Chris Gilbert, MD, PhD Holistic Medicine Physician. Dr. Gilbert is a speaker and author of “The Listening Cure: Healing Secrets of an Unconventional Doctor” (SelectBooks 2017) and “The French Stethoscope” (a memoir) Iuniverse 2010, and is an active member of Doctors Without Borders.
When my late husband was diagnosed with very aggressive brain cancer, time suddenly stopped and my life changed drastically. I became my husband’s doctor, his nurse, his caregiver, his cook and his driver. Life centered on his chemotherapy treatments, his radiation treatments and the side effects of all of those. He was fighting for his life. I was fighting against severe anxiety and depression.
What was really going on with me?
I had intense sadness and fierce anger deep inside of me. Yet, I had to be well behaved and not show any of my emotions to the world. Part of me wanted to burst out with tears and scream, the other part of me wanted to stifle the first part of me so that I would remain socially acceptable to the outside world.
I did what I would have recommended to a patient. One morning, feeling particularly bad, I grabbed three big pillows from my living room, went to my car bringing the three pillows with me, drove to a quiet place with nobody around, parked my car, made sure all the windows were rolled up, kneeled on the back seat with the three pillows next to me and beat those poor pillows up with my clenched fists with as much force as I could, screaming with anger against cancer, against the side effects of chemotherapy and against the unfairness of life. I screamed and screamed for what seemed to be an eternity but was probably only five minutes. Then I burst out in tears and stayed there sobbing for what seemed another eternity but was probably only ten or fifteen minutes. Forty-five minutes later, I was back home feeling much relieved and ready to face the day.
I went to my car every time the anxiety got unbearable and every time the depression deepened and this allowed me to remain the loving wife that my husband and the family expected until his death 18 months later.
I later used more of my healing techniques for myself: I wrote my emotions out in a book that I later published, I sang my emotions out also in my car, creating lyrics and scores that were matching my mood of the day. When my body wanted to move, I danced my emotions when I was by myself in the living room.
The key to coping with events like this is to be aware of our deep emotions and our body’s needs to express them. If we repress our emotions, they have to stay bottled inside of us with nowhere to go. This could hurt us. To prevent strong bottled-up emotions to hurt us, those emotions need to be vented out and we need to find safe ways to express them.
Another way to safely express emotions is to draw or paint. That is how some of the most beautiful paintings by the most famous artists were created.
Depressed and anxious people can also take up a sport like tennis, swimming or golfing. Meditation and yoga can be extremely helpful for others. A simple forty-five minute walk every day can do wonders. As for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it could be a lifesaver.
I am now happily remarried but the experience with my late husband taught me to never forget to be true to myself and to accept and express whatever emotion is deep inside me in safe settings in order to remain healthy and happy. And this is what I write about in my books and what my teachings and speeches are about.