Did you know trauma can affect our health? By trauma I mean any significant negative experience in your life. We all know that negative experiences can affect our choices. My overeating was a response to negative experiences. I used food for comfort, and this led to obesity. I chose to do something which was unhealthy for my body.
But did you know that trauma not only affects our choices, it also affects our reaction to everyday situations? In my life, I used the same pattern which started in my childhood to cope with my everyday experiences. I felt lonely, I ate. I was ignored, I ate. Mistreated, criticised, bullied, I ate.
The behaviour I learned so early became the behaviour I continued to use well into my adulthood. I chose this familiar method not only because it was what I knew, but that everyday situations could be enough to trigger the painful memories of my past. I ate in response to these memories, not necessarily because of the current situation. Often, a small infringement on my wellbeing would cause a huge reaction within me. The volume of food I ate reflected the size of the reaction inside, not what had happened. Often, I could not recall the memory that had been triggered, but subconsciously I had been triggered.
Then there is the issue of the physiological impact of the trauma. This impact is not just from our poor choices, but the stress placed on our body as our anxiety increases. Over time this has an affect on our health, too. It is a contributing factor to various inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
The next time you have what think is an unreasonable reaction to a situation in your life, go easy on yourself. You may be reacting to trauma from long ago. Sometimes there is no rational reason for our behaviour, but that it is related to a trauma experience. Don’t make your physical reaction worse by judging the behaviour and condemning yourself for lack of control. Instead, accept that it happened and soothe yourself to reduce the physical impact.
Nowadays I try not to judge myself when I fall off the wagon. Instead I give myself the compassion I need for the reason I have overeaten. Because compassion is the only way to overcome our dysfunctional coping strategies.
In love, Jenny