Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Fibromyalgia and Abuse
A woman with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue, is trying to find out why her husband would
cancel medical benefits and then lie about it. They are standing outside, because having
this conversation inside, is near the children, and the walls already feel permeated with
Her husband is yelling and cursing at her, he is yelling at her to go out and get a
f'...ing job, and telling her she does not contribute to her family. They live in the
suburbs, but on a busy street, even the noise from traffic cannot drown out his yelling.
A few hours later, despite her pleas to look at the consequences of his actions; he looks
down the stairs going to the basement, the same stairs where nearly everyone who has been
in that house, has fallen,...and he threatens to kill her. At that moment, the woman
realized, that her husband was more than capable of pushing her down the stairs.
The next morning, with the bang of a coffee mug on the metal counter, then against her
head,...she had to grab the wall because she is already unsteady because of her
disability,...and due to the impact,...grasping the wall,... right by the stairs. Her
husband leaves for work, taking one child with him, to school. The other child takes the
school bus, even though they both attend the same school. She is worried about what her
husband could do to the child that is with him. The woman then calls 911, the YWCA Safe
Choice Program, her doctor, and the kids school,...in that order. How do I know these
intimate details,...because that woman was me, January 6th, 2006, was my last day of
living in a horrible cycle of abuse.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness
My voice was lost for many years, the isolation of living with a couple of chronic
illnesses, chronic severe migraines, especially with domestic abuse and violence. By late
2006, thanks to the Write Around Portland, I started to find my voice, by mid 2007, I was
speaking publicly to court mandated perpetrators of domestic abuse/violence. The purple
awareness ribbons and the butterfly are associated with at least two common groups,
domestic violence and Fibromyalgia. What many people do not realize is that early
childhood abuse, domestic violence, and sexual abuse (adult or child) are diagnostic
indicators for Fibromyalgia.
It is well known that early childhood abuse, early childhood sexual abuse have dire impact
upon adult health, including adult depression and colon issues. According to a study by
McCauley J, et al., "found that these symptoms significantly related to a history of
childhood physical or sexual abuse in women in primary care practices: nightmares, back
pain, frequent or severe headaches, pain in the pelvic, genital, or private area, eating
binges or self-induced vomiting, frequent tiredness, problems sleeping, abdominal or
stomach pain, vaginal discharge, breast pain, choking sensation, loss of appetite,
problems urinating, diarrhea, constipation, chest pain, face pain, frequent or serious
bruises, and shortness of breath."
Somatic symptoms are defined as of the body, and not mental illness, therefor, causing
actual physical symptoms. It is important to note, that things like panic attacks,
anxiety, depression, and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) accompany abuse and
Fibromyalgia. IPV, intimate partner violence, such as sexual assault, is another
indicator for potential health problems such as chronic pain, injury, disability, PTSD,
and mortality. It is noteworthy, that with recent studies have proven a genetic, and
hereditary component to Fibromyalgia.
Recent studies have also proven "central sensitization" in abuse. Whereby, repeated nerve
stimulation causes the brain to change for those who experience abuse, and Fibromyalgia.
This is not just about the flashbacks or memories of abuse; In short, the central nervous
system has been altered, rewired so to speak, and the CNS now has a memory of that pain
For over a decade I slept no more than two hours a night out of fear. Being awake all
night, were actually rare times of peace. While I was already having horrible nightmares
from time to time, after I left my abuser, those nightmares would happen anytime, day or
night. Someone could slam a door, utter a curse word, or use a phrase that my abuser used,
and this would trigger the fear, the terror, the memories, the flashbacks; as if I had
been in combat in a war zone. It was so bad, I couldn't move, if I did, I risked passing
out briefly, not to mention the injuries with falling.
I was fortunate to have someone who helped me to recognize abuse for what it was, and to
guide me through a two year journey of healing, including post-trauma reduction therapy,
also known as exposure therapy. Where you sit with a professional in a safe environment,
and repeatedly go over and over the worst assault or rape. After six and a half hours of
repeating the worst of the assaults, I was beyond exhausted, beyond drained,...but I no
longer have flashbacks, no more waking up in terror. Abusers are cowards in my
experience, most abusers conduct their crimes in private, within the home, and they are
cunning at controlling their behaviors around others, and while in public.
The three most highly recognizable signs of abusers;
1) minimizing their actions
2) denying their actions, and
3) blaming you for their actions.
Types of Abuse
Other types of abuse include:
- verbal abuse
- emotional abuse
- psychological abuse
- sexual abuse
- physical violence
- financial abuse
- medical abuse
Elder abuse is also an issue, as many states combine the disabled within the "elder abuse"
The well known cycle abuse includes the the tension building phase, the blow-up
phase/incident phase, and the reconciliation/honeymoon phase, then the calm. After a
while, there is no calm, there is no honeymoon phase, but an endless cycle of tension
building and blow-ups.
It takes a woman, an average of seven attempts to leave her abuser. The domestic violence
rates are increasing for men as being victims, more and more women are being arrested as
perpetrators. I try to tell the people I come into contact with, it is not easy to leave,
but it is do-able.
People often wonder why I speak so publicly, or write on this topic, well,...the shame
belongs to the abusers, the ones who harm children in the worst ways, those who harm
others, those who refuse help or treatment,...abusers get to own that same,...not the
victims! The victims are often left with illness or disability, for the rest of their
lives, not to mention the emotional scars. The victims, the survivors, they are the
hero's here, and they must never be ashamed, for the reprehensible actions of their
abusers; no matter how they were made to feel by their perpetrators.
Domestic violence and abuse, sexual assault/abuse, have long-term repercussions for the
victims, and children, that is a fact. Children who witness abuse are more likely to end
up in an abusive relationship, or at risk of becoming abusers themselves. Please don't be
offended if a victim does not open up to you, often the victim is in denial, or is
One of my favorite books has become Gavin De Becker, The Gift of Fear, he devotes
an entire chapter to domestic violence, using his MOSAIC method, to determine the risks in
things like leaving and orders of protection. In abuse, the mortality rates increase as a
woman tries to leave or does leave her abuser. If you are currently living in abusive
relationship, please talk to someone, a pastor, a priest, a family member, or a friend.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911, call the police, this is probably the hardest
call to make, please don't hesitate. If you, or someone you know is currently living in
domestic violence, or domestic abuse they can contact the following hotlines:
In the US, you can contact "The National Domestic Violence Hotline" at
1−800−799−SAFE(7233), or thehotline.org. In Canada, 1800-363-9010. In the UK, 0808 2000
247 Domestic Violence Helpline.
Just a side note here, Norah R. and The Honorable Judge, James Swanger, I am forever in