Unconventional Hope (part one)

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If you are researching Functional Medicine, then you are facing some type of health issue that is affecting your life. This leads to a struggle and whenever we struggle it is very easy to lose hope. Especially when the the issue and struggle have been going on for years. How do we stay hopeful in spite of depression? anxiety? multiple sclerosis? Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?


I Control My Own Destiny


Most people, ok…all of us, think we are in control of our lives. We can control what events occur, how they occur, etc. Some of you are probably thinking to yourself right now as you read this, that it is not true. Why is that? Because it looks absurd to read. When you see it in black and white, you know that you can’t control everything that happens in your life. But this is not what goes on inside your head (and it is not what many self help gurus tell you). You think that you are in charge of you and your life and when things do not go “right” you become upset. 


How much control do you have over traffic during your commute to work? How much control do you have over your boss or getting that promotion? How much control do you have over your children making the right decisions?



As you can see, you can’t control these things. You can do your job well, but still get passed over for the promotion. You can do your best as a parent, but your child still make bad choices. What normally happens during these times? We tell ourselves that we just need to try harder. We need to exert more self-control on ourselves. We also think this about other people who are struggling with depression, weight gain and addiction. It is not a control issue. Control is an illusion and realizing this can begin a process that frees us.


Me, Myself and I


Who is a narcissist? The person who is outgoing, wants all the attention and thinks they are better than everyone or the person that is introverted, shy and wants everyone to check on them? It is a trick question. They both are! One is because of high self-worth and the other because of low self-worth. Both of these examples think they deserve special attention. The only difference is why they think they deserve special attention. One is deserving because of how great they think they are and feel and the other because of how crappy and undeserving they think they are and feel. These two examples are two sides of the same counterfeit coin. [1] The key word in that last sentence is counterfeit. It does not have to be this way, but we do need to realize that we are all narcissists! This is human nature. By accepting this, we can begin to address these feelings of high and low self-worth. 

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How does this affect our health, our hope? It affects these things because of our thoughts. The way we view ourselves and the control we think we have leads to the thoughts we have. If we are basing our thoughts off of “counterfeit coins”, then our thoughts are going to be wrong and counterfeit too! We have to control our thoughts and be truthful with ourselves. 


Figure 1 from Pain and the Neuromatrix in the Brain, Ronald Melzack, Ph.D. [2]

Look at the figure above. It is a comprehensive view/theory of pain and can also explain other health issues or disease states. As you can see under INPUTS TO BODY-SELF NEUROMATRIX, past experiences, attention, expectation, anxiety, depression, etc. are all inputs that will lead to different OUTPUTS FROM BODY-SELF NEUROMATRIX. The different inputs affect the outputs. Thoughts can affect pain perception, motivation, feelings of stress, hormone levels and immune system activity. You can also see that the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis (HPA Axis), that is involved in our stress response, can lead to different outputs. 

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How does your body feel and respond when your thoughts are negative and based on “counterfeit coins?” It deems this as stress and activates the HPA Axis. This will affect the hormone levels in your body and the activity of your immune system. This can lead to host of different health issues. Research is supporting the idea that depression is an inflammatory disorder. [3,4]If your immune system is activated due to your thoughts/stress, then there is increased inflammation. Or maybe your immune system becomes overactive and now it not only attacks foreign invaders but you as well. This is what occurs in Autoimmune diseases and often people with Multiple Sclerosis will have exacerbations during stressful times of life. [5,6]


Hope


Where do we begin to have hope? We begin right where we are. It doesn’t matter if what we are dealing with is small or if it is a major health crisis. The first step in this journey is acceptance. Accepting what it is that you are dealing with and where you are at this time. Accepting that you don’t have control. Accepting that you are a narcissist. Only by accepting these things can you begin a journey of healing and change. And it will be a journey. It will not happen over night and there will be many twists, turns, ups and downs. But that is life and that is recovery. Let’s embrace it and enjoy it!


Disclaimer:

This article is for educational use only. Nothing contained in this article should be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This article does not constitute the practice of any medical, nursing or other professional health care advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions regarding personal health or medical conditions. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read in this article. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, you should contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and are experiencing a medical emergency, you should dial 911 or call for emergency medical help on the nearest telephone.


References:

1. Manson, M. (2019) Everything Is F*cked A Book About Hope. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

2. Melzack R. Pain and the neuromatrix in the brain. J Dent Educ. 2001 Dec;65(12):1378–82.

3. Pasco JA, Nicholson GC, Williams LJ, Jacka FN, Henry MJ, Kotowicz MA, Schneider HG, Leonard BE, Berk M. Association of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein with de novo major depression. Br J Psychiatry. 2010 Nov;197(5):372–7. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.109.076430.

4. Dowlati Y, Herrmann N, Swardfager W, Liu H, Sham L, Reim EK, Lanctôt KL. A meta-analysis of cytokines in major depression. Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Mar 1;67(5):446–57. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.09.033. Epub 2009 Dec 16.

5. Ackerman, K. D., Heyman, R., Rabin, B. S., Anderson, B. P., Houck, P. R., Frank, E., & Baum, A. (2002). Stressful life events precede exacerbations of multiple sclerosis. Psychosomatic Medicine, 64(6), 916–920.

6. Mohr, D. C., Goodkin, D. E., Bacchetti, P., Boudewyn, A. C., Huang, L., Marrietta, P., … & Dee, B. (2000). Psychological stress and the subsequent appearance of new brain MRI lesions in MS. Neurology, 55(1), 55–61.


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