I’ve spent a bit of time over many years pondering the relationship between my mental being and my physical being. It’s a philosophical question, maybe a theological one. My feeling has been that who I am is identified by my brain, my mental being, my soul or spirit, as it were. But my body, my physical being, the business controlled by my heart, lungs, etc. seemed inextricably tied to this soul. As the song says, “You can’t have one without the other.”
However, when forced to ponder the full array of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, I am tempted to put some distance between the two entities. I feel quite betrayed by my body. It’s a loose cannon. There’s mutiny in the nervous system. White blood cells are running amuck. The French Revolution is being carried out amongst my axons and neurons. My spirit is the Good Witch of the North; my body is the Bad Witch of the West.
But wait, this won’t do. Because to ease the impact of this disease, I have to grease the skids, to consort with the enemy. I have to bribe it with high fallutin’ medicine, nutritious food, regular exercise. I have to make nice. But honestly, some days I’m so annoyed with y body I want to toss the injection, skip the yoga class, and chow down on a plate of ribs and fries (extra salt.)
I think Michael Stein was alluding to this in his book The Lonely Patient when he said, “The chilling message of illness is that the body has a life of its own. Our minds, we understand most clearly when we are sick, follow rather than lead. The body is despotic.”