A heart at peace
About a year ago I had a miserable illness that the doctors struggled to explain. For two months I was laid up with severe body aches, nausea, and vertigo. But every test – and I mean every test – came back normal. I was the healthiest sick man they’d ever seen, some doctors commented. Then one of them, a gastroenterologist, told me that he had seen the very same symptoms in people with severe anxiety.
I didn’t believe it. It didn’t make sense. It was summer and my work life was as relaxed as it ever got. My marriage was strong, and relationships with my kids were great. And I was looking forward to a camping trip in the mountains with some buddies in a couple weeks. Life was good. A diagnosis of anxiety just didn’t add up in my mind.
But when I took the time to honestly reflect on the past ten years, I had to admit that some things in life were indeed very stressful. As much as I love my job, the demands can be overwhelming at times. Despite our budget staying in the black, we walked a fine line every month leaving little room for planning for the future. My youngest brother-in-law passed away from leukemia. My stepbrother died from cancer as well. As did a close friend. And my to-do list was longer than the Bible!
I conceded. I began getting treatment at my health care system’s Psychiatry Department and much to my surprise, and my relief, I started to get well again. Today, I am close to 100%, and in some ways I am probably healthier than I was before the “crash”. Because now I have some understanding of the complex interactions of lifestyle, mental health, and physical health. Now I have tools to stay healthy.
I have often said that I never knew my brain could beat me up so badly. But it did.
An ancient proverb says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body…” (Proverbs 14:30, NIV). One of the many lessons I have learned from this experience is this: a healthy body requires a peaceful heart.
*As a scientist, I need hard evidence for this brain-body connection. Next week I’ll share with you what I have learned from the scientific research community about the physical effects of our mental health. I hope you’ll join me!