Once, my high school softball coach called me a “head case,” which kind of hurt my feelings. Hard stop. Pull up short. Take a quick 15 second life review. In no way, shape, or form did any decision of my utterly responsible, conscientious, sixteen year-old life seem to deserve this condemnation. Coach, I’m a head case? How could you declare this?
Sure! I wear my heart on my sleeve probably unlike anyone else you know–on happy days as well as sad days. (As well as mad days. I’ve always proclaimed that this openness keeps me from becoming a head case.)
Sure! I was the starting pitcher and some days I pitched strikes–and other days I didn’t. (Okay. Some batters I pitched strikes to and others I didn’t.)
Sure. Okay. Maybe sometimes my head did get in the way of my already horrible pitching. But, dang, coach. I wasn’t a good pitcher, and I didn’t want to be the pitcher if I wasn’t a good pitcher.
The pitcher’s circle. Who put me there? I didn’t ask to be there. And what a place to be. All eyes on you. Throw strikes consistently from inside a circle drawn in the sand. Everybody else standing or sitting and watching…
And judging you to be a head case.
Strike three! Success. Ball four. Take first base. Failure.
Head Case and Health
I’ve been thinking about this head case stuff as it plays a role in health. Back when I played softball, I could never tell if it was going to be a good pitching day or a bad pitching day. (Poor Coach. Poor team. Poor Terri.) Just couldn’t tell. Despite being perfectly capable of pitching strikes, something unconsciously interfered with my ability to do so many times over. Trust me. I didn’t like standing in that circle walking batter after batter after batter. I wanted to pitch strikes! So, I’ve been thinking about Coach’s words from so long ago and chewing on the idea of “head case” (and also “psychosomatic” and “in your head”).
I’ve come up with a temporary, evolving idea for “head case” (and “psychosomatic” and “in your head”) which I think will apply to health matters too:
Head Case, Psychosomatic, and In Your Head: The conscious brain cannot undo the activities of the unconscious brain no matter how hard it tries.
No matter how hard I tried consciously, I just couldn’t throw strikes. Now the thought has been (and was) ever-present that overall, I was simply a bad pitcher. Period.
But then why, some days and innings, could I be a “good” bad pitcher? And other days and innings a “bad” bad pitcher? Why can a headache calm down when you lie down? Why does rheumatoid arthritis sometimes have good days and bad days? Why does a Morton’s neuroma sometimes hurt and sometimes not? Why can’t the brain always modulate success?
Am I a Head Case?
Fast forward. No matter how hard I try, I haven’t been able to budge my food sensitivities and gut issues and strange stuff keeps popping up like joint effusions. (I’ve been evaluated by doctors and tests, and so should you be.) I don’t like suffering body and brain aches and pains. I don’t like to run kids around with a headache. I don’t like restrictive diets. I don’t like the taste of my magnesium supplement I have to take. I don’t like wondering if today will be a good day or a bad day for my head because I ate eggs and nuts yesterday. I’m stuck. Despite eating right. Despite trying certain supplements. Despite gratitude journals. Despite yoga. Despite prayer.
Am I a head case again? Do we all have a case of head case? Do we all have symptoms where our awesome, magnificent, all-powerful, all-knowing cerebral cortex (the conscious brain) cannot override unconscious activities that lie deeper in the brain no matter how hard it tries, short circuiting health and normal function?
I’m not sure. I’ve been super impressed with the significance of food in health. Definitely my family’s experimentation with real food tweaked for food intolerances has been highly successful. But what about using the untapped power of the murky brain (unconscious or subconscious) that lies under the brain that I call me (the conscious) to control health? The part that controls my heart rate. My sweating. My gut motility. My blushing. My sleep. The part that responds to and generates fear and anger. The part that has deep, primal memory that I’m not consciously privy to–that honestly, maybe I don’t really even want any part of.
Can a person gain health by exploring their mind? By trying to recognize “thoughts” that you don’t really think? By appreciating how many times a day you squash yourself down when you didn’t even realize it? By trying to intercept subconscious thoughts and remodel them and nurture them for good, thus allowing the biochemistry and circuitry of the brain to actually change?
“La, la, la, la, la–I’m not liiisssst-uh-ning…”
I know what you’re thinking, “No. My pain is real! My symptoms are real! These are not in my head. I’ve got tests and X-rays and MRIs. I’ve tracked everything. It’s all objective. I see you’re headed for whack-o. This is your final leap. I’m going to stop reading now, thank you very much, Terri. Appreciated the brewer’s yeast, iodine, and butyrate posts you wrote–but I’m not going where you’re going anymore.”
Well, I’m impressed you made it this far. I hear you! I have many, many memories of working-up patients with headaches and stomach pains and joint pains and finding nothing! Nothing! The patients would feel so disappointed because they KNEW something was wrong! Something HAD to be wrong! This couldn’t just be an “in my head” issue. But everything was saying, “There’s nothing wrong.”
Because I saw this particular, discouraging clinical situation often enough, I had a standard spiel for it. It went like this:
“Hey. Look at me. It’ll be okay. You’re okay! We know there’s nothing BAD there that’s going to kill you. That’s important! That’s good! It’s not cancer! I know you have pain! It’s real! This doesn’t mean something won’t turn up eventually, so you have to watch out for us! Anything new or different, you get right back in here because that may be the clue we need to figure this thing out.”
Honestly, not much ever turned up. So I have never been surprised when my own tests come back inconclusive. Colonoscopy for severe, unrelenting constipation–negative. Specific antibodies for celiac and rheumatoid arthritis–negative. Blood tests for premature menopause–negative. Lymes–negative.
Following a strict food plan with some basic supplements has kept me decently controlled from whatever it is. It’s a tight diet though, and I want to share, if I can, good, healthy foods with my daughters, husband, mom, sisters, and friends. Perhaps I should just let food go, and I will if I have to, but if I can move forward from this place, I’d like to.
So mind-body digging it is. I’ve got some posts (about four) typed up about what I am learning and what I think about this mind-body disco. They’re not scientific posts. But if I have success, I’m going to be thrilled to dig up the research like I did for food and some supplements and eventually get them posted here.
Stay in the circle, pitch after pitch after pitch. It’ll be okay.