…This is called “catastrophising”…


I’ve been doing almost everything I think I know to live right.  I’ve taken on being a vegan, been doing 250 push ups a day and running and meditating, loving my parents as much as I can consciously remember and attempting to apologize for my history of offending people(those that I remember).  And I pick up cigarette butts.  Amidst the exercise and “do good “ stuff, I look for the ways I hide repressed rage from younger years of accumulated anger.   All that exercising I not so subtly brag about has possibly allowed my unconscious anger to surface in injuries and accidents.  The injuries now include painful shoulder damage.

While waiting for an MRI at the VA to confirm the shoulder injuries, and still attempting to prove I am a 71 year old Superman, I am doing back bends and I dis-locate my right collar-bone.  The head of my collar-bone now sticks out about ¾ of an inch right next to my sternum.  This, however, does not hurt much.  But it does look rather dramatic.

I really enjoy unbuttoning my shirt collar to show anyone who will look at the sticking out clavicle.  Everyone’s response is “OMG, doesn’t that hurt?”
I humbly reply, “Well, not so much to Superman”

The MRI showed a frayed biceps tendon with minor tears in 3 rotator cuff muscles.  None of the damage is enough to warrant surgery.

This lump in my upper chest of the collar-bone was what prompted the MRI.  During the week it took to schedule the MRI my catastrophising mind had a field day with possible diagnoses of lung cancer (like my Dad), some kind of bone cancer, a swollen and cancerous thyroid gland pushing it out and a myriad of other possibilities generated by Google.  Not to mention I could be crippled for the rest of my life and my practice is now over so I will have to live under a bridge and join the homeless.

This is called “catastrophising” or fantasizing the worst possible futures.

I think we call that catastrophising exercise “Being Human”.

Much to my chagrin, Dr. Guru, (really his name, he is from India and a wonderful man) my primary Doc at the VA read over the reports and said, “Healthy as a horse as usual Jim.  Rest that arm and a little physical therapy and you’ll be as good as new.  The collarbone you’ll just have to live with.  No big deal.  What is your next adventure?”

“But, but?”, I said, “What about the shoulder and my push ups and the pain?”

“You’ll heal.  Take it easy and do what the physical therapists tell you.  You’ll be fine.”

“What about my blood tests?  I’ve been a vegan now for 5 weeks.   Has it effected my blood chemistries?”

“Not much difference either way.  You might cut back on sugar a bit.  Cholesterol and sugar levels are a bit high but nothing to warrant drugs or big changes.  Vegan, meat, either way is okay.”

I ask, “Are you a vegan, being from India and all that?”

“Nope”, he says.  “My wife wont cook meat at home but I eat it when we go out.  No big deal.”

I really like Dr. Guru.  He has taken care of me with two trips to Africa, one to Peru, plastic surgery on my face and many other worrisome trips to the Doctor.

He practices at the intersection of good health science and empathic support.  The empathic support includes emotional respect and understanding.  Something I try to do in my practice as well.

This shoulder and clavicle injury has had me read 4 books on emotional healing and scoured the internet for helpful information.  I’ve read Norman Cousin’s who healed his Ankylosing Spondylitis with laughter, Dr. Joe Dispenza who healed 6 fractured vertebrae with meditation, Dr. John Sarno who eliminates pain through recognizing the connection between pain and unconscious resentments and rage, and Andrew Weil who documented many instances of “spontaneous remission” of serious conditions.  These are but a few of the many, written about, natural healings documented these days.

And now I am reviewing the anatomy of shoulder muscles, ligaments, tendons and movement and what it takes to recover from real damage.  In all my studies so far the three important external ingredients for healing are:
(1) accurate anatomical knowledge and experience and
(2) “empathic support” from healing professionals and from myself.
(3) Senior to both of these is “personal optimism” from the patient.

In this case the patient is me.  The “catastrophising” is a dark and not very productive tunnel to go down.

Physician heal thyself again.  Gratitude lists, laughter, a future worth living for and appropriate exercise and nutrition are all equally important to the body’s natural healing responses.

Dr Jim Dohn Hellerwork, DC

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