Somatic illness.

Just imagine for a moment that you can not breathe. Even though you are taking air in and out, it feels like there is no oxygen in that air. You get light-headed and may even pass out. You might get rushed to the hospital where you are diagnosed as perfectly healthy… but you still can’t breathe.

Imagine now that your wrists cause you extreme pain every single day. They will often not support your own weight and even simple chores can cause an even greater degree of pain. You go to the doctors and an x-ray is done, blood tests and a physical examination of your wrists are all completed. There is nothing physically wrong with you but your wrists are still in extreme pain.

What would happen if you were a very fit and healthy athlete one day and then suddenly your heart begins to race for no reason at all. You need to stop doing the things you love until a cause is found for this racing suddenly heart rate. X-rays, an ultrasound, an EKG, blood-work, a 24 hour monitor… nothing shows as being physically wrong but no one can deny that your heart is still racing. Stress is blamed but you know that your heart races all the time. Not only during times of stress.

Now you have pain in your belly. It can be  felt within the sexual organs, to one side or another of your stomach, it can cause symptoms ranging from a stomach ache to vomiting, diarrhea or constant pelvic pain. Once again, you are assessed and once again, no physical cause is shown.

Some people would accuse this person of attention seeking. Words such as hypochondriac are used easily by those whom are supposed to care for you. Medication is denied, pain relief is ignored, you are told you go home and relax. If your doctor is really helpful, (s)he might even tell you that you need to see a psychiatrist. Sadly this is not often said with kindness. It is said with a tinge of “It’s all in your head”.

Many people who have suffered trauma can often develop what  is referred to as “somatic illness”. To explain it in its simplest terms, a somatic illness is an illness or pain that is caused and is very real to the person suffering it but no physical cause can be found.
This DOES NOT mean that the pain is not real or that the symptoms do not exist. They do. The person suffering with a somatic illness is in just as much pain as someone who has a positive result in one of the above tests.
Doctors often refuse treatment to persons with somatic illness though because some feel that in giving medical care to someone who doesn’t need it would be irresponsible. Well, they are half right. If you didn’t need it, that is one thing but just because no present day cause can be found, this does not mean it needs to be treated any less seriously than someone who shows a current day medical cause.

The examples above are all my own.
I must be treated for asthma and severe allergies that seem to have no physical cause but without medications, I struggle greatly.
I suffer terribly from arthritis like symptoms. My wrists and fingers lose their strength, they swell and lock up when bad weather is due… it is far more than just my wrists but that is the worst spot.
My heart races so fast that I was in constant danger of having a heart attack from the age of 23 until I was 39 and finally taken seriously. Now I take medications to slow my heart and thanks to them, I am getting my life back.
I have constant pelvic pain, digestive symptoms, and trouble swallowing.

WarningI can not breathe today because I was often forcefully prevented from breathing in my past.
My wrists were often held down.
My heart was in a panic so often that racing was the only beat it learned.
My pelvic pain has obvious enough causes.
Digestive issues and trouble swallowing were caused by very infrequent meals and being forced to eat items that were not safe or food.

I do not tell you these things to get anyone upset and I am sorry if you got triggered in any way but I am trying to show that the illnesses I present with and suffer from today may have absolutely no current cause but they are real and were caused by my past. Just because no medical test can verify the pain I am in does not mean it is not real.
This is what psychiatrists refer to as “Somatic Experiencing” and it is a diagnosable illness. It is linked to many illnesses such as depression, anxiety and PTSD.

The reason for my blog about this today is that starting next week, I will be seeing someone who treats somatic illnesses. I don’t know how often yet or what we will work on but as I learn things, I will share them with you. 🙂
I am nervous about it to be honest even though I am sure it will be helpful. It seems like so far, everything that helps the most causes the most pain in the beginning.
… I suddenly catch myself singing “I Will Survive”.

I found 3 short videos done by someone who does these somatic sessions and I felt he explained the mechanics of how these somatic illnesses are caused and what needs to be done to help treat them. I hope you find them as helpful as I did.

