Here is my pet theory on the development of my ALS: I believe that continually placing my self in a work enviroment that had a high stress factor- one that constantly reacted my biological fight or flight mechanism and that had a rigorous schedule of 12-14 hour days/6 days a week, combined with playing hard rather than taking care of myself, depleted my adrenal system over time and damaged my immune system. I also had a diet that caused alot of inflamation in my body: lots of caffiene,diet soda, nicotine,dairy, soy and meat and one that was for the most part low in nutrients while high in calories. The key I think was inadequate recovery time between periods of intense activity and regular sleep deprivation. I pushed too fast too far for too long and with out the proper care and attention my body broke down. I believe that this triggered the gene that is present in people who have familial ALS as my uncle died from ALS, or it triggered ALS in me spontaneously.
When I look at the groups of people who have been identified as having a higher occurance of ALS in their population I see some common cultural threads. We have Combat veterans from the Gulf war, Professional football and soccer players and Type A personality executives who, research tells us, are more likely than the general population to develope ALS. Now 2/100,000 versus 1/100,000 cases doubles the occurance but doesnot emcompass a large population as there are only about 30,000 people with ALS at any given time. That number stays fairly steady due to attrition, read death. However, if we can extrapolate the common enviromental threads and eliminate them perhaps we can diminish the occurance of ALS in these groups and the general population as well. Given only 10% of ALS is familial and 90% of ALS is spontaneous this deserves a conversation about prevention. I would not wish my symptoms upon my worst enemy. The experience of disintegrating before your own eyes isn’t pretty and the discipline it takes to maintain a positive mindset in a world with no cure is relentless.
So what do we know about these professions that makes them a breeding ground for this particular dis-ease? Well, they have a common language… the language of war permeates the cultures. Appropriately so in the case of combat military, however the same language exists in professional football in the US and Professional soccer overseas. I found it very telling that this year the Cincinatti Bengals brought in a Navy Seal to talk to the team about “fighting in honor of” their fallen comrad after the tragic death of a young player. It has been said that language creates our experience of the world around us. If people really believe they are in a fight for their job or survival, based on performance, the “life” or death of that “life” which comes from their job can be excruciatingly real. Professional athletes are always fighting to keep their position on the team. While this struggle may not be a literal matter of life and death, it is very much a battle to remain in the world of professional athletics, which could be the only dream that person ever had. This is when “It’s not like anyone has a gun to your head…” feels very much like someone has a gun to your head.
Many corporate cultures also promote the thinking that they are “at war” with the competition, fostering a state of emergency in their work enviroment. My work enviroment was like that…there was a delibrate concerted effort by the upper managment to foster an ethos of emergency…CONSTANTLY, and regardless of what ever results had been achieved. I actually spent 5 quarters living in the experience of failing when the truth was I was the only bonus-able performer on my region’s staff for those 5 quarters. When I found out I was actually performing well I felt completely duped, and cheated of any sense of accomplishment, even though they gave me a raise. I believe working in an enviroment of perpetual emergency is harmful to the business by virtue of it’s unsustainability and equally harmful to the health and wellness of the staff. It’s simply not accurate and has no integrity. Unless you are in an emergency room OR you are in a war zone- Where that would be accurate, though if the people are in there too long we know it has long term effects on their mental, emotional and physical well being.
There is something about the cycle of cortisol combined with the continual rush of adrelaline that is a nasty, dis-ease producing super-combo. It’s time to start telling the truth about what makes us sick. It may not manifest the same way in all people, however setting the stage for destruction and setting ourselves up to win are two totally different things.
I don’t know if I would have changed my behavior had I known about the destructive effects of my enviroment, but at least I would have been informed and had the opportunity. I had a vaugue feeling that this atmosphere of continual PRESS can’t be good for me over the long haul, but it wasn’t until I was on the outside that I saw clearly just how destrucutive it was. You’d think that gaining 70 lbs over 6.5 years would have been the wake up call all by itself, but I’m a stubborn one! I urge you not to be as hardheaded as I was and to manage your sleep and your stress levels in such a way that you are set up to win over the long haul ~ not solely driven for the immediate results, no matter what.