I was up in my room when I heard the first screams coming from my mother. I pattered down the steps, heart pounding. That’s when I heard more screams, these coming from my grandmother and much louder. The two women were shrieking and wailing in anguish and my Uncle Bob had tears running down his face.
Two police officers stood awkwardly in the doorway, trying to look calm amid the chaos.
“Mommy, what’s wrong? What’s wrong?” I asked and tried to wrap my arms around her leg. She pushed me away and sternly told me to go into the other room. I felt scared, confused and rejected; the two rocks of my life, my mother and my grandmother, were crumbling right before my eyes and I had no idea why.
Then I heard the police officers telling my mom that my Uncle Ray (her brother) was never coming home again…
…Within two weeks of my Uncle Ray’s death I was in the hospital for an endoscopy to help explain my upper and lower GI issues that supposedly couldn’t be attributed to my regular diet of cereal and chocolate milk. I started having high fevers on a fairly regular basis. I seemed to always be sick. I became an emergency-room frequent-flyer, earning miles the hard way. I’d get a battery of tests and Mom would pick up my latest prescription for antibiotics, along with the bill.
The Physical Symptoms of Trauma
In this excerpt from my new book The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child, I share how the myriad physical symptoms I had as a child—GI issues, fevers, and other issues—were actually tied to the emotional trauma I experienced. I was just a kid at the time, so I certainly didn’t know that growing up with unpredictable drug addicts and having an uncle get murdered could have an impact on my physical well-being. How could I have known that my stomachaches were linked to the chaos surrounding me?
Nobody else knew it either. My mom didn’t know it. And even the many doctors I saw in the ER never asked me about the living conditions at home. They just kept poking me with needles looking for a biological cause to explain my illnesses. And despite the pills they gave me, I kept getting sick.
But research now confirms that emotional trauma is linked to many physical issues, such as muscle aches and pains, stomach and gut problems, and headaches. It can also lead to fatigue, disrupted sleep, and unhealthy eating patterns. Emotional trauma can also cause lasting changes in the brain that increase the risk of addiction, depression, and other issues. It all adds up to compound the problem and steal your happiness.
Fortunately, I never struggled with addiction, but I did fall into depression and had other issues that troubled me. In my book, I reveal the powerful strategies that helped me face my past emotional trauma so I could heal my body and my mind.
How about you? If you’re suffering from unexplained physical issues, you may want to dig deeper into your past. Have you experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse? Did you ever go through an intense period of stress, such as being taken into foster care? Have you ever been in a fire, flood, or earthquake? Could emotional trauma be contributing to your physical problems? I hope you can learn something from my book that will help you face your past, no matter how uncomfortable it may be, and embrace your truth so you can stop hurting and start feeling better.
The Reluctant Courage of a Scared Child is written by Tana Amen, a New York Times bestselling author, neurosurgical ICU trauma nurse, and vice president of Amen Clinics. In this compelling and candid memoir, Tana shares how she was able to find healing after experiencing a terrifying childhood of abandonment and abuse and how she has become a champion for others who have experienced trauma. It offers an inspirational look at what’s possible for anyone in need of healing and hope. Order your copy here.