This past weekend I was admitted to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. This came on very sudden and I feel lucky that I drove myself to the hospital in time to avoid my appendix rupturing. I have been a patient in the hospital on two other occasions, when giving birth to my two children. Being a patient for a few days has caused me to reflect in how I view my health and my responsibility to my body.
I grew up a very active, healthy child. But my house was filled with illness. My mother suffered a mental illness, schizophrenia, and the circumstances surrounding her sickness greatly affected my childhood and the adult I am today. She was often hospitalized, throughout my life due to her brain disease. My mother’s physical health was greatly affected by her mental illness, she suffers from Tardive Dyskinesia, which is a motor disorder cause by years of heavy anti-psychotic medication. She was overweight and had poor eating habits, she refused to go to the dentist, so her teeth have mostly rotted away over the years. When she was home, when I was young, she often complained about headaches and a pain in her eye, so she most of the time sleeping in her room.
Mental illness is a brain disease and is something that one can only control with medications, that often cause awful side effects. It is a genetic disorder that can be exacerbated through one’s environment and extreme stress. I grew up knowing I had a 12% chance of inheriting my mother’s disease and these odds scared me tremendously throughout my life. I purposefully tried to keep my brain challenged though reading and doing word puzzles as a child. (Not that this would prevent the disease, but at a very young age I felt the need to take some responsibility for my health). I never wanted to be a patient in a mental hospital, or not have the capacity to relate to the world around me.
I also was very aware of keeping my body healthy, I didn’t want to be overweight like my mother, and always danced, ran, exercised and ate healthy. When I was 19 years old, I was diagnosed with kidney disorder, called Nephrotic Syndrome. The doctors were baffled, I was very young for such a diagnosis. My blood work was monitored weekly and I was treated with Prednisone (a steroid that has horrible side effects), and after about a year, this kidney disease went into remission. At the same time of the kidney disorder, my father suffered from a heart attack. He was 60 years old was a candidate for a smooth recovery. He took charge of his health, gave up eating red meat, started a running program and never touched a tobacco product again. Truly being my father’s daughter, and feeling blessed I was not genetically inclined to my mother’s illness, I also took charge of my health. I gave up eating all animal products, cranked up my running program, and began to practice yoga. I felt that I was spared a brain disease, and had the opportunity to make healthy choices in my life, to avoid heart disease.
Perhaps I am a bit of a health nut and have been accused of being the food police to others, especially when I catch friends eating fast “food.” But I feel we have a responsibility to our minds and bodies.
I treat patients with chronic pain and various health issues in a private psychology practice and am often baffled by choices people make. It has been proven that smoking delays the body’s ability to heal.. .however most of my patients smoke, post major surgery, not considering the direct impact they have on their own body’s healing. I think people just simply want a doctor or prescription to fix them. Taking responsibility for one’s own body somehow seems too difficult.
This past weekend, when I was hospitalized for an emergency appendectomy, I had a roommate that was admitted for chest pains, and was being monitored to rule out a heart attack. I was amused to overhear her dinner order: spaghetti with meat sauce, a baked potato, a soda and chocolate cake. I heard her pause, perhaps the dietary tech on the phone mentioned she is listed to have a heart healthy diet, and woman said, ok, then I’ll have the angel food cake, instead. If you thought you just had a heart attack would you order meat sauce and cake? Perhaps a green salad and a piece of grilled fish would be a healthier option. I overheard the nurse tell this woman that the results of her testing showed she has a mass on her lungs, and then asked her if she smoked. In a raspy voice, my roommate answered, “yes.” I didn’t have a chance to really talk to my roommate, since I was released a few hours after she was admitted. But I wonder if quitting smoking is even on her radar.
I am curious to hear your thoughts about health and your responsibility to your body. Do you consider how your choices directly affect your health? Thanks for sharing.
Be healthy and happy!