As a culture we’re passive about healing. We expect to show up at the doctors and get some pills, or some surgery that will make the problem go away. Or we want a magic herb, wand or laying on of hands to the same effect. We say ‘healing work’ when we mean the work that healers do, when perhaps we should be more willing to apply it to ourselves. We all get sick. Many of us will experience mental health problems too. Healing work is something we could all do with paying some attention to.
There are a lot of ailments that can be tackled, and if not sorted then alleviated by lifestyle changes. Diet, exercise and sleep patterns have a lot of influence. A good diet isn’t merely about weight, it’s about giving your immune system some decent raw material to work with.
Exercise isn’t just about weight either, keeping the heart healthy, working off stress, building physical confidence, keeping mobile. We do a lot of healing work when we sleep. If we don’t give time to sleep, how do we expect to heal in a timely fashion? Diet, exercise and sleep all impact on mental health, which in turn impacts our ability to deal with other health challenges.
It is work. It takes effort and discipline to try and change your lifestyle, change harmful thinking habits, and maintain wellness. This needs recognising. People who expect the magical fix (from the doctors or the reiki) will get disheartened by the lack of a magical cure all, and won’t stick at doing the needful work. There are no ‘cures’ there are things that supress symptoms, ways of cutting out problem parts of the body, things that boost the immune system and things that prevent you getting the disease in the first place. Whatever route you go, your body has work to do, healing from the experience and sometimes from the knock on effects of the treatment – as with cancer, or having an operation.
I’ve been trying to fix my head for years now. I’ve had brief stints on medication, had cognitive behavioural therapy interventions (all on paper) had one to one counselling, time with a support group, self help books… and I’m still not there. Depression and anxiety continue to flare, affecting my body as well as my mind, and limiting what I can do. There are days, I confess, when it feels pointless to keep fighting this stuff. Then I stop and look back and think about how much more ill I was a year ago, two years, three… I’ve come a very long way. The effort that went in was worth it, and I remind myself that it’s going to take more effort to go the rest of the distance, and that it can be done.
It doesn’t help that we aren’t really taught to feel responsible for our bodies. We could take huge strain off the health care systems just by learning how to look after ourselves, learning how to work at being well. Maybe not all the time, but enough of the time that we aren’t flirting constantly with disease. That would mean taking stress seriously too. Stress is not good for your immune system, heart, nerves. Stress begets mental illness, makes us sleepless so we don’t heal, makes us feel we can’t stop to take care of ourselves. If we took stress seriously we might have to face the uncomfortable truth that a lot of workplaces are contributing to the ill health of employees in big ways, and then it might be possible to sue, and big business isn’t going to like that. So keep taking the magic pills, and don’t ask any awkward questions…