Dear Second Guessing
My mother has been telling me for a while that something just isn’t right. When I ask her to tell me what she is feeling, she is vague about it and mentions that her stomach just doesn’t seem right. I have noticed that she seems to get full very quickly and she looks like she has lost weight. I have gone with her to the doctor but she hasn’t found anything from examining her or looking at blood and urine tests except a UTI . This was of concern, but it hasn’t fully answered my mother’s complaints. Her doctor didn’t feel that further tests were warranted. I wonder if my mother is listening to her body and if I should be doing something more. Should I ask the doctor to send us to a specialist? I don’t want her doctor to think that I am second guessing her, but maybe I need to do so.
Dear Second Guessing,
It is always a good idea to listen to our bodies. Yes it is quite common that older and more isolated people will focus on their every physical feeling, but each and every older person has to be respected and listened to and presumed to be pointing out something real unless ruled out. So let’s start with the physical descriptions, ever so vague but likely indicators of a condition that should be treated by either a change in diet, lifestyle, exercise, counseling and/or pharmacology.
Changes in the body often happen gradually and it is critical to pay attention. We want to be as physically and emotionally comfortable as possible. If this means being aware of something feeling different, so be it. It is most likely a symptom we are feeling, a hint that something is different. It could be physical in nature or it could also be emanating from a place of emotional unrest, loss, fear, etc. If so, this too needs to be recognized, validated and treated. So often, our bodies will tell us what is wrong without a whole lot of testing. Sometimes having a person to listen intently to one’s experience can be a great indicator of what is happening now.
Throughout my years of practice, I have learned so much from listening with genuine concern and non-judgmental compassion to countless individuals who may be feeling so much that they just don’t think others will understand or recognize for what it is. Our culture experiences a vast degree of social stigma about mental health. It acts as a shackle to so many who could benefit from freely sharing an emotional feeling as readily as a physical one. This physical feeling could be a manifestation of what is going on emotionally. The mind and body have a tight connection. If we don’t recognize that something is going awry with us but someone else could help us to do so, wouldn’t that be the simplest step to take?
You may be wondering why I have gone off in this direction. I have intentionally done so to open up your thinking to the possibility that what we see may not be what is at the root of the matter. The headache may be real, the stomach ache may be real, but is it a vascular or a reflux problem? Maybe. But could the migraine or the reflux problem be the symptom of a life-altering event or a general lifestyle that is affecting the physical body? We need to be as open about exploring what could be behind the physical ailments before we conclude that it is only physical and possibly add another pill to the already crowded medication box.
The body is the spokesperson for the mind and the mind is also a player with the body. Sometimes, the body will just stop one in their tracks until they figure out what is truly going on in themselves and make the necessary changes to find a new balance.
Think of our lives as a see-saw. We experience a tremendous number of ups and downs. Sometimes the see-saw is up on one end and down on the other. It is our job for ourselves and those we care about and love to find that point on the see-saw where we are in true balance.