It all started with me being ill more and more frequently. Well, actually that’s not how it started, but that’s how I eventually found out that there was something wrong with me. In fact, I don’t even know how it all started. What a nice and clear introduction 😀 Well, maybe not, but it definitely does the whole topic justice, because not knowing when and how and why, that was one of the major problems I had to face for many years.
When I was about 14 years old, I went to the doctor a couple of times. The symptoms I explained to him were always the same and the treatment was always the same as well and after a couple of days I usually felt better again. It was ok, I didn’t even think about it. But then the symptoms appeared more and more frequently and it got worse every time. It wasn’t only a bit of discomfort in the stomach and feeling a bit dizzy anymore, what I felt now, made me lie in bed for almost a week every time. I had sleepless nights, although I was so exhausted that it felt like I was going to pass out. I had terrible cramps, but the pills my doc gave me for the stomach, wouldn’t help anymore. My heart was racing all the time, I wanted to rest, but lying in bed felt like I was running a marathon. One day I felt so bad, that I went to see the doctor again. Because my heart rate was on 150 for hours, but he couldn’t find the cause for that, he just sent me back home with some beta blockers. I started worrying about what the cause might be and why the doctor can’t find anything, but then again, after a week I felt fine. At some point would show symptoms like that every 5-6 weeks and that’s when I started feeling desperate and helpless. The fact that no one knew the cause for my suffering sometimes was the worst part. Whenever I started feeling a bit weak and then it turned out that I had a cold or a flue, I was happy. Anything was better than this weird illness. When people told me that I would only make it worse by panicking and literally expecting the symptoms to come back, I tried to ignore the symptoms. I went to school, hung out with my friends and tried to act normal, even if I thought that I would just break down the next second.
When I was 16 years old, I decided to see another doctor, cause the pain and the suffering just wouldn’t stop. I still remember that she sat down with me and asked me: ‘Do you feel like you have a big weight on your chest that makes it hard for you to breathe? And do you feel like your pain will not stop, no matter what pills you take?’ I broke down in tears. For the first time, it looked like someone understood what I was going through. When she said, that she would like to send me to a psycho therapist, since she is convinced that I am physically healthy, but that my symptoms were caused by something psychological, I was relieved. I didn’t even care, what a psychosomatic disorder actually was, I was just happy they had finally found something. I thought that with that diagnosis I already had everything I needed. I went to see the psycho therapist. Once. I didn’t like him at all and I had the feeling he didn’t understand me. After that my mom didn’t believe me anymore, that I was actually feeling real pain, she didn’t let me stay home from school anymore when I was feeling bad and she said she didn’t want to hear anything about that topic anymore. That didn’t put me off though, since I was naive enough to think, that only knowing that my symptoms had a psychological cause, I was already cured and could then just ignore the physical pain, because technically it can’t even be real pain then.
I was so wrong. After only a couple of months all the relief that I had felt when I got the diagnosis, had been replaced with anger and frustration. Why me? Why couldn’t I just suffer from a proper disease…..Something that could be cured by just taking some medicine or having a surgery. I had to learn the hard way, that just accepting that I had a psychosomatic disorder, wouldn’t automatically solve all my problems. I forgot, that the symptoms I was suffering from, after all were physical symptoms and that therefore it was impossible to just ignore them and tell myself that they were not real. They were real. And my body was screaming for help, as I didn’t hear my mind screaming for help. For the next two years I panicked every time I felt a bit more tired or exhausted than usual, or whenever I felt something in my stomach that could maybe lead to cramps. I was praying for it to be a real physical illness, every time I had the slightest feeling of discomfort, because everything, really everything would have been better than this stupid, undefinable, not graspable psychosomatic something.
When I was 18 Years old, I moved to Munich, started University and met a bunch of new people, who then became my friends. Over the years I had perfected my ability of hiding my illness ( I always used to put illness in quotation marks…Why??) from other people, partly because I was afraid, they wouldn’t take it seriously, partly because I didn’t know how to explain it and I thought talking about it, might actually make it even worse. I somehow thought suffering in silence would just make it disappear one day. Things you don’t talk about don’t exist….I guess that was the brilliant idea I had. But instead of slowly disappearing, the symptoms actually hit me harder every time and pretending to be alright, pretending to be happy and hiding all of what was going on inside me, just got more and more difficult. I had to cancel meetings with my friends, because I felt too weak to pretend that I am ok. I was desperate and I literally had no hope, that it would be better one day. I thought about my doctor back in Passau, who told me, that I was only 16 and that she could promise me, that I will get rid of this in the near future. So here I was, more than 2 years later, lying in bed, feeling awful, seeing no way out.
One day I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had suffered from the usual symptoms for more than a week and I just knew, this was the last time. You just cannot go through again, not even one more time. I just felt like, I was literally not gonna survive, if I had to go through this again. I went online and looked for psycho therapists specialized in psychosomatic disorders. I sent an e-mail to one of them and two days later I had my first appointment. After my bad experience with the therapist in Passau, I actually had little hope, but at that I was desperate enough to try anything that might help. But then, after the first session, I had hope again. I can only tell you, if you ever need a therapist, do your research, go there get to know him or her and if there is anything wrong or you feel like that person won’t be able to help you, then take your time and look for someone else. You need someone who understands you and who you feel comfortable with, that makes all the difference. It will still be a lot of work and it won’t come easy, but at least that’s a good way to start. For more than one year I met my therapist regularly and during that time I could see big improvements. I didn’t feel ill that often anymore and I learnt to analyze some of my thoughts and where they came from. Thinking about it now, I don’t even know what exactly it was that helped me, but I am sure a part of it was that I HAD TO talk about myself and my worries and problems once a week. It may sound really stupid, but talking really helps and that’s something I had and actually still have to learn now.
Today, I can definitely say that I am really proud, that I managed to literally turn my life around and get from a 70% desperate and depressed and 30% happy situation to a 70% happy and only 30% desperate and depressed situation. The physical symptoms almost completely disappeared, sometimes they come back, but not as intense and not for as long anymore. I haven’t completely gotten rid of my psychosomatic disorder and I am not sure if I ever will, but I now have the feeling that I can mostly control it. I still have my bad moments, my really bad moments, but instead of trying to ignore that, I take the time to think about it or talk about it and to actively deal with it and most of the time that works. Some years ago, my biggest worry when meeting new people was always: How am I going to tell them, and when and what if they notice before, what if they notice that I feel bad sometimes? In order to avoid this kind of big confession and coming out, I just tell people now. Whenever I have one of these bad moments, I just tell people. I stopped pretending to be ok and to be happy, because not being alright and feeling bad is nothing I am ashamed of anymore.