The more serious the illness, the more important it is for you to fight back, mobilizing all your resources--spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical.
Whatever your disease, there are statistical tables telling you your odds of surviving the illness. Remember, however, you are a human being, not a statistic. The tables give statistical averages, not facts about your life.
The insurance industry's life-expectancy tables are an example of this. No matter what your age, they will tell you--to the month--when you will die. Of course, they can do nothing of the kind. But statistically, they're accurate.
The absurdity of relying on statistics is reflected in the insurance salesperson who was looking up the life expectancy of an elderly client. The salesperson looked and looked and finally said, "I'm sorry. I can't sell you insurance. You're already dead."
Let's say you have a disease with a very low rate of survivability--ninety-five percent of all people who have your disease die within a certain length of time. Don't look at the percentage and say, "Oh, ninety-five percent of the people who have this die. Of course, I'm one of the ninety-five percent." Ninety-five percent of the people hearing that information would say just that. It's probably what makes them part of the ninety-five percent.
Tell yourself instead, "Five percent make it. Great. I'm in that five percent."
Five percent may seem like a small number, but when you multiply it times the number of people who have ever had that particular disease, it's usually a large number of people.
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.
If the disease affects, say, 10,000 people each year, that means, statistically, 500 people will makeit. You might find it hard to think of yourself as being part of five percent, but being one of 500--that's easier. After all, you only have to be one of those 500. And there's room for 499 others as well.
Even if only one other person survived the life-threatening illness currently visiting you, you can be number two. And if no one else survived it, you can be the first. You've probably always wanted to be first at something. Here's your chance.
Die, my dear doctor, that's the last thing I shall do.
What your doctors want is your recovery. Give your doctors what they want. Get well.
While doing that, follow your doctors' orders to the letter. (If you're rebellious, just think of "orders" as "kindly suggestions." If you're competitive, think of them as "challenges.") Take the pills, avoid the foods, do the exercises, take the rest, practice the therapy, be cooperative.
Follow your doctors' advice as though it were an affirmation. Do everything he or she asks, no matter what. If you want to make a change in treatment, ask if it's okay. If the doctor says no, don't make the change. If you're not happy with the care you're getting, change doctors.
Ask your doctor what each pill and procedure isfor. As you take the pill or take part in the procedure, tell yourself, "This pill will heal my ___________." "This exercise will strengthen my ___________." Don't just blindly take pills. Add your energy to each pill, such that--even if it were only a sugar pill--it would still do the intended job.
Following your doctor's orders, to the letter, is a discipline. Doing it with a will to be well will make you well.
To whom can I speak today? I am heavy-laden with trouble Through lack of an intimate friend.
THE MAN WHO WAS TIRED OF LIFE
A book popular about twenty-five years ago was called Psychotherapy: The Purchase of Friendship. That's about the best definition of therapy I've heard.
Consider all the things you classically think a friend to be. (Coleridge: "Flowers are lovely; love is flower-like; Friendship is a sheltering tree.") As with all things rare, true friendship can be hard to find.
However, the qualities of a willing ear, enduring patience, sound advice, and the knowledge that "someone's in your corner" can be found in a good therapist.
A faithful friend is the medicine of life.
If you have a life-threatening illness, you may find it invaluable to have someone you can just be yourself with, someone with whom you can openly discuss your fears and concerns (especially the ones you're afraid might frighten and concern your friends and loved ones), someone you can trust.
Such a relationship can be a lifesaver.
Whether you have a life-threatening illness or not, the goal of conquering a habit of negative thinking (or any other bad habit) can use the support, compassion, and guidance of a qualified therapist.
Select a therapist with care. Shop around. Just because a person is "a therapist" doesn't necessarily mean he or she can help you. Not all therapists are right for all people. Have initial sessions with several. Choose the one you feel most comfortable with, a natural empathy for, and, above all, one you can trust.
In working with a therapist, be honest about everything--including how you feel about the therapist. You can con and make nice and play games and spare the feelings and try to win the approval of everyone else in your life, but with your therapist, just be you. Don't pretend, cover up, or conceal. Give yourself the freedom to feel, think, and express whatever happens to be there.
I was much further out than you thought And not waving but drowning.
Therapy is a place to explore yourself, express yourself, and experiment with new behaviors as well as to gain the comfort, support, love, caring, and experience of another.
It's a special relationship, one you're worthy of.
There is nothing so powerful as truth --and often nothing so strange.
In addition to the cornucopia of treatments offered by the "established" medical community, there is a vast body of healers, chiropractors, nutritionists, massage therapists, herbologists, naturopaths, body workers, acupuncturists, prayer therapists (and on and on) available to you.
Once all the medical doctors' advice has been followed, you will probably find time in the day to explore "the other side."
