Comfort During Covid-19
How to support your health in easier ways than you realize
- Decrease risk of trauma from events like Covid-19
- This master class moved me to (good) tears
- Why feeling comfort helps
- The movie I've watched 9 times
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is trauma a risk factor for chronic illness?
- Does trauma affect risk for depression, chronic pain or other health problems?
- Why do I flare after small stresses?
- How do I find a therapist?
- Does a history of trauma mean I'm doomed?
- and more . . .
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
These 10 types of trauma that happen in childhood affect risk for autoimmune and other diseases. They also increase risk for depression and other mental health conditions, chronic pain, addictions and much more. Other adverse events also affect risk.
& Chronic Illness
Get your ACE score.
When you know if you experienced ACEs it explains how it's not your in your head. And gives you new options for healing.
Includes an example of ACEs from a movie.
1 Page Fact Sheets
Learn how ACEs changed Oprah's life.
Get 1 page ACE fact sheets to educate your doctor.
Download the 4 most important journal articles that will help your doctor understand.
ACE Score is "0"
The concept of childhood emotional "neglect" is much more subtle than we realize.
It's about the quality of the relationship kids have with their parents. This shapes long term health too. It is known as developmental trauma or what I call adverse childhood relationship experiences (ACREs).
One of the biggest limitations of the ACE study is that it only looks at 10 kinds of trauma.
What about discrimination? being bullied? growing up in an unsafe neighbourhood? Or if a parent died? . . .
Other serious life events increase risk too.
Look at this example from type 1 diabetes.
It's applicable to other chronic illnesses too.
You can download a checklist of serious life events.
As an educator, I went to an ACEs training. I had already been diagnosed with ME and I was mind blown that my ACEs score was a 6/10. I also realized that work stress had greatly increased prior to my illness becoming full-blown and debilitating.
After the ACEs training and my realization that my childhood traumas were a major contributor to my illness, I had a very bad flare. In reading a couple of your articles, I realize that I also have intergenerational traumas that may also be contributors. Thank you so much for listing the resources. I really need to work on my many levels of trauma! See post and comment.
Christine Educator, ME/CFS
Thank you! My ACE score is 6+. I realize now (at age 69) that my childhood was very traumatic.
I believe I have PTSD from the trauma and it manifests itself to this day in certain situations that bring up fear and cause me to “freeze” and my heart to go into atrial fibrillation [heart arrhythmia]. The twelve step program of Narcotics Anonymous has helped me gain freedom from my active addiction and given me a life worth living today but I still suffer from the wounds of childhood trauma.
It is so heartening to see that progress is being made in this area of medicine and that there is hope that younger people will someday get help for this awful problem! Thank you for your compassion and love. See post and comment.
Ross Atrial fibrillation, Addictions
I lost my mother when I was 11 years old and my life changed dramatically. From being loved and cherished I was the unwanted nuisance ... Scoliosis has been a metaphor of crouching and hiding, to protect myself from further abuse. ... Your site is my reference point for any information about ACEs. See post and comment.
Veronique has published some monumental work in this area [of the cell danger response]. Her website is a must-read for anyone treating or suffering from environmentally-acquired illness.
She has collated the work of many researchers and clinicians in this field to distill a very clear explanation of how the nervous system “gets stuck” in stress responses controlled by the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and the dorsal vagal (freeze) [see our conversation on youtube].
Empowering Free Tools
Inform your doctor about the research (most don't know about ACEs yet)
Summarize your medical history onto 1 page to make medical appointments run more smoothly
Adverse Babyhood Experiences (ABEs)
A mother's experiences of stress, illness and other adversity before conception, during pregnancy and birth, and in her baby's first few years of life can increase risk for chronic illness in her child.
So can a baby's experiences of stress, illness and trauma in the womb and during birth and infancy.
This is helpful to know because tools for healing exist for babies, parents, as well as for adults with chronic illness. These tools also support mothers and can offer insights to minimize or prevent risk of long term health problems.
Events such as cesarean birth, being born prematurely or having a grieving mom all affect risk for chronic illness.
Learn some of the earliest adversities that affect risk for chronic illness.
Because it's still possible to heal their effects, even as an adult.
#2 An Asthma Story
Adverse events interrupt a mother's ability to bond with her baby.
They also affect her risk for depression.
ABEs are a risk factor for chronic illnesses such as asthma, autoimmune disease and more.
