I was very fortunate to have a great mentor in my final year of study. He wasn’t the type of practitioner that allowed students to sit with him, but ‘through a friend of a friend who owed someone a favour’ I managed to get six months clinic time with someone who changed the way I viewed illness. Admittedly, initially I was totally intimidated by him – and it takes a lot for me to feel this way about someone. I’m rarely frazzled in someone’s presence; however this practitioner managed to overawe me in many ways. His knowledge astounded me, his techniques were unusual and his bedside manner was…well…it could definitely improve. But his knowledge was like no one I had known before. However I know I must have left a good impression, as to this day, he keeps in contact with me regularly to see how I’m going and how my life is progressing. Though, I really do miss the daily lunches we would have to discuss patient cases and general life dialogues there were some amazing discussions I will never forget. One that I think about every Tuesday when I see my patients is...
“Vicky, there’s something key in all patients – something amazing happens when you realise that their emotions run their health. I have never seen a happy person be sick. Never. Remember that. It’s pretty important.” Now, at the time of hearing this, I was reflecting on all the unwell people I knew and all the patients we had been working with and realised ‘Shiz, this guy is right. None of them are happy.’
But is it enough to be happy? I mean, what the heck is happy? Who is happy? When I think of happy I think of balloons, fairies and cupcakes. Yeah, they make me happy. But it’s not really sustainable. I think there has to be more than being happy. There has to be meaning in our lives. The best way I can explain this is – I have kids, they give me purpose, they give me meaning. I get up to ‘serve’ them (in the crudest possible description) – am I happy that I have to get up to serve them? No. Am I happy that I had to give up an amazing career and lifestyle filled with travel and fun? No. But…and here’s the big but – I have meaning in my life. That’s what ultimately makes me happy. WEIRD! To give myself and be completely selfless (and I can’t believe I’m going to say this), makes me happy. ARGHHHHHH!!! Giving makes me happy. I used to think that ‘taking’ things made me happy. Having more things – money, bags, shoes, holidays, electronic gadgets, blah blah blah (okay, I still love shoes). But I wasn’t happy. I had a lot, but I can honestly say, I wasn’t really happy. I was striving to be happy. Now, I’m striving just to get 8 hours sleep. Somehow giving my life, time, knowledge and love to other people makes me feel so happy. Have I been sick in this time? Prior to having kids, I would get sick every year, and one year was quite serious. Since having children, I may get a little cough, but nothing that a good sleep couldn’t fix. I guess there’s no time to feel sick, I am too busy thinking about my purpose that I recover so quickly and get on with it.
Let’s go back to my mentor’s philosophy about happiness and illness. If you have meaning in your life, there’s little room for chasing the ideology of happiness. There’s no time to feel sad trying to be happy, there’s no time to get sick. You have purpose, you have meaning, and you’re busy being busy. Surely there’s a research paper substantiating my claims….*takes 10 minutes to scour scholar.google.com*
…Yup, there are quite a lot of articles that suggest that someone’s happiness reflects their state of health. But is it sustainable? If someone takes a way your job which makes you happy, you ultimately become unhappy and therefore get sick? Possibly. Then there’s the theory that people get sick when they take annual leave. Is it because they have no meaning during their holiday time there’s ‘time’ to get sick? What about the universal law of parenting? Mothers can never get sick. I’m becoming more and more inclined to believe that it’s not just happiness that dictates our emotions, but our sense of meaning in our life. Next month I’m having lunch with my mentor. I can’t wait to discuss my new theory. One of two things will happen, he will applaud me for my thinking or…he won’t remember that conversation we had 8 years ago and think I’m weird. Either way, I’m happy.
I'm a lover of fine food, amazing cheese and sharing with people I love.