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After All That

After All That

The Thanksgiving Holiday is just two days away. Thanksgiving is a holiday that is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every November, devoted to giving thanks and feasting, commemorating the Pilgrims' celebration of the good harvest of 1621. Canada has a similar holiday but it is celebrated on the second Monday of October. No matter how good it appears to others, I recognize that many people are living wretched lives and searching for something to be thankful for.

Some are thankful for Ole Miss having such a great 2014 football season. Others are excited that Mississippi State has had a glorious season as well. Some are thankful for the opportunity to shop at their favorite store on Thanksgiving night. Some see Thanksgiving as the signal that the Christmas season is about to begin. Others see Thanksgiving as a day to celebrate the sin of gluttony and eat until they cannot stand, sit or lie down comfortably. But of all the days of the year and all of the holidays we celebrate, Thanksgiving is my favorite.

One important part of being healthy is having healthy social relationships. Data shows that people who have a small number of social relationships also have a shorter life expectancy. An extension of these studies is that social isolation leads to worse impacts from various infectious diseases on our health. People have all kinds of personal relationships. Some of the ones considered medically protective are a healthy, loving marriage, contact with friends and extended family, and religious affiliations such as memberships to churches, synagogues and temples. Work related relationships can also qualify as medically protective, but the relationships have to be healthy, just like a marriage.

But having significant social relationships are a double edged sword. Any unhealthy or stressful social relationship can have the opposite effect on one's health. The unrelenting psychosocial stress of an unhealthy relationship can lead to a flaring of autoimmune diseases, arthritis, activation of latent viruses such as Epstein-Barr and varicella-zoster, chronic fatigue, loss of sleep, and an increase intensity of chronic pain.

Frequently, I see patients who have not just one unhealthy relationship, but many. They seem to burrow themselves in a mountain of disturbing and enmeshed drama. They talk about making changes in their lives, but are paralyzed to take the first step to separate themselves from their menagerie of dysfunctional characters. The most often cited reason for their reluctance to get out is the perception that separation from their monsters on the midway will lead them to a lack of wealth. They fear that they will not be able maintain their current upper class lifestyle, although it is unhealthy and killing them. It is as if they are afraid of living a healthy life because they might not drive a BMW or Mercedes, or they may have to live in a two bedroom apartment instead of a ten thousand square foot home and have a vacation house or a farm to go to on weekends.

I grew up in a fourteen hundred square foot home; my brother and sister, my grandmother, my father and my uncle lived with me. We had three bedrooms and one bathroom without a shower. Those simple days were some of the happiest of my life. What has happened to our society?

I am very fortunate that I made very difficult choices at age forty years-old. I suffered from chronic migraine headaches that took the joy out of life. I made the bold move to leave a woman I did not love, leave a job I did not want to do and change back to my authentic self. I lost hundreds of thousands of dollars and lived in a two bedroom apartment for quite a while. To this day, my children say that the best times of their lives were when we lived in that small, intimate place. We made the best of it. I also had Max, a one hundred and twenty pound Doberman Pincher living there too. It was not difficult to live in seven hundred square feet of space, it was amazing.

We had several Thanksgiving dinners in that apartment and we never went hungry. I had a beat up old pick-up truck, a job that just paid enough and I met four new dear friends that made my life complete. I reared my children to accept the world that they lived in. They learned that any healthy personal relationship begins with being a healthy authentic person first. That is not to say that times were not difficult, they were. But if one works through the hardships of their life from a position of authenticity, they will find that their solutions will be in accord with their personal worldview. Stress has a much lesser effect on the body when it is in accord with our personal world view.

I am thankful in many ways. My life is a reflection of who I am and what I believe. I devote myself to being a leader when I have to and being of service to others when I do not. I am thankful that I took the chance to live my life without fear. I told a patient last Friday that I did not live in fear. I am fearless. But there is one thing I fear: as I look back on my past life, I realize that it could all happen again if I do not stick to my personal principles, maintain boundaries and remain authentic.

Being a prisoner in a dysfunctional world is devastating to the soul. And when our souls are held captive by our Dementors, we usually become ill as a way to release their control. An ill-fated by-product of our sickness is that we also lose our personal sense of control. Unfortunately some of us do not get out in time to get the chance to live an amazing life because we stayed in the chaos far too long. What is worse is that our physical vessel becomes decrepit. It no longer floats on a sea of love and enlightenment, it no longer sings songs of joy. Instead it just crawls alone through the days and nights in a wasteland of isolation, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Be thankful this Thanksgiving. Find the courage to live a life of authenticity. Chose to be who you are. Depart from the accepted disturbing paradigms of enmeshed family values and tumultuous personal relationships. Pack your things, leave, fight the battles and know that you are doing what is necessary to find those medically protective relationships instead of those health destructive ones.

In order to celebrate an impressive harvest you have to plant and maintain a great crop. Follow the Pilgrims lead; it was grueling to leave their homes in England, travel across the oceans in a small boat in unsanitary conditions, build shelters with primitive tools, clear the fields, till the soil, plant seed and tend the fields. After all that, they celebrated Thanksgiving. What will you be thank full for?

A new beginning perhaps?

Doc
Posted by Amanda Sanders at 8:39 AM
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