Changing the Way We Heal
Another revelation this week. My sister-in-law’s aunt was suddenly getting into heated fights with her sisters and nieces last summer. When I came to visit, I could feel the disturbance in the field these fights had left behind. Nothing anyone did seemed to help, nothing got resolved. And people’s feelings were hurt all around. People stopped talking. A few days ago, a year after the summer of fights, my sister-in-law called to say her aunt, the one who had stirred up so much gall in the family, had just been diagnosed with brain cancer. She has a brain tumor. I flashed back in time to a memory of a friend confiding to me that her father-in-law was saying and doing inappropriate things that were embarrassing her, only to discover a year later he had brain cancer. In each case, family members came late to the realization that mind, body and emotions are all connected. They can be separated only in our broken thinking about them, but not in physical reality.
When we get sick, any of us, we get sick in mind and body and heart and spirit—all at the same time. Because it’s all connected. This fundamental truth about healing explains why the chronic disease epidemic affecting 50% of people living in the U.S. parallels a spike in the divorce rate, which has doubled since the 1990s. Apparently, the vow to love and cherish in sickness and health is getting harder and harder as more and more couples are challenged with chronic illnesses that last for years and even decades, often before they are even diagnosed. Suicide has also increased 25% in the last two decades.
Anyone paying attention who has the capacity to be emotionally honest about the social causes of our chronic dis-ease can come to the inevitable and obvious conclusion that our health care system itself is sick. If you have any doubts about that observation, you can compare the U.S. healthcare system to a country like France to see the U.S. health care system is itself chronically ill and in need of healing.
In skill and competence of medical staff, France ranked 1st compared to the United States' disappointing 16th ranking. France ranked 3rd in cost compared to the United States' shocking 23rd ranking, with Americans spending almost twice as much per capita as our French counterparts for far less health when it comes to chronic illnesses. And France ranked 3rd in the overall quality of their health care system compared to the United States' dismal 41st ranking.
On top of all that, people in the U.S. suffer from mental disorders more than anyone else in the world. A fact that may be a factor in our ability to govern ourselves as much as heal ourselves.
From dentistry to psychotherapy to chemotherapy, Americans need to change the way we heal. Starting with the belief that the healing we need will come from outside of us, rather than from within. In addition, there are three more changes in our bodymindset toward health and wellbeing we all need to make to start the big change we desperately need to turn our ship around as a well society. We need to connect human health and environmental health, and look the political and economic consequences squarely in the face. We need to stop avoiding and denying and delaying the truth about the chronic illnesses we have created, and start adapting. And finally, we need to develop more faith that we can turn our ill health around by simply valuing, teaching and practicing self-care to prevent chronic diseases before they happen.
Because that is how we heal.