Which Expert To Believe?

Science and technology have given us the ability to test, study and pick-apart to the nth degree what affects our health and what supports it.

If you’re the type that likes to follow health trends, you’re also probably pretty cynical  by now – no salt/low salt, well you do need some sodium, no eggs, only egg whites, nope, we got it wrong, eggs are okay, it’s fat you should worry about……… and on and on.

The diet that made your friend look smashing gave you headaches and depression.

The wonder drug for unexplained muscle pain worked, but now you have severe digestive problems.  You’re wondering if you need to get a bigger medicine cabinet.

Everyday further studies debunk what we thought we knew yesterday – Trying to keep up on it all is overwhelming even for doctors, let alone for the average joe who has work to do, a family to support and a community to contribute to.

It’s no wonder I see some version of the following at least once a day as I troll the articles and comments of health related internet verbiage:

“I would like to fix (insert problem) but there is so much information and a lot of it is contradictory…….how do you know who to believe?”

Sorry, I don’t have any cut and dried answers – I’m still on the path to health myself, but I will share with you a story from a book my acupuncturist loaned to me, Sun Zi’s Art of War and Health Care:

Two men came to a doctor with similar symptoms.  The doctor prescribed two totally different remedies for each and they both recovered.  His apprentice, astonished at the wide variation in the prescriptions asked his mentor why he was treating them differently, when it was obvious they suffered from the same malady.   The doctor told him that though the outside symptoms appeared the same, the imbalance within the patients was different – he sought to restore the balance in each, (heal) not just alleviate the symptoms (cure).

This approach was known, understood and effectively implemented over thousands of years  in a variety of traditional health care systems.

(Did you know that in some areas of ancient China, a physician had to hang one lantern outside of his home for each patient he lost?   Read it years ago and when I worked for a Doctor of Chinese Medicine, I asked if it was true.   She said yes.

She also said that in small rural villages, such as the one her grandmother still lives in, the village physician is still held responsible for the health of all in the community.   The physician observes the environment and directs his charges on what to do regarding cleansing their homes, teas to drink and foods to eat when weather patterns, bacteria or viruses indicate a need for extra protection.   Villagers are expected to follow the directives.  If they do and still become ill, the fault is laid at the physician’s door.  If they disregard the preventative measures, then they are on their own.   I will say this approach is focused on bolstering health, not curing illness.

I also think western medicine has tried to adopt this approach, but has been corrupted by our fascination with one-miracle-pill-fits-all mentality……….)

My rules of thumb for healing?

  • Yes, I’ll take temporary relief when it’s offered, but I’m more concerned with finding the root cause of the discomfort.  Sometimes that’s easier than others.  Sometimes that means contacting one more provider when you’d rather just take to your bed and give up.  Sometimes that means exploring a new kind of healing modality you haven’t tried before.  And if you’re really sick, it means asking family or friends to fight/search for you.
  • I only allow providers to “practice medicine” on me when the following caveat is given: “I’m not completely sure what is causing these symptoms.  We will try this, if it doesn’t work, it will not do further harm.  And if it does work, then we will know we found the cause.”
  • I only work with providers I respect and trust.  If I think you sound like a condescending baboon (and trust me, I’ve ran into just as many in the holistic health care field as in western medicine), and patronize me from your holier-than-thou pedestal, I’m probably not going to be very cooperative. No matter how good you are, if I can’t follow your directions, then we aren’t going to be successful in healing me.
  • I also only work with providers who honor the fact that I want to be informed and participate in my own health care regimen.  If they tell me taking extra vitamin C when I feel I’m coming down with a cold is a waste of time and money, I’m out of there.   Doesn’t matter who is right – for now, our views on what heals are too different for a successful partnership to emerge.
  • I only choose health care regimens that:
    • a.)I can sustain, given my current time and money budget,
    • b.) do not promise miracles,
    • c.)are not greatly restrictive or border on the insane (drastic purges, regimens including extreme variances in body temperature, etc.  If you’re already ill, extreme treatments may cure the disease but kill the patient…meaning you.)
    • d.)do not require life-long maintenance from an outside source in the form of sessions, herbs, prescriptions or buying into auto-delivery every month.
  • I try to get references whenever I can before visiting a new provider or trying a new self-care technique.  If I can’t get references, then I write or call.  If the provider is too busy to talk to me and answer some general questions over the phone, I surmise they are too busy to have another client.
    • (Many holistic health care providers provide a Free Consultation (usually about 15 minutes).   That is their gift to you.   Please return the gift by coming prepared to the consultation with your health concerns, your questions about them and above all, be honest with them on what you are willing and not willing to do to support and participate in your healing.   Honor the gift of time they have given you.)

In the end, I’m okay with practicing on myself – but I’ve gotten very picky about who I allow to engage in that practice with me.

