Might be Good – Might be Bad
A Newsletter to Julia Tyack’s Patients
One of my favourite sayings over the years has been, “Life has a funny way of working out”. On the other hand the lines from Les Miserable’s, “There is a darkness that comes without a warning, but I’ll see you in the morning.”
Many will have experienced both of these aspects of life. The darkness comes in varied forms from a nasty sudden back spasm that won’t let you move or function to a sudden accident or illness. Tyack Health stands on the pillars of care and evidence based practice to give support and facilitate healing in such crisis. Dark episodes pull the rug, as it were, from under our feet, leaving plans wrecked and people you are responsible to abandoned. Adding to the hurt that is felt at such times may come a real sense of guilt because of this abandonment. Such an episode hit me three weeks ago. I had big plans for the day, the next day being Friday and then the weekend diary full and extended for those to whom I owed care. Like lightning, bang what was that, world of today ended in an ambulance.
I’d like to share this little fable story with you. Over the years I’ve had my own version of this story but I havee just found this version on the internet and felt it was a better rendering.
Once there was a farmer who had one son and one horse. One day his horse ran away. When his neighbors heard about it, they came to comfort him. “Such bad luck- we’re sorry your only horse ran away.” they said.
“Who is to say whether it’s good or bad, replied the farmer. All I can say for sure is, my horse has run away. Time will tell whether this is good or bad.” His neighbors just shook their heads and walked away.
A week later, his horse returned home- along with 20 wild horses!!!
His neighbors, upon hearing the news, came to congratulate him. “What good luck you have. Not only did your horse return, but he brought with him 20 more. Such a lucky man you are!”
“Who is to say whether it’s good or bad- All I know is my horse has come home along with 20 wild horses- and leave it at that.” Again, his neighbors shook their heads and scoffed – “Of course it’s good luck you old fool! Twenty new horses is obviously good luck!”
The next week the farmer’s son was out riding in the pen with the new horses, fell off and broke his leg. Upon hearing the news, the neighbors came over to comfort the farmer. “You were right- Those wild horses were not a sign of good fortune- now your son has broken his leg- and right before the harvest. Such bad luck!”
Again the farmer replied– “Why do you constantly want to label something as good or bad. Why can’t you just say, “My son has broken his leg while riding a horse and leave it at that. Who is to say whether it is good or bad?”
Upon hearing this, the neighbors were indignant- ” Listen old man, to have your son break his leg at this time is unfortunate and a sign of bad luck. You are such a fool to think otherwise.”
The following week, an army came to town and drafted all the eligible young men, and sent them off to war in a far away place. They did not take the farmer’s son on account of his broken leg. Afterwards, the people were heartbroken and came to the farmer in tears- You were right- our sons are gone, we’ll probably never see them again- such bad luck our town has experienced!.
The old farmer (again) said- ”Why do you continue to insist an event is good or bad? We do not know the end from the beginning.
Neuroscience is giving us clues that the famer’s attitude is one that promotes healing and best outcomes generally. Dr. Amit Sood in Stress-Free Living says that when our brains default from the fear of a sudden shock to imagined future fear our lives spiral into depression and healing is compromised. Imagined fears often create the real situation that we fear.
As humans the brain is set to default to real fear. Accident, pain, illness, grief, sudden shock, all fire our protective brain’s fear centre called the amygdala. This ‘fright and flight mechanism’ we share with the animal kingdom. It is our natural physiological reaction to outside dangers. But “the mind is a storehouse of hurts, regrets, desires and fears, which are stockpiled in the form of attention black holes. Attention black holes stem from thoughts about an original threat that get padded with rumination, thought suppression and imagination. The attention is thus drawn inside the mind (into the default mode) to past and future imperfections, mired in hurts, regrets and fears, we experience excessive stress.” Dr. Amit Sood. M.D. M.Sc. The Mayo Clinic guide to Stress-Free Living -Page 40 (the chapter follows with simple but surprising research on how this default can be managed). I recommend reading this cutting edge text. I’m absolutely enthralled with the research that points to the hope we hold in ourselves for change. The research in this text was life changing for the author and thousands of people of all ages that flock to the Mayo Clinic to do the course. The text was published end of last year so is fresh off the press with latest in neuroplasticity research.
One more quote that really hit me from Dr. Sood’s text, “Your compassion will help others pull through.” So true, as I have experienced myself in recent times during my recovery. Dr Sood tells us that, “This understanding of the possibility for a better future for us all inspires me, because I know we can do something about the minds imperfections. While our problem might be involuntary, the solutions are voluntary.” Page 40 Dr Amit Sood. My recent traumatic experience has re-enforced a deep desire to set up more systems at Tyack Health that will enable closer contacts in order to provide help in any way possible.
So back to my story of three weeks ago, the sun was shining, it was my day off clinic, heaps planned and all engines firing I ran through the house 6 am checking everything was in order. I tripped over a half open draw, landing in the draw on one knee. What was that big crack – hip fractured or dislocated. After sometime the body gingerly dragged itself on the uninjured side across a hall to pull down a phone for dialing triple zero. First thoughts, “How could this be? There are so many people I will be letting down” with other rumination thoughts coming thick and fast.” Then my mantra gave me focus, “Life has a funny way of working out; believe it now.” “This is darkness without a warning, can I believe it? I’ll see you all in a better morning.” at the hospital there was on that day and weekend
The labeling of my event as good or bad would not only have brought more stress and slowed healing, but would have been a complete misnomer. Without such an accident I would not have made the move to have a new hip. I had not had pain in the hip for thirty years so I had no intention of changing anything. The next “life working out thing” thing was that a brilliant young surgeon was at the hospital on that day. He quickly assessed the situation and ordered a special type of prosthesis designed for this type of situation. When a hip replacement was considered years ago, there was not enough pelvic bone to support it, but now nature had layered it so thick that my pelvis was better than average, so there was no need for bone grafts and the orthopedic surgeon was able to leave part of the ball of the femur to support the hip replacement. The solidly fused hip had meant my posture was forever going into more distortion. Now the rather short left leg is longer and helping to straighten the posture. Another plus is that novelty is giving my brain considerable pleasure, a hip that moves, a body straightening up, and a brighter future.
Now I’m working hard with rehab and hope to prove that muscles wasted and non-functioning for years will wake up. Already I have surprised my rehab team. Amazingly no pain now even with vigorous rehab. I hope to now take advantage of the interdisciplinary practitioner team from remedial therapy, physiotherapy, and chiropractic Neuro-muscular Dynamic System to help neuroplasticity with new muscle/joint activation. Occupational therapy has already played a big part at the house, and last but not least GP case management as well as the psychology department in providing such an inspirational book.