I’m quite sure you have heard of how our mental health influences our physical health. This can clearly happen in individuals who have dealt with narcissistic abuse. I know because it happened to me.
I first learned about the mind/body connection when I was in college. I had stomach trouble in the second half of my sophomore year in college, and I thought it was just stress. However, it turned out to be acute appendicitis, and it wasn’t diagnosed until I became violently ill during my summer vacation (thank goodness I was at home with my family at the time).
I woke up one morning around 4 a.m. to excruciating abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. This went on for hours. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t sleep, and the thought of food was revolting. Later that day, my mom suggested that we go to the hospital since I wasn’t getting any better, but I refused. I assumed I had food poisoning and thought I just had to wait it out. However, I didn’t improve. Later that night, my mom insisted that we go to the hospital. At this point, I don’t remember much. I think I was blacking out for chunks of time because I can only recall certain things. In fact, I was told that I walked into the ER with my mom, but I don’t remember doing it.
The ER doctor thought at first that I had food poisoning and put me on IV fluids since I was dehydrated. However, just before discharging me, he went on his gut instinct and decided to examine me again. Thank goodness he did because it was during this second exam that he decided to order blood work which showed an extremely high white blood cell count. His exam and the blood work confirmed that I had appendicitis. My uncle, who was a surgeon, was called in, and they took me to surgery shortly thereafter. He told my mom that a routine appendectomy usually takes about forty-five minutes.
Four hours later (yes, four!), my uncle came out of surgery and talked to my mom and aunt. I had a ruptured appendix that was also gangrenous (dead tissue). He was certain that I would have peritonitis (a dangerous abdominal infection), and he was also certain that I would be sick for months and would not be able to return to college in the fall. He told my mom that I wouldn’t have made it through the night if she hadn’t brought me into the hospital. The day after surgery, the pathologist even came up to my room to see “the girl who actually walked in this hospital with THAT appendix!”
Well, I proved my uncle wrong! At the time that this happened, I was having the time of my life in college and at work. I absolutely loved college and my work, and I was determined to return to school in the fall. In fact, when I woke up from surgery, my first question was “When can I go back to work?”
I returned to work three weeks after surgery, and I returned to college that fall. My uncle told my mom that the reason I recovered so quickly was because of my attitude. I learned through this experience that your mental and emotional health have a huge impact on your physical health and your ability to heal.
This lesson recently became apparent to me once again. As I’ve written in previous blogs, I was a victim of narcissistic abuse for many years. During those years, I was always sick with some kind of head infection or stomach virus. I tried my best to take care of myself, and I am known to be a “clean freak”, but I still seemed to pick up every bug out there. This always baffled me.
This confusion all became clear when I cut contact with this narcissistic group. It has been over four years since I dealt with this family, and unbelievably, I haven’t had a major head infection or stomach virus since the relationship with this family ended! Sure, I’ve had the occasional headache or sniffle, but I’ve not had a major infection that has kept me in bed for days for over four years! I finally came to the realization that the reason I was constantly sick while dealing with this family was because I was not self-aware, not happy, full of self-doubt, and under tremendous stress. My body didn’t like it.
If you are living in an emotionally or mentally abusive situation and find yourself constantly ill, remember that there is a mind/body connection when it comes to physical health. Your body might be trying to tell you something. Listen to it!