and everything. In fact I try very hard to participate in only things that nourish me, and eliminate people and activities from my life that do not. Healing requires effort, and sometimes we have to make hard choices. It also requires us to be able to honestly reflect on how we, unknowingly or not, contribute to our own illness. It is only with awareness that we can make progress. So if you are ready to begin you blueprint, start here: What’s your trigger?