Recognize the Symptoms
When we experience a sore throat or fever, we are reasonably sure we are getting a cold or the flu and take measures to help ourselves get over it. But quite often, we don’t feel quite right within ourselves. Perhaps we feel anxious or uneasy at certain times or with certain people, or our stomach knots up at certain places. We have low-grade depression and just find life hard at times. These can all be symptoms of PTSD or systemic abuse. Part of healing is recognizing that something is just not quite right. Having established that you could be living a much happier and healthier life than you currently are, is the first step in getting help. Your commitment to yourself to get help or find new coping strategies and strategies for overcoming disabling thoughts and behavior are the motivation you need. Let us look at a few ways in which we can recognize unhealthy symptoms.
Mental: Stinking Thinking?
So much takes place in our thinking brain. What are our obsessive thoughts? Do our thoughts and our beliefs align? What are our thoughts about ourselves? Do we beat ourselves up all the time? What are our thoughts about others, families, friends, teachers, etc.? If these are on a constant negative spectrum and churn and return both waking or sleeping. We are constantly thinking about rights and wrongs and get confused with what we were taught and how our reality matches up. Do you have thoughts of self-harm? Make an inventory of your thoughts over several days or a week, write them down without judging them, they just are, and you are now aware of how much time you spend with them.
Physical: Chronic Illnesses?
Physical symptoms are easier to experience but not necessarily to diagnose as sometimes they may have started out as psychosomatic but have taken on reality in your body. Be aware that stress and trauma are retained in the body’s cells as a memory imprint. Do you get stomach aches in certain situations? Did that end up as IBS or chronic inflammation of the bowl? There are many forms that this can take, backaches, migraines, arthritis, etc. After having a thorough physical at your doctor to rule out any disease or illness. Learn to read your body signs when you are feeling stressed or your muscles tighten. Does your heart race, do you get hot, does your stomach contract? When does this happen? Make an inventory over a month, scan your body each day, what symptoms you feel and when.
Emotional: Uncontrollable Outbursts?
We may often feel angry or upset over something that should not really affect us to the degree it does. When do we feel triggered? Are there words that people use that make us feel bad? Or perhaps we will see or smell something that brings back bad feelings. Do we feel guilty over nothing or uncomfortable when certain subjects are talked about? Do you struggle with addictions to make you feel better? Or perhaps places we walk past or through that make us feel uneasy. Take an inventory of these places or incidents and any feelings or thoughts you have about them.
Spiritual: Disillusioned with God?
Do you have a belief system in some Higher Power? Do you believe there is help from someone greater who will guide you by their wisdom? Have you lost your faith? Does the thought of religion turn you off, or do you long for connection with God? Have you been hurt or disillusioned by church and religion or don’t believe that God loves you? Where do you seek spiritual solace? Journal your feelings around spirit, faith, church, God.
Having taken an honest inventory of your dis-ease, you will now have a lot of information to help you identify the symptoms of perhaps a traumatic experience that has affected you most of your life. You will also have places to start looking for healing. We are wonderfully complex creatures made in God’s image, created for a purpose. We are His masterpieces, yet sometimes the mud that sticks to us is hard to remove, marring that image and holding us back from our full potential. According to your situation (we are all different), look for professional help in the area you felt the most in need, a psychologist, medical professional, or spiritual director. Once you have turned the key in the door that unlocks the secrets to your anxiety, unease, and mental health, you will have begun the journey to healing yourself. This may take several years, so have patience with yourself and those who would help you. For those who feel they can help themselves, there are many excellent books and resources available. There are also support groups to help you both on and off-line. Find one that you can gel with and be comfortable sharing your journey. A few resources are mentioned in my previous blog.