As I journey with clients through their stories, the process of reframing narratives and sifting for those nuggets of our true selves is powerful work, but I never assume that it's all the work that could be done. We are multifaceted creatures who exist in worlds of thought and language, but also flesh and bone. It only makes sense that our experiences, neuroses, even our stories themselves have these same facets to them.
I love museums because they tell history not only in words but through bringing us into physical proximity with other cultures, other eras. Experiencing human history through being near and even touching the things that once made up the substance of our survival makes it more real. It takes the mind and emotions further by bringing the body closer to that distant reality.
Picture Story Work like this: you're walking through a museum of yourself. The hushed galleries with their muted light display artifacts from your story. What objects would there be? What do the plaques before each one say? Now imagine that in every room of this museum there's a display dedicated to your physical experience, how those events were lived by your body.
What's on display? A skeleton bowed by worry and responsibility? An array of frayed nerves? Maybe in some of your galleries there's an elk in mid-leap, joyful and free.
The world of emotional and mental health is becoming ever more connected with our growing knowledge of human physical existence. And the more I get to know my diverse clients, the more interested I am in the ways they are benefiting from forms of self-care that address the physical expression of their stories.
One connection that's being talked about is the emerging relationship between depression and inflammation in the body. Depression is more than doubly common among those suffering from inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis compared to the general population. Somewhere around a third of all people with major depression will show signs of inflammation.
Can one cause the other in some cases? We still don't know. But there is an observable correlation--as one of my professors would say, their relationship is unclear but they certainly dance together. To ignore one partner in this dance is to fail to address it effectively. I entirely expect that more complex relationships between mental health issues and physiological conditions will arise as research continues and barriers between fields of study are torn down.
That's why I'm always looking to build connections with different kinds of care professionals in the community. Recently I enjoyed the privilege of visiting Gateway Natural Medicine in Berthoud, where Dr. Katie Takacs, DC, DABCI made time to show me around their facility and share with me her extensive knowledge of issues like autoimmune disorders, reproductive health, and nutritional medicine.
Connecting with professionals like Dr. Takacs is important because I know the impact of things like gut health on mood, behavior, and even brain function, and part of my job includes helping my clients find places where they can address the physiological aspect of their journey.
Counseling is a powerful tool, and it's part of a set. As we begin to unpack your story, we'll be sure to remember all the other important instruments of rebuilding and restoring.
Mike Ensley is a nationally board-certified Professional Counselor.
Image: "Body and Mind", book excavation by James Allen, on display in Portland International Airport.