• Lucia Joyce

Mind Over Matter

This is not a substitute for specific medical advice, but there is more and more science to support that our bodies fall in line with our thoughts. Our bodies believe what we believe.

I think most maladies start and end with the energy of thought, and though it's convenient sometimes to take the routes of resistance, numbness, chronic fear, or self-pity, it can be incredibly valuable to consider a better relationship with your body.

My maladies are few, and I attribute that more to intention than luck. Here are some examples of mind over illness in my life:

  1. Migraines: First day at a new school, Grade Six--an illness took over me in my second class of the day. It started with oddly blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and weird hearing, then turned to crippling pain in the front and sides of my head, then violent nausea which amplified the headache. I puked in the locker room and was back at home before lunch, unable to speak or even really open my eyes. I couldn't hold down an Advil. I stayed home, sick, for two full days. (Some first impression at my new school!) Migraines became a semi-regular occurrence for me during puberty. Every few months, the blurred vision would start at random and I would have to just drop what I was doing and head home to sleep it off in a dark room. After a year or so of embarrassment and frustration (I remember bawling after having to leave a dance rehearsal, which only prolonged the headaches), I started really paying attention to the process, from (unknown) trigger to resolve. Instead of panicking or getting angry when the symptoms came on, I would politely, with a smile, explain what was happening to my teacher or boss or group of friends, and excuse myself. Knowing what to expect, I stopped dwelling on it and just let the thing run its course. I changed my thoughts from "Why?!" and "This is awful!" to: "Oh well, I'll be fine tomorrow." I began to entertain the idea that I could defeat the migraine's hold on me entirely, and in Grade 9, when a lighter-than-usual one came on as we drove home from dance, I told myself: this is the last one. I haven't had a migraine since.

  2. Psoriasis: I developed psoriasis all over my body young, at a time before doctors even knew it existed. It's more easily diagnosed and treated these days, but I remember having to see multiple specialists before the age of 10. The itching was such a mind job: I had to learn the hard way not to scratch. Even after getting the right prescription, I had flare ups all the way through high school, until I read some research saying that stress might be a major trigger... that, in fact, stress was a contributing factor in all sorts of illnesses, and managing said stress was an immunity booster. This is one of my first memories of changing my self talk. When flare ups developed, I deepened my breathing, let myself sleep longer, and took a more critical look at the stress sources in my life. Anything I could ask for help on, or change the deadline of, or simply relax about, I did. The flare ups became tinier and tinier and less and less frequent. On the rare occasion they've shown up in recent years, I've skipped the steroidal creams and focused on reducing my stress.

  3. Asthma/Chronic Bronchitis: I've had allergies and asthma since I was little. I had inhalers with cumbersome extra chamber attachments and occasionally needed a hospital ventilator. Episodes were pretty few and far between and always had triggers I could try to avoid, like cigarette smoke and cat hair. But the worst asthma attack of my life hit me in 42nd Street rehearsals in 2015. My breathing became so shallow I was in danger of passing out. I could barely explain the situation to my rehearsal director and company manager, who sent me without much questioning to the emergency clinic around the corner. The doctor calmed my growing hysteria, set me up with a ventilator, and told me I needed to lay low, and stay out of subways and polluted Manhattan streets for a couple of days while my lungs recovered. He said if I returned too early and breathed the wrong particles... "that could be it" for me. I followed his advice to a tee, despite the wimpy impression it may have made on the show staff. Later that year, a doctor in Vegas told me my asthma had caused chronic bronchitis, and sold me a clunky home ventilator. When I arrived on Shane's doorstep for Christmas break, he asked about the ventilator box. "I have chronic bronchitis, apparently," I explained. "Oh, baby! No you don't!" He smiled at me, and I could just feel he was right. I haven't had a single symptom of asthma (even under ample exercise and allergy-induced duress) since that day.

There's certainly a balance that requires being open to rest when your body signals a need for rest, and maintaining healthy daily habits, but I attribute my every-day and every-year wellness to the inner dialogue I have with my body more than anything. I can relieve a scratchy throat or a basic head ache with basic, healing intention, and rest. I talk to my sore muscles and make recovery days a priority, and I manage to beast my way through long days of cardio, dance, and work with a little before-and-after self care. I have an open dialogue with my crunchy right ankle, sensitive after 1 minor and 2 major sprains in my teens and early 20's. My ankle lets me know when she needs a break or a brace, and I keep her demands met. Same goes for my pulled right hamstring that took a slow year to heal. Same for my oft misaligned hips. I believe in their strength and give them what they need.

The point is, don't take on the labels and worst possible outcomes of your illnesses and injuries. Treat maladies as suggestions on how to take better care of yourself, not signs that you're in irreversible 'bad shape'. Believe in the best possible outcome. Believe in your body's own strength and healing capabilities. The evidence of that strength will, slowly but surely, start to pile up. Perhaps then, you could focus your very powerful mind on so much more, inside and outside of yourself.

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