So, as I explained in this post on the basics of how early trauma affects us, abuse and neglect during our formative years add extras into our experience of PTSD and one of those is physical illness. (a reminder that ‘formative’ is in terms of brain development; so up until the age of 25)
One of the big reasons for this is hypervigilance and the limbic system. How being constantly surrounded by an abusive environment makes you highly sensitive to sensory input (hypervigilance), and how this affects you physically.
Basically “why am I so fucking sick all the time and why doesn’t it seem to have a cause” or “what does it mean when they say that my PTSD is causing these physical symptoms”.
First you’ll have to bear with me while I explain some things about your brain and it’s parts, because otherwise this won’t make any sense.
Your amygdala is part of the limbic system that controls instinct and the panic response. It’s sometimes referred to as your “lizard brain”. And because you don’t really need to know how the whole thing is rigged, I’m going to keep calling it that. (Like you can look it up if you want, i’m not going to stop you). It’s the instinctive part and also where your core beleifs about the world are (called schemas; which is another topic).
This is the part of your brain that tries to keep you alive at any cost, where the ‘flight, fight, freeze or feign’ response lives.
Your amygdala develops very early, which is why babies can experience fear. But it develops before the conscious thinking part. Much like an actual lizard, your lizard brain doesn’t ‘think’ or reason, it just watches and notes what is dangerous, and what has worked to save you and stores that information. Because what your lizard brain’s main function is is to keep you alive in a crisis.
Don’t know what I’m talking about? This is the part of your brain that has already slammed on the brakes before you decide to when you’re cut off in traffic, or that gives you that feeling that ‘this is dangerous’ when you can’t really figure out why, but later find out that WOW you were so right. It is activated when it sees that you are in danger, and it is going to take too long for you to decide what your response will be.
Ok so now we know what it is, but how does this relate to PTSD or hypervigilance and how can this make me sick?
In an untraumatised brain, the limbic system (specifically the amigdala) will dump stress hormones into your brain and body when you are in extreme danger. One of these we already know is adrenaline, but the hormone that is most important here is a steroid called cortisol.
Cortisol basically cuts off all the regular limits your body sets so you don’t get injured, because when you’re in danger it doesn’t matter if you get injured so long as you survive. This means you can run faster and longer, you’re stronger, your senses are sharper, you’re hyperaware of your surroundings and you don’t feel pain.
This is how mothers can lift cars off their babies in a crisis. Or how come you don’t notice that you’ve broken your arm in a car accident until later.
Cortisol is great when your brain functions properly.
However; when you’ve been exposed to extreme and ongoing trauma, you become hypervigilant. You have to be constantly aware of every tiny change in facial expression, every sound, every change in tone or every slight movement. You are always prepared for danger and always trying to pre-guess what and when is going to happen. In an abusive environment, you have to do this to stay safe.
The thing is that when you’re constantly in this state of hypervigilance and hyperarousal (not sexual arousal but sensory; where you could hear a cricket fart next door), your limbic system is constantly wired up. And it’s constantly activating your FFFF (Fight, flight, freeze and feign) response, and constantly dumping your cortisol to keep you ready.
What ends up happening is that your limbic system eventually stops being able to turn OFF your cortisol tap. So instead of a dump, its a leak. Constantly dripping into your system as it’s created - even after you’ve escaped the abuse.
But cortisol is good isn’t it? It makes us stronger and faster and feel less pain?
Yes; but if it didn’t have a downside we wouldn’t only have it as an emergency plan.
Cortisol is a steroid and an immunosuppressant, in a dump it forces more blood sugar production and shuts down the digestive system. Long term it decreases cartilage and bone formation, affects glucose levels along with a whole swag of of other things.
People with this ‘cortisol leak’ can experience
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
decreased bone density leading to osteoporosis
gastrointestinal problems (nausea, vomiting, bowel problems, difficulty digesting food or absorbing nutrients leading to nutritional deficiencies, IBD, constipation, and diarrhea)
Severe allergic reactions and other autoimmune disorders
decreased immune response causing slower healing times and more infections
memory issues; short term memory, and issues relating to the maintaining or accessing of memories
and on top of all that are 300% more likely to self harm.
It also has the fun circular effect of… making you hypervigilant.
So, much in the same way that anxiety stops us from doing things which then gives us more anxiety which means we can’t do even MORE things, over and over, the limbic system makes us hypervigilant which breaks the limbic system which then makes us even more hypervigilant. And also sick.
PTSD is, as you’ve probably already realised, pretty good at cycling into awfulness like that.
But this is why the effects of traumatic abuse when our brains are forming is so profound, and so hard to heal. We quite literally have been given a form of brain damage, and our brains no longer function physically in the way they are designed.
Next up; I’ll be talking about the psychological effects of this; Maladaptive Schemas. (Which means that the things you learn as ‘’life truths’’ in an abusive environment while you’re developing can end up being warped, and that affects our ability to process information; including therapeutic information.
Till then, stay safe and know you’re not alone in this shit. Hollow
Reposting my gifset because it feels relevant again right now… Back then after the empty hearse, I just thought it sucked that two big ships got their (albeit fake) moment to shine except the Titanic of ships in the Sherlock ocean. It annoyed me.
It still does. But on a whole new level. What they did is not just plain queerbaiting (and neglecting because they could show the Sherlolly kiss itself is not made out to be a joke, while we get a big fat moment of “WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DARE SAY SUCH A THING? NOT IN MY HOUSE!” cutting into the scene of the almost Sheriarty kiss - which they didn’t even show - the gay kiss (which again they only hinted at but didn’t show as opposed to the theoretical and REALLY exaggerated hetero-kiss) was literally set up like a sitcom scene.. a joke… haha very funny fuck yourself!)
(I didn’t even mean to get that worked up about that part here, that sort of just happened, so back to what I actually planned to say)
It isn’t only queerbaiting. I’m gonna eat Carl Powers shoe if leaving a theoretical johnlock sequence out wasn’t their way of mocking the johnlock fandom, subtly telling us to fuck off? I mean it wouldn’t have been that far off for someone to consider that John is in on it, if they can even imagine Moriarty is. Moriarty who was the reason he assumedly killed himself. Yes of course that would be much more likely than his b(-oy)est friend and flat mate, the person that literally closest to him would be part of the plan.
And naturally the girl that came up with Sherlock being possibly gay must obviously be portrayed as a goth, someone who would be seen as a weirdo by a good deal (sadly I believe the majority) of casual viewers, who’s not to be taken seriously, because gay doesn’t exist in our universe (unless you’re not, of course, or your a sister of a main character who’s character description is “plot device - never actually shows up” and then, oh right, how could I forget, you are also allowed to be gay in this universe and actually show up if you’re a lesbian that we can turn straight for our main character, another exception might be the jokey pub owner gay couple who’s purpose is to be the funny gay ones with a little dog in the basement and we can use you to make another reference to our main characters being a couple when hello, don’t be ridiculous, they’re obviously not, but we get more viewers if we drag the joke until the very end.. what do you mean that’s shit? We say they aren’t gay and if they still believe they are - because we keep making references and make literally every character think they are including their landlady who basically lives with them and should know what’s actually going on except she does not - then hey it’s not our fault because we told you all along, we might have said we lie all the time, but not about this, silly! It’s not our job to please the audience that pays our bills and literally is the reason we’re even able to do this, we write for ourselves, why should an author give a fuck about their fans and if they like their work or not? It’s way funnier to fuck with them and toy with their hopes and feels and then BAM we do one fuckery of a series final!