The most common reactions I get when I mention the word "trauma" to other people with chronic illness are shame, fear or rage that stem from having been told - by our society, by a doctor, by a family member or friend or coworker - that it means symptoms are all in their heads.
I still regularly read or hear from people with chronic diseases of all kinds that their physicians, nursing staff or other health care professionals have disbelieved or belittled them, or whispered behind their backs that they were faking their symptoms or their need for help with basics like walking, eating or getting to the bathroom.
This culture of judgement is especially common for people with difficult-to-diagnose, invisible or mysterious illnesses such as my own disease, which is chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).
Yet it happens to people with well-established, respected and objectively diagnosable conditions all the time too.
What may be less well-known is that no one is immune.
Bias, judgement and dismissal occur even if you're rich and famous like tennis superstar Serena Williams, who nearly died from a life-threatening clotting disorder because medical staff didn't take her seriously. Being told that your symptoms are psychological or faked can happen even if you're a physician, or a mechanical engineer Dr. Gary Sharpe, who was recently hospitalized for an acute crisis of his early onset Parkinson's disease.
These all-too-common stories are painful to witness. They make me both sad and mad.
So I started a blog in 2014 to share the trauma science so patients didn't have to wait until their doctors "got it" about trauma.
My blog's been nominated for "Best in Show" at the #WEGO Patient Leader Awards.
Winning would give me the opportunity to speak about the science of ACEs and other types of trauma at the HLTH Conference connecting patient leaders and health industry innovators in October.
I'm hoping you'll vote for me so I can get that chance.
It's hard to promote myself in this way and to ask for your help - but I can't do it without you.
We have until July 28th before voting closes.
If you wish your doctor - or nurse, emergency response technician, counselor, nurse practitioner, physician's assistant, medical assistant, x-ray technician, insurance company, disability provider, and others - understood the science of ACEs and how healing effects of trauma is possible and provides powerful and effective new tools for healing disease and beyond, help me spread the word.
You can vote for me by clicking on the orange "endorse" button below my #WEGO Profile pic.
Doctors are Asking About Trauma
I'm a family doctor who had to leave medicine to understand that trauma is not only about PTSD.
Retraining as a somatic trauma therapist opened my eyes to the vast body of evidence explaining how adversity interacts with our genes and nervous systems (and immune systems and guts and cells and more). And why it's not psychological.
I blog to share the science because it takes time for research to translate into clinical care.
I also blog because what I've learned about trauma has been helping me heal. It helps others everyday too, whether it's making sense of symptoms, flare-ups, or triggers in chronic disease and mental illness, or decreasing those symptoms over time.
As many of you know, understanding trauma also gives parents tools in a compassionate way, so they can give their kids the best opportunities possible for joy and health.
Healing trauma takes time, but it addresses the underlying roots that drive symptoms and it brings meaning and connection back into our lives.
It may also help some people recover fully from chronic diseases of all kinds.
In addition, it can help medicine learn how to lower risk, identify early warning signs, delay onset, or prevent illness by anticipating and repairing the traumas that can't be helped, such as effects of emergency cesareans like the one that saved Serena's little girl Olympia's life.
It can also help medicine begin to recognize and heal trauma within its own ranks, such as
- effects from overwhelming experiences in medical training and practice
- educating doctors about ACEs, which also gives them more tools to help their patients
- helping health care professionals identify and begin to heal their own ACEs and other traumas
My blog readers are relieved to get the validation for their long-held suspicions that difficult life events influenced their health. The science is opening their eyes.
Doctors have started contacting me too.
Some of them are getting in touch because their patients are asking them to learn about trauma and telling them to read one of my free ebooks.
One psychiatrist recently told me that these requests were starting to happen "non-stop."
I want to keep spreading the word so every training program for health care professionals incorporates the science of trauma.
Help Me Share the ACEs Science
You can help your doctor learn about trauma by endorsing my nomination for a #WEGO Patient Leader Best in Blog. It'll help me plant more seeds.
#WEGO is an organization whose mission is to acknowledge patients advocates and connect them with leaders in the health industry so they can cross-pollinate, exchange their expertise , and help make innovations in health care.
Winning as one of 15 Patient Leaders would me an opportunity to speak and connect with change makers and others at the "HLTH" conference in October.
Here's Where To Vote
There are 8000 #WEGOHealthAward nominees so far this year, so every vote counts.
It means a lot to me to have your support. In the words of Dr. Gabor Mate, it helps me keep doing what I can in the face of all that works against us.
Educate Your Doctor With A Free ACE Fact Sheet
One of the tools I provide on my blog is an ACE Fact Sheet that summarizes the science in one page. You can use to help educate your doctors or patients, family or friends, as well as your disability insurance companies and lawyers, and beyond.
You can also get an ACE fact sheet that focuses specifically on chronic illness, a collection of my blog posts about ACEs, and other resources and free ebooks on my blog.
Includes a new 11th Question on the ACEs survey, recommended by Dr. Vincent Felitti.