I came to an important realization recently. People can get sick and not be aware they are ill. Mentally.
Someone mentioned to me the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This is the germ which causes mononucleosis, which often amounts to a bad cold that teenagers often catch from what they thought were hidden romantic encounters. I did a little research and found that very nearly everyone ends up testing positive for antibodies to EBV – which means that very nearly everyone has been infected and recovered. But I found out that not everyone recovers fully. This is a herpesvirus, which means that some unfortunate individuals will have the disease lie dormant in their bodies for years – and some will suffer symptoms that are difficult to explain, until it is found that the EBV has emerged and again become active in the patient’s body. This led me to discover an analogy which is useful to me, and I share it in hopes it will be useful to you also:
When someone is in a car crash and their spine is fractured, we would not expect them to shake it off and keep living a normal life without medical care. When someone played football in school and a knee was injured, we think very little of their complaints of a “bum knee” for the rest of their life, especially when the weather changes. But psychic injuries generally are not thought of in the same way. If someone lives through a traumatic event without physical hurt, for the most part they are expected to shake it off and keep on living life normally – and this is a great mistake.
The spirit of a man is as much a part of him as his body. Just as a physical injury can cause emotional symptoms (e.g., getting depressed because you’re stuck in a wheelchair) so can psychic injuries cause physical symptoms (flu-like symptoms, panic attacks, etc).
If someone has a bad experience, it can leave them with an emotional “bum knee” for the rest of their life. What a psychiatrist might call an emotional trigger is the equivalent of our former footballer’s weather change which brings the “old knee pains” back. We expect our friend with the bum knee to show up to work, perhaps with a brace on the knee, even in bad weather. What kind of brace can be put on the spirit which is reminded of bad times? There’s nothing, really. With no sign of physical injury to keep us from showing up to work, we have “no real excuse” for not being functional. But the brains are scrambled a little bit and the person is dysfunctional. This is a disorder, caused by stress after a trauma. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A freak-out, brought on by apparently nothing – but it isn’t from nothing. It’s an old injury playing up again that nobody can relate to but the wounded, or maybe some of those who have been in like condition – or a trained professional.
If someone has the sniffles, they should take Sudafed. If someone has emotional sniffles, it’s not so easy. Some people meditate or do breathing or mindfulness exercises to relax. If someone has a broken ankle, they should go to a doctor. If someone has a broken spirit – they should also go to a doctor. Check your insurance plan, it is probably covered as much as physical medical treatment.
It may be worth noting that this is a layman’s perspective and I might have used the wrong words. Psyche, mind, spirit, emotions, vital force, chi, whatever you want to call the non-physical aspect of a man is what I’m talking about here. If you can’t get past the question of terminology and see the point at which I am driving, feel free to get stuffed.