How are you feeling? Isn’t that a loaded question? But if we care, I believe we should ask. If someone asks, “how are you?” I’m willing to bet the reader evaluates the sincerity of the question before answering. And in most “relationships,”the level of sincerity leads us to answer “fine,” or some say “great,” or some say “ok,” or some no longer will even bother to answer the question. And if the answer isn’t “fine,” or “great,” or “ok,” I wonder how many people I know would actually pay attention to someone who answers honestly.
I want to write about pain and health today. Because life isn’t always the perfection of baked Thanksgiving turkey or honey-glazed Easter Ham or social media or the damned braggadocious Christmas letters I still get in the mail from some people. Johnny got straight As and he’s already been accepted at Insert Prestigious Medical School on a full scholarship. Husband has systematized and simplified our lives, because he’s making so much money at his Insert Prestigious Professional Field and High Profile Company Name that we have a chef, a house keeper, and a personal assistant for each of us. And he’s also hired private tutors, a nanny and a chauffeur for each of our two perfect children. They’ve taken up Insert Musical Instrument because their stellar activities in school and Insert Sports and Insert Extracurricular Activities were going so well they wanted to try something just for fun. Wife is hotter than ever and completely successful as Insert Professional Career and leading her Insert Social and Charitable Group, with her Insert Athletic or Exercise Activity and as a wife and mother. This year we upgraded to a new Insert Expensive Thing No One Else Has An Old One Of to Cause Envy. For our vacation this year we all spent a month in Insert Location and we all Insert Envy Inducing Activities.
Sometimes dinner is cheap mac and cheese and sometimes lunch is ramen noodles. Sometimes we feel anxiety, sometimes we’re late, sometimes the boss gives us grief when we try hard and then underpays us because of their unrealistic and impossible “standards,” and then blames the company policy for the way they’re maltreating us. Sometimes the car is rusty and needs new tires and you worry if it’s going to start. And sometimes, life is pain. Even in our modern fairy tales, the truth isn’t utopic. Just like in this blog, where I tried to start this clip at 13 seconds, and then tried to play it before posting and it didn’t work and started at 0 seconds because sometimes it isn’t perfect, sometimes it’s a bitch and you fight and it still doesn’t turn out how you wanted.
When we’re hungry, “normal” people eat. Some, though, eat too much, and others don’t, or can’t, listen to their bodies and ignore their need. When we’re tired, “normal” people rest, or sleep. Some, though, suffer insomnia. When life gives us a stimulus, “normal” people give a “normal” response, but some don’t, or they can’t. Pain is the same as any other stimulus. “Normal” people do something to alleviate their pain, but some people can’t.
Some pain is obvious. My back hurts because I have a developmental thing where the way I walk and move “naturally,” causes my lower back to misalign. When that happens, I either go to the chiropractor if I’m rich or I wait for it to go back how it should be, or I have my family twist my hip until I feel that bone move back to where I don’t hurt any more. My teeth, thank God, don’t hurt like they probably should, though. Two of them have broken but they don’t hurt at all, even though they need to be extracted. Eventually the damage may cause me some pain if I don’t go get them pulled out. But for some reason I’m either able to suppress it or it just isn’t there.
Sometimes our troubles are simple but related to our emotional tides due to circumstances in life, and they can be treated with counseling. A guilty conscience can literally kill you, unless you make it right. If it doesn’t kill you, it can cause any number of stress-induced symptoms. The medical community is diagnosing and looking into PTSD, Seasonal Affect Disorder, Chronic Anxiety, and so on, all of which cause very real physical symptoms including very real body pain. If it IS a medical and not a mental or spiritual or emotional issue, sometimes a harmless medicine can be used, like an antibiotic or antiviral. Sometimes there’s a surgical treatment, like extracting a tooth or a tumor or skin lesion, or replacing a knee or a hip or repairing a torn meniscus. Sometimes there’s a stress-related cause and the symptoms go away if we have enough money or free time to treat ourselves a little nicer. Among other things I have stress-induced asthma and wonder what other consequences and symptoms I have that might be cured if I didn’t feel like a helpless, worthless, stressed-out slave who can’t escape because there’s not enough freedom, not enough respect, not enough money, not enough time.
We now understand most inflammations, back pains, nerve pains like sciatica, foot pains like plantar faciitis, and tooth pain from decay or sensitivity. But some pain has become mysterious to doctors. We’ve learned some things about some pains. Nerve endings can become damaged from stroke or disease. For literally thousands of years we’ve known how Hansen’s disease can affect the nerves, but the cause wasn’t discovered until 1873 and an effective treatment without divine intervention wasn’t found until the 1940s. For some reason humanity hasn’t eradicated the disease and doesn’t have a standard, affordable, global treatment plan to cure anyone who picks this disease up. Same with polio and other cureables, but that’s another annoyance for me. We’ve learned about inflammations and minor aches, and some kinds of headaches too. We’ve learned about diabetic neuropathy and how that makes diabetics have to be more careful about their feet or other extremities. We’ve seen how arthritis causes pain and sometimes deformity, and we keep learning how to treat some of these diseases and cure others.
Many pains are actually good, like the stimuli that remind us to drink water, eat, move (for example, away from the stove) But some don’t seem that good. We still don’t know about Crohn’s, or Fibromyalgia, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or any of a number of various Medically Unexplained Physical Symptoms including various pains. But I’m wondering if these have a negative cause that should point us to a positive resolution, and maybe we haven’t figured out what the cause is, so we can’t know what the cure is.
