Three steps to protect your physical health from chronic illness trauma

building resilience chronic illness trauma Feb 21, 2023
Chronic illness trauma

I can hardly speak. Literally. This has been a new challenge entirely off my radar. But as you’ll learn, what it has demonstrated is that…

Living with chronic illness is traumatic.

It is essential that you pause and acknowledge that. Your physical health relies on this validation.


Dealing with a life-changing diagnosis can create a period of anxiety and fear. It also signifies the beginning of a life journey filled with stressful events.  

Whether it is surgery. Treatment and hideous side effects. Rehab and recovery. There is no letting up. It is unrelenting.

Even during periods of good health. There is the inescapable stress and worry that your experience will change at any moment. Living with this uncertainty is tough. Then contemplating your unknown future is frightening.

Trauma can impact you emotionally and mentally. There is so much to process at times that spiralling into darkness can happen quickly. If you experience this, please seek professional help. You’ll benefit from the support.

But I also want to highlight how chronic illness trauma impacts physical health. Not only physical symptoms such as exhaustion, aches and pains. But significant new health conditions.


Let my story be a reminder for us all.


Regardless of how well you think you are coping, your body absorbs so much behind the scenes. And at some point, it will say, “Enough!”. I can’t take any more stress. I’m beyond exhausted. I can’t keep going.

New health challenges that can’t be directly attributed to your illness show up. Yet indirectly, they have everything to do with the trauma your chronic condition has created in your life.



Chronic illness trauma can impact you physically.

About four months ago, I was in a zoom meeting and noticed difficulties maintaining the volume in my voice as I spoke. It wasn’t noticeable to others. But something didn’t feel right. Initially, I thought Covid-19. I checked, and the results were negative.

The next day more meetings and my voice was getting weaker. Talking was an effort. That night my mind started racing. I tried hard to rein it in, but Stage 4 breast cancer can make that challenging. “What if cancer had spread to my lungs?” It had already gone to my liver and sternum, so the lungs were a terrifying possibility. 

Over the next few days, my deteriorating voice became apparent to those around me. No ignoring it now. I had a break from work, and the investigations began.

First call, my doctor. My throat and lungs were fine. Blood tests and chest x-ray are all clear.

Next on the list is my oncologist. To my relief, the tests and scans indicated no cancerous activity. A relief for sure, but the mystery continued.

Time to call my neurologist. The joy of having two illnesses. I was now worried this was related to MS.  Again, no. It wasn’t neurological.

Now what? I was finding it increasingly difficult to talk. But no one knew why. No answers and unexplained symptoms add to the stress. 

Thank goodness that in living with MS, I’ve always surrounded myself with allied health support. My neuro physiotherapist was concerned about the rapid deterioration of my voice. During our session, she connected me with a neuro speech therapist. A massive relief as after a few weeks of sensing my body was not right, I finally received some answers.

Muscle Tension Dysphonia. The muscles around my voice box had tightened so much that my vocal cords couldn’t work correctly.

My work has always relied on my voice. But as I spoke this time, my body was dealing with the trauma of a stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis. Although I could compartmentalise and push on with work, my physical body could not. It had said, “Enough!”.



Making an invisible illness, visible.

Losing my voice has made the invisible visible. It made me recognise the stressful events I’d confronted over the previous six months. The list is intense.

Stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis. Emotionally preparing for mastectomy and having surgery cancelled last minute. Being told the cancer had spread and was now Stage 4. Hormone therapy, bringing on menopause artificially. Surgery to remove ovaries. Osteoporosis diagnosis. Then in between MS scans, appointments and treatments.

At the end of it all. A miraculous PET scan result. No cancerous cells in my body.

Looking back, I’m not surprised that stress and anxiety filled my body with such tension. When you’re in the zone of one day at a time, the enormity of what you deal with goes unnoticed. But losing my voice demonstrates that my body was absorbing so much tension that even the muscle around my voice box was affected.



Building resilience in living with chronic illness

Personal growth is about learning from experiences and changing your response. We can all benefit from these three steps when living through another stressful event.


Three steps to protect your physical health from chronic illness trauma:


1. Acknowledge it.


Recognise the impact trauma can have on your body. There is no escaping the fact that living with chronic illness is traumatic. The stressful events you need to cope with are unrelenting.


You don’t need to relive every moment. But recognise the enormity of what you are dealing with and the impact it can have on your physical wellbeing.


2. Be kind to yourself.


If you’ve acknowledged the trauma, the next step is to be kind to your body. 


Even if you feel emotionally and mentally okay, don’t forget that your body may suffer in silence. Look at your body with empathy. Provide the support and nurturing it needs.


3. Be proactive in building your wellbeing network.


Don’t wait until your body says “Enough!” to give it attention. Be proactive in building a network to help you live well with chronic illness – emotionally, mentally, and physically.


Not only can you call on your network in a moment of crisis. But you can build your resilience by continuing with the work.


Today my voice is slowly improving. l still have to repeat my words on the phone. And are met with strange looks at checkouts. Always trying to explain that my voice isn’t contagious.

Thanks to intensive work with my osteopath, physio and speech therapist. But also through tapping into another part of my network, energy healing. As I said at the end of my neurologist appointment, “I think it’s time to clear my throat chakra”.

As you continue your day, don’t forget that living with chronic illness is traumatic.

Acknowledge it. Be kind to yourself. Be proactive in building your support network.


Are You Ready to Reclaim Your Life?

If you are living with a health challenge or supporting a loved one who is the good news is...

You can start your own Hurde2Hope® journey today by accessing this FREE on-demand MindsetMasterclass.

In it, you'll discover the exact three mindset shifts that have empowered me in my life with MS and now stage 4 breast cancer.

I'm so excited to share these insights with you! ❤️🧡💚