I read a truly interesting article recently on TheMighty.com. The author spoke of her life with C-PTSD. She was in a relationship with someone who pointed out how she was able to (as he described it) swallow physical pain & continue on as if nothing happened. Apparently she didn’t realize she did this, which lead her to research why she behaved in such an unhealthy way.
Long story short, she learned that people with PTSD tend to be very out of touch with pain or very highly in tune with it, depending on their mental state at the time. Often in times of really bad anxiety, people with PTSD experience oversensitivity to pain. Anxiety causes the body to tense up, which certainly could explain that. It also explains why many people with anxiety experience chronic pain in their bodies.
Interestingly though is what the author described next. After a serious injury, her anxiety levels were very high, which triggered other pain not related to the injury. The man she was dating then noticed how at times she’d just “swallow” the pain after a minute & go on as if nothing happened.
This is a survival skill that can be very useful. If you’re in a dangerous situation & can ignore the pain long enough to get yourself to safety, clearly this is a very useful survival skill! In daily life however, it isn’t. In daily life, it means you will ignore your pain & not take the time to rest & recover that you need.
I have realized I do this. After my back injury at 19 when my mother threw me into a wall, although I was in constant pain of varying degrees for 10 years, there were times I was so disconnected from the pain, I wondered if people who said I was faking the pain so I didn’t have to work were right. Maybe it wasn’t all that bad or maybe I wasn’t even injured at all. Hardly healthy behavior!
Another point in the article is people with PTSD who dissociate generally tend to have a much higher threshold of pain than people without the disorder. Dissociation is known for allowing a person to disconnect from emotional pain, but it also can allow a person to disconnect from physical pain as well. This means they naturally won’t feel pain as intensely as others who don’t dissociate.
Knowing this information was very helpful for the author of the article, because it helped her to change how she thinks about her chronic pain & treating it. I believe it also can be extremely helpful for the rest of us whether or not we have issues with chronic pain.
Recognizing that it is very unhealthy to disconnect from physical issues helps you to have a better perspective on them. Unless you’re in a very dangerous situation, this survival skill isn’t needed. It’s healthier to recognize what is happening & deal with the issues accordingly.
Having this problem myself, I also realize that there are times it feels like you should be ashamed of having a physical problem which probably contributes to disconnecting from your pain. The narcissists that have been in my life had zero tolerance for my illnesses or injuries. In fact, I never told my parents I nearly died from carbon monoxide poisoning in 2015 because of that.
I know health situations can be incredibly hard to handle. Adding in this dysfunction to the health problems can make them utterly miserable. In fact, I’m not really great at handling health issues myself. I have found something that helps me to have a healthier perspective on health issues. That is to remind myself constantly that there is no reason to hide the problems anymore. My health is my responsibility, & I have every right to handle it however I see fit. If that makes me something bad in the eyes of other people, so be it. They don’t live in my body & don’t know how I feel.
Sometimes there will be simply dysfunctional but not narcissistic people who have no patience for others with health problems. When dealing with them, I remind myself of the same things. Also, when their opinion hurts because it is so negative & unexpected, I remind myself they must have some sort of dysfunction when they respond to the health problems of someone they care for in such a bad way. Doing that helps to take much of the sting out of their thoughtless words. It’s an excellent reminder that what they say isn’t personal. It’s about their dysfunction, not me.