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Illness as a Friend

I am unwell, and beginning to enjoy it.  For one thing, it is giving me time to think.  No, I am not mad.  It is like observing a student being taught a difficult but valuable lesson.  The student throws a tantrum, sulks, tries distraction techniques but then returns to her desk, because she knows she cannot leave the classroom until she completes her assignment.  She figures, at that point, she might as well aim for good marks.  That student is I.

I have been unwell for the past few weeks.  Nothing serious or permanent but enough to keep me from some of my normal activities.  It is the first time in years I am lucky enough to be in a position where I am able to watch my body act freely, and do not have to gag its voice with tablets, just so my daily work routine will not be disrupted.  I can say to it, “All right, you just do whatever it is you have to do.  Just give me a shout if you need anything.  I trust you.” And when it shouts for a hand, I try and listen to its precise request.

Once again, the usual caveat is in order here.  What I am about to say does not apply to seriously debilitating, let alone life-threatening illnesses, but to those dis-eased states which call for our attention but are manageable, at least if addressed early enough.

I speak for myself only when I say that I have been responsible for 99% of my health problems.  My severe spine curvature is a physical manifestation of the courtier-like subservience I had to exercise in many of my jobs.  So many years of stooping to please, you forget how to stand up straight.  My throat problems have arisen when circumstances have forbidden me from speaking out, let alone scream, my anger and frustration.  I got tinnitus when I simply could not bear to listen to what people around me were saying, anymore.  I developed adrenal exhaustion after years of my body begging for rest and calm, its pleas falling on my deaf ears.

I think, in our Western world, we are brought up to view our bodies as dumb machines.  The slightest ailment, and we dispatch them to complete strangers to fix, like cars to a mechanic.  We do not even try to listen out for our body’s voice, and hear its request.  Of course, we cannot treat everything ourselves, without outside help.  I have a couple of wonderful practitioners who listen and suggest but never try and take over.  After all, they may be trained in supplying options but, naturally, nobody knows my mind and body better than I.  So getting me well is always a team effort.  I still remember how horrified I was, a few years ago, when a doctor was advocating a particular course of treatment.  I was not convinced.  He insisted.  I said, “I need to feel confident about this.  Surely, the treatment will work better if the patient cooperates.” 

He replied, “We don’t need your cooperation.  This drug is so strong, it will act with our without your collaboration.”

I few days ago, I had the opposite experience.  I went to a herb shop to buy something for a specific respiratory symptom.  I had woken up with an unexplained craving for licorice, and was not afraid to be frank about it (just imagine saying that to a GP).  As she weighed out the licorice, the herbalist also suggested I might benefit from plantain.  I had no opinion, since I had never tried this.  She brought over the jar and unscrewed the lid.  “Have a smell,” she said.  “What do you think?” (Ha! The thought of a GP doing anything like that!)

The scent appealed to me, so I got some to mix with the licorice.  Four cups of infusion later, my respiratory symptom had disappeared.

One of my ex-bosses (well, most of them, actually) used to quiz me about what I took to bring down the temperature when I had the ‘flu.  They looked at me with an expression of disconcerted contempt when I said that – as long as the fever did not exceed 38.5º – I would just let it take its course with some minimal homoeopathic and vitamin assistance.  If it had ever got worse, of course, I would have taken the day off and gone home.  A raised temperature is a sign that my body is fighting for me.  Why would I hammer my champion on the head with something that would weaken his strength and initiative? Similarly, friends cannot seem to understand why I do not take pain killers (again, I am not talking about debilitating pain, here).  Pain is like a fire alarm.  Why would you want to disactivate your fire alarm?

My latest state of dis-ease (I love the insight provided by that word), is a fantastic opportunity for me to discover myself, and to learn to trust.  That does not mean I have to  learn with a smile on my face.  I am human and grumpiness comes naturally.  Above all, it is a wonderful opportunity to discover my body’s voice and its requirements.  If I crave a food or herb or particular taste, I try and trust it.

Are you laughing at me?And yet you are the same people who watch nature programmes and marvel at animals’ ability to eat the right food or herb for their illnesses.  Would should we humans not reacquire this wonderful, dormant skill?

 

© Scribe Doll