I just read a blurb on how having positive thoughts will keep you healthy and that positive thoughts are so powerful they may even cure cancer. While I agree that there is probably a strong relationship between positive thoughts and health, I don’t think it is causal. I think it is just easier to have positive thoughts when you are healthy. Remember the saying, “When you have your health, you have everything.” Why not be happy when you are healthy?
Not all of us are healthy. Some of us come into the world with a couple strikes against us and things get rough from there. I consider myself a fairly upbeat positive person. Most people look at me and consider me to be very positive. Once, someone called me a Pollyanna because I was always cheerful.
Having positive thoughts and being cheerful have not prevented a long list of chronic illnesses. I developed my birth defect before I had thoughts. My thought process had no control over what happened in the womb. I may be more pleasant to be around because I’m cheerful and optimistic, but I’m not healthy. I simply choose to be happy.
This leads me to a discussion of depression. When people are sick they get depressed. I got the flu a couple weeks ago and have been fighting the cough coupled with asthma ever since. I’m neither happy nor cheerful. I might go so far as to say I’m not optimistic tonight. Sometimes I take medications to treat the mood disorder, but they don’t do much good.
My thoughts run in circles on issues of abandonment-especially being abandoned by God. As my stomach cramps from coughing, I have fantasies of being sick and injured and being among people who don’t speak English and have no concern for my health, which is a pretty accurate description of my life alone in the house with three dogs. They want me to do things despite the fact that I hurt all over and cough if I move. I have no idea what they want because they don’t speak English and I feel too miserable to speak dog.
It is at times like this that all I can see of my past is pain and fatigue. I know we visited Italy. I remember how my back ached on the flight over. I remember the Italian woman who yelled at me for touching a doll she had on display. I remember having trouble finding food to eat. It was a fantastic trip. I know I was excited and would love to go back, but now it is hard to remember the joys.
I think about other places I’d like to travel and I wonder if I will ever be well enough. Will I ever have enough energy to earn the money to take a trip? Perhaps I should just close my farm stand now instead of struggling to earn enough money to take another trip. I see no hope for being well enough to travel.
This is the view from inside a chronic illness. I am in pain. I cannot imagine a future without pain. I am unbelievably tired. I cannot imagine a future full of energy. I am alone. I cannot imagine a future surrounded by friends and companions. I cannot imagine having energy to engage with friends and companions.
So where does the power of positive thinking leave me now? Will it cure arthritis, restore a damaged immune system, help me remember to call the doctor about blood tests? Is positive thinking a waste of energy and a denial of reality? Would I be better off to say, “I’m sick. I will take my meds and get some extra sleep. Tomorrow I will leave the house and run a few errands and maybe buy myself a pansy to set by the front door to cheer me up.”
This is the point at which I recognize the lie behind the positive thinking propaganda. Some people get sick because of circumstances beyond their control. Happy, positive people get sick. To say that we are sick because we don’t think ourselves well is not only a lie, it creates an aura of blame around the chronically ill and disabled as if we would rather lie on the sofa than go skiing, or dancing or work in the garden. We don’t need lies and we don’t need blame. If we bear the scars of living in a hostile environment so be it.
Some days we might as well face the reality of our own limits and do what we can without the expectation of the joy of good health. The day comes when it is time to say the flower harvest is over. It’s time to bring the flower stand home and let my income be what it is for this year. The flowers will bloom again in the spring and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be well enough to enjoy their beauty.