Life is replete with hierarchies of all sizes and shapes. Those who happen to be rich look at their less fortunate cousins with some derision. Those who happen to be highly educated view the uneducated with some scorn. Those who have a great job with a famous blue chip company, when introduced to someone who has to be asked oh-which-company-did-you-say-you-are-working-with, treat the party of the other part with marked contempt.
All of us appear to be on a ladder of sorts – some perched above and others struggling to catch up from below. The ladder could be either materialistic or spiritual in nature.
The hierarchy of wellness
Some of the sick and the infirm also suffer from this ‘ladder syndrome’. Many could be secretly delighted upon realizing that the best of physicians have no clue as to what precisely the nature of their affliction is. Those having AIDS and cancer could look deprecatingly at someone having, say, a viral infection. Those suffering from a heart ailment could gloat over the fact that they are consulting a world-renowned cardiac expert, whereas the other person, given his limited means or his station in life, has to remain content with a mere local doctor.
To a person diagnosed with a pancreatic cyst, someone suffering from acidity could appear to be a being which is yet to transcend several stages of evolution. Someone who has had to undergo an orthopedic surgery might treat another complaining of knee pain with a dash of scorn. A diabetic whose daily dose of insulin is in the range of, say, 50 units, could treat the other one surviving on 15 units as merely the dust beneath his chariot wheels.
The difference in the realm of wellness is that the ladder works both ways. An insulin dependent diabetic could also feel a gnawing dissatisfaction within that life has been patently unfair only to him. A person having a heart ailment may consider others around him luckier, living a fuller and happier life. It is felt that when life dishes out such harsh sentences, without the option of an anticipatory bail, our Guardian Angels are busy elsewhere, not bothering to protect us from the perils of life.
Listen to a conversation between two patients, or their attendants, in a hospital ward and both trends become discernible. Some would be happy, others would be complaining. This unique facet of wellness shows us the importance of our attitudes. When we are afflicted with an irreversible condition, how do we look at it? As a bane, or as a boon?
The perks of ill health
If we think of ill health as a bane, we enter into a vicious cycle which keeps depleting us of our positive energies. The mind absorbs negativity. The body responds by a further decline in its immunity levels. It is like a downward spiral which does not allow us to look at the sunnier side of life.
How could one treat a long term health challenge as a boon, you might well ask? Well, barring accidents and cases of a special medical nature, this does sound like a workable proposition. Especially in the case of what are known as lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart ailments and the like.
One, it helps us to check the healthcare eco-system around us. Efficacy of doctors gets assessed. Clinics and hospitals get evaluated for the kind of care they provide. In case a further challenge comes up, we are better prepared to handle it.
Two, we realize that the body revolts only when it is pressed beyond a point of its tolerance. Abuse of a particular organ over a period of time comes into sharp focus. Corrective steps get taken. Introspection follows. Better habits follow. Better health comes about.
Fulfilling pious intentions
Three, a critical intervention, say, like a coronary arterial by-pass graft, gives the patient a good time to relax, recuperate and introspect. For that matter, any surgery affords us the luxury of listening to good music, catching up with books on our to-be-read list or with movies on our to-be-watched list. In other words, several pious intentions of ours get worked upon.
Acquiring a specialization
Four, we end up becoming a subject expert on the affliction concerned. Now, what could be more gratifying than people coming up to us to either confide their health problems with us or seeking our advice?
Handling planned obsolescence
Five, a realization dawns that, much like modern automobiles and white goods, our bodies also come with an in-built feature of planned obsolescence.
Cars and washing machines have a definite life span. Warranties are limited. Once the warranty period is over, an annual maintenance contract kicks in.
Likewise, human bodies have an upper limit to their time spans. To keep them going longer, regular maintenance is necessary. Healthy nourishment, regular exercises and a positive attitude alone help. Howsoever hard we may work upon ourselves, we realize that our physical bodies come with a date of expiry. The date, of course, remains a mystery of sorts.
A sunny disposition
As life advances, we realize that each stage of life offers its unique mix of advantages and disadvantages.
When we enter a phase of our lives which offers us relative peace and an opportunity of fulfilling some of our pious intentions we have secretly harbored all through our lives, we could instead fall into the trap of complaining about the health challenges we face, thereby robbing us of the exquisite joy of this part of the journey.
A sunny disposition, acquired early in life, can work wonders in keeping illnesses at bay. Ageing gracefully is an art as well as a habit which can be consciously cultivated to fend off the W-shaped depressions we could face when the yoke of family and career responsibilities falls off our no-longer-sturdy shoulders.
It helps to have a small circle of close friends. Pursuing a hobby we are passionate about keeps our neurons in good shape. Being in touch with the younger lot makes our system keep running on all six cylinders. Simply looking back at the high points of our life keeps our spirits buoyed up.
The silver lining
Setbacks in health occasionally hover over us, much like ominous clouds which cut off the sunlight of the simple joys of life. But, like all clouds, these have a silver lining which one can focus on. Armed with a chin-up attitude, one can face the harsh slings and arrows of life better.
(Note: This blog post is a part of an article which was carried by NAMAH, the journal of integral health, in its issue of October 2015: