THE MIND THE BODY AND THE BUDDY

Carolyn Phelps, Ph.D

January 12, 2015

It is January. A time for renewal and resolutions and mine is to treat my body with at least as much care as I treat my shoes. If you don’t know me, then know this: I take very good care of my shoes. I am 4 weeks into my “Get Real Girlfriend” plan and I am exercising and doing Yoga 4-5 days a week. When I feel too tired, my husband gently nudges me. All of the research says if we want to make ANY change in our life, we are more likely to do it with a buddy. He is my best buddy.  It’s all about connection. The mind, the body and the buddy.  

This is what we know about those connections. First, there is no real difference, no separation between mind and body. It is one. But we have a hard time with the concept of the mind and body being connected, being one. Heck, half the time we don’t even acknowledge our body; like it’s some beater car that gets us around. We don’t want to have to put gas in it or take it in for a tune up. Or occasionally, fix a big thing like brakes. We just want it to run forever, on demand with no fuss or muss from us. And then when our body does something we don’t appreciate we feel betrayed by it. Like somehow our body  isn’t living up to a set of rules we’ve written and hung on the refrigerator. The number one rule that seems to top our list is: Other people get sick with debilitating illnesses, or have debilitating conditions, I don’t.

And yet, some of the conditions that will befall our physical body we will have little say over. Like Brette’s epilepsy. She does not have epilepsy because she did not do all of the right things. She just has epilepsy. She is not in charge over whether she came to have epilepsy. But she is in charge over what she does with it. Both she and Doug told us that she has to be mindful that she gets enough sleep and mindful about managing her level of stress. That she should use her mind to help heal her body and her mind. And if anyone reading this thinks you only need to do these things if you have epilepsy – WRONGO! Epilepsy was the vehicle that taught Brette first hand how important this care was for her body AND her mind. (But let’s be clear she doesn’t have epilepsy because for the first 20 or 21 years she did not pay attention to sleep and stress and signals from her body. If that was the case, then most of us would have epilepsy. And while epilepsy is more common than most of us think. It’s not THAT common.) She took the opportunity she was given – wanted or not. And in so doing she has built better buffers against other disease states that are influenced by our behavior. The more we accept that mind and body is one; that one affects the other – the closer we are to contentment. And who doesn’t want that? So the connections that we make within ourselves, that exist within ourselves are important. They can be transformative.

The otherside of the connection equation is the connections that we make with other people. And so here is the other thing we know: we all need buddies. We are in fact hard wired to be affiliative (psychobabble for “wants and needs buddies.”) Brette and Doug’s number one message: find and talk to people who understand what you’re going through. Whether we’re talking about living with epilepsy or living with depression, isolation in the history of those illnesses, has never helped anyone. And research has repeatedly shown that having good buddies is one of the best things we can do for ourselves, to decrease the likelihood that we develop mental health problems; and to lessen the impact of problems we do have. Brette’s number one regret: that she didn’t reach out sooner.  Truth is, I have never heard someone say “Oh, I reached out too soon; I should have spent more time isolating.”

So it’s all about the connections: the mind the body and the buddy. We ought to act like we know that. Because it’s true whether we do or not.

A huge THANKS to Brette for courageously sharing her story. Very moving.  Very Inspiring.

The website we meant to post on the show was

epilepsyfoundationmn.org

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