All in the mind

Someone just told me jetlag is all in the mind. This made me cranky because I have jetlag right now.

My head feels strange, almost hollow. The world is several metres away on the other side of some (slightly) warped plexiglass. Sound is taking several seconds too long to get to me. When people ask me questions I have to figure out first if they’re speaking English, then if they are, what they’re saying, by which time they’re staring at me as if I am a moron. Smiling or nodding does not dissipate the moron effect. When I have jetlag I suspect I am a moron.

What does “all in the mind” mean anyway?

A boss I once had told me that menstrual pain was all in the mind. She had never suffered from it and so doubted it existed. But if it did she was sure that only the mentally weak suffered from it. I didn’t punch her because that would have been wrong.

Nor did I tell her that just because she has never experienced cramps or jetlag or head aches or chronic fatigue syndrome does not mean they do not exist. I’ve heard some people say the same thing about sexism and racism. “I have not experienced these things therefore they do not exist and people who say they do exist are merely making excuses for themselves.”

I have never been to Russia but I’m pretty sure it’s real.

Isn’t all pain, indeed all sensation, experienced in the mind? So isn’t everything in the mind? Such as these people’s delusions that what they have not experienced does not exist.

Whatever “all in the mind” means the next person to tell me that jetlag doesn’t exist or to offer me crappy remedies that I’ve already bloody tried and don’t bloody work (and, no, I don’t care whether they work for you or your Great Aunt Tilda) will receive a long cranky rant.

You have all been warned.


  1. Celia on #

    My mother used to tell me that PMS was all mental. “When I was young, I just decided,” she told me, “that I wouldn’t have mood swings.” At that time, I could have cheerfully killed her—did she really think I was having fun crying at the drop of a hat?

    When she started hitting menopause, it was excellent–the doctor put her on something temporarily—not hormone replacement therapy, just a few months to make sure her system was truly shutting down, and it gave her cramps and mood swings and she stopped telling me it was all in my mind. (Mind you, she still asks me if it’s that time of the month when she thinks I’m overreacting to something, which is going to get her stabbed if she asks it in person. Particularly if it is that time of the month.)

  2. Rebecca on #

    “I didn’t punch her because that would have been wrong.”

    good for you. most of us would not have shown such restraint. i’m almost afraid to wonder what else she thinks is all in the mind.

    maybe you should eat some hummus. or drink some limeade. it won’t fix the jetlag, but um….it’ll taste good. that’s all i got. 😛

  3. Steve Buchheit on #

    It’s only, “all in their minds” for people who are totally out of touch with their bodies. It’s also the whole “body/mind division” concept, which last time I checked mine they were still attached.

  4. May on #

    i don’t think i would have been able to stop myself from punching that boss of yours.

  5. cherie priest on #

    M’dear, I just spent merely one week at two hours off my regular schedule, and it’s beating my ass right now. In my mind, in my schmind. I want a nap.

  6. veejane on #

    The ability to ignore pain signals while pressing your hand to a hot stove is also in the mind. Generally speaking, when the mind is telling you something, like, “Get your frelling hand off the frelling stove!!” it is wise to listen.

    Also, I mean, who doesn’t believe in jetlag? You’ve crossed six timezones in a matter of hours! You’re awake and chipper at 4am, much to the dismay of your hosts/household! What do you think is going on, excess consumption of tiny cups of airline coffee??

  7. Ally on #

    hmmm.. I’ve learned to ignore some pain. Like one time I was going tubing and we were going 40 mph and going across the wakes and doing double 8’s and I fell off head first into the water. My neck didn’t start hurting until like 30 minutes after. When I was having fun I didn’t have time to think about the pain but if it was quite then i could think about it and it hurt. Bad. I like to learn about the mind and brain. I want to be a Neurologist. I have this one book called blink and it talks about how we make choices without thinking about them in the blink of an eye. haha i’m 14 and im reading that. most people laugh but its really interesting.
    sorry for the long post.

