Warning, this is a bit of a ramble! (Straight from the heart. Almost completely unedited and churned out all at once! And it’s really long.)
In western society we have some pretty unrealistic expectations around what healing is and how it is to come about.
We have been conditioned to believe that there is a quick fix for everything. Got a headache, take a pill. Presto! Headache goes away. Most of us understand that taking the pill doesn’t address the underlying cause of the headache, but as soon as the headache is gone, we forget about it and get on with our busy lives.
We have the same mentality for a host of other health issues, like high blood pressure, cholesterol, arthritis, etc. We get a bad result from a test at the doctor and we go on the medication. I am in no way saying that you shouldn’t take your prescribed medication. Many people really need that medication to survive, but there is always more to the situation than just taking a drug or having a surgery. Real wellness is much more than just managing symptoms.
There are reasons why we get sick. A perfectly healthy, balanced body living a healthy lifestyle, shouldn’t get sick. If you’re like me, you’re reading that statement and questioning your lifestyle right now! I know I have a lot of room for improvement. So, what causes us to get sick? Why are we in so much pain?
Preventing illness would be the most ideal thing, but for many of us, we already have pain and illness. So, what do we do now?
One of the first steps is to understand that you may never find out the exact cause of the pain or the illness, and there are no magic bullet cures, but that doesn’t mean you are powerless. I often tell people, “It took how many years for you to get into this shape. It is going to take more than one or two treatments to get you out of it.”
Most health care professionals, (the good ones) understand that they are not responsible for your healing. That’s because you are! We are the helpers. You do the healing. Your body and your spirit/mental/emotional self is an amazing creation, built to heal itself. Your job is to figure out what supports your body and what creates the right environment to help it heal itself.
So, if you want to feel better, what do you do?
Yes, follow your doctor’s orders, but that is usually not enough to make people feel truly well and pain free.
As an acupuncturist and energy healer, I look at all pain and sickness as part of the whole person. You can’t have an injury or an illness without it effecting your whole body, your emotional state, your mind and your spirit. Pain is stressful. Pain can cause a myriad of different emotions. Pain or illness that isolates and limits a person is especially damaging on a mental/emotional level. It is perfectly natural to feel anger, depression, sadness, frustration, and hopelessness when you are laid up. These feelings can cause more stress and stress causes muscle tension, digestive issues, hormonal issues and on and on. The result is a mixed bag of mental/emotional/physical tension that can lead to long term pain and illness if not dealt with.
Those emotions sit in your body. We supportive practitioners can tell you stories about how releasing stuck muscles often makes people cry. Emotions sit in the stuck parts. We need to let them out. It is okay to experience emotions. At least that is what I tell my kids when they make fun of me for crying during a sappy movie.
So, first off, yes, go and get treatment for the issues you are having. If they are physical, go for physical treatment. If they are psychological or emotional, go for therapy to help yourself there.
I am a big fan of using the modern medical system to rule out more sinister problems. If you have any serious ailments, use modern medical care to get them under control, and possibly support yourself with complementary care at the same time. Once you get through a major medical issue, use complementary care and self-care to recover and rebuild.
Many of the people who come to see someone like me, have been to their doctor and been told that there is nothing wrong with them, or they are told a few minor things that there is no real treatment option for them in the medical system. Although it is a relief to find out that there is nothing potentially life-threatening, these people are frustrated because they basically feel like shit, and they are told there is nothing wrong. They may get some advice about diet, exercise or stress reduction and they are sent on their way, or they are handed some kind of prescription that they don’t want to take.
Getting back to the point of this ramble…Why don’t we heal? After nearly 20 years in the complementary health field, I have a few observations.
We don’t heal because we don’t address the underlying problems that are making us sick in the first place.
We don’t heal because:
- we don’t address our stress (I don’t have time for that right now)
- we don’t like to change (This is the way I have always done it.)
