Pain. It’s easily one of the biggest complaints with endometriosis.
It can be excruciating. I know.
Even though the pain with my periods has been mild for nearly two years now (grateful!), my body and mind remember the pain.
It was traumatic.
There were times when I wasn’t sure how I survived through it.
If you understand what I mean then I’m sending you lots of love, and a reminder that you are an amazingly strong woman. 💛
Chronic pain & your nervous system
Your nervous system is where you experience pain.
Endometriosis very much impacts your central nervous system. It puts it on high alert.
A study published in the journal, Reproductive Medicine, found that chronic pelvic pain is associated with central nervous system changes that can alter how your brain & HPA axis responds.
The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis is your central stress response system. It intertwines your central nervous system and endocrine system.
Chronic pain is a repeated stressor, both physiologically and psychologically. This consistent stimulation leads to dysfunction within your HPA axis.
The primary way this shows up with those of us with endo is with low cortisol levels. Cortisol is your stress hormone and is released by your adrenal glands.
It’s a vital hormone in your body.
Low cortisol levels lead to fatigue, hypoglycemia and low blood pressure. These are all symptoms commonly found with endo.
This amped up response in your nervous system also makes you more sensitive to outside energy.
You’re more sensitive to noises, smells, colors and other stimuli. All of this can lead to anxiety, especially in social situations.
You may feel easily overwhelmed when you’re in a highly stimulating environment. These subtleties can also show up when you’re alone in your living room with the entertainment you consume.
If you’re like me, you have a hard time watching scary or violent movies, and are easily moved by emotional scenes.
Early Stress Impacts
In addition to an amped up nervous system from the pain, many women that I’ve met with endo experienced high stress situations at an early age, which altered the functioning of their nervous system later.
Some of us were born even more sensitive to stress.
This starts as early as the environment you experienced when you were in the womb, followed by childhood.
If you grew up in an environment with lots of anxiety, fighting or stressful events, then your body was impacted.
You’re more sensitive to stress and likely more sensitive to the stress of others. It also means that your stimulated nervous system has an even harder time relaxing.
You may experience anxiety, worry and fear. It’s a natural reaction to a continued stress response.
It all makes sense now.
I didn’t have a super stressful childhood, but I have always felt more sensitive to things.
Over the past year or so it’s become quite clear to me why I’ve been so sensitive my whole life.
I’m a highly sensitive empath.
An empath is one who’s capable of feeling the emotions or physical symptoms of others, even if you’re not going through the same situations or events.
(This is not to be confused with basic empathy. All of us have the ability to empathize with one another.)
An empath can literally feel the anxiety, sadness and emotional pain from another, as if you were directly experiencing the same.
This makes it difficult to access how you feel, and it makes it harder to be around others that are in pain.
I have learned to be selective with my energy.
I’m easily drained when I’m around negative energy. This could come from people or events.
On the opposite spectrum, I also pull in positive energy and inspiration from others. That’s the energy I want to be around.
I think that this empathic ability is a result of a highly stimulated nervous system.
We’re hyped up, more sensitive, and in tune with the world around us.
It’s a blessing and curse at times.
It can lead to a life full of compassion, appreciation, and exhaustion.
On the Positive Side?
Given the nature of endo and the chronic pain response, it’s vital to support your central nervous system with calming activities.
Get outside. Take a bath. Meditate. Do some restorative yoga poses.
The best way to trigger the calming part of your nervous system is with the use of your breath.
Your breath can immediately calm the stress response in your body, and as a result, calm the pain response.
To help you with this, I put together a new guided meditation for pain.
It will help guide you on how to use your breath to direct your energy and calm the pain and discomfort that can come with endometriosis.
And next time you feel stressed, anxious or out of control remember your breath.
Pause now. Breathe.