Picking yourself up from illness or despair

by Julie O’Connell-Seamer

Do you believe that stressful circumstances leave an impact on you? And have the capacity to create internal scars? 

Most of us carry emotional wounds, lost dreams or regrets - of course it’s what we do with these feelings and experiences that colours our lives.

How we perceive our circumstances reflects our values and character and has the potential to influence our body make up - from how genes are expressed to how we cope with a common cold. 

What happens when a mystery illness hits you, though? How would you cope? 

Imagine losing your sense of taste and smell; not being able to notice the enticing aroma of a cooked meal or taste its various flavours, only noting the textures. This has actually happened to clients of mine and when they each presented to me I was instantly curious as to what was happening for them before this major change in sensory function. In one case the gradual loss of enjoyment of food appeared to be linked to the grief and loss of a loved one. It was almost as if this persons sense of happiness and ability to take in sensory enjoyment had fell away during bereavement. To compensate for this a period of binge eating ensued, causing a great deal of weight gain and subsequent frustration, self loathing and a vicious cycle of unhappiness.

We are complex creatures and while I could help tend to my client’s physiological needs and apparent nutrient deficiencies, counselling was also required to unravel the layers of emotions and behaviour that had lead to this outcome.

Despite falling into this hole of darkness, this person was able to eventually notice the tastes of salty and sour. Curiously, the taste of sweetness appeared reluctant to return, as if there was a deeper layer of emotion to be addressed before the sweetness of life would be savoured again.

The weight gain was easier to shift once a wholsitic approach was taken on board by this client. We successfully addressed nervous system and hormonal balance, enhancing metabolic processes and yet, without a shift in thinking, perhaps the full range of senses would have remained allusive? Thankfully this particular client embraced all suggestions and was willing to be co-managed between myself and the psychologist so we could achieve the best outcomes, not only dealing with grief but the impact this had on her life through changed body function.

I can empathise with a quiet reluctance to facing painful emotions and past hurts. Unconsciously shutting off certain enjoyments because your hope has been broken by tragedy.

During those times when all your troops seem to have been shot down, and your sitting amongst the rubble, it is natural to feel a sense of despair. And yet we pull ourselves up, push onward and possibly forget that part of us still needs nurturing. This ‘soldier on’ attitude to whatever extent we live it will help us move forward but can’t guarantee that we aren’t forced to face our pain again, in some way.

It has been 6 years since my partner suicided. I have processed a great deal, had my ups and downs and never deliberately shied from this reality. However there are still small physical symptoms that come to greet me, when I push onward too hard, or ignore my feelings of sadness for too long. For me this presents as waking up with headaches, or having mild gut irritations that worsen the longer I avoid what’s happening to me internally. 

I am now game enough to see a correlation between my emotions and body, mind and gut, my whole being. So not only do I work on picking myself up, physically, I greet my thoughts, dark or light, and trust that by tending to them, my bodily functions will benefit and have more chance to rise again.

This is my focus in clinic, as your Naturopath, gently allowing you to hear the messages your body is sending. There are no right or wrongs, and your investment into your whole well-being pays off, whether that is a resolution of your nagging symptoms or a shift in perception about your own internal dialogue. Your body is your teacher and we aim to honour that truth. 

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