- we are afraid to tackle the bigger issues (I have too many responsibilities, I can’t do that. I can’t change my job, my home, my relationship, my boss.)
- we don’t change our habits (I don’t’ have time for exercise, yoga, walking, stretching, shopping, cooking healthy food.)
- we ignore the pain (I just have to get through today. I will take another pain killer. I have a deadline.)
- we ignore the exhaustion (Everyone is tired. Isn’t that normal?)
- we feel we don’t’ have a choice (I have bills to pay. Kids to raise. Parents to take care of. Work to do.)
- we don’t acknowledge that our bodies, our minds and our spirits need to be cared for and nurtured (That’s for snowflakes isn’t it?)
- self-care and nurturing is too time consuming (When am I going to fit that in?)
- we don’t give ourselves permission to fail (They say Edison had 1000 failed attempts before he created the light bulb!)
- we don’t have time (If we don’t’ make time for wellness, we will be forced to make time for illness.)
Believe me, I have used every excuse listed above. We practitioners are often the absolute worst at ignoring our own needs and continuing to serve others before taking care of ourselves.
This is also not a one-time deal. You can’t just go to one yoga class and think all your issues are going to be resolved. It is not linear. It is going to be up and down and back and forth and you are going to do really great for a time and then you are going to fall off the wagon and fail and feel like a loser. That’s okay! When you fail you can be angry at yourself and you can take a little time to wallow in your self-pity, but make sure you keep moving forward. Try again. Life is messy. Sometimes is sucks. If it never sucked you would not have a comparison point for when it was rocking! We learn so much more from failure than we ever do from success.
Again, going back to the point… How do we heal??
First off, try to identify and acknowledge your strengths and your faults. We all have both and faults are not so much negative things, as things you might be able to work on. Some faults need to be acknowledged and thrown away. Like, I am never going to be a prima-ballerina or an ice dancer. So I can stop worrying about those faults.
Give yourself some kudos for the things you are really good at. And I mean all of them. Like if you are really good at something that others might think is not important, it is still a positive. You can be really good at washing the dishes. Some people aren’t. I have shared office space with them.
Think about the faults and the negatives you can do something about. Start with baby steps. Sometimes it is enough just to think about things and not even take any action. Turn stuff around in your brain. Think of different scenarios. Visualize. Journal. Explore your thoughts however that works for you. (I walk, out in nature.) Talk with friends and counselors. We are always in such a hurry in our society. It is okay to just sit and do nothing but think things through if you need to.
You might also try to get away from situations that are troubling you. Get some perspective. Can you get out of town for a weekend? It may be so small as getting out of the house for an hour or two. Or, locking yourself in the bathroom for a bit. Take what you can get and do some mindfulness-based thinking. Or, get some mindfulness training if possible! This doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. Remember the internet? Youtube? Everything is there.
After you have given yourself some thinking space, you need to take action. ACTION!
If nothing changes, nothing changes.
Yes. Think for a while. Process. Talk to someone you trust. Get yourself checked out medically or psychologically if need be. Get a massage. Try some acupuncture or energy work, or reflexology or yoga or start running or meditating, or working out or swimming or mindfulness or whatever, but even if you do all those things, and you don’t take any action to change the things in your life that are not working, you will not heal.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if you get the massage and keep the shitty job, or if you get the acupuncture and go home and watch Netflix with a Big Mac, or if you do the yoga and stay in the toxic relationship, you are not going to get better. You will simply maintain yourself as is. If you are happy with “as is” that’s great. But if you’re not, you need to change something.
Sometimes I have been enough of a bitch to say to people, “You are welcome to keep your pain as long as you want.” Or, when someone complains that they feel so good when they come for treatment, but negative people are going to take that good feeling away from them I say, “Are you going to let them?” I know these sound like awful things to say to someone, and I don’t say them to most people, but if I think you are ready to make some changes and you need someone to give you a push, you might hear me say something like that to you.
