It is a common experience to feel that our body has let us down when we get sick. We may feel it is broken or flawed in some way and if only it was better designed we wouldn’t have to suffer illness and disease. Likewise, we tend to consider illness and disease as something bad that has happened to us and which we associate with suffering of some kind, be it physical, psychological, emotional or spiritual. This mindset or view of illness and disease is one that is deeply embedded in the biomedical model of illness and disease, a model which sees the patient as a victim of circumstances beyond their control, who is reliant and dependent upon the doctor and the medical profession to fix them.
Even though this model is well outdated and has been replaced by newer models that place increasing responsibility at the feet of the individual for why they have what they have, it remains deeply engrained in the psyche of patients and doctors alike. Patients still come looking to be fixed, demanding to be cured or healed or that “something must be done,” while refusing to make any changes themselves or to accept any responsibility for why they have what they have. Doctors still play the role of the patriarchal “all-knowing” doctor, who is there to fix, mend, repair or replace without truly understanding what it takes to heal.
We examine, investigate, diagnose, prescribe medications, perform operations, administer treatments of one kind or another, all of which serve to alleviate symptoms without actually addressing the fundamental root cause of the condition. Avoiding the latter means we are just performing band-aid medicine, a temporary fix, a solution of sorts, improving function for a while perhaps, but underneath the same rot continues and just leads to another condition elsewhere in the body, that we then attempt to fix, mend, medicate, replace or repair, again without addressing the foundational ill. And so the cycle continues — the multi-symptomatic patient is now commonplace, as nowhere along the line has anyone stopped to address the root ill.
The ever-increasing number of conditions associated with lifestyle choices or which are called “lifestyle diseases” tells us very clearly that the way we live every day is important, the choices we make matter, that we are in fact responsible for the quality of our own health. The WHO has stated that non-communicable diseases are the leading causes of death globally and that they are unequivocally largely preventable by changing lifestyle, in particular, diet, exercise, alcohol, and smoking.
Lifestyle encompasses much more than those four components — it is in fact about every choice we make in our daily lives including, for example, how we are emotionally. Over 90 percent of heart disease is likewise due to lifestyle choices and, therefore, preventable. Increasingly more and more evidence is accruing that shows the role of lifestyle in many conditions — from arthritis to diabetes to cancer, depression and many more.
How much evidence do we need before we stop and consider what is actually going on?
How much evidence do we need before we stop and begin to take responsibility for the way we are living, rather than continuing to poison our bodies and hope the medical system can put us right?
The way we are living is killing us — it may take many years — but nonetheless it is killing us. Whether it is from heart disease, diabetes, lung conditions or cancer – the buck starts and stops with us, and the way that we are living every day.
Consider the possibility that illness and disease are the body’s way of getting rid of all that we have accumulated through literally poisoning our bodies with the way we have been living. It offers us a chance to clear and heal what we have done to ourselves, and an opportunity to become more aware of our choices, and the consequences of them.
Furthermore, what if instead of seeing illness and disease as something bad, we saw it as the body’s way of bringing us to a stop, saying, “Please stop what you are doing to me, please change the way you are treating me, please change the way you are living, please stop putting food, drink, drugs, toxic emotions, critical thoughts and more into me that are harming for me, please be gentle with me, please look after me, please listen to me.”
Would these understandings transform our relationship with illness and disease? Perhaps instead of seeing illness and disease as something to be gotten through or gotten over so we can return to our “normal” lives, we would see it as a message that the way we are living is literally hurting, harming and eventually killing us. We then have the fantastic opportunity to change the way we are living, to examine our choices and to consider just how well am I treating my body — a body that is highly sensitive, delicate and tender and which does respond to lots of tender loving care, from ourselves first and foremost!
Many of us carry beliefs about ourselves that are not true — beliefs like we are not good enough, we are not worthy, not lovable, are bad or flawed in some way — and these beliefs can be hidden deep inside, but they feed into how we feel about ourselves. How we feel about ourselves then feeds into the types of choices we make and behaviors we have — so the better we feel about ourselves, the more care we will take in looking after our bodies, listening and responding to their needs, instead of overriding those messages or partaking in behaviors that we know and can feel are not good for our bodies.
What we have to all realize is, we are all worthy of the deepest love, care and affection — from ourselves first and foremost! We do not need to achieve it or earn it or work hard for it, but we can start choosing to live it by the daily choices we make.
The relationship we have with ourselves is the foundation of true health and well-being, as it will feed into every other choice and relationship we have — be that with food, work, sleep or people. It is the bedrock upon which we stand and the degree to which we allow abuse of any kind into our lives and our bodies, or not. And it is this relationship which medicine has failed to address in its approach to illness and disease, thus perpetuating the merry-go-round cycle of band-aid medicine, polysymptomatic patients, and ever increasing rates of lifestyle related conditions.
The key to healing is founded upon a true relationship with ourselves first and foremost — a relationship that knows there is a part of us that is unaffected by any illness or disease, that remains pure and unspoiled as the day we were born, and which understands that illness and disease itself is a message from our body that we have wandered astray from living in a way that is truly caring and loving for our body, a message that comes not with punishment or blame, but simply the choice to observe and feel: What needs to be released, let go of, stopped or changed for me to deepen in love and care for my body?
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