  8. Justine on #

    Celia: hah! That is too excellent for words. Have you had an I-told-you-so moment? Or are you enjoying in silence?

    Rebecca and May: In my experience punching someone never turns out well. No matter how much they deserve it. I did mock her behind her back and undermine her authority though 🙂

    Steve Buccheit: It’s also the whole “body/mind division” concept, which last time I checked mine they were still attached.

    I am so with you! What do they think the mind is anyways? It’s your brain which is part of your body. It’s why I was never much of a cyberpunk fan—it smacked way too much of the mind/body split. All those boys seemed to want to have their brain in a bucket. No thanks. I like my body, brain and all.

    Cherie: Indeed. Now try a fourteen hour difference. Body not happy.

    Veejane: Yuppers. Lots and lots of peoples don’t believe in jetlag, judging from the gazillions of times I’ve been informed it doesn’t exist and that I’m just whingeing. Most of them don’t seem to have travelled much. I definitely think it’s getting worse the older I get. Le sigh.

    Ally: Ignoring pain is different to saying pain doesn’t exist. Ignoring pain is all you can do sometimes.

    You can make your comments as long or short as you like! No need to apologise.

  9. Laurie Mann on #

    While I was lucky enough to not have cramps or heavy periods in high school, I believed the other girls when they said they did.

    And then, I got them too… *sigh*

  10. Patrick Shepherd on #

    Having done far too much international travel, I can confirm that jet-lag is definitely real. All those who deny it must be living in fairy-land.

  11. Celia on #

    Please! I think there were several I-told-you-so moments. 🙂 There may have even been an I-told-you-so month.

  12. Dawn on #

    Yeah, I’m totally with you about this “all in the mind” thing. There are a lot of things that I can’t do, no matter how much I put my heart and soul and MIND into it. I’m not underestimating the strength behind willpower or mindpower, but I do agree that there are obviously limits. To not believe in physical pain does not make it not exist.

  13. Chris S. on #

    Of course it’s all in your head. Because, well, that’s where your brain lives. And that’s what gets final say in what’s real or not.

    I once had a very good sailor tell me there was no such thing a sea-sickness. Dunno if he thought differently when I barfed on him, but *I* sure felt better.

  14. Dess on #

    jet lag doesn’t exist?!?! who doesn;t believe in jet lag?!?! are you trying to tell me that people think that its normal to suddenly be waking up at 2 in the morning after taking a trip to a different time zone?!?!?! haven’t they ever heard of that whole internal clock thing before?!?! you know, your mind wakes you up at a certain time, gets tired at certain times (*cough*geometry*cough* wait no thats just because i have a boring teacher. nevermind.) sorry rant over

  15. Dess on #

    By the way, I finally got magic’s child! I got it yesterday and I’m almost done. It’s so good. if you haven’t read it yet: GO READ IT NOW~ WHY HAVEN’T YOU?!? YOU SHOULD! NOW GO!!!!!!!!!!!! (that’s all in caps which won’t show up, but it is.)

  16. Justine on #

    Chris S.: Hah! That’s excellent. Nothing teaches like vomit.

    Dess: Why thank you! And, look, I gave you your caps back.

  17. Gabrielle on #

    When I went to Australia from Montreal, I was completely exhausted at 5PM, and ended up sound asleep at 7PM. Ha! Dudes, Australia is like thirteen hours later than Eastern time. “Oh sure, jetlag doesn’t exist: look, I just had a two-hour flight and I’m perfectly fine!”

  18. Justine on #

    Garbriell: Right now, it’s fourteen hours ahead. They’re already in Thursday while we’re stuck here in smelly Wednesday. I want to go home!

  19. Mary S. on #

    My favorite thing to be told is “mind over matter”. Yes, that’s a good one.

