Strength In Being Fragile
Hi everyone, it's been a while...
As some of you know I have not been well for some time now.
This has not been easy both physically and mentally.
It was a stark reminder of how fragile and vulnerable being a human-being can be.
I tried to fight it.
I tried to gain power over it.
It didn't work.
Eventually I had to accept the reality of my being.
It was the only way to really start my healing ...
NOTHING IN OUR BODY WORKS IN ISOLATION.
Everything Works With and Affects Everything Else.
A heart inflammation issue becomes a chest/lung issue, gut issue, kidney issue, thyroid issue and bone health issue.
The extreme fatigue, weakness, poor sleep, muscle cramps, breathlessness, foggy head and low appetite caused by the inflammation plus decrease functions of kidney and thyroid also causes mental health issues: feeling helpless, hopeless, down and depressed.
It really does feel like everything is falling apart.
Sort of like a very personal (non political), domino effect.
Whether the first piece that fell was due to a virus infection (like long-Covid) or because of 2+ years of immense stress and anxiety (pandemic fall-out and personal/family matters), is completely irrelevant!!
Either way we feel vulnerable and fragile.
NO ONE WANTS TO APPEAR FRAGILE OR VULNERABLE.
We've been taught not to allow ourselves to appear, or be, vulnerable.
Defenceless, Susceptible, Weak, Feeble, Frail, Debilitated are synonyms you'll find associated with fragility and vulnerability.
Fear & Shame often follow (especially in our society).
We've learned that on some level being or showing vulnerability is dangerous - consciously or subconsciously, it becomes a fear, a threat.
And with that our brain and nervous system, responds in “kind” and activates our threat response known as “Fight or Flight” and it permeates throughout our body.
Our Fight/Flight response is vital for our survival and is designed to aid us when faced with immediate danger to our lives (like facing a Saber Tooth tiger), BUT when it comes to healing and recovery the Fight/Flight sympathetic nervous system (SNS) response actually prohibits the necessary functions to allow healing to take place.
THE FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE BEGINS IN THE BRAIN
When someone experiences an existential threat (or an event that is perceived as stressful or frightening), the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing, sends a distress signal to the "command centre" or our brain – the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus communicating with the rest of the body through the autonomic nervous
The ANS has two components, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) that balance each other out.
It provides the body with a burst of energy so that it can respond to perceived dangers with an autonomic physiological reaction designed to aid our survival when faced with an immediate danger to our life (like facing a saber tooth tiger).
The physiological chain reaction brought about by the fight/flight SNS response commands the adrenal glands to pump the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) into the bloodstream. As epinephrine circulates throughout the body, it brings on a number of physiological changes:
- Increase heart rate & dilate coronary blood vessels to increase oxygen & energy
to the heart.
- Dilate blood vessels serving muscles to increase availability of oxygen to skeletal
muscles (so we can "run for our lives").
- Dilate bronchi Increase respiration rate to increase availability of oxygen in blood.
In addition to physiological reactions there are also psychological components that include a quickening of thought and an intentional focus on salient targets, like the source of the threat and escape avenues.
As the initial surge of epinephrine subsides, the hypothalamus activates the second component of the stress response system - known as the HPA axis.
This network consists of the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands.
The HPA axis relies on a series of hormonal signals to keep the SNS - the "gas pedal" - pressed down and triggers the release of cortisol.
The cortisol awakening response (CAR) is actually the standard measure of HPA activity and a diagnostic marker of chronic stress which so many of us are experiencing nowadays - 2 years of pandemic, war, cost of living rises, work stresses, home life / family stresses... the
list goes on & on.
A LOT OF US FIND IT HARD TO PUT THE BRAKES ON STRESS.
Chronic low-level stress keeps the HPA axis activated, much like a motor that is idling too high for too long. After a while, this has an effect on the body that contributes to the health problems associated with stress because as potent and necessary as the fight/flight response is to our immediate survival, it also, ironically - - -
SHUTS DOWN the vital functions of HEALING & RECOVERY.
NOTHING IN OUR BODY HEALS IN ISOLATION.
In order to really heal, recover, get stronger, overcome set backs, we need to first get rid of the fear & shame and feel safe in our bodies.
We cannot fully heal and recover until the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) puts the brakes on the stress responses.
We want to down-regulate and activate the "Rest & Digest" functions.
It is important to understand that most times, when we are not well or injured or hurt we deal
with symptoms: pain, hormonal imbalance, inflammation etc.
Modern medicine mostly deals with each symptom one at a time and aims at relieving those symptoms.
Another unfortunate issue with our modern medicine is it's separation between physical and emotional as if those are two different things (they are NOT!).
Our physical body and our mind are part of who we are as human beings.
Our brain is part of our body and they function together - they communicate via the Nervous System on many different levels and affect each other constantly.
The fragility of this system that can cascade a myriad of issues can become the strength of healing if we can be brave enough and face our humanity not with fear but with acceptance.
It is our ability to accept ourselves, as we are, "in sickness & in health" that starts the process of true healing and recovery.
Yes, we can help the body with modern medicine.
Rebalancing Thyroid hormones with outside resources (Eltroxin - Levothyroxine Sodium is usually prescribed). Other prescriptions can help reduce inflammation, block acid in our gut etc. BUT if the underline body’s response to HOW WE FEEL physically, mentally, emotionally is not addressed, we end up solely dependant on treating symptoms individually disregarding the fact that to truely recover, heal, get our strength back we need to look at ourselves as a whole person.
We have the ability to understand and gain skills to help ourselves recover. No one knows us better than we know ourselves. Prescriptions can only do so much – the real work is always up to us:
- To pay attention to ourselves. To listen to ourselves. To accept ourselves as we are and strive to do better, feel better, be better.
- Learning how to quite down the stress responses and facilitate recovery and health is in our hands and if that’s not STRENGTH, I don’t know what is.
What I teach and how I teach firstly comes from that strong belief.
Sometimes I need to remind myself of that too.
We all go through set backs in our lives but we CAN recover, heal, and get strong & healthy again.
I’m on that road now.
Hope you’ll join me.