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Medical ArticlesLessons From Nutritional Anthropology
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Source: As A Matter Of Course
AS far as we make circumstances guides and not limitations, they
serve us. Otherwise, we serve them, and suffer accordingly. Just in
proportion, too, to our allowing circumstances to be limits do we
resist them. Such resistance is a nervous strain which disables us
physically, and of course puts us more in the clutches of what
appears to be our misfortune. The moment we begin to regard every
circumstance as an opportunity, the tables are turned on Fate, and
we have the upper hand of her.
When we come to think of it, how much common-sense there is in
making the best of every "opportunity," and what a lack of sense in
chafing at that which we choose to call our limitations! The former
way is sure to bring a good result of some sort, be it ever so
small; the latter wears upon our nerves, blinds our mental vision,
and certainly does not cultivate the spirit of freedom in us.
How absurd it would seem if a wounded man were to expose his wound
to unnecessary friction, and then complain that it did not heal! Yet
that is what many of us have done at one time or another, when
prevented by illness from carrying out our plans in life just as we
had arranged. It matters not whether those plans were for ourselves
or for others; chafing and fretting at their interruption is just as
absurd and quite as sure to delay our recovery. "I know," with tears
in our eyes, "I ought not to complain, but it is so hard," To which
common-sense may truly answer: "If it is hard, you want to get well,
don't you? Then why do you not take every means to get well, instead
of indulging first in the very process that will most tend to keep
you ill?" Besides this, there is a dogged resistance which remains
silent, refuses to complain aloud, and yet holds a state of rigidity
that is even worse than the external expression. There are many
individual ways of resisting. Each of us knows his own, and knows,
too, the futility of it; we do not need to multiply examples.
The patients who resist recovery are quite as numerous as those who
keep themselves ill by resisting illness. A person of this sort
seems to be fascinated by his own body and its disorders. So far
from resisting illness, he may be said to be indulging in it He will
talk about himself and his physical state for hours. He will locate
each separate disease in a way to surprise the listener by his
knowledge of his own anatomy. Not infrequently he will preface a
long account of himself by informing you that he has a hearty
detestation of talking about himself, and never could understand why
people wanted to talk of their diseases. Then in minute detail he
will reveal to you his brain-impression of his own case, and look
for sympathetic response. These people might recover a hundred times
over, and they would never know it, so occupied are they in living
their own idea of themselves and in resisting Nature.
When Nature has knocked us down because of disobedience to her laws,
we resist her if we attempt at once to rise, or complain of the
punishment. When the dear lady would hasten our recovery to the best
of her ability, we resist her if we delay progress by dwelling on
the punishment or chafing at its necessity.
Nature always tends towards health. It is to prevent further
ill-health that she allows us to suffer for our disobedience to her
laws. It is to lead us back to health that she is giving the best of
her powers, having dealt the deserved punishment. The truest help we
can give Nature is not to think of our bodies, well or ill, more
than is necessary for their best health.
I knew a woman who was, to all appearances, remarkably well; in
fact, her health was her profession. She was supposed to be a
Priestess of Health. She talked about and dwelt upon the health of
her body until one would have thought there was nothing in the world
worth thinking of but a body. She displayed her fine points in the
way of health, and enjoyed being questioned with regard to them.
This woman was taken ill. She exhibited the same interest, the same
pleasure, in talking over and dwelling upon her various forms of
illness; in fact, more. She counted her diseases. I am not aware
that she ever counted her strong points of health.
This illustration is perhaps clear enough to give a new sense of the
necessity for forgetting our bodies. When ill use every necessary
remedy; do all that is best to bring renewed health. Having made
sure you are doing all you can, forget; don't follow the process.
When, as is often the case, pain or other suffering puts forgetting
out of the question, use no unnecessary resistance, and forget as
soon as the pain is past Don't strengthen the impression by talking
about it or telling it over to no purpose. Better forego a little
sympathy, and forget the pain sooner.