    So you say you’ve got terrible balance and you’re scared to climb up on the wobbly, six-foot step ladder? Well, then, just put mind over matter, and do it anyway!! Nothing to be afraid of, you’ll be fine!!

    See this plastic leg cast? I wore it for six weeks!!! It itched!! I was not fine!!!!!

    Works for all kinds of things, too. Like getting stuck in high places because you put mind over matter to get yourself up there and then matter came back before you could get yourself down again.



  20. Dess on #

    mind over matter! i hate that. i was taking a scuba diving course a few years ago and im deathly afraid of getting water in my nose because if i do, i go into coughing fits which would not b good seeing as i was under about 50 FEET OF WATER. they’re like its all in your head honey, mind over matter. its ok you wont get water in your nose. yeah right. and when i did, i was not happy with them at all. serves them right.

  21. Dess on #

    *be oops i kinda missed the e there. and thatnk you for my capital letters justine. it seems more threatening/ firmly suggesting that way. 🙂

  22. Ally on #

    YAY! your home! or according to scott you are. lol the cemetary looked awesome! it would be cooler if there were zombies in it lol

  23. margo on #

    “or to offer me crappy remedies that I’ve already bloody tried and don’t bloody work (and, no, I don’t care whether they work for you or your Great Aunt Tilda)”

    Ooh, cranky-pants. They’re just trying to help, justien. Seriously, hope you feel better soon. how can you not? You’re in America! When you could be freezing your arse off in Sydney!

  24. Gabrielle on #

    Justine–is it really fourteen hours? Huh. I really thought it was thirteen. Anyway, the point is, it’s a lot! 😀

  25. Justine on #

    Mary & Dess: Clearly you both need to work on your zen master arts! 🙂

    Ally: There were zombies. Just very small very slow moving ones.

    Nah, we’re not home. We just left home. We’re in NYC.

    Margo: Oh hush. I just checked the temp back home and it’s gorgeous. Wish I was there!

    Gabrielle: Right now it’s fourteen. Depends on the time of the year and how the daylight savings line up.

  26. lili on #

    it may be alright in sydney, but it’s 15 degrees and windy and rainy and grey in melbourne today. one of those ‘i want to stay in bed all day’ days.

  27. Elodie on #

    Jetlag IS all in the mind–at least, deregulation in the signals your brain sends out causes it. Doesn’t mean your mind doesn’t have impacts on the rest of your body, though! People are silly.
    Technically, cramps aren’t so much. The hormones aren’t all caused to be released by the brain.
    (And I sure wish it really was all in the mind. I literally get partially paralyzed, cannot-move-even-if-I-try, from pain… >=( grr)

  28. orangedragonfly on #

    i dated a guy in college who told me that i wouldn’t have migraines if i told myself my head didn’t hurt. he also told me i wouldn’t have allergies if i didn’t let the pollen/allergen bother me.

    needless to say, i married someone else.

    anyway, i’m going to have a baby sometime in the next two weeks. and if someone has the never to tell me it won’t hurt if i don’t believe it hurts, i may end up in prison for murder. (my husband is much too smart to try this, but if any of the nurses/techs/doctors try it…well, a pregnant woman can’t be held responsible, can she? 😉 )

  29. marrije on #

    orangedragonfly: you’re baby is here almost already? yay! i think german doctors and nurses on the whole aren’t so much of the mind over matter church, you’ll probably be alright in that department. (you are still in germany, no?)

  30. Penni on #

    onedragonfly: It hurts like f@#$, but you get this amazing little human being at the end of it.Plus your husband will think you are the most amazing person in the world for, like, years. Much better deal than jetlag.

