In order to understand this article, I need you to do the following: put your hands together, fingers extended as if you were in prayer. Next, interlace your fingers, making one large clenched fist. Now imagine that your fingers represent different parts of your life or problems that you are having.
Life is complex and the problems my patients come in with are rarely simple. On a daily basis, I see patients with the metaphoric clenched fist I described above. My job is to find the key that will open the clenched fist and relax the fingers into a peaceful, happy set of praying hands.
On July 25th,2011, I wrote about Mrs. “X”, a patient with diabetes, hypertension, kidney problems, and arthritis. Mrs. “X” is also depressed; wouldn’t you be? Imagine that each of her problems is represented by a finger on her hand. The other fingers represent other parts of her life: her relationship with her family, her friends, her finances, the excessively hot weather and her aging eyesight and hearing. Mrs. “X” is miserable and can’t tell me why. She is confused about which of her many problems she should address first. She is frustrated! Every time she fixes one thing, something else breaks. Her fingers are interlaced and clenched into a painful death grip of a fist!
Now, interlace your fingers and tighten the grip for as long as you can, until it hurts. When you open your hands and pull them apart, note that your fingers are tight and sore. The tighter and longer you keep your fingers locked together, the harder it is to pull them apart.
Mrs. “X” has allowed her multitude of intertwined problems to lock together for so long that she can no longer separate one from the other on her own. My job is to pry her fingers apart, one by one until each has been addressed and healed. The process is time consuming and frustrating. As her doc, I think I know what the primary issue(s) is, but I may be wrong. I am searching for the key that will more readily unlock her hands and place them in a relaxed, healthy, praying stance.
I start with her index finger, depression. I have written about depression before. Depression is a normal state of life but can be severe, affecting everything else in an adverse manner. Healing depression is often a potent key that allows one to more readily heal everything else. Mrs. “X” fights the idea of depression; it is a stigma no one wants. I explain that she can either admit to depression, as a sane person would in her circumstance, or be insane. I pry her finger open. I pray that by doing so, I can unlock the rest of her fingers.
Today, I work with her arthritic pain, prying a second finger open. I work on opening a third, allaying her fears of the theoretical worry about NSAIDS. Eventually, finger by finger, I will help Mrs. “X” open her hands and live with the burden of age. I help her recognize her blessings and build her blessing list.
Oh yes, I work on one more finger today. I talk to her about “An Attitude of Gratitude.” Now, I’ll place my hands in a praying position and say a prayer that I get this right the first time.
PS – If this article sounds like you, it would not surprise me. Mrs. “X” represents thousands of people I have seen over the last 28 years. I have interlaced my fingers into a fist, assigned a multitude of attributes to each finger, and then unfolded my fingers into praying hands every week, painting a picture of the healing process for those in need. I hope to do so for another 28 years!