A friend's heart attack prompts a review of patterns of thought and behavior that create illness.
My dear friend, Cynthia, had a massive heart attack this week. She’s only 41. That's too young! Thankfully, she immediately noticed the warning signs and her husband, a firefighter rushed her to the hospital. Otherwise, she could have been dead leaving their young children behind. I shudder at the thought.
She was diagnosed with Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD). It’s a relatively rare disorder affecting mostly women and some men in between the ages of 30-50. While a fatality comes from a heart attack, it’s actually caused by a tear in a coronary artery. The difficulty is that its victims are healthy, non-smokers, light drinkers with none of the precursors of heart disease. Just like Cynthia.
Also like Cynthia, the only warning signs are those of a heart attack: Chest pain, a rapid heartbeat or fluttery feeling in the chest, pain in your arms, shoulders or jaw, shortness of breath, sweating, unusual, extreme tiredness, nausea and dizziness. What’s the necessary response to prevent death? An immediate trip to the ER. (For more information see SCAD at: http://www.heart.org and http://www.mayoclinic.org )
I’m emotional about this for a reason. My fabulous, beautiful, life of the party sister, Sally, died from the same cause when she was 44. She was perfectly healthy with a little HBP. One night, she was out having a great time; two hours later she was dead. Her aorta unraveled at the heart, and that was years ago before this was a known disorder. She left behind 4 small children, ages 4-15. The shock of her death was tough, and while all of her kids are fine now, we still carry the pain of her loss.
I’ve always said Sally “died of a broken heart.” Being from the south, we have sayings like that. Others include: “Bless her little heart”, “My heart aches for you”, or “My heart’s jumping for joy.” I’ve never put much thought into the “heart” expression until now.
After talking with Cynthia and thinking about Sally, I realize there are some important issues here that need to be illuminated. With thirty years of clinical experience, I know about the well-researched mind/body connection.
In a nut shell, the stress you carry in your body can manifest into a myriad of physical problems. High blood pressure is certainly one of them, along with migraine headaches, depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal disorders, and obesity (See stress related illnesses at http://www.webmd.com).
But what’s really going on to create these physical symptoms?
What are the early tip offs that we may be at risk. And why are women more at risk than men? That’s what I like to address.
If we factor out a genetic predisposition for these diseases, what’s happening in our life that is potentially setting us up for physical problems? What signs could we pay closer attention to that may indicate that we need to change the way things are going?
I’ve identified the following factors based on my clinical experience. I think they are particularity true for women who have been socialized to be nice, which may explain why women are more at risk for SCAD. So if you're not nice, you have nothing to worry about...kidding.
WHAT IS YOUR HEART TELLING YOU THAT YOUR DOCTOR CAN’T SEE?
You’re Holding Onto Hurt, Anger Or Pain
Have you experienced hurt or disappointment, anger or pain and ruminated about it? Who hasn’t? If you keep focusing on it, over time those thoughts can harden into bitterness and resentment. This is often held tightly in the body. Not surprisingly, usually in the heart area.
I don’t think it matters whether you are silent about your experience, keeping it locked inside, or talk about it to everyone you see. The body literally tightens up with each thought.
It’s just a matter of time before it manifests into a physical aliment. High blood pressure, shortness of breath, back and shoulder tension, digestive issues and headaches are all related to this pattern.
You Say Yes When You Mean No
When you decide it’s easier to go along rather than speak up or battle over a differing opinion, you are setting yourself up. The tension of not being true to your instincts builds up in the body. Again the pressure of keeping your truth locked inside will manifest into the same list of physical ailments.
Sometimes making compromises is essential. Relationships require this, workplaces require this. The tipping point comes when the pattern of not speaking your truth results in a lifestyle that no longer matches who you are. You start feeling like you’re losing parts of yourself.
The disconnect from who you really are can set up depression and anxiety. Now, we are back on the same page with physical symptoms. Depression and anxiety are part of the pattern of stress related illnesses.
Your Pride Keeps You in Denial
This is a hard one. You inwardly know things are not great, in fact, they may be pretty awful. But rather than create the disruption of change, you act like everything’s fine. Or maybe you actually think they are fine. That’s denial.
“How you doing? “Oh, I’m fine”. We all say it. But, when you take a closer look at what’s really going on, do you ever ignore your truth? Most of us do that too.
Denial serves as a protective device. It protects your pride, or your ego, from having to show a public face. What will family or friends think if they know the truth? This relationship is not good; he’s drinking too much; my kid’s in trouble. Denial serves as your inner smoke screen.
You’ve heard the expression “Pride comes before the fall”? Well, that’s what this is about. Acting as if everything is fine only works for so long. Once again the body will betray you. Those physical symptoms will eventually give you away, every time.
How do you get out of these patterns? How do you protect yourself from the pain of not living your truth? This is the work I am doing. I’m interested in helping people create congruence in their life. To step into your full potential you have to get out of denial and learn to speak and live authentically.
If any of these issues strike a chord with you, I’d love to hear what you think. Feel free to message me here or at my page, Spectrum Transformation Services, LLC on Linkedin or Facebook.