How many of you have some sort of niggling health issue? A body part that has been achy or sore, a quietly desperate mental health struggle, a chronic health condition, any or all of which you’ve minimized or shoved aside as much as possible to survive your daily life? I think we all are guilty of it at times, letting pain or dysfunction become a kind of background noise that doesn’t always quite stop us from doing the things we want to do, but certainly colors them in ways we just…put up with.
I’d like to suggest that today is a good day to start taking care of those problems.
It’s true that it feels easier to let it go (in the inestimable words of Princess Elsa) because of the time, expense, and hassle that can go into addressing especially chronic health problems. They might not seem so big of a deal, just a bit of soreness in the morning or a few lost minutes or hours every so often, maybe a constant low-grade headache or a feeling that something just isn’t quite right as our pulses spike or we can’t quite catch our breath after climbing a few flights of stairs. Like other changes, they might not be so obvious anyway, having come on slowly over months or years, or they might not feel like something worth going to a doctor about, even if we could get an appointment, even if we could find a morning to go. Indeed, it might even be true that getting yourself looked at won’t make any difference because a medical professional may decide there’s nothing they can do, or you are offered a treatment that you can’t afford in one way or another. You won’t know until you do the work to find out exactly what’s needed.
Finding out sooner rather than later gives us more time to figure out if and how we can chase the necessary care. We’re all of us getting older every day, and our bodies will decline with age. For as long as we can strive towards peak physical and mental condition, we can enjoy more of our current lives and start from closer to ideal before everything goes downhill. While not everything is fixable, we can work towards optimizing the areas of our health that are. The goal isn’t achieving perfection so much as achieving the best we can in as many areas as we can. Odds are pretty good that a difficult issue can be improved upon if not entirely cured, or that if one problem is unsurmountable, another isn’t. If the treatment is time-consuming or spendy, finding that out now also lets us get started. Six months of physical therapy might seem like a lot, but going for the first time this week will get it over with faster than going for the first time six months from now. A couple thousand dollars might seem like an impossible goal, but starting to save now makes it more likely to be within your reach when you no longer have a choice about paying for treatment, than if you don’t start setting aside funds today.
In addition, failing to treat these types of problems can end up making you worse off in the long run. Many conditions will worsen over time if left alone, or they can lead to additional issues. As one of my physical therapists reminded me forcefully yesterday, the arm bone’s connected to the shoulder bone and the thigh bone’s connected to the back bone, and if something hurts in one place, it can be caused by a dysfunction in another – or cause an injury somewhere else unless you get it under control. As annoying or even awful a medical problem can feel at the moment, and as hard as it might seem to deal with now, it is likely to be far more challenging to deal with later on. Health conditions piling on to each other isn’t always an inevitable conclusion if you attack the early ones as they come on. Even when it is, you can still fight off that day instead of simply affecting a fate that strikes you sooner rather than later.
Besides, we’re worth it. We’re worth devoting our limited resources to making ourselves feel better, instead of settling for ibuprofen as a daily supplement and limiting our activities. Prioritizing our own bodies and minds above others is a radical form of self-care, and one that people outside your brain might not understand or appreciate. Think of it, though, as the ultimate form of self-defense, defending yourself against your most intimate potential enemy: the demons in your own mind and the gremlins in your own body.