This Is What Trauma Looks Like to Me

This Is What Trauma Looks Like to Me
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When I hear the word “trauma,” I think about car accidents, fires, military deployments, and abuse. I think of movies with sad music and loud explosions, not the quiet hours at night trying to fall asleep despite the pain.

Trauma has affected my mental health in a major way, but it wasn’t due to a sudden catastrophic event. My trauma stems from years of being ignored by medical professionals, of feeling ashamed for not feeling well enough to participate in activities with friends and family, and of simply feeling ill all of the time.

My experience of being diagnosed with Cushing’s disease was short, as I quickly received a diagnosis once I actively started looking for an answer. But for many years before that, I suffered without looking for a reason for my weight gain, acne, headaches, depression, and anxiety. I thought it was normal to gain weight in college (to a certain degree, it is), to develop sudden and extreme acne, and to have anxiety about my grades. The thing that wasn’t normal was the severe magnitude and the fast acceleration of symptoms.

Kat, before and after surgery and treatment. (Courtesy of Kat Rees)

Whenever I went to the doctor for the more severe symptoms, such as the constant headaches, insomnia, shaking hands, and joint pain, I was always turned away with a diagnosis of anxiety and depression. While doctors weren’t wrong about that, they did use it as a scapegoat for what was really happening to me medically.

This prevented me from trusting doctors. I felt lost and alone in what I was going through. I had constant pain, fatigue, and anxiety, and I thought that maybe I was just weak.

It seemed that all of my friends were getting along just fine, so why was life so much harder for me? Eventually, even my friends grew tired of hearing my excuses and complaints. That made the depression even worse.

I received my Cushing’s diagnosis after seeing a neurologist about my shaking hands. The neurologist suggested an endocrinologist. Later, I had surgery to remove a tumored adrenal gland, and within a year, I returned to normal.

Because I had lived my entire life up to that point with no one believing me about my illness, and feeling constantly sick, I developed a severe form of illness phobia. To this day, I have extreme anxiety about germs and feeling sick and nauseous, and I need to tell my close family members if I feel ill. I’m afraid that if I don’t tell them, it’ll get worse.

I don’t know how to handle being sick or alone. It’s hard, because I also believe I’ve developed a lower tolerance to pain and anything uncomfortable, because I think about how I feel all of the time.

This has led to many emergency room visits due to anxiety, nausea, and fear about not knowing how to handle being sick and alone. Every time I go, it gets worse because technically, nothing is wrong with me anymore — I’m left only with fear.

Fear of the unknown, of being uncomfortable, and of others judging me has led to many years of therapy. To this day, friends and family members tell me they are tired of hearing about my ailments.

This fear is part of who I am, and I have learned to deal with it. I am nowhere close to being cured of my trauma, but every day, I grow closer to being comfortable with the scary thoughts.

I must remind myself that I’ve been through so much, and I’m still alive. I have learned that even if I am ill, uncomfortable, or in a bad social situation, I am sufficient to see myself through it.

Kat enjoying life. (Courtesy of Kat Rees)

Trauma doesn’t always include events that are over-the-top dangerous and catastrophic. It can be caused by something that has personally triggered pain and suffering for you. Disaster and emotional pain are highly individualized, so don’t let anyone tell you that your hardships aren’t relevant.

Once you accept your trauma, you can start on your road to recovery.

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Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cushing’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Cushing’s.

Kat attended the University of Nevada, Reno, and graduated in 2015 with a bachelors in speech pathology. She suffered from Cushing’s syndrome throughout college and became free of it in 2015. Her ambition is to raise awareness of this illness and help others gain confidence in taking charge of their health.
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Kat attended the University of Nevada, Reno, and graduated in 2015 with a bachelors in speech pathology. She suffered from Cushing’s syndrome throughout college and became free of it in 2015. Her ambition is to raise awareness of this illness and help others gain confidence in taking charge of their health.
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11 comments

  1. Craig says:

    Kat,
    Thank you for the touching article. I enjoyed reading over it as I can personally relate to most of it being a Pit Cushie myself. I had gone through much of what you described above even after the surgery. I don’t think that people, including the Doctors, are acting maliciously, but the results are crippling and I feel that creating awareness of the situation are the first steps to change, so thank you for sharing your experience openly.

    • Kat Rees says:

      Thank you Craig,
      I’m sorry that you have gone through something similar. A lot of times, to doctors we are just another face. It’s so important to be your own advocate. Going through this has made us strong!
      Take care!

      • Jason Tucker says:

        Such a great story,in the fact that i can relate to it,and u had the surgery to correct it.
        In England we have a free health system,but is so hard to get referrals,as General Practictioners are just massively supported by antidepressants and the anxiety and depression diagnosis,and obsessed with Diabetes(only thingthey trainin Endocrinology ithink!).
        Tho because i am just at stage of 2nd low dose Dexamethasone test(next week),even after low and high one a year ago-i not getting much joy!
        And my Diabetes is getting worse(just want me on Insulin!). Even after MRI last year says maybe a slightly enlarged pituitary!
        All was started from my paid for private tests-something i can’t even manage anymore,like work.
        Tho i have brain injury past(Post Concussion Syndrome),Autism assessment looming,i am now nearly 50,was about 39 when i started symptoms of what i think is Cycling Cushings.
        Mostly affects my moods,and how i look with stomach like a pregnancy!

        • Kat Rees says:

          Hello Jason,
          I am so sorry to hear you are going through this. Though universal healthcare is a great thing, I have heard that specialized care can take quite a while to get into. The symptoms are very discouraging, but it sounds like you’re now on the path for a Cushing’s diagnosis! You should give the other Cushing’s columns a read, they may provide more enlightenment! Best of luck to you!

  2. CAROLINA ZANON says:

    Hello Katie, I am a Brazilian pit cushie, cured for 3 years now – ill for about other 9. Thank you for your text, I am trying to do the same in Portuguese to bring awareness to this terrible disease. Much love, Carol

  3. Angel Burton says:

    Thank you for your story…I’m a Pit Cushie post op almost 10 years on the 1st of November. I started feeling ill last year again with symptoms and test are showing boarder line anyhow I just found out I have a tumor on my left adrenal gland so I’m thinking it’s from there now. We do need to continue to voice our story on such a rare or hard to diagnose disease.

    • Kat Rees says:

      Wow Angel, I’m sorry to hear it’s coming back. It’s strange to hear it might be coming back on the adrenal gland though, that is incredibly rare to get it in both places. I would love an update on how you’re doing and feel free to reach out if you have concerns!

  4. Karie says:

    Kat,
    I have just had an adrenal adenoma on my left adrenal confirmed. After three long years of begging for help. I understand every word you said. I hope you find healing for the trauma. Meditating may help. Have you tried Insight Timer? They have great ways to get you started. I’m so glad you were discovered. It’s so sad to me that my 3 hell years were short time compared to many. It is such an insidious disease. You feel and look like crap and people get tired of being sympathetic

    • Kat Rees says:

      Hi Karie,
      Yes, it’s difficult to cope for sure and I’m sorry it took 3 years for you, but I’m very excited for your next healing journey! I will definitely check that out because there’s no such thing as too much self care! Thank you! Feel free to reach out when you need!

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