“A heart attack may be how he died, but not why.”
-Forensic pathologist Dr Bennet Omalu, played by Will Smith
In the movie, Concussion, the lead character, Dr. Bennet Omalu, discovers that a series of closed head injuries was the underlying cause of death for a handful of football players. These former professional athletes turned to prescription drug abuse and narcotics to manage their “unseen” pain. He even invested his own money in the testing necessary to prove his suspicions.
From my perspective this man did more than fight for what he believed in. He was an artist who listened to that little voice within. As he defended his decisions to another forensic pathologist, he screamed, “A heart attack may be how he died but not why.”
Let me explain how this quote is relevant to you.
Our medical system uses labels to communicate what is wrong with us. On one hand, these labels can offer a sense of relief. “Oh, I’m not imagining things. This has a label and I’m not alone.”
And then there is another side to this label, a darker side.
Labels can become an excuse and lead to a victim mentality. They can be a distraction from taking charge of your life. This is a hard thing for me to own up to. I know this phenomenon firsthand because in my time as a competitive swimmer, I used asthma as an excuse for a bad swim. My disease was my way out. “Yeah, I know, I came in second to last place, but look at me, I’m wheezing. I couldn’t help it.”
Labels can put us into boxes. There is a distinction between saying, “I experience wheezing and these are my triggers. I am learning from my body. It talks to me in this specific way. What is it trying to say?” versus “I am an asthmatic.”
Saying it the first way enlivens me. I feel more awake, like there is something I need to pay attention to. I feel like a co-creator in my life. The second option makes me feel like I have no choice, like something is happening to me, and there’s not much I can do about it. It also lets me off the hook for taking any responsibility for my health. In stark contrast to the first example, I feel dull and depressed. I feel powerless against my label.
We have to be very careful with disease labels and conscious of how we use them, or they can define us in ways that don’t help. No one wants to be put in a box! There is no freedom in a box. Humans are dynamic beings. We change! We are resilient.
For 20 years of my life I had reserved myself to the fact that I had a debilitating disease. The thought that I could do nothing to change that or heal, hurt me on a deep level. The disease was a part of my identity that I never thought I could shake. Can you imagine the Aha moment I had when I realized that I never had asthma; I have a dairy allergy?
Maybe you have a chronic disease label. For a moment, consider that there may be something else under that label, under this cluster of symptoms.
Now, let’s go back to that quote: “A heart attack may be how he died, but not why.”
Cancer may be how someone dies, but not why.
At 83 years of age, my dad died of a heart attack, but do you know what actually killed him? Decades of ulcerative colitis, which resulted in years of nutritional deficiencies and global inflammation in his body. His heart just couldn’t keep up at a certain point.
Maybe you don’t have depression. Maybe you don’t have anxiety. Maybe you don’t have irritable bowel syndrome. Maybe you don’t have attention deficit disorder. Maybe you don’t have – insert disease label here.
Maybe you have a food allergy. Maybe you have a nutritional deficiency. Maybe you need to go to bed earlier. Maybe your body needs some herbs. Maybe you need to nap. Maybe you need to eat a bigger breakfast. Maybe you need to exercise more. Maybe you need to exercise less. And just maybe…you need to do some emotional work to uproot what really ails you. Remember, holding onto emotions and beliefs that don’t serve us, manifest in the body as dis-ease.
But if you continue to live in the box of a disease label, and never look beyond the use of pharmaceutical drugs to control your symptoms, then you, my friend, are screwed.
I remember being screwed. I had multiple inhalers and periodic steroid shots in my ass when I was in real trouble. I used to take two different kinds of medications for my allergies. The one I took in the morning was stimulating, and the one I took in the evening was sedating. As a kid, my mom sprinkled a powdered asthma medication on my freaking ice cream! I mean, really? I remember getting sicker on these medications and how hard it was coming off these drugs when all I needed to do was look at my diet, discover my herbal allies, and change the way I was living my life.
I have learned to use my body as my teacher. When it talks to me, I listen. It’s smarter than I am; it doesn’t make mistakes. I don’t have to figure it all out; I just have to pay attention.
If I do this, then this happens. It’s simple. And if I can’t make an immediate connection between my behavior and how I feel, then I say my prayer: Infinite Spirit, show me the way. What is happening here? And I watch for signs.
My invitation to you is to look under whatever ails you. Pick up the heavy rock of your disease label and see what lies beneath it.
You may not like what you find, but trust me, the truth will set you free. The personal power that you will feel from taking control of your health will spread into every part of your life.
Will you be able to heal completely? Will you be freed from all your symptoms? Quite possibly, but I can’t promise that. I can promise that pharmaceutical drugs will become a last resort, and that while there is rarely a quick-fix, uncovering the root of your ailments is key to living in your highest integrity.
This is why I am sharing my journey with you in intimate conversations through writing. I am committed to teaching you what I have learned the over the past 14 years. I want you to see that your body is smarter than you are and that you can take your power back and live a meaningful life.
Your first step may be to subscribe to my weekly newsletter where, I will share all of what I have learned with you. We can be together every week! See you soon. Until next time…Eat in Peace!