How do you define health? Your daily existence? You might, if you consider yourself a healthy person. How about the absence of illness or injury, as the dictionary does? The absence of a diagnosis? Not having to take medication to sustain daily function?
More importantly, how do you have an absence of an absence?
How would you react if you discovered, through diagnosis or experience, or both, that you’d never be healthy again?
If you followed my blog in 2016, you know I burned out. I crashed spectacularly, in such chronic pain and brain fog I couldn’t recognize my own symptoms of illness any longer.
I had a migraine attack at least once a day, even on the days no known triggers seemed present. In fact, thanks to many of these symptoms, 2016 was my year of hell. And I don’t remember two out of three months of it.
Sounds like fun, huh?
I feel you, Captain Kirk. When the command center of your entire nervous system is designed for warp 10, going warp 1000, and somehow Engineering is STILL keeping the crumbling hull of your ship together as the warp core melts down, you learn a few things.
Like the fact that you probably need a new definition of health, or you’ll lose hope.
Like the fact that our current wellness culture is virtually incompatible with the idea that someone can be both chronically ill and healthy.
Even typing that sentence STILL makes my brain hurt.
That’s why I’m starting Physical Health Fridays. I want to share my experiences concerning health, physical illness, and a few other concepts as I discover them.
Also, a lot of these Fridays will be recipes. Grain-free, dairy-free, or soy-free, or some combination of all of the above. So let’s dive into what I mean by culture incompatible, and why I don’t buy it. So let’s jump in.
Health & Wellness are for Healthy People
Please, don’t throw your digital tomatoes before hearing me out. Go type in define health in Google. I’ll wait. Did you come up with the same displayed definition I did?
Health: the state of being free from illness or injury
This could also read: the state of absence of illness or injury
I did find an alternative in Merriam-Webster, but Google generally gives a fairly updated connotative definition. In other words, the one most of us recognize subconsciously. So for this section, we’ll go with the Google defintion, since there are two multi-billion dollar industries I can think of that revolve around it.
Modern medicine (reminder: talking United States, here) and health and wellness, which is at least three times the size of the pharmecutical industry, and includes such things as the spa industry, fitness and mind body, and wellness tourism. Seriously, people seek to improve or maintain wellness during or through tourist trips.
That’s pretty tough for me to comprehend. As is an industry that rakes in capital to the tune of $3.4 billion dollars a year.
I’m 99% certain that a significant majority of these folks are not those struggling through chronic illnesses and disabilities. I won’t offer any percentages, because I don’t particularly care what that percentage is. People who are well, and can afford to put money into the health and wellness industry and choose to do so? Great!
I’d love to take a few yoga classes or go to a meditation retreat sometime.
However, the wellness industry is geared toward those who can afford it. It makes sense. Most governements don’t subsidize companies selling anti-aging cream and vitamin supplements. They do subsidize medical, and the medical and pharmecutical industries hold, as a culture, the goal of finding ways to make people not sick.
The Absence of Sickness
So, back to a question I asked at the very beginning. How do you have an absence of an absence?
You don’t. I’ve never heard of a kidney donor with a kidney that somehow grew back. I don’t know of anyone that, in the absence of a heart or a brain, lived very long.
And the mind is no different. You can’t take an idea out without putting a different idea in. Whether you choose the idea you put in, or your subconscious substitutes one, a new idea fills the previous space.
Currently, we live in a world where the idea of optimum health seems to be, “I’m not diagnosably sick. I must be healthy.”
Technically correct, but the mind seeks relief from the absence. So we have two options. Learn to understand a different definition of health than the one we’re constantly bombarded with, or fill the absence with the presence of something. Usually illness.
Mind you, this happens subconsciously.
Now, oftentimes this illness will be temporary. A cold. A flu. A headache. We take aspirin or cold medicine, the symptoms lessen, and we go about our day.
Sometimes, the illness is chronic, as my migraines became last year.
This means that the illness will never be absent, because a thing like migraine has no cure. Thus, I will never be healthy. I will never have health according to the standard definition.
What To Do?
Reframe health. First, find things that work to lessen the symptoms. In my case, stop eating stuff like this:
Why? I’ll become non-functional.
Second, decide whether the circumstantial state of my mind and body truly affect whether I can be healthy.
If health is the state of functioning at the highest capacity one’s circumstances allow? Not at all. My circumstances involve the presence of a physiological condition and/or a mental condition that affect how I function on a day to day basis. This does not mean I am dead, thus I still function on a day to day basis.
Even if I am declared disabled because my migraines are now triggered by such things as the ubiquitous fluorescent lighting used in nearly every place of business nowadays, this does not mean I am unable to achieve health according to my chosen definition.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever had to choose a new idea to define a term because the old one left you devoid of hope or passion for a thing you once loved?
Feel free to share with me, even anonymously, in the comments. We learn from each other when we share, and I never want to stop learning.