We’ve learned about certain vitamins and minerals and how deficiencies can cause or exacerbate various medical problems. We’ve learned how certain excesses cause problems. We’ve learned about things that are toxic, like lead, mercury, and other minerals, and lithium (there’s a separate rant about this, but suffice it to say that this is a poison that is routinely prescribed to treat bipolar disorder, and sometimes schizophrenia and major depression with suicidal ideation. For fuck’s sake, why do people have to take poison to make them not want to kill themselves?) We’ve learned how and why good exercise is good for us.
I have food cravings. I’ve talked about them before, so loyal readers may know about them. I used to just feel thirsty and drink some water, or I’d feel hungry and I’d have to think about what sounded good and cook and eat that, or I’d just eat whatever we had in the house and the hunger went away but the craving didn’t. Then I became aware that my brain was telling me specifically what it was craving. A few were obvious. Caffeine. Chocolate. Salsa. Salt (very rarely). Sugar (even more rare). But then the specificity got to a level I can only describe as weird. Biscuits. Steak. Eggs. Toast. (Maybe I shouldn’t have had coffee and a banana muffin for breakfast today?) Pizza. Seasoned croutons. Mint, ginger, garlic, basil, tomato. Popcorn. Grits. An apple. A few prunes, without being aware of any digestive reason. Italian sausage, or an Italian beef sandwich. Caramels. Soup. Cheese. Fried Chicken. Oatmeal or granola. Broccoli. Green beans. Tortillas. Butter. Fish. A specific kind of potato or corn chip. A specific kind of drink, like tea, a type of wine, a vodka tonic and lime, apple cider, orange juice, egg nog. Fettuccine Alfredo. A specific flavor of ice cream.
The more my craving for very specific foods has become specified, the more I’ve started to think that maybe these unexplained pains some of us feel are telling us we need something, but nobody knows what that something is. What if depression is just a craving that’s curable by giving our body what it needs when it feels sadness? What if bipolar could be treated by being aware of what phase our emotions are in, or will be in, and by giving our bodies what they need to stabilize our minds, rather than poisoning with lithium formulations or other drugs? What if fibromyalgia is nothing more than a craving for something our body desperately needs? I wonder whether fibromyalgia is a form of depression that turns the pain into sensations we’re aware of rather than emotion. My point is that maybe things doctors once thought, or still think, are “all in our heads,” aren’t. Maybe they’re in our bodies and we need them out, or they aren’t and we need them.
I’ll readily say, and you’ll agree, that medical treatments have come a long way from leeches and trepanning. But it upsets me that the treatments for things like bipolar and cancer and some other maladies are poisonous. Why does the patient have to die, or get sicker, before they are cured? Modern pharma is a business more than something necessarily good for a patient. How many modern medicines have interaction complications? I resist the idea of taking certain medications because of all the potential side effects. How many of you suffer side effects? The list includes such wonderful things as sweating, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, weight gain, weight loss, hair loss, gas, constipation, water retention, dehydration, urinary tract or intestinal problems, dry mouth, thin blood (slowness to clot), D.V.T., stroke, irritability, episodes of rage, nervousness, panic attacks, hallucinations, nightmares, sleepwalking, sleep driving (for fuck’s sake!), acid reflux, acidic esophageal damage, liver damage, kidney damage, nerve damage such as causing Parkinson’s-like symptoms which “may become permanent,” toxicity, heart damage, paranoia, delusions, psychoses, brain damage, suicidal tendencies, death.
Big pharma pushes the newest drugs with full awareness of certain effects and at least a statistical possibility of others. Why aren’t we offered nutritional counselling as a primary option, advocating natural substances that might help, before the doctor prescribes costly and poisonous treatments that might help us, but along the way might kill us.
We’ve learned that the sun provides natural vitamins absorbed through the skin. Light can be successful in treating some skin issues including psoriasis. Light therapies are being used by some to even treat cancer and other medical issues. We’re barely scratching the surface of the potential. And doctors know damn well that light helps certain kinds of depression. Why aren’t we patients being told this? Because, my inner cynic screams, there’s more money in potentially toxic, or lethal, chemicals. Ancient medicine men treated patients with herbs and other natural substances. Penicillin was derived from a fungus, not a poison. We’ve learned fish oils provide essential vitamins. Even in the Bible, they described or offered successful treatments that were completely natural, not even miraculous, just wisdom. We use mineral salts to treat minor skin infections, garlic as an anti-viral, honey is anti-bacterial, and chicken soup has been called both Polish cold medicine and Chinese cold medicine for a reason. Whiskey and other strong alcohol can help chronic coughs and insomnia and depression and pain. Morphine and codeine are from flowers. Marijuana is now more widely recognized as useful for medicinal purposes.
What if there are natural cures for things the drug companies and doctors are currently only able to treat with poisons? What if what’s eating us is eating us because we’re not looking in the right direction for the cure? What if the cure is social, like if we need our own group of friends who speak honestly with each other to vent frustrations and celebrate successes. What if we just need someone to listen to us? What if the cure is spiritual in nature? Jesus touched the lepers and they were cured. Jesus had a certain set of abilities that we ordinary people aren’t gifted with, but I do believe there are miracles still today. If I didn’t, I would quit praying, and I have no plans to quit. What if the cure is even simpler, something light-based, natural, or nutritional?
How are you feeling? What does that mean? What is it telling you? Are you listening?