The brain tells the body how to feel

This will be a life-long lesson for me, I think. There was a time in my life, a few years ago, when I felt so good that I seriously started to wonder if there were steroids in the Chinese potions I was drinking for a mysterious illness I was trying to fix (more on that soon).

I was living in Dunedin and winter was approaching, which is usually a time to batten down the hatches in preparation for the grim months ahead. Yet here I was, bursting with energy and enthusiasm. There was a spring in my step and all I could see was beauty all around me. I was waking up early feeling excited about each day, exercising more than usual, and doing weird things like switching off the TV in the evening to do the vacuuming because I was too hyperactive to sit still. It was such a deviation from where I’d been that I was pleasantly surprised, but with equal measures of suspicion at how good I felt, like when a friend is uncharacteristically kind and helpful just before they ask for a massive favour.

It was a boy, of course, who brought about this change in me. Meeting someone new allowed me to finally and fully extract myself from the dregs of a relationship that was well and truly dead. And had been for some time. It was no one’s fault but my own, but sometimes when you’re so deeply entrenched in a situation you cease to see the wood for the trees, right?

What I was experiencing was like waking up from a very deep and troubling sleep to find that the world is beautiful, after all. Unfortunately, things promptly went pear-shaped with my new love interest and what ensued culminated into what has been the most difficult year of my life to date. But that’s not the point. The point is that I freed myself from a bad situation and I felt bloody good for having done it. I also completed my thesis that year and healed myself of my mysterious illness. I guess sometimes a bit of adversity can actually do us some good, in the long run.

More recently, I experienced the flip side. I felt so low that I was almost convinced I had hypothyroidism, or if not that then a brain tumour, or cancer. I wanted there to be a physical ailment which could explain why I felt so depleted. I was thirty-something, single, childless, career-less, penniless, and feeling like a complete failure, drifting aimlessly with no sense of place or purpose.

I was the same person as I had been before; I occupied the same body, I ate the same food, I exercised the same, yet my situation was completely different and that’s what was wearing me down. My mental happiness affects my physical sense of well-being one hundred per cent of the time, and yet so often I lose sight of this fact. Do you? It’s where my head is at that determines whether I wake up early feeling excited about life or whether I sleep late, unwilling to face the boring reality of my life. It’s my brain that puts the spring in my step, or makes my limbs feel like they’re made of lead. The brain tells the body how to feel. The brain is the master controller and the body is its vessel, to try and separate the two is folly.

 

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