Nerves form habits. They actually form habits in themselves. If a woman has had an organic trouble which has caused certain forms of nervous discomfort, when the organic trouble is cured the nerves are apt to go on for a time with the same uncomfortable feelings because during the period of illness they had formed the habit of such discomfort. Then is the time when the will must be used to overcome such habits. The trouble is that when the doctor tells these victims of nervous habit that they are really well they will not believe him. “How can I be well,” they say, “when I suffer just as I did while I was ill?” If then the doctor is fortunate enough to convince them of the fact that it is only the nervous habit formed from their illness which causes them to suffer, and that they can rouse their wills to overcome intelligently this habit, then they can be well in a few weeks when they might have been apparently ill for many months—or perhaps even years.
Nerves form the habit of being tired. A woman can get very much overfatigued at one time and have the impression of the fatigue so strongly on her nerves that the next time she is only a little tired she will believe she is very tired, and so her life will go until the habit of being tired has been formed in her nerves and she believes that she is tired all the time—whereas if the truth were known she might easily feel rested all the time.
It is often very difficult to overcome the habit which the nerves form as a result of an attack of nervous prostration. It is equally hard to convince any one getting out of such an illness that the habit of his nerves tries to make him believe he cannot do a little more every day—when he really can, and would be better for it. Many cases of nervous prostration which last for years might be cured in as many months if the truth about nerve habits were recognized and acted upon.
Nerves can form bad habits and they can form good habits, but of all the bad habits formed by nerves perhaps the very worst is the habit of being ill. These bad habits of illness engender an unwillingness to let go of them. They seem so real. “I do not want to suffer like this,” I hear an invalid say; “if it were merely a habit don’t you think I would throw it off in a minute?”
I knew a young physician who had made somewhat of a local reputation in the care of nerves, and a man living in a far-distant country, who had been for some time a chronic invalid, happened by accident to hear of him. My friend was surprised to receive a letter from this man, offering to pay him the full amount of all fees he would earn in one month and as much more as he might ask if he would spend that time in the house with him and attempt his cure.