This is a story of hope based on the research showing how healing bonding disruptions can heal disease.
#3 ABE Fact Sheets & Guide
A comprehensive overview of the science of ABEs, mechanisms explaining how they affect our genes and that it's not psychological, and how to heal.
Includes links to leaders in the field and to downloadable research studies you can give your doctor to inform them about the science
Adverse Institutional Experiences (AIEs)
Discrimination of all forms - race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and more - is a risk factor for chronic illness.
Other Adverse Experiences Affect Health
The research finds that all kinds of adverse experiences shape health.
And there are tools for resolving trauma for all of these - even if they happened decades or generations in the past.
Adverse Multigenerational Experiences (AMEs)
Trauma in our parents and grandparents lives affect our health.
I discovered some of my family's secrets as I looked into AMEs as part of working with my health.
Adverse Childhood Relationship Experiences (ACREs)
The relationship we have with our parents is one of the most powerful protectors against - or contributing risk factors for - chronic health problems.
It's also among the hardest to recognize.
Pre-Onset Experiences (APOEs)
Did the loss of a loved one, trauma, surgery, an accident, or some other stressful event trigger the onset of your chronic illness?
Here's the science showing how this is a common event for many with chronic illnesses of all kinds.
… I found this article/ blog so enlightening! It has certainly helped me to come to terms with my chronic illness, Lupus. It is really good to get some quantitative data mixed in. See post and comment.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, at the age of 38, after a few years of intense non-stop frustration and internal conflict, brought on over a divorce. I am absolutely sure, after many years of personal research, that trauma caused the diabetes.
What I do love though, is the wealth of information not only on how trauma causes autoimmune disease, but the amazing tools we have to work with the early trauma, with the possibility that once we truly process and let go of it, perhaps our body can also let go of the illness itself. See post and comment.
Paul Type 1 Diabetes
I too am a psychotherapist who suffers from chronic illness and have like you, been searching both within myself and out to feel into the possible causes and triggers.
It’s a powerful journey and as painful and isolating as it’s been, it has proven to be an ever deepening path to awakening. As it relates to your post, I’ve become more aware I’m walking in the several different pairs of shoes of my ancestors - learning about epigenetics was incredibly powerful for me. See post and comment.
Kate Psychotherapist ME/CFS, MAST
2 Video Introductions
When You Have a Chronic Illness and A History of Trauma
When You Have a Chronic Illness and No Known History of Trauma
This article. …. mind blown. It makes so much sense. I went through a five year period of intense chronic stress before my body started quitting on me. Trauma….. you just opened my eyes. Thank you so much! See post and comment.
Gwen re: Video on history of trauma
I have always believed my CFS was due to trauma but I am just a patient ... I particularly loved a sentence of yours where you stated symptoms are defenses to protect you. I still have a long way to go and am now old at 71 but the science of it all this thrills me. See post and comment.
I'm Veronique Mead, a family doctor who left medicine because I felt I was causing harm and wanted to find a better way.
This blog is where I summarize the large bodies of highly respected research I discovered that I had never heard of in medical school.
I write so others with chronic illness, like me, as well as other health care professionals, can get the facts without waiting for medical care to catch up.
I have been testing the science and tools for healing trauma with my own debilitating illness and seen it help clients too. It is the most powerful tool I've found when other things don't work.
Examples of How I Work with Symptoms
Over the years I've tried many different approaches to address my symptoms of debilitating chronic fatigue (ME/CFS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bladder symptoms (interstitial cystitis), food intolerances and more.
Nothing has been as comforting, eye-opening or helpful as understanding and working with trauma. It has provided healing as well as perspectives that help me make sense of symptoms, flares and triggers, why it can be so slow and challenging to recover, and more.
Listening to Your
Somewhere along the way of living with chronic illness - and often long before - we stop listening to our deepest feelings and truths.
Learning to listen again is healing.
When Nothing Else Works
It took courage to keep trying new things when most gave me troubling side effects.
But there came a time when I needed to do what felt right for me despite the "logic" of all the other approaches.
Conversations with Symptoms
Having a conversation with symptoms from a place that is curious and nonjudgemental can bring in something new.
What emerges can surprise and comfort you.
How Life Experiences Shape Health
Life experiences interact with our genes to shape long-term health.
It's not psychological.
