I found this email I had sent to a patient of mine several years ago. She is a young woman, with a lot of responsibilities for a young person and a slight addiction to the stress of her life (as I surely did in my 20s), who was having a lot of seemingly unrelated health issues for which she was beating herself up and hating her body. It is so important to me that my patients know that their bodies haven’t betrayed them or abandoned them: health is not a punishment; rather, it is an opportunity to learn how best to electrify the pursuit of living.
These “health hiccups” are actually wonderful lessons for you, as priceless as anything else you’ve picked up over the years. They are here to show you your body’s limitations, and that is a true wealth of information if you can choose to see it that way. You perceive these limitations as “weaknesses” or “failures” ONLY because you are deranged- and because you are viewing your perceptual world through the lens of responsibility you feel for others and through the weight of your own ambition. But the other way of looking at these limitations is to show you the real strength of your body and just how far you can push it before it pushes back. The TRUTH is, you pushed it quite far (way further than I ever could have) and it responded amazingly for a while. And now you know where your line is (though you will continue to move that line for the rest of your life) and knowing that limit will serve you so well in the future (which you cant see just yet because you are still in the middle of trauma.)
Most adults wont get that lesson or that bit of self-awareness until well into their 30s at the earliest. Im still getting it. Most men not til their 40s (and when it happens we call it “Baby’s First Cardiac Event.”) ALL DISEASE is a conversation between your body and your brain. It’s your body’s way of saying “Hey, what ya doing there, buddy?” or “Maybe we shouldn’t be doing that?” You are getting that conversation and that lesson younger than most (because in this lifetime, you have been blessed with the tricky gift of learning things early.) Having a “high tolerance to stress” is foolish. Its like having a “high tolerance to fire” and keeping your hand in a flame and allowing yourself to be burned. Id rather know exactly how much heat I can handle before I burn myself down. You found you’re wall and that is fucking rad.
In the context of your life, you will see all of these cumulative diseases as a turning point for when you started to understand your body in a way you never did as a child. And as an opportunity to treat your body better.
Remember all growth is painful. ALL GROWTH IS PAINFUL. Also remember, all advice is more for the giver than the receiver so this email is more for me than it is for you.
Love love love,
“CLOTHES CLOTHES CLOTHES MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC BOYS BOYS BOYS” by Viv Albertine. Trust me on this.
The very first chapter opens with Mr. Lear calling his mother to tell her that he has been chosen as one of the very first inductees to the Academy of Television Arts & Science’s Hall of Fame in 1983, amongst a very small group that included Edward R. Murrow, William S. Paley and Lucille Ball:
“My mother didn’t miss a beat. ‘Listen,’ she said, ‘if that’s what they want to do, who am I to say?’
In all the years since, I have rarely spoken publicly without sharing that story.”
DID YOU KNOW TO PRACTICE ACUPUNCTURE IN THE U.S. YOU NEED TO GO TO MEDICAL SCHOOL FOR FOUR YEARS AND EARN A MASTER’S OF SCIENCE DEGREE?
YOU’LL BE SO HAPPY YOU DID.
Hilton Als’ WHITE GIRLS. Sort of memoir, sort of social study….I dont really know what Im reading or where it’s going but it is alternately heart-breaking and heart-mending, passage to passage. And a masterclass in how to turn a phrase.