Side effects.

Friday March 28, 2014

I was reminded the other day of what our tenacious bodies go through as they endeavor to contend with the everyday, and sadly, how little I will thank, apologise to or love my body in return.

At a routine hearing test, the doctor drew a short intake of breath as she popped an otoscope into my ear and looked at the mess within. She said: 'That must feel intolerable!' It was said with such empathy that my eyes welled up. The doctor was referring to the psoriasis inside my ear. (It covers my head too and it started over 20 years ago, when my cat was run over; it's never left me since. Fudge's parting gift.) It's not something I give much thought to (apart from the infernal itching), my case is relatively mild but still, it got me thinking.

Sometimes, symptoms that stem from sadness, or depression, can be as vexing and challenging as the depression itself. Take psoriasis for example - it is skin cell production in overdrive. Skin cells are normally made and replaced every 3 to 4 weeks but with psoriasis the process is sped up to every few days. It reflects well the interminable, anxious pathways that my brain traverses each and every day.

Films often portray this malady as belonging only to unhygienic individuals (always accompanied by halitosis it would seem!). It's distressing enough without having this stigma attached. Here is how a potential conversation could roll:

'Oh wow, is it snowing outside?!'
'No, I don't think so?'
'But you have snow...flakes...oh...er...'

There are other physical complaints, some embarrassing, that result from poor mental health, aren't there? IBS, shaky hands, insomnia, weight loss, weight gain, excess sweating and other skin conditions.

That acknowledgment, that validation, by Rosie, the doctor above, made me feel sad for my body. I'm not talking of self pity here, oh no. I simply mean that it helped me feel a little more self compassion for myself.

If we look at just one side effect that is symptomatic of a bigger picture, it can, just maybe, help us to see what our bodies and minds are contending with as a whole. This, in turn, can help us want to be more nurturing of ourselves.

Writing this post, the quote by Henry Maudsley, a psychiatrist, was brought to mind: "Grief that has no vent in tears may make other organs weep." Given that the skin is an organ, those words could surely be a definition of psoriasis.

In conclusion then, the next time you observe "snowflakes" on either yourself or someone else, try to see them for what, in all probability, they are - visible, tangible evidence of someone's deepest emotions, sadness and fragility. Looking at it from that standpoint, one will see only beauty and feel only sensitivity.

A Moodscope member.

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