Monday, October 10, 2005

A Better Life

While still in school, the dh and I visited my childhood chiropractic mentor. Funny, smart, intuitive and solid, he made his patients (including me) feel like the center of the universe when with him.

A particularily difficult patient (not the case, but the person herself) came in during our visiting time. Even the ever-unperturbed Dr. R seemed exasperated.

The woman, a semi-professional mountain-biker, had hit a stump going downhill about 35 miles per hour and landed square on her head--the full compressive force jarring through her spinal column and mashing her cervicals all the way up to her atlas (the bone the cranium rests on). She had waited six months for it to "get better" as if that would happen by magic and then wanted the good doctor to "fix me up" in one visit.


"Why don't people want to get well?" I asked. By that meaning--not just patched up but really well. This woman could be an even better athlete with a little body-maintenance afterall.

"All people want to get well, Melissa," he corrected, "not all know how."

His words stuck with me, but it has taken years to figure it out. My experience hadn't been that everyone wanted to get well. Quite the contrary, in fact. Some people seemed to relish being sick--talking about "my arthritis" or "my surgery" or "my cancer" as a badge of honor that defined them. These people seemed, to my view, to actively try to stay un-well.

If you asked the un-well people though, they would vociferously defend their actions, saying they desired to get better BUT the chemo didn't work, or the doctors removed the wrong organ (I kid you not) or the medication needed to be at a higher dose.

Did you notice that not one of those actions was pro-active? The underlying belief was "if someone else did their jobs better, I'd be well."

Dr. R was right, though. People do want to be well, very often, the pay-offs of change to be well don't outweigh the risks of being sick.

Often the choices necessary to get better scare the tar out of us and we either paralyze deer in the headlights style, or "run from the pain" like some thoroughbred horses do when sick.

Lifestyle changes can mean many frightening things: confronting wife about her mean mouth so home is a place of peace where peace and healing is possible, irritating the kids by changing everyone's diets to healthier food, taking time from a demanding boss by going for a walk at lunch or upsetting hubby about finances when he sees your actions as self-indulgent quackery.

You see? Getting healthy means a lot more than "self-control" and "discipline". It often means upsetting some pretty heavy-laden applecarts.

Longterm health gains won't happen keeping the system that produced the illness the same. A person embarking on a journey to health needs the loving support of friends and family. That might mean letting some relationships go and building others.

Everyone wants to get healthy. Getting healthy means healthy ideas, beliefs, relationships and the traditional diet and exercise.

Scary? Maybe. Worth it? Absolutely.
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