When you’re tired, drink coffee.
When you have a headache, take Advil.
When you have acid reflux, swallow Prilosec.
When you can’t sleep, try melatonin.
Eczema? Cortisone cream.
Easy. Fast. Done.
But there is a fundamental problem here.
Treating symptoms instead of causes is like plugging holes in your bucket of water with chewing gum while you keep shooting it with your BB gun.
We live in a culture of quick fixes.
Our medical model is not only disease oriented but also focused almost exclusively on treatments.
Even ‘prevention’ in our medical model is often treatment oriented.
Find breast cancer with your mammogram so we can treat it early. And the money largely is there, not in how our diet and lifestyle interact with our genetic dispositions (a field called epigenetics, keep your eye on that.)
Even the most aware of us make this mistake.
When my son’s adoption was finalized and he came home from Guatemala at 7 months old I was exhausted.
The process was draining and terrifying.
We visited him 3 times over 6 months knowing the program was in a state of flux and could shut down at any time (it did, a mere 4 months after our son came home) and the process could drag out for years (some families are STILL still waiting for their kids to come home.)
I was a new mom. I was in the middle of a build out for a new office. I was a mess.
And that was the cause of the mental state that followed.
I was depressed. I was anxious. I was curled up on the floor of the kitchen telling my husband I was sorry I’d ruined our lives. I was looking at doorways downtown thinking if I just crawled into one they would take me away.
So I did therapy.
And I got rest.
And I did all the other things I knew to do, as an integrative physician, to feel better.
And I felt better. I was looking at the causes.
But what I forgot was that causes don’t just jump up and smack you in the face. You need to root for them.
And they might not be directly related to the thing that is happening.
A few years later I was back to myself. Or I thought so, anyway.
But now I had a shoulder injury that just wouldn’t heal, so I put myself on an anti-inflammatory diet.
My shoulder didn’t get better at all (there were other causes but that’s another blog post) but my mental state did.
I hadn’t even realized I was still crouching under a dark cloud.
One day my husband pulled me aside and said he had to talk to me (uh oh, right?) and then he told me that I was more ‘normal.’
And by that he didn’t mean actually normal because who are we kidding, that’s not going to happen.
What he meant was that my anxiety and dark mood had lifted.
He was right. I could see it in his eyes, and the eyes of my son.
For me it was an anti-inflammatory diet, more specifically cutting out gluten that finally helped me turn the corner.
But it was part of a big picture of identifying ALL of the things that impact my mood, my brain chemistry, my life.
In order for you, too, to figure out what the things are that you need to do to find your own state of well, you have to look at them, one by one, so you can make a choice.
Make a choice that is lined up with your own values for your own health, your own life.
Dr Samantha is a Naturopathic Physician in Portland, OR and the creator of Gluten Free Vitality, a course in understanding the root causes of your fatigue and getting rid of them. A new class starts in June. (Carla note: Ive known Samantha for years. I love me Samantha. Her knowledge is amazing. Her class will be, too.)