Trauma, Valentines Day and ME

Jump back to 1990

t’s 14th February 1990, and I am sitting at my desk at Courtaulds in Coventry, on placement for a year.  A minor trauma is about to unfold.

Mid-morning, I am working on my computer (massive screen, huge desktop box, computing capacity miniscule compared to current tech!) when all of a sudden the letters on my screen started to fall down the page. As they fall, they turn into hearts.  I stare in disbelief as rows upon row of  little hearts assemble at the bottom of the screen.

Trauma?  Or Aww?

“Awww” you might think, or perhaps “how sweet”.

I can not explain to you the level of panic I experienced and the absolute dread that my work, weeks worth of effort, was lost and gone forever.  The worst bit was that I couldn’t stop it – nothing on my keyboard worked!

To this day, I do not know if this was a practical joke or a virus that had infected my pc.   If it was a prank, no one owned up to it.  It would have been a relief if they had, because I would reassured that all would be ok.  Instead, I was first paralysed then frantic as I tried to work out what to do about these little hearts!

As it happens, I ended up having to switch my pc off and then back on.  I can remember that it took what felt like forever to open up again and that I spent that whole time just on the edge of a full blown meltdown!

So why did I think of this today?

Funnily enough, I had not thought about this for years and for some reason it popped into my head this morning.  It was accompanied with two thoughts;

  • This is why I begin to panic whenever I have something techie goes wrong with my laptop or phone

  • I really don’t enjoy Valentine’s Day

What I know now is that both of these events trigger my body into a highly anxious state because of the trauma (with a small-t) of that day.  The panic and dread that I experienced nearly 30 years ago has been stored, encoded, deep within my brain.  Every time I have a problem with my tech, and each Valentine’s Day, my brain fishes out the memory of 14 Feb 1990 and pushes the panic button!

I cannot tell you how much of a relief it is to finally understand all of this.  Imagine spending all those years being grumpy about Valentine’s Day without having the foggiest clue as to why!  I assumed that I was perhaps just a bit of a miserable so-and-so who had a downer on a day that so many other people seemed to enjoy.  In other words, I took on the blame because it was the only way I could make sense of my feelings.

If I am honest, I never considered my reaction to tech issues being linked to anything.  Again, it’s a relief to be able to put my reaction into perspective and understand that it’s driven by this incident.  Next time it happens, I will be able to interrupt the panic and put things into perspective.

It was a funny thing (just didn’t see it at the time)

Looking back, I can see that this was a funny thing that happened to m.  I have been able to join some dots and understand that  the feelings and reactions I experience now relate to something that happened years ago.  It’s only now that I have been able to understand the implications.

I have this clarity now around the incident because of the work I do with people living with ME, Fibromyalgia and CFS.  There is a strong link between chronic fatigue conditions, trauma and stress within the body.  There are many reasons why a person may be experiencing high levels of stress. 

These may include our jobs, relationships, financial worries, poor nutrition, to name a few.  We tend to be conscious of these  because there is an obvious cause (a stressful job, for example) and effect on health (high blood pressure, lack of sleep, anxiety, short temper etc. etc.).

But there can be more subtle, subconscious stressors that are associated with memories of past experiences.  As you can see from my story, joining the dots is not always about some big traumatic event.  In a lot of cases, it’s about regular, everyday stuff – trauma with a small t.  Whatever emotions you experience in (literally) any situation where you feel powerless can become encoded.

These encoded memories can be triggered by things happening in the here and now, leading to significant health issues.  By helping clients to join their own dots, I support them in learning more about their subconscious triggers.

Joining your own dots

As we work together, clients start to recognise when their feelings and behaviour are linked to something from the past.  They become better equipped to choose how to respond because they come off “automatic pilot”.  I love it when this happened because whenever we have choice, we have freedom.

So this morning, for the first time in 29 years, I am actually feeling ok about Valentine’s Day.  I will let you know how I feel about any techie issues as and when they occur!

If you have M.E, Fibromyalgia or CFS and are battling to regain health, please get in touch.  There have been significant advances in

  • our understanding how our brains work

  • the impact that trauma has on the encoding of memory of an event

  • the way that the body pulls up these memories and puts us in a stressed state

This means that we know so much more about how we can support your return to health.

Contact me via this link if you would like to know more.