Self Healing: The Hardest, Easiest Thing You’ll Ever Do.
Authority. We’re conditioned to respect it, honor it, believe it. Parents, teachers and doctors are the authority figures that we are probably most conditioned to not question. Particularly doctors. Illness makes us vulnerable in ways other life situations don’t. Serious illness robs us of any semblance of personal power that we may have. And so, we look to someone, something, anyone and anything that promises to give us back some control of our body and health. It is rare indeed for someone receiving an unwelcome health diagnosis to eventually consult their own mind and body for any answers.
Because, science. With years of research and a wealth of knowledge, how could we mere, uneducated mortals question such authority? The unfortunate and ugly side to this science is that every clinically created and tested medication comes with a host of very hideous side effects. That soothing voice in the television advert telling us how we can attain “relief and remission”, also lists a panoply of adverse effects, including….death.
Some years ago I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is ugly, debilitating and embarrassing. You are in pain, malnourished because your body is not absorbing nutrients,underweight because you lose all desire to eat, eternally exhausted because of the above, and if that wasn’t enough to make you feel like crap…you have little control over your toilet routine. You learn that what you have is categorized as an autoimmune disease — that your immune system is attacking your body rather than protecting it. WTF?
In the early, hopeless, literally defenseless days of my illness, I sought refuge in the available science. It was a science that was itself learning about Crohn’s as incidences worldwide was on the increase. I trusted the prescriptions written by knowledgeable hands and prided myself on doing really well on the minimum medication possible. But the problem, as I soon learnt, was that the medication was suppressing my immune system to prevent it from attacking my body. The medication was effectively masking my symptoms, rather than doing anything to resolve them.
Always a believer in natural forms of healing, I began researching how other sufferers were managing the disease. A common theme I discovered was that certain foods triggered flareups. Dairy was a big culprit. (Interestingly, in The Story of Crohn’s Disease, author Gilles Monif M.D., a world expert in infectious diseases, attributes the rapid increase in Crohn’s to the “industrialization of milk production for maximum profit”.) I discovered that peanuts and citrus were also anathema to Crohn’s sufferers. My improvement was drastic as I eliminated these foods from my diet. How much of my improvement was attributable to my dietary choices and how much to the medication I was prescribed and still taking, was a subject I tried and failed to broach with my doctors. Unsurprising, given that nutrition receives so little emphasis in doctors’ training.
And so, I balanced a demanding and stressful career in Wholesale Banking in London, UK with the demanding and stressful Crohn’s disease, through a combination of pharmaceuticals and self-care. As I paid more and more attention to my diet, eliminating processed foods and eating as organically and naturally as possible, my dependence on my medication decreased significantly. I was becoming walking proof of the all too often overlooked axiom that “we are what we eat”. As advancements in my career brought increased mental and emotional stress, I was also becoming acutely aware that my stress levels had a direct impact on my ability to manage my symptoms.
Those stress levels went seismic when the reality of redundancy loomed large on the horizon, as the Financial Services sector went into free-fall in 2008. By that time my working environment had become increasingly toxic, and while I welcomed the escape from the toxicity and drudgery of the daily commute and long hours, the reality of having to find other gainful employment in a recessionary environment brought a slowly increasing anxiety. That growing anxiety led to a massive flare-up in my Crohn’s, to the extent that my body stopped absorbing anything and I became severely malnourished and dehydrated. Steroids saved my life. So yes, I have an intimate understanding of why pharmaceuticals are necessary and the value they hold.
As my body regained some equilibrium during my hospital stay, the doctors insisted that I needed the latest, most powerful drug on the market to manage my illness. The humdinger was that I would need to have a monthly blood test to determine the health, or otherwise, of my liver. Whoa! Deliberately ingesting something that would damage my liver just seemed too difficult a step to take, no matter how much the doctors insisted it was my only hope. As images of my devastatingly inflamed colon were waved in my face, the doctors were incredulous at my insistence that I would heal myself. Allowing my state of mind to affect my body so drastically was a huge wake-up call to me and I knew in my gut (pun intended) that just as I had gotten myself into that situation, I could very well get myself out of it. Sheer will power got me out of that hospital bed and I walked out of the hospital, physically weak - yet with an immensely strong determination that I would never return.
The old healer to the soul:
It’s not your back that hurts, but the burden.
It’s not your eyes that hurt, but injustice.
It’s not your head that hurts, it’s your thoughts.
Not the throat, but what you don’t express or say with anger.
Not the stomach hurts, but what the soul does not digest.
It’s not the liver that hurts, it’s the anger.
It’s not your heart that hurts, but love.
And it is love itself that contains the most powerful medicine.
Author: Ada Luz Marquez
I don’t recall exactly when and how I began making the connection between the dis-ease in my gut and my ability to “digest” my life circumstances. But the wisdom was life-changing. I began to understand that rather than something that just happens to me, my illness was something that I could possibly control. Deb Shapiro, author of Your Body Speaks Your Mind — Decoding the Emotional, Psychological, and Spiritual Messages That Underlie Illness, helps us to understand the emotional and psychological connections to illness in our bodies. Shapiro in no way discounts the value of medicine in dealing with physical afflictions, but rather provides insight to the root causes of discomfort and disease in the body. She helps us to understand what our bodies are saying to us when discomfort and disease become present.
Being made redundant from a job in which I excelled was indeed difficult to digest — no matter how toxic the work environment had become. The feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness that emerged were born in a much earlier time in my life during a difficult relationship with my mother. Fortunately, I was able to confront the lack of worth, understand its origins and heal the hurt. It is an ongoing process. I am convinced that without my innate interest in natural healing, my willingness to confront my demons and my determination to heal emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, my health would not be what it is today.
I have been medication free since I recovered after leaving hospital. Every doctor to whom I’ve spoken told me that I would not survive without medication. I do not believe that I am an anomaly. I believe that my journey can be shared by anyone willing to confront and heal the root causes of their dis-ease. It is a journey which calls for deep emotional introspection. This is one of the most difficult and painful things we can do. Fear holds us in its icy grip when our bodies are ravaged by illness — hence why we may feel compelled to place all our faith in medications, although they could ultimately result in our death, the thing we are ironically trying to delay.
But our self-healing journey is also one of the easiest things we can do. Because in confronting our demons, we gain control. We are no longer victims. We understand ourselves and gain a greater understanding of others. We become softer, kinder to ourselves. In so doing we become softer, kinder to others. And isn’t that what we all need?
I hope these words inspire you to take the hardest, yet easiest step to your own self-healing. Be well.