Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Where The Real World Intercepts Our Health

You know all about how to take care of yourself during cold and flu season.  If you’re a candidate for it you get the flu shot.  You have been instructed thousands of times about washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, and when you cough do so into the crux of your elbow.  We know that certain illness can be prevented by vaccine (some debate about childhood vaccines, so please consult your doctor if you have any questions).  We know that sharing telephones, computer keyboards, and obviously touching door handles etc spread germs, but these are all things we can rationalize and take steps to prevent ourselves from getting sick.  What happens when the circumstances in life create an incubator for illness?

I’m reading Lewis Mehl-Madrona’s book, Narrative Medicine.  I’ve read a few of his books and I’m in awe of his wisdom and perspective on the world and life.  I was buzzing along reading and read the following information that stopped me in my tracks.  Mehl-Madrona reports, “Harvey Brenner’s large-scale studies from 1973 on the effects of unemployment in America showed that a 1 percent rise in unemployment was followed by 6 percent more first admissions to psychiatric hospitals, a 4 percent rise in suicides, a 4 percent increase in admissions to state prisons, and 6 percent more homicides.”  Even as I type this I’m in shock. 

We know that the mind-body connection is strong, so what happens to our physical health in times of greater unemployment?  Depression weakens the immune system and allows what my be below rise to the surface in a physical, emotional, and spiritual manner.  If you aren’t health challenged you become compromised.  If you are health challenged, then doesn’t a real life circumstance like unemployment, and the current state of our economy impact your journey to wellness?

Unemployment is just one issue being discussed here, but we encounter devastating life events all the time?  How will you fortify your physical, emotional, and spiritual health?  What support systems do you have in place so that you can build your internal resources?  I can tell you how this has impacted me in the past few months.  I needed to leave my home in Colorado for a job in San Antonio, TX.  I’d been working out of the house for years and took care of the running of the household while my partner worked outside the home.  When I left to take this job, all the responsibility of running the household fell on his shoulders.  I can tell you by the grace of God, my neighbors have been incredible.  They have helped him in numerous ways and in addition, have been a surrogate family for him while I’ve been gone.  He has strong relationships with these people and they have meals together, sit on the porch and have coffee in the mornings, and invite him over to watch the football game.

This type of social support helps to balance the stress and emotional fallout of suddenly finding himself alone for four months.  It’s been an adjustment, but he’s a trooper and he’s continuously engaging with others to keep his morale up, his ties to the community strong, while at the same time giving himself time to read or engage in other nurturing activities.

We can’t plan for every real world event, but we can begin working on building our resources and depositing in our physical, emotional, and spiritual banks for a rainy day…the day when we may need to make a withdrawal from those accounts to keep forging our way to health and healing.


I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

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