It is with our nerves that we resist when Nature has punished us. It
is nervous strain that we put into a useless attention to and
repetition of the details of our illness. Nature wants all this
nerve-force to get us well the faster; we can save it for her by not
resisting and by a healthy forgetting. By taking an illness as
comfortably as possible, and turning our attention to something
pleasant outside of ourselves, recovery is made more rapidly.
Many illnesses are accompanied by more or less nervous strain, and
its natural control will assist nature and enable medicines to work
more quickly. The slowest process of recovery, and that which most
needs the relief of a wholesome non-resistance, is when the illness
is the result entirely of over-worked nerves. Nature allows herself
to be tried to the utmost before she permits nervous prostration.
She insists upon being paid in full, principal and interest, before
she heals such illness. So severe is she in this case that a patient
may appear in every way physically well and strong weeks, nay,
months, before he really is so. It was the nerves that broke down
last, and the nerves are the last to be restored. It is, however,
wonderful to see how much more rapid and certain recovery is if the
patient will only separate himself from his nervous system, and
refuse all useless strain.
Here are some simple directions which may help nervous patients, if
considered in regular order. They can hardly be read too often if
the man or woman is in for a long siege; and if simply and steadily
obeyed, they will shorten the siege by many days, nay, by many weeks
or months, in some cases.
Remember that Nature tends towards health. All you want is
nourishment, fresh air, exercise, rest, and patience.
All your worries and anxieties now are tired nerves.
When a worry appears, drop it. If it appears again, drop it again.
And so continue to drop it if it appears fifty or a hundred times a
day or more.
If you feel like crying, cry; but know that it is the tired nerves
that are crying, and don't wonder why you are so foolish,--don't
feel ashamed of yourself.
If you cannot sleep, don't care. Get all the rest you can without
sleeping. That will bring sleep when it is ready to come, or you are
ready to have it.
Don't wonder whether you are going to sleep or not. Go to bed to
rest, and let sleep come when it pleases.
Think about everything in Nature. Follow the growing of the trees
and flowers. Remember all the beauties in Nature you have ever seen.
Say Mother-Goose rhymes over and over, trying how many you can
Read bright stories for children, and quiet novels, especially Jane
Sometimes it helps to work on arithmetic.
Keep aloof from emotions.
Think of other people.
Never think of yourself. Bear in mind that nerves always get well in
waves; and if you thought yourself so much better,--almost well,
indeed,--and then have a bad time of suffering, don't wonder why it
is, or what could have brought it on. Know that it is part of the
recovery-process; take it as easily as you can, and then ignore it.
Don't try to do any number of things to get yourself well; don't
change doctors any number of times, or take countless medicines.
Every doctor knows he cannot hurry your recovery, whatever he may
say, and you only retard it by being over-anxious to get strong.
Drop every bit of unnecessary muscular tension.
When you walk, feel your feet heavy, as if your shoes were full of
lead, and think in your feet.
Be as much like a child as possible. Play with children as one of
them, and think with them when you can.
As you begin to recover, find something every day to do for others.
Best let it be in the way of house-work, or gardening, or something
to do with your hands.
Take care of yourself every day as a matter of course, as you would
dress or undress; and be sure that health is coming. Say over and
over to yourself: Nourishment, fresh air, exercise, rest, PATIENCE.
When you are well, and resume your former life, if old associations
recall the unhappy nervous feelings, know that it is only the
associations; pay no attention to the suffering, and work right on.
Only be careful to take life very quietly until you are quite used
to being well again.
An illness that is merely nervous is an immense opportunity, if one
will only realize it as such. It not only makes one more genuinely
appreciative of the best health, and the way to keep it, it opens
the sympathies and gives a feeling for one's fellow-creatures which,
having once found, we cannot prize too highly.
It would seem hard to believe that all must suffer to find a
delicate sympathy; it can hardly be so. To be always strong, and at
the same time full of warm sympathy, is possible, with more thought.
When illness or adverse circumstances bring it, the gate has been
opened for us.
If illness is taken as an opportunity to better health, not to more
illness, our mental attitude will put complaint out of the question;
and as the practice spreads it will as surely decrease the tendency
to illness in others as it will shorten its duration in ourselves.
Next: Sentiment _versus_ Sentimentality