Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pay attention, be creative

I have a friend who keeps several different pain relievers in her purse. She knows that an aspirin will work a different kind of chemistry than ibuprofen, for instance. Pain is a catch-all word for many different kinds of sensations. My friend has paid attention to the headaches she suffers from. When she needs relief, she is able to choose what will work best, based on what kind of headache she has, whether or not she's at work and so on. I hate it that she has so many headaches, but her approach to dealing with them is very creative, as it should be.

We are dynamic beings living in a dynamic world. Healing is not ever a cut-and-dried process. For those who pay attention to symptoms, there are many opportunities to creatively address whatever is going on.

I understand that diagnoses are important. Naming is a powerful act. Once diagnosed, there are tried and true methods for dealing with whatever ails, which is great in some situations. When I had pneumonia, once diagnosed I began straightaway swallowing powerful antibiotics that cleared my lungs in a matter of a couple of days. Thank god! Sometimes, however, I think we are too quick to pathologize every situation, too quick to decide what's the best course of treatment. Or we choose treatment options without considering individual quirks of personality and health.

For instance, the way breast cancer is treated depends not only on the type of cancer and how developed the disease is, but also on the age of the woman suffering from it. Younger women are treated much more strenuously than older women, in part because of the role hormones play in breast cancer, or at least this is the prevailing theory. I wonder if any oncologist has ever considered the personalities of the women involved, their temperaments and constitutions. I know people who tolerate chemo very well, others who really can't handle it. One elderly lady I knew almost died during a harsh bout of chemotherapy for lymphatic cancer. At last, when everyone including her doctors thought she was about to die, she stopped treatment, hoping she might feel a little better during her last days. But when the chemo wore off and her appetite returned, she improved dramatically and lived six more years! Nobody could have predicted that, of course. I feel sad that no one thought creatively about her condition until they decided she was about to die. Sometimes it's the medicine that makes people sick.

It's difficult, scary sometimes, to pay attention to symptoms, to notice how the Advil works but other pain relievers don't, or that acupuncture is great for allergies but perhaps not as effective for other problems. Scary or difficult, the practice of paying attention really helps! No expert is capable of understanding the miraculous and complicated machinations of your body/mind as well as you. There is no cure out there for any condition that works exactly the same way for everyone. Getting to know your own constitution and temperament can help you make good decisions if and when you're ill.

Right now, take a moment to scan your physical, mental and emotional state. How is your stomach? What did you eat yesterday or today? Did the food sit well, do you feel nourished, hungry or something else? Are you experiencing pain anywhere in your body? Are you worried about something? How did you sleep last night? Pay attention, then be creative. If you're tired for instance, or have indigestion or muscle aches, maybe you can take it easier today than you might otherwise. When you feel good, you can take on the world with confidence.

Paying attention and thinking creatively is a kindness you can do for yourself. Yes? I say yes. Shalom.


jeanette from everton terrace said...

Once again, information so helpful to me. When I need it, I just grab whatever pain reliever I need. I've never stopped to pay attention to what works best for me.

Reya Mellicker said...

It's difficult and time consuming - but well worth it!