If your response to this list is, “Duh – that’s just common sense!” I will state that when you are ill and trying to find answers, it’s all too easy to get distracted from common sense and lured in by those who may very well have a service or product that helped them and others, but may not necessarily be right for you.  If you’re too ill to restrain from blind belief in whatever anyone tells you, get a family member or friend to assist you in your quest.

If you’re interested in more information regarding modalities/nutritional guidelines I’ve utilized in my health care, here are informational links from the sites/providers who have helped me over the years:

Here’s to Your Health!

Miracle Cure?

Still searching for the Miracle Cure?

New Miracle Cure!

(Warning: During trial reviews, some participants who read this article experienced nausea, insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, decreased sex drive, dizziness, weight gain or loss, tremors, sweating, sleepiness, fatigue, dry mouth, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, suicidal thoughts, severe muscle pain, chest pain, a decrease in white blood cells, resulting in lowered immune defense, strokes, heart attacks, schizophrenia, bi-polar symptoms, osteoporosis, joint pain, temporary memory loss or full-blown amnesia, an increase in uncontrollable rage, and thoughts of hurting themselves or others.)

What, you’re still reading?   Are you kidding me?   Well, okay.

I don’t really have the miracle cure.   I just wanted to know if after reading the warning label if you would still read.

Nasty trick, I know, but the quiet, quick spoken voice that rattles off all the possible side effects of different medications on commercials has got me to wondering how the pharmaceutical companies stay in business.  Not only are they in business, but they are doing well enough to offer to help you with the cost of their product, if you cannot afford it.

How is this possible?

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Years ago, while suffering from phantom joint and muscle pain, a host of diagnoses were tossed at me: chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus – – – so home I go to research these ‘diseases’.   After finding out that 3 or more of the listed symptoms could be experienced by just about anyone at some time or another, the fact that it still is unknown for certain what causes these and the medicines prescribed for treatment had worse side-effects than what I was already experiencing, I chose to forgo the tests and look elsewhere for assistance.

After working with a nutritionist, an acupuncturist and changing to a Traditional Diet, I found the health I was looking for.

Nope, it wasn’t fast and it wasn’t always easy.   I had to take a hard look at my lifestyle and how I was spending my time and money.   I sometimes gave up things I really liked to gain the results I desired.

I’ve had to get better at planning ahead for the meals I prepare and try not to give into the urge to do take-out on the days I immersed myself in some other project and forgot to lay out something for supper or get bread baked.

In my enthusiasm to share with others what worked for me, I’ve endured sarcastic comments from those who think organic eating is a bunch of hoo-haw and condemnation from those truly organic, locavores who recycle, vote in every election, own an electric car and solar home and are offended that I, in my transitionary lifestyle, dare to count myself as part of their group.  I also have to explain why yes, sometimes you can find me in the check-out aisle at Wal-mart.

I’ve teetered between the mindset of, “wow, I’m really making progress” to “what the heck am I doing?  I know better………..”

I’ve offered my ear and thoughts to those struggling with grief and in turn, been drowned in it myself.

I’ve come to know that what worked yesterday will not always help me today.

And I know that if I am to be well in mind, body and spirit, I cannot give up when what used to work doesn’t anymore.

In short, I’ve quit looking for a miracle cure and hoping that if I do ’such and such’ my life will be on an ever-even keel and I can just enjoy it with no further researching, experimenting, growth or changes needed.

Instead, I enjoy when it’s good and when it’s not, well, I slug around for awhile in the muck, then try to figure out how I got sucked into that quagmire in the first place.   If I can’t figure it out, or fix it, I yell for help.  And wait to see what shows up.

Sometimes assistance magically appears.   Sometimes, it does, but I don’t recognize it.   And other times, nothing shows up and I figure that’s the Universe’s way of telling me, “Growth Opportunity!”

I’ve quit believing in miracle cures, but I do experience the miraculous.   I’ve switched my focus from finding a ‘cure’ to finding ways to ‘heal’.

Nope, I don’t have all the answers and there are days when a glimpse into my life would make anyone wonder why I put so much time and energy into the things I do.

Fortunately, I’ve also given up the need to convince others I’m right.

(Though I still cannot resist sharing the journey…………..)

“Retreat!”

Escaping the inescapable.

These past weeks I’ve often envisioned Yosemite Sam, yelling “Retreat!”  You remember that cartoon, don’t you?

Sam charges towards Bugs Bunny’s fort – Bugs calmly swings open the door at the last minute and Sam runs smack down the barrel of a large gunnery cannon.   He stops…He looks…He realizes……”Retreat!” and runs back the way he came, managing to just barely escape the end of the cannon before being blasted into a little black, charred, beardless  Hessian.

(Hey, I still watch cartoons – and you cannot tell me that the new Batman or Captain Planet or any of these modern ones are ‘less violent’ – Bugs Bunny Forever, says I!)

For various reasons, both known and unknown to me, I have struggled more this year than last over the death of my son.   Lost to bacterial meningitis shortly after graduating from high school, he slipped away from us just 4 short days before his 18th birthday.