50 to 70% of risk factors for chronic illness are environmental stressors, including infections, exposure to toxins and other chemicals, as well as psychological and physical trauma.
Life experiences turn genes on and off. This happens throughout our lives.
Epigenetics is one reason why what we do can help with healing.
Life experiences strengthen certain nerve pathways and weaken others.
Healing the effects of old can reverse certain pathways and restore more healthy ones.
This is why healing trauma effects is possible.
Cell Danger Response
Dr. Robert Naviaux' research explains how chronic disease results when our natural system of defense gets stuck in fight, flight or freeze.
A look at the science, with examples of type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and ME/CFS.
My son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. At the time he was diagnosed, I looked directly at the endocrinologist and asked if this diagnosis could have had anything to do with stress. She said no. Every endo since this time has said no, even though we know full well cortisol levels and stress have affected his blood sugar levels all along and certainly do to this day.
Teri Son has Type 1 Diabetes
... I love that you write with clarity about your own personal journey. You are so brave and kind to share in such depth the details of your particular physical challenges, ... the amazingly clear support in the medical research literature, and the absolute wealth of knowledge you pull together. It is a gift to share that you are both a therapist and a patient. You bridge the worlds. See comment.
Rachel Physical Therapist, SEP Pain
The Chronic Illness and Trauma Connection series introduces the science so you can make sense of your illness, symptoms, flares and triggers. Learn the differences between stress and trauma, and why it's not in your head. The books include tips, tools and links for healing.
Healing Trauma & Chronic Illness
Working with the nervous system and effects of trauma is a powerful, as yet often unrecognized tool for healing.
It can decrease symptoms, sensitivity to stress, reactivity to triggers and flares in chronic illness.
Healing the effects of trauma may also slow down and sometimes reverse chronic illness.
You may already doing many of these things and can continue other treatments while incorporating them. The posts will give you more context and help you harness your tools more effectively.
10 tools that support vagal social nervous system function.
How to decrease fight, flight and freeze & more.
Best books for understanding trauma &
working on your own.
Includes free ebooks.
Links to find a therapist near you.
Tips on kinds of therapies.
How to look for a therapist.
These free downloads include collections of blog posts about specific diseases.
You can also find these and other downloads on my free ebooks page, including 2 PDFs about adverse life events as risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis / disease.
The Value of Resources
Experiences that foster pleasure, help us relax or connect, or enable us to set boundaries, slow down and feel settled all support the social nervous system.
This ventral vagal branch of the autonomic nervous system is one of the keys to healing the effects of trauma.
It is also a vital tool for increasing health in chronic illness.
8 Steps for
Impulse & Play
We live in a culture that sees happiness as the ultimate goal.
But where taking time for simple pleasures can be judged as unproductive, lazy or a waste of time.
These 8 steps will help you invite more joy, ease and health into your life.
7 Tips to Support
Pleasure supports the branch of the autonomic nervous system able to put a lid on fight and flight, hypervigilance, and anxiety.
It can also keep help regulate heart rate, blood pressure and soften freeze states that can make us feel emotionally numb, exhausted or hopeless.
9 Sneaky Ways to
While it is generally a sign of health and maturity to be able to resist impulses that would be detrimental to ourselves and to others, there are times when we inhibit our urges with too much of an iron fist.
Here are 9 unexpected ways of "acting out" that support health.
Making Time for Resources
Everyday little things that support healing the nervous system in chronic illness.
Making time for resources is not frivolous.
It's an act of self love, self compassion and self care that also happens to support the nervous system.
My story is the tip of a family ice berg, ... I find a great deal of hope in your blog – at least it confirms I am not lazy or hysterical. I believe your research is of utmost importance and would like to thank you wholeheartedly. See post and comment.
Everything you say makes sense to me and makes something deep in me relax. I’m 65 and got sick when I was 30 with CFS. …The amount of advice that comes at me from the perspective that my thoughts are responsible or could change my situation has always irritated me and yet I know there is a way how I feel changes with stress, and events that affect my mental state.
You are untangling this mystery in a vey helpful way that doesn’t add to my guilt but makes so much sense. See post and comment.
What a wonderful synthesis of so much information. I am going to refer patients and colleagues to this great blog. I am struck by how you take years of theories and research and boil it down so that I can digest it. As I read your theories again and again, I am struck by how reasonable it all is. See comment.