It’s hard to believe the mind is such a powerful thing. I don’t mean that in some self-congratulatory, “I am Girl Genius” kind of way. No, I’m talking about the phenomenal power of the sub-conscious over every aspect of our lives. Up until three years ago I could never have believed the mind was truly capable of affecting the human body quite so completely. To me, the rules were simple – eat well, exercise, drink in moderation, don’t smoke (I failed on that one) – and all will be well. I hadn’t accounted for the fact that stress is like a cancer; it creeps up on you and, before you know it, has spread through every aspect of your life – and, as it turns out, your body. The weird thing is sometimes you don’t even know you are stressed.
When I say ‘you’ I do in fact mean me, of course. My symptoms were numerable – lights in the eyes, dizziness, muscle weakness, visible and internal twitching, muscle spasms, numbness, and the most horrible feeling that my head was too heavy for my neck. The obvious diagnosis was MS but tests revealed none of the normal indicators of the disease. Instead, I was eventually diagnosed with endometriosis, macular degeneration, and yep, you guessed it, something along the lines of a psychosomatic disorder (I love how that term starts with ‘psycho’).
Looking back now, it’s hard for me to begin to process how that explanation made me feel. Confused, angry, weak, insane. How could my mind turn on my body like that? I had always considered myself a very peaceful, rational kind of person. Were the experts really saying it was all in my mind?
In reality, I was calm on the exterior, but like the proverbial swan on a mill pond, my legs were peddling like hell beneath the surface. I won’t bore you with the details of what caused the stress, only that it was accumulative and as I put it to a friend once, “There was no one big thing.”
Ever so slowly, I have seen my nervous disorder start to abate. Sure, it comes back with a vengeance whenever I am a little anxious, but very gradually my health has improved. Over the last few months this has been in no small degree due to the fact that my husband, Del, has been working in the midlands and coming home every night. After living apart during the week for nearly 8 years, it had never occurred to me that I might like a little company, that maybe my mind was crying out for it.
So, why am I telling you all this? I guess because the role of the writer is a solitary one which involves long stints sat at a desk or in a chair, where days blur into nights and nights blur into days, and without the need to ever step outside of the house. My point here is to beg you all to think about the health of not only your body, but also your mind. Find mechanisms to de-stress – get a little fresh air into your lungs, drink that glass of wine in good company, dance in your kitchen, lie out in the sun – and remember while it is the little things that can make us ill, it is also the little things that can make us better.