Last January, I began experiencing abdominal pain and discomfort which would come and go at random. I didn’t feel the usual symptoms of indigestion but every night would bring on belching episodes that would practically shake the house (just ask my husband — who thought his completely gas-less wife of ten years was suddenly replaced with the party tricks of a 12-year-old boy). Although the pain would come and go without warning, it finally got to the point where I was bed-ridden with fatigue and pain and some online research helped me pinpoint that the pain was worse after eating fatty or greasy foods (even healthy ones, like peanut butter) or acidic things like coffee.
I called the Nurse Hotline and after answering all their questions, they recommended that I go to the ER immediately. Despite having only one of “The Three F’s” for those most susceptible to gallstones (Fat, Forty, Female), I had all the symptoms of a serious gallbladder problem. Six hours later, the ER blood work and ultrasound found no gallstones or gallbladder deficiencies and the doctors eventually diagnosed me with multiple tears in my stomach lining which was causing the inflammation and pain. Being that I am a non-smoker, extremely healthy, and quite young — the only other cause left for this condition?
Ahhhh…..stress. My old friend. How ya been?
You know from reading this blog that I’m a Type A personality (surprise!) who grabs life by the horns and has no fear. I’m honestly never plagued by anxiety or any of the other common mental side effects of stress. But it doesn’t mean I’m immune to stress. My brain just handles it differently. Or, more accurately, I ignore it completely until my body freaks out on my brain’s behalf.
I’ll be heading into my first day at a new school, giddy with excitement for the experience ahead, and then wonder why I have five canker sores in my mouth. Or I’ll be moving to a new continent and just completely skip a period. My body quite literally has a little conversation with itself saying, “Wow, she’s stressed. Way too stressed for a baby. Let’s just postpone that whole ovulation thing until she’s doing better.”
So although I may not know I’m stressed, it just takes a while for my brain to catch up with my body and then I have this “ahhh hahhhh! I’m totally stressed right now!” moment.
Which was the case of my stomach lining tears. There were things going on in my personal life that were beyond stressful but I hadn’t truly acknowledged them yet. In self-preservation, I was ignoring the situation at hand and as a result, my body ended up turning on itself. Thankfully it was just a minor digestion-related problem but knowing that many health and wellness professionals believe that stress can be a precursor to more serious illnesses like cancer or cardiovascular disease, it made me really think about how I handle stress in my life.
I forced myself to stop and think about the negative things that were going on in my life. Although it may be our first logical response, I didn’t try to “fix” everything but instead, turned them over to God and just let them be. I wasn’t in control of most the circumstances that were upsetting me and I needed to be okay with that. I trusted that something larger than myself was in full control of the situation — and not just fate or some mystical random series of circumstances but an intricate and mind-blowing God who loves me and desires the best for me. By mentally releasing those things, I let my body have a chance to recover and heal while giving myself a break from trying to control it all.
What types of things do you do to reduce the effects of stress in your life?