Stress is a normal part of life…to a degree…but what about when it starts affecting our ability to enjoy our life or starts causing our body to become sick?
When I am working with my patients I am always interested in the connection between the mind and body. Chronic illness is ALWAYS connected with stress. It is not always mental or emotional…..it can be physical stress too. Usually, however, it is not really practical to separate the mental and physical aspects of our experience.
An example from my practice:
A woman came to see me who had been in a car accident 3 years before. She had whiplash and was bruised after the accident but had recovered from these physical problems. However she was now afraid of being injured. Even a simple touch from an approaching family member could create anxiety for fear of being hurt. She had a vulnerable feeling physically and mentally and was scared of being injured. Her body was holding a memory of the trauma and her mind was holding onto the delusion that she was hurt and injured. This was creating a lot of stress for her in her life, which was not “normal”. She was anxious, vulnerable, suffering from insomnia, poor digestion and was starting to develop arthritis that was worse in cold weather and from being bumped or jarred. All these symptoms could be traced back to being in a car accident and not recovering form the trauma. Was the trauma mental or physical?
The answer is both. Our body and mind are not separate. This is one of the fundamental tenets of holistic medicine. We are whole people…not just a collection of parts like we tend to perceive ourselves in the western world.
This woman was helped by a very simple and common homeopathic remedy called Arnica, which is used for contusions, bruising, trauma from a blunt object and is known for the symptoms:
-fear of being touched, and other approaching them
-insomnia from ‘hardness’ of the bed
-complaints since a trauma
-joint pain worse cold weather and worse from jarring
The interesting aspect of this lady’s situation was the ‘impression’ that was left in her mind of being injured. This impression (or delusion as it is called in homeopathy) would not let her live in the present reality of her life that she was no longer injured. Her mind was telling her that she was vulnerable to injury and this stress was creating insomnia, digestive problems and arthritis. When the homeopathic remedy removed this stuck state of body/mind all her symptoms went away. It took about two months.
We all hold our own unique ‘delusions’ in our mind. These delusions affect the way we perceive our life and affect all aspects of our life. They affect our health as well. A delusion will drive our stress level to a place that is out of proportion with the stressor. This is the type of stress, which is associated with chronic health problems; ie. stress that is out of proportion to the present moment events in our life.
A 28 year old female with PMS and painful periods. The pain she experienced before her period was very intense and kept her from work. It was incapacitating pain that felt like “someone was stabbing her”. As soon as the period started the pain would lessen. Along with the pain came a lot of emotional changes premenstrually. She would become more insecure and felt like her boyfriend was cheating on her. She became very irritable and jealous and would not be able to contain her irritability. She would often get into fights with her partner because of the way she felt. If he got home a little later she would think he was with another woman even though she had no reason to believe this. She was also very scared to be alone and felt that someone was going to break into her house at night and kill her. She was terrified that her boyfriend would leave her for another woman and she would be left to fend for herself. She knew rationally that she did not need to feel these things but couldn’t help it. The thoughts and feelings just came without any reason. The stress she experienced was definitely out of proportion to her present moment reality. It was destroying her relationship and pushing her boyfriend away which (paradoxically) was her worst fear.
We can see her delusion of being vulnerable and attacked by an intruder. Her fear of being alone. And the delusion that she is being cheated on. All these delusions are connected. She was very dependent on her partner due to her fears and yet was pushing him away by being nasty to him all the time. She knew what was happening with her but didn’t know how to change.
I gave her a homeopathic remedy known to treat this delusional state (as well as the physical problems she was suffering from) and after one month her menstrual cramps had decreased significantly and her PMS was a little better. After three months there was a big change and even her boyfriend was commenting on the change he was noticing. She was much more at ease and relaxed. She was more trusting of him and less angry and fearful.
Again we can see how the body and mind are expressing the same problem in different languages…one the language of symptoms and the other the language of thoughts and emotions. All three of these levels are expressing the underlying imbalance in the person, which needs to be treated holistically for real healing to take place. Anti-inflammatories and pain-killers may help people cope with menstrual cramps and antidepressants may help with depression and anxiety but the problems never really heal this way. You are dependent on a constant intake of chemicals to keep symptoms under control.
We need to start looking at the bigger picture and understanding what is driving our illness if we really want to feel better in a meaningful and significant way.
Notice when you are feeling stressed out. Ask yourself if the stress you are feeling is in proportion to the current situation you are faced with. If you feel like things are disproportionate then ask yourself what your experience is like? As if what is happening? As if you are in an earthquake? As if you are being abandoned? As if nobody loves you? As if you are dying? As if you are poverty stricken and bankrupt? As if everything is out of control and chaotic? As if you are being attacked? There are a multitude of possible experiences…as many as there are people in fact.
Another way to get some insight is to keep track of your dreams. Many dreams will express your unconscious perceptions. Understanding these and dealing with them before you get sick is one of the best ways to prevent chronic illness from arising in the first place (along with diet and lifestyle interventions).
Working with a professional on this level can help if you are sick or not. As stress, age and life wear down your level of vitality you become prone to the genetic weaknesses you have inherited. Keeping your vitality strong you can live to a ripe old age with a lot less suffering. This is the medicine of the future.
Adam is a Naturopathic Doctor with a private practice in Peterborough Ontario since 2004. He is a graduate of The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, and received his Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Guelph in the biological sciences. He is a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors (OAND) and licensed by the Board of Directors of Drugless Therapy-Naturopathy (BDDT-N). He treats a wide variety of health problems using a holistic framework to understand his patients. Homeopathy and Chinese Medicine are his areas of specialty. He also helps his patients with nutrition, detoxification and lifestyle changes.
For more info go to www.naturopathpeterborough.com.