  31. orangedragonfly on #

    marrije: yeah, i’m in germany, but i’m seeing american doctors. i go to landstuhl army medical center…you know, the big hospital in germany where all those injured in iraq go? and yeah, my baby’s almost here. i’m due june 12, i can hardly believe it!!

    penni: i’m expecting the pain. people keep telling me that it might be easier for me after 12+ weeks of contractions, but i’m not counting on it. anyway, i know it will hurt, but i just keep thinking about holding my little boy. the rest i’ll deal with as it comes…

  32. Faith on #

    I wish I could go back and punch the crap out of every doctor who told me my menstrual pain was all in my head. Because after all that, it turned out I had the worst endometriosis imaginable. I had to have a full hysterectomy. No kids, either. The sad thing is if that those doctors who, when I was 18, 20, 22, told me it was all in my head had actually taken the time to find out what was going on, my fertility could have been preserved.

  33. Dess on #

    i do need to gain some skills in the zen arts. (or so i’m told. tehehehe) i hope all goes well with your baby orangedragonfly!

  34. Sasha on #

    Doctors (all male doctors) told me that my terrible pain and suffering was all in my head until I was diagnosed with endometriosis by a lovely, intelligent, kind and in all ways wonderful WOMAN doctor. I laughed at those idiots. HA! HA! It of course was very painful to laugh but I did and I am now on the road to glorious recovery. So get checked ladies, it’s very important and can be very rewarding when experiencing problems that small minded men could never understand. =)

  35. Justine on #

    Faith: Evil bastards!

    Orangedragonfly: Hope the labour’s quick and not too outrageously painful! Keep us posted!

  36. orangedragonfly on #

    faith: i completely second justine!!! i had ten or so doctors tell me i didn’t have migraines, that i just had sinus trouble or that i was exaggerating the pain because i was “just a kid”. (they started when i was 10) funny thing….a about two years ago my doctor put me on a preventative migraine medicine and lo and behold my migraines completely stopped. from 3-4 debilitating migraines a week to no pain! only took complaining for 16 years…

    anyway, not as drastic as your problems, and without the awful result, but is it any wonder that so many people have negative feeling about doctors??!

    (sorry for the ramble…)

  37. rosendove on #

    hey, new here, but read the comments and wanted to post.

    Half of me thinks that the doctors are humans too and thus are responsible for as much human error as the rest of us. While the other half thinks that sometimes they get a little too full of themselves and stop thinking, maybe this person could be that 1%, or whatever and are far too eager to think whatever you have isn’t anything serious.

    But you know your body more than anyone else and if you honestly expect it to be something more, persist. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

    orangedragonfly, my cousin had a baby a few weeks ago. They gave her a drug through the IV that numbed her waist down. Numbed as in can’t feel anything at all. No side effects to the baby. It’s an epidural without the creepy and painful needle into your spinal cord. Just into your IV. But if you want to go the natural way, I can understand why. By the way, my birthday’s June 11, random, but I thought it was kinda cool.

  38. Priscilla on #

    Very interesting post and I appreciated reading it. I am with ya on that one!

  39. excel on #

    ugh. how. i. hate. that. somebody once told me i wouldn’t have alleig ractions to pollen i i refused too. while it was a interesting idea, i almost puncehed them. coulnd they see dripping, tearing-up, allergic-puffy-eyes me couldn’t have any control? how baka. like i said, hate. that.

  40. Haley Rae on #

    I guess when everything’s said like that, it’s true – absolutely everything is in the head. But it’s hard to remember that when you feel like someone is throwing hammers at your abdomen continuously for a week.

  41. E.N. on #

    oh, funny. y’know, someone once told me that after you travel a lot, you get used to jetlag. i told him he could pay for the trips, and sure, i’d try it out.

    @ celia: an older friend said the same thing to me once. i tried not to say anything. mission unsuccessful.

    @ faith: i had an aquaintance, not really a friend, didn’t know her too well, who had a partial hysterectomy. she said she slapped the first doctor she saw. don’t know whether to believe her completely, but it seems perfectly justified.

    i’d like to say something to all the rest of you (i love your comments.) but i can’t, seeing as that would take up about an hour and a half of my time. loved reading your comments. or did i say that already?

    cheers, elli

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