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How My Mental Health Affects My Physical Health as Someone With PTSD

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There is still a bit of a disconnect between mental health and physical health — we know leading a healthy lifestyle can help to improve mental wellbeing: exercise, a balanced diet, mindfulness, yoga. The general idea that maintaining good physical health can help to improve your mental health is pretty well-received and accepted — it seems logical, right? But how does it work the other way around? The impact that mental illness can have on physical health is huge.

• What is PTSD?

I’ve always found this. I’ve always felt that my mental health has had a direct impact on my body — and when you think about it, it really makes sense. The brain controls the body; poor mental health is poor health all round.

There’s a massive list of physical symptoms I’ve experienced as a result of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). There’s obviously flashbacks and everything that comes with it, but day-to-day, on “normal” days, there’s a shit load of other stuff. Like, most days. And I don’t think people know this, or certainly not the extent of it.

There’s dizziness and feeling faint, nausea, digestion problems, sweating. I’ve experienced a weird inability to control my body temperature — a bit like how it feels before you faint — fatigue, headaches. I recently started getting migraines with aura (numbness on one side of the body, banging headache, loss of vision), so I’m going to be starting neck physical therapy for that soon. The main reason is essentially built-up tension in my neck.

Shaking, loss of appetite, excess adrenaline (I call this “jelly legs”), inability to focus (both mentally and with my vision), agitation and fidgeting. Those who have been reading my little internet punching bag for a long time, or those who have read my book, will know that I spent over a year throwing up every. single. day. These are the symptoms of living a hyper-alert life.

When you live with PTSD, you’re basically constantly in fight or flight mode, on the lookout for potential danger and trying to make decisions and live each day with your brain sounding an alarm for a lot of the time. It isn’t always like this, but it’s how my CPTSD-brain-pal works. Unfortunately, living this way lends itself to a lot of physical symptoms on many days. It feels like it’s basically a chronic illness.

The days of vomiting each day, panic and lots and lots of crying are thankfully far behind me, but it seems that now my experiences have been sort of moving into a new phase. The alarm bells are still there, they’re just not so loud or so overpowering. Instead of such extreme reactions like panic or vomit, it’s underlying stuff that is going on in the background: the neck tension, the random episodes of nausea or sudden digestive issues. It’s not often a sudden outburst, flashback or worse anymore, it’s day-to-day ticking along of underlying symptoms. Managing build-up is key.

This is all to say, your mental health goes far beyond your mind.

Follow this journey on Little Thoughts

Getty image by solarseven

Originally published: February 5, 2020
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