I would like to share a remarkable story of a patient I met this past week who I will call ‘Mary.’ Mary is a 71 year old female who came to my clinic with respiratory symptoms, mainly shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing. This is frequently how my patients present since, as a respirologist, I get referred many patients to rule out asthma.
Indeed, spirometry testing did confirm that Mary had untreated asthma. The strange thing is that the symptoms had developed recently and she never had been diagnosed with asthma at any earlier point in her life. Now, I know that asthma can develop in anyone at any age but I sensed that there was something deeper going on here so I started to delve into Mary’s history.
I discovered that she has been under tremendous anxiety and stress for most of her life. I quickly identified that she was suppressing painful emotions so I went on to ask her about her childhood. She related that her father had been very emotionally abusive both to her and her mother and was very unhappy and narcissistic.
She related that her father ended up working in a manual job when he felt that he should have been a professional of some sort. He was deeply unfulfilled and unhappy and took out his pain on his family, Mary had always felt subjugated and oppressed by him and this even spilled over into her adult life.
You see, Mary’s father wanted him to marry a certain kind of man and when he found that person, he literally forced her into a marriage that she did not want. The man she married was a carbon copy of her father and she had no love for him. Over time she realized how emotionally abusive her husband was and how unhappy she was in her marriage.
Several children and 30 years into her marriage, she mustered up the courage to leave her husband but she still carried the scars of her father and her husband’s emotional abuse and had suppressed her feelings because of how painful they were.
I tied in her emotional blocks to her feelings of anxiety and stress and then tied these in to her asthma. It is well known that stress is a huge risk factor for asthma.
During this visit, Mary broke down in tears and had, probably, the first emotional release she had had in a long time. Now, I did end up prescribing her inhalers for her asthma but the important thing was her realization of how her emotional blocks were aggravating her response to stressful events in her life and manifesting as asthma symptoms. By the end of the visit, Mary told me that she felt like a huge weight had been lifted off her chest.
The point of this story is that, no matter what symptoms, illnesses or other adverse life situation anyone is suffering from, there is always a deeper story that lies beneath the surface and if we don’t have the insight and the courage to help our patient or client uncover this story, they cannot begin the journey to healing and becoming whole.
Whether you are a physician, a psychologist, a therapist, a counsellor, a social worker, a life coach or some other sort of healer, always try to get below the surface of their current life situation to reveal the deeper story that underlies it. This will help get your client on the path to healing and has the potential to completely transform their life.