Friday, June 20, 2008

Turning off the Siren

I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain free sleep.

Normal Cousins, Anatomy of an Illnesss

When the journalist Norman Cousins had a heart attack, he told the ambulance driver to turn off the siren and slow down. He did not think that panic would be good for his heart.

Cousins was one of the original writers about the mind-body connection; his book the Anatomy of an Illness details how he would watch the Marx Brothers and other comedies to help his immune system and his state of mind.

When he went to the hospital after the heart attack, he would negotiate with the doctors about not taking countless blood samples and waking him up in the middle of his sleep to give him pain medication.

Hospitals to me are associated with trauma and pain, in spite of the fact that I owe my life to modern interventional medicine. I still am reluctant to watch most hospital TV shows. Every time I have to go back to the hospital for testing I am reminded at a deep level of all the procedures I have been through; I find myself dissociating from my body (who wants to be around for the pain and the memories), and it takes more than a day to recover.

I have also found myself with a compulsion to go the movies after visiting the cardiologist, and it is not a hospital drama I am looking for.