• Minal Shah, MRC, NCC, LPC

The Mindless Body

Psychotherapy is a close-minded profession.

I began suffering from autoimmune disorders (these are disorders when your body attacks itself--lie arthritis, diabetes, etc.) when I was 29. As a long time sufferer, I remember the frustration of having all kinds of medicines 'to try' and doctors not finding the cause of the fevers, bone crunching exhaustion, and what I call the 'willlessness' to get up and function as best I could. If I couldn't do the things that in my minds eye, a 29-30-31-32 year old could, then nothing was worth doing.

If you look at the symptoms of depression I had just about all of them: feeling empty, useless. Being irritable, and feeling useless. I was restless--my mind wanted to do what my body could not. I couldn't concentrate, and my sleep cycles were amok--made worse by a young child that ate every 4 hours all night long. My body ached, I still had my migraines, and there was the ever present Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

I got lucky. My dismissive internist, on a day when pain was searing through my bones and I was running my usual low-grade fever, said to my 31 year old mother of two self, "Little girl, you need a psychiatrist. There's nothing wrong with you."

In a stroke of unprecedented luck, I found a psychiatrist that didn't attribute my lethargy and pain to depression. He ran every test in the book, and monitored results from the specialists he sent me to. And though it took a while, he found the culprits. Sjogren's syndrome (a sister illness to lupus), spondylosis. Coupled with anemia severe enough to require chemotherapy ( even during my pregnancies), no wonder I barely had the strength to lift my arms to shampoo my hair, lift a fork to my mouth to feed myself--much less care for two young children aged 2 and 5. This explained the symptoms. Though I experienced immense relief at being vindicated--it wasn't "all in my head" anymore, these illnesses meant that there was no cure per se--just management. Back where I started--trying to manage one symptom after another. But, at least someone believed me.

Then came the severe gallbladder attack. He sent me to a surgeon, I had my gallbladder removed, and I felt whole again--better than I had in 5 years. Fevers were gone. The exhaustion abated. I had energy, and I could do things for myself, and take care of my children again. I was able to cook, and work. I had purpose, and meaning.

After a couple of years of intensive physical therapy, and just one medicine to manage the exhaustion, today, I feel more whole than ever. I see patients, teach, write, do research. I play with my kids and go on trips with my family. I cook and bake, and I play my keyboard. I go on long walks, and enjoy evenings with a hot cup of tea and my homemade biscotti. Yes, life is good.

Turns out, it was all in my body--not in my mind.

Now if we could do something about the aches and pains of aging...........

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