Stress, Illness, Social Change and the PPDA (4)

Today is the American Thanksgiving holiday.  I am in the  snow-covered Colorado high country (2200 m) with eleven family ranging in age from 1 to 70 (and a fetus aged 15 weeks).  The cooks assure me I am not needed (for the moment), even for the unskilled labor that is my forte in the kitchen.  So I have time to conclude my notes (for now) on the PsychoPhysiologic Disorders Association (PPDA).

My good fortune in having family who are warm-hearted, hard-working and humorous contrasts with that of Serena, whom I interviewed recently during my lecture-related travels.  Her home was undoubtedly more prosperous financially than mine, but emotionally the landscape more closely resembled the dangerous provinces in Afghanistan.  Vicious, critical comments about any aspect of Serena’s life and behavior might assault her ears at any moment from either parent for as long as she could remember.  Now in her mid-30s, six months after her father’s life came to an end in his closed three-car garage with an engine running, she reported many years of unexplained pains in her chest, abdomen and pelvis.  Countless diagnostic evaluations and four years of psychotherapy had not produced significant change.

Our discussion provided new perspective on Serena’s early struggles and a better appreciation of her heroic inner core that doggedly carried on through emotional abuse that would have brought most people to their knees (or drugs and promiscuity like her younger sister).  She left with renewed hope that relief of her physical symptoms was not far off.

The pathway to success for the PPDA is long and daunting, just as it once was for many non-profit organizations that are household names today.  There will be times when we will question the effort.  The best reason to doggedly carry on at those moments, is that there are millions of Serenas out there.  If the PPDA, or those we have taught, is able to help them, then we, and they, can look back at our work and give thanks.