As I write this, I have just made it through the day that should have been his 20th birthday.    I should have been making a cake, fixing a BBQ and saying, “Nope, no beer until next year.”

(For those of you not familiar with my previous comments regarding ’shoulds’ I will tell you the above sentence is a prime example of “shoulding on myself” – if you’re confused, say it out loud and you’ll see why ’shoulds’ are not the best thing to engage in…..)

Instead, I did my best not to mope and cry uncontrollably around my youngest son, who will turn 12 in a couple of days.   (For some reason, the Universe decided I was only to be fertile sometime around September – my boys were born 8 years and 3 days apart…… the two I lost would have been born in June too.)

Because I’ve been struggling more lately and seem to have taken a detour in my healing, I’ve often fantasized about escape.

Winning Powerball, building a fence enclosed fortress somewhere in the middle of nowhere with provisions stocked for 2 or 3 years.   No phone, no email, no one to cope with except hubby and son.   No need to be witty, capable of engaging in intelligent conversation.   No call to be nice to others when I’m not feeling nice…………..ahhhhh, don’t I just wish.

But after several years of faithful purchase, I’ve decided my son was probably right – I’m more likely to be struck by lightening 5 times in one day than I am to win Powerball (which means, I do still have a chance………………)

And then it was suggested I go on retreat.   Perhaps to a monastery or abbey?   And the longer the idea-man talked, the better it sounded.

The main attraction was that I have threatened the males in my house with ‘running away to live with the nuns’ for years, anytime I felt like dirty socks were  purposely being thrown on the floor, just to watch me pick them up and take to the laundry.    So, having threatened this action for so long, I was intrigued with the possibility of actually getting to make good on my threats.

I’m also a big Brother Cadfael fan, that wonderful monk created by author Ellis Peters – an aging crusader who came to the monastery late in life and always manages to solve the murder mystery, help the young in-love couple get together and heal a few people with herbs while he’s at it, all the while both outwitting and maintaining a great friendship with the local Sheriff.   What’s not to love?

How I’ve often wished Brother Cadfael was real and that I could visit him and talk with him.  Ellis Peters once said in an interview that writing Brother Cadfael made her a better person.   I can believe it.   He’s my hero.

I also don’t do well with meditation practices.   I can, however, immerse myself in some mundane task and contemplate the mysteries of the world and my connection with the divine quite readily.  So as the idea was suggested to me, I could already see myself regaining my peace and inner tranquility while scrubbing a stone floor on my hands and knees.  (yes, I know, I’m losing it…..)

Some scenes from Sound of Music and Sister Act briefly flitted through my head, but since I can’t sing as well as Julie Andrews or dance as well as Whoopi, I quickly let go of those fantasies…………….

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The yearning with which I’ve envisioned escape has surprised me.   Until recently, I felt like I was dealing with illnesses, deaths and my own health problems pretty well.   Just how or why I got to this place of deep grief again, I could not tell you.

It is both maddening and enlightening to know that no matter how much you read, research and learn about taking care of yourself, things can still sneak up on you when you aren’t expecting it.

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It’s not that my everyday life is hard.   I currently do not work for anyone else, so my schedule is pretty well my own.   My hubby and son aren’t complete slobs and they pitch in and help around the house if I’ve decided to start more projects in the morning than I can possibly get done by nightfall.

I figure a lot of people would look at my life and wonder what the heck I had to be down about.   And they would be right.

But that realization hasn’t changed how I’m feeling right now.

And so, I have requested and been granted sanctuary at an abbey for 10 glorious days while son and hubby are away at school and camp and won’t be around to miss me being gone, anyways.

No cell phone, no email or websites to maintain.  No trying to figure out how to design a new database.

I’m taking my embroidery, some books and stuff to make sprouted wheat bread for the nuns.   My gift for them.

In return, they’ve agreed to give me a bed to sleep on, food to eat, and the opportunity to join their prayer schedule.   I will also be given work to do.   I don’t have to figure out what the most efficient way to do the work is, or prioritize or manage or be inspired and creative.  I just have to show up and do what I’m told.   What a relief.

For a time, I’m going to retreat from the responsibilities of the gifts I have received…. a loving husband and son, friends and family, customers.    I’m going to go where there is a schedule that tells me when to sleep, when to eat and when to commune with the Universe.   I’m choosing to retreat from the world of choices and decisions.

In the military world, Retreat is not often seen as a positive way of dealing the possibility of defeat.   Yes, there’s the saying, “Run away, live to fight another day” but I think the “With your shield or on it” is the more favored, popular one.

It is also interesting to me that in many literary works regarding ‘joining the convent’, a young applicant is counseled, “These walls are to be entered to embrace the life within, not to shut the world out.”

But, whatever the case may be, my wounds are sore and oozing, they ache from too many pokes and prods from my daily routine.   So carrying what shred of a shield I have left, I shall enter into the walls, not asking to leave the world, only that it be kept at bay while I heal and repair my shield.

Rest assured I shall return with it.