One short little last message. To all of you suffering from these “invisible” illnesses? Treat yourself well and gently. Just because someone in a white coat can not see your illness does NOT mean that you don’t feel it just as much as anyone else. ❤

8 responses to “Somatic illness.

  1. Thank you for this Heather. As you know I have various health issues; some I know are real and have been diagnosed (the migraine, hyper mobility, hiatus hernia, spondylitis!), but the multiple joint pain, muscle pain and occasional breathing problems and allergic reactions have had no definitive diagnosis for many years. Two years ago an Orthopaedic Consultant diagnosed Fibromyalgia, but I knew my doctor was sceptical and obviously thought my symptoms were psycho-somatic. Reading your blog and learning that somatic illnesses are actually diagnosable (and treatable)conditions is a great relief, to be honest. I’m NOT some crazy malingerer1 thank you!x


    • No my friend, you are not crazy (for the most part) 😉
      There is a book called “The Body Remembers” and I have not read it but I have heard from many people who have. It is all about how our body remembers things that our conscious mind has long suppressed or forgotten. It is not fake, silly, or crazy. It is real. Perhaps the next time that you feel as though your doctor is looking at you with those rolled eyes, you coudl ask if perhaps it could be a somatic illness caused by trauma. If nothing else, it will stop him in his tracks and bring his eye rolling to a stop.
      You are smart, steady and wise Wendy. Trust that. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My wife suffers though the same or similar issues. My thought is these issues are associated with overall inflammation. Test your C-reactive protein levels and see if they are abnormally high. That is an indicator of inflammation.
    The other thought I have is: Can your other parts be harboring allergies to food that you eat regularly that cause these symptoms?
    Also once trauma is remembered and released do the symptoms go away?


    • My inflammation levels are very high but no test shows any reason for it including looking for the c-reactive protein. My thyroid is constantly checked as well as a simple solution to the racing heart issue but that always comes back normal as well.
      As for the allergies and my Helpers? Anything is possible.
      I am really hoping that working with someone that treats somatic illnesses and experiencing will shed light on your last questions. I am told that it should release the physical symptoms once you have released a trauma. I hope it happens and I can’t wait to blog about it if it does. 🙂
      Nice seeing you again! 🙂


  3. I’m really struggling with this today as well and it seems to come out of nowhere. I’ve been fixated on my blood glucose levels and I don’t have diabetes but I’m convinced I do. And I’m convinced I have skin cancer on my back. I can’t breathe either and I feel like I’m having a stroke. And I get these weird twitchy things and my tummy is a mess and I really feel this need to call my doctor but I won’t because I “know” that I’m fine but I’m not and I feel so flipping messed up and no one cares because I’m all better and okay…


    • It sounds like you have a really high anxiety level and like me, many of your fixations are medical.
      What about making and appointment with your doctor and admitting that you know these issues are probably just anxiety but you need to be sure so that you can let it go? I’ve done that and they usually will be very understanding if they understand you have a real anxiety over it all.
      As for the twitches, are you on anti-depressant, anxiety or anti-psychotics meds? Twitching can be a side effect. I twitch all time because of one of mine but it does me good so I put up with the twitching.
      Feeling messed up and alone is a very horrible feeling. If it helps at all, I can relate to everything you’ve said here and I know that many others can too. You are not alone.
      Please feel to write in, comment or email me if you ever need someone to listen. I care.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh my goodness, thank you! My twitches are totally anxiety related. I’m not on any meds and I’m doing a totally holistic approach. I take Suntheanine for the anxiety, dgl, probiotics and kumbochu for my tummy, and yoga…lots and lots of yoga. But today, I’m just feeling of and lonely or something and often I can’t reach out without having some sorts of problem or ailment and I thought about the doctor appointment but when I feel as such it can be a not so good idea and half the time I’m taken seriously despite being 100% healthy. So then I’ll have all these bills for absolutely nothing and my hubby just smiles yet not.


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