Books, life the universe

Friday, 6 April 2007

Why do people get ill?

I was absolutely fascinated by 'Why do people get ill?' by Darian Leader and David Corfield. Its sub title is 'exploring the mind body connection', which really says it all.

There are so many case histories detailed in the book you have to wonder what's going on whenever we fall ill. From my own experience I know that when things aren't going well I can succumb to anything that's doing the rounds. I had a bad year in 2004 and had a cold about every 6 weeks throughout the year. But when I say bad I perhaps should say boring. Nothing much happened and I knew I was getting a bit fed up with the job I was doing but didn't really want to admit it even to myself.

2005-06 was an even worse year in many ways and yet I only had one cold! I did however discover I have an eye problem which is basically still not treatable in spite of the miracles of modern medicine. Is there a connection there? I wonder.

The case that most struck me in the whole book was of the young woman who was diagnosed with MS after various upsetting symptoms which had at first been attributed to her pregnancy. She told her parents, who reacted very strangely. Her mother immediately announced she had severe stomach pains and would have to go home. She then looked at the photograph of her daughter and without looking at the young woman in front of her announced that it was a shame she no longer had a daughter.

This weird behaviour sparked such rage in her daughter that she vowed to find out exactly what was going on in her family and enrolled on a course in psychology. Within a few months she had reached a better understanding of the family dynamics and when tested a year later she no longer had any signs of MS and never has had ever since. Whether or not this is an apocraphal story it does make you stop and think about the mind body connection. Admittedly MS is a disease that can come and go, but even so people don't usually eliminate all signs and symptoms like that.

I've been interested in the mind body connection for a long time ever since I had a conversation with my then GP about someone I know well. I could not see at the time how there could be any benefits to an individual in being ill. His comment was 'do you expect less of someone who is ill?' This made me think and it's true you do make allowances for someone who is ill. Yet why should you? They may be ill but still be capable of leading a normal life. Illness doesn't absolve you from the normal requirements of living in the world and yet that's how we treat people. The disabled who overcome their difficulties to lead a normal life are regarded as exceptional and yet why should they be? Surely we should all be trying to overcome our problems, not magnifying them as many people do.

I will always try and find a way to overcome a physical problem. I remember vividly an incident while I was still in hospital recovering from a hysterectomy. I dropped something on the floor and instead of waiting for someone to come in and pick it up for me I got out of bed and very gingerly squatted down until I could pick up the object without having to bend in the middle. I was about to return to a standing position when a nurse came into the room (this was a private hospital) and was horrified to find me in that position. 'Why didn't you ring the bell?' My answer was along the line of well if I can find a way to do it myself why do I need to bother you? I hadn't burst my stitches or done myself any other injury so what was the problem? She seened quite surprised that I'd tried to help myself instead of immediately calling for help! I'm not reporting this to show how independent I am but to show how other people react when anyone with a physical problem tries to help themselves.

I have another book to report on but I think I'll make it a separate post.

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