As you do, keep this in mind: the traditional medical establishment and the alternative practitioners do not, for the most part, see eye to eye. At some places along the borders of their disciplines is an uneasy truce; at other points, open warfare. If you choose to go from one camp to another in search of health, know that you will from time to time be in no-man's-land.
Both sides may take potshots, at best, and mount major attacks, at worst, on your dalliance with "those other people."
The attitude of the alternative practitioner might be, "Don't take that poison [your prescription medications] your doctor gives you. That's what's killing you. Stop it at once!"
The attitude of the established medical doctor is sometimes more benign--he or she has, after all, won the battle of who's best with the vast majority of the public and can afford to be magnanimous. The established doctor may dismiss the entire field of alternative healing with a comment such as, "It's a complete waste of your time and money."
I have found enormous value in each camp. When ill, I wouldn't dream of being without lavish attention from both. Some illnesses, traditional medical science can cure with a bottle of pills. I take the pills. Other illnesses have traditional medical science stumped, but for the natural healer, they are no problem. In those cases, I visit the alternative practitioner.
The only medicine for suffering, crime, and all the other woes of mankind, is wisdom.
THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY
In some treatments the lines between traditional and alternative begin to blur. Traditional medicine begins incorporating alternative medicine, and alternative medicine begins including the traditional. Acupuncture, for example, oncepooh-poohed by the traditionalists, is now used and accepted by more and more doctors. Dietary changes--once thought to have no significant effect on one's health as long as one was getting the daily minimum allotment of nutrients--are now, with many illnesses, standard medical advice.
More and more M.D.s are using alternative medicine in their practices, and more and more natural healers are saying, "A good shot of penicillin will clear this up faster than anything else," or "Have you tried aspirin?"
I applaud this "meeting of the minds." It may be some time before there is One Medicine. The day, frankly, may never come. Even if it never comes, use what works for you from either world and incorporate it all in your plan for wellness.
Don't be duplicitous: let each health-care provider--traditional or alternative--know what you're doing with the others. Some may throw up their hands and shriek, others may shake their heads in disapproval, but let each know you plan to continue. "What can you do for me in addition to this?" is what you want to know. If they say, "Nothing," move on. There are plenty of healers on both sides who are flexible enough to augment.
The philosophies of one age have become the absurdities of the next, and the foolishness of yesterday will become the wisdom of tomorrow.
SIR WILLIAM OSLER
MONTREAL MEDICAL JOURNAL
What you want is a cure. Where it comes from doesn't matter. Maybe it will be from this, maybe it will be from that, maybe it will be from everything together, and maybe your attitude and enthusiasm alone will heal you.
It doesn't matter. Be healed. Be well. That's what all healers worth their salt want.
This may seem redundant--not of what was in the book before, but of what you were taught as a child.
I will list certain common-sense guidelines for taking care of yourself--and particularly your body. Most medical types will assume you're doing these things already. Maybe you are; maybe you're not. I won't go into much detail. A part of you will say, "I know what you mean." Compare that inner knowledge with what you are doing and, if necessary, change your lifestyle.
Get sufficient rest. How much sleep do you need? Go to sleep. When you wake up, that was enough. When you get tired again, go back to sleep. Use earplugs if noises bother you, a sleeping mask if light is troublesome.
Take vitamins. You may need more vitamins than you are getting. Check with your health care practitioners about which ones you need. Minerals, too. And maybe other nifty supplements they can recommend.
Eat sensibly. Remember the Four Basic Food Groups? Eat some of each every day. Especially fruits and raw vegetables, the food group most Americans omit from their diet. But eating only raw vegetables is not the answer, either. Take the time to enjoy eating your food so that (a) it's fun, and (b) it's properly assimilated.
Avoid fad diets. What's wonderful in Asia may not work here. Listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs. Learn to distinguish between wants and needs.
Get some exercise. Because this book will find its way to people in all sorts of conditions, I'm not going to give any specifics. Check with your doctor.
Get massaged. Okay, so maybe you didn't learn this as a child, but it's one that may awaken the child within you. Massage releases tensions, frees energy, removes physical blocks, and--perhaps most important of all--feels good. Indulge yourself. Often. You deserve it.
Take hot baths. In this rush-rush, stand-up world, most people take showers. They're faster. More efficient. Some people haven't been in a hot bath for years. Too bad. They don't know what they're missing. Soaking in hot water, even for a few minutes, relaxes the body and soothes the mind faster than almost anything I know. So take a hot bath every day--whether you need it or not. And more often if you do.
One does not moisten a stamp with the Niagara Falls
P. W. R. FOOT
No leg's too short to reach the ground.
She that knows why knows wherefore
He digs deepest who deepest digs.
Copyright © 1988-1996 Peter McWilliams & Prelude Press, Inc.
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