Why Are ALS Patients So Nice?

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Remember the ALS ice bucket challenge that was so popular last summer? It was summer, it was fun, it was refreshing and, I don’t know about you, but I laughed my bootie off at some of the YouTube ice bucket challenges!

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.55.27 PMEven though I work in healthcare, I’ve gotta admit my knowledge of ALS was pretty slim. Recently, a mental health professional suggested I read, “When The Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection” by Gabor Mate. I learned more about ALS. Stuff like…ALS patients are really nice. No, seriously. It was so noted by the neurology professionals who treat ALS patients on a daily basis. So much so that if a patient comes in who isn’t friendly, accommodating, polite and generous, the professionals have been known to say, “He/she can’t have ALS…they aren’t nice enough.”

Screen shot 2015-08-13 at 3.03.32 PMGabor Mate’s exploration of the evidence suggests that diseases like ALS, Rheumatoid arthritis, sclarel derma and M.S. may have a contributing cause, stress. Specifically, unexpressed anger. This is ridiculously simple, but Mate (and others) believe that stress, even from a traumatic event decades ago, can be a contributing factor for all sorts of diseases, including cancer. Individuals who have never learned to express anger and emotions in a healthy manner (i.e., those who keep it bottled up inside) are, in fact, poisoning themselves with emotion. Crazy concept, huh?

Actually, it’s not that crazy. Doctors and philosophers have been saying this for centuries. It’s just now that it’s making it’s way into mainstream thinking.

One of my hang ups is this: we’re all stressed out. I know very few people who are not. Part of this has to be just living in the 21st century. Our technology addictions take us away from being present. Our diets are choked with processed foods that exacerbate health problems. We spend our days being far from present. Like, most always. What will this mean to our health as a society in the long term? That remains to be seen.

Screen shot 2015-08-13 at 3.03.06 PMFor now, though, I know this: I don’t want cancer. I don’t want ALS. I don’t want any diseases. But, this book has convinced me that one of the best things I can do for my health is to not fall into these traps. Of course we can’t control all that happens to us – but understanding the parts that ARE in our control is so important. I have to work on presence, health, stress management, properly expressing anger in a healthy way and just being quiet and still. Honestly, in 2015 America, I think all these things are so crucial to our current and future health. I don’t just want to survive, I want to thrive. This is why I am so committed to tackling my own demons and being mindful and intentional about creating positive change. I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

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