Thursday, July 9, 2009

Slaying the Dragons - Nature vs. Nurture / Physical vs. Mental

We all look at the world through the lens of what we believe. I acknowledge the fact that my thoughts about all these dragons are biased by what I believe to be true.

1. I believe that God is in control. He is the great Physician, and every means we use for healing, needs to acknowledge Him as such.

2. I believe that God created our bodies to heal themselves. A cut closes up and grows new skin, cold germs are eventually conquered, a bone will knit itself back together, even things like diabetes and cancer have been known to reverse themselves with proper nutrition. The means of healing that acknowledge and work with or enhance that natural God given tendency, usually work best with the fewest negative side effects.

3. I believe that our natural tendency as sinful human beings is to want to live life our own way without consequences and not only that, but with perfection. We want to eat as much refined sugar as we want without acknowledging the connection to cavities and diabetes, and at the same time, have a body that looks like we work out at the gym 5 days a week. We want to smoke a pack a day and blame the tobacco company when we get lung cancer. We want to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die - but without the dying part. And when cavities, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and other chronic health problems become a part of our lives, we want a magic potion to take it all away. Poof! I am as guilty of this as anyone, as a simple trip to the bathroom scale would tell you.

4. I believe that our society finds it less and less acceptable to have variations of normal. Everyone must be at the same level of happiness and health, or something is considered wrong. It is already at the point where we are told that we "deserve" to live a life free of sadness, pain, fear, and anger. Why live through it and fight it for years when we can get a pill that will "fix" it now? The next step is the idea that those who don't pursuit medical treatment for their emotional dragons are in some sense neglecting and abusing themselves and those around them. We see this already happening in cases where people wish to use something other than the accepted treatment for certain health issues. There is such a need in our society to assign blame, it is not far fetched to foresee a day when doctors *require* their patients to take mind altering drugs, simply to cover themselves against lawsuits.

I realize that this worldview colors and shapes my view of things like mood disorders and mental illness. This doesn't mean that I don't see the possibility of a physical component to things like anxiety, depression, and anger. First of all, genetics probably do play a part in ones tendency to certain dragons. We have depression all through my family on both sides. I remember however a conversation I had with a doctor about vaccines and autism. She said that new studies had proved that the vaccines and their mercury did not cause autism. The genetic tendency to autism was already there. The vaccine just triggered it. Somehow she thought this argument removed any fault from the vaccine. To my way of thinking, it did just the opposite. The genetic tendency may have been there, but without the vaccine to trigger it, it would likely have either stayed dormant or been much less severe. The same is true with mental illnesses. The genetic tendency is there, but without the constant nurturing of those feelings, it would not have the same amount of power to control.

Second, mental things affect the physical. There may well be a chemical imbalance - too little serotonin, too much adrenaline, etc. Our dwelt upon thoughts and feelings can literally *cause* more or less of certain chemicals to be made. Those chemicals can then make us more susceptible to those thoughts and feelings, which then cause more of those chemical imbalances. That's why anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs seem to work. But, like taking an aspirin for a headache that is caused by caffeine withdrawal, taking mood medications do nothing for the underlying cause.

Third, physical things do affect the mental. Things like poor diet or lack of exercise, a lack of sunlight or a lack of time in God's word can all affect our moods. Too much potassium can make us feel irritable. A deficiency of B vitamins can cause a lack of energy and depression. Certain medications can affect certain people badly, such as the panic attack reactions I've had to the epinephrine in the numbing shot at the dentist's. And then, there are hormones - hormones that are affected by diet, pregnancy, nursing, puberty, pre-menopause, menopause, physical illness, abuse, and grief. When depression, fear, or anger come crashing down upon us out of the blue, seemingly swallowing us up before we even have a thought to try to take captive, I think probably 99% of those cases are hormonal in nature. In those times, I've found what works best for me is either to choose to wait and rest in God, clinging to the knowledge that what I am feeling isn't real and it will pass eventually, and/or I can prayerfully study out what might be causing my hormonal imbalances and choose supportive foods and herbs that may work with my body to help even out the hormones that are out of whack.

I do have one caveat. A person may live a lifetime eating poorly and find out that he has diabetes. That person may well be in such trouble physically that he has no choice but to take insulin to treat his diabetes. Simply working to fix his problem nutritionally takes longer and he may die before it works. He then must prayerfully make his choice to either go on living his life however he wants to - letting the medication "take care of it", or to change his lifestyle with the goal of eventually healing his body and being able to live without the insulin shots. The question is, do you see it as a magic cure or as a cast holding a broken bone in place until it can heal? I can see the possibility of coming to the same point with a mental illness. It would take an awful lot to get to that point for myself as too many of the cases I've seen and those I've heard about have had serious personality changes, a dulling of both the emotions and seemingly of the soul itself, addiction, and / or what I've heard described as the brain turning to mush. Personally, I find the cure more scary than the disease. :)


  1. I just wanted to say Hi, and how are you? I have missed reading your posts. I know you are busy though. Just wanted to stop by.

  2. Hope and pray that all is well and that you are healing resting in God, I think that we must rest in Him to heal and that he gave us the eating well, herbs and doctors to help us when we need. I pray that you and your littlies have all had a relaxing summer, and will keep popping in from time to time to see if you are doing alright. Sending you hugs and praying for blessings for you all

    Shelley p
    from over the pond

  3. Hello,
    I was just reading your blog and found it very interesting in what you think about god and doctors today.
    I myself am neither a god believer or unbeliever if you understand, but don't you think that doctors and the science of today have developed so much that people who need treatments should work with the doctors and try to led better life styles, I mean I understand what you are saying I think about when a person relies totally on medication and doesn't bother to change their life style then yes medication is wrong but sometimes doctors are needed but so is god and the word of goods that he provided us with..
    Just a thought. Would like a reply if you still go on this...