Sometimes you need to ask yourself a lot of hard “what if?” questions. I know it is scary to move through the fear when you ask those hard questions, but if you want things to improve, you need to make a start at it. There is no rush, you can do this in small parts. Just. Get. Started.
- I start that class?
- I go back to school?
- I have to ask for help?
- I lose money?
- I quit my job?
- I lose my job? (damn sure you are going to start looking for a new one!)
- I sell my house? (you might have money to invest in something new!)
- I move?
- It is time to downsize?
- I took early retirement?
- I ask my spouse/partner to get help with the relationship?
- I end a relationship? (partner, spouse, parent, friendship, etc)
- I get sick?
- I get hurt?
- I ask for a raise?
- I increase my fees?
- …insert more hard questions here! Lots of them!
Some of those are really big questions. Asking yourself the questions, doesn’t mean you have to take action on each and every one of your issues right away. But ask them of yourself. Sit with the feelings that come up. Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable. See what alternatives pop up in your mind when you imagine yourself in those situations. What would your life look like? What would change? How would you manage? Sometimes when you force yourself to look at what the changes might mean, you will find creative solutions inside yourself. Your intuition will kick in and show you new realities and new options. Some of them might actually be really great. If they suck, then you don’t have to do them, but what if they are amazing?
Then you can dig in to those feelings and those ideas and see if any of them fit. Check in with your body, your gut, and your heart. When you ask yourself those hard questions and you think about what could change in your life, how do you really feel inside? If you find that you feel excited, relieved or happy or less stressed, I propose that you seriously start thinking about making those “what if?” questions part of your reality. Start breaking those ideas down into small steps.
People think I am crazy when I suggest some of these major changes. I can tell you from personal experience, sometimes the thing you need to do the most is the thing you are most afraid of. As an example, many years ago, I was stuck with a house that needed major repairs. I couldn’t afford them. I couldn’t carry the house. You can imagine the stress it caused, trying to figure out how to pay the bills and feed the kids from month to month. I could have struggled on and managed somehow, but the debt and the payments were stressing me out so much, I couldn’t handle it.
I decided to sell the house before I lost it. I sold the house in the nick of time and was able to keep the bit of money I had managed to pay off on it. I used that money to go back to school and become an acupuncturist. If I hadn’t been willing to part with the house, I would have stagnated. I would not have moved forward in my life and accomplish my goals of becoming a full-time health practitioner.
I can also tell you from personal experience that you do not need the amount of money you think you need in order to survive. If you need to take a cut in money in order to fix the underlying problems in your life, be brave and give it a go. As long as you are moving forward and you have some positive goals set out, you can manage on the short term with very little income. I know so many good people who are enjoying their lives on very little money. Don’t’ let money and possessions control you. I don’t’ know how many times I have looked at someone’s fancy house or expensive car and thought, My home has 4 walls and a roof and my car (or the bus) gets me from point A to point B just as well as theirs does. Happiness is so much more than having nice stuff!
I have been fortunate to have quite a bit of family support in the last few years, and I am very grateful. I get that it is much harder to make changes if you are short on support, or if you are in the middle of a crisis. Been there, done that too.
If you are in crisis, or you are short on support. Please don’t give up hope. You can and you will heal. Life always changes. ALWAYS. If not on all levels, at least on some levels. It doesn’t all have to happen right now. Just keep taking those baby steps. Ask for help. Be willing to change. Be willing to think outside the damn box and imagine that you can do something differently than how you are doing it right now. Try to remember something that you have accomplished that you are proud of. Maybe it was something as simple as learning to ride a bike. Try to remember how determined you were to learn how to ride that bike. Then try to imagine if you dedicated that kind of determination to the things you want to change in your life now.
Everyone, and I mean everyone has suffering in their lives. Everyone is going to experience pain, loss, grief, fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, stuckness, loneliness, injury and illness. If you haven’t experienced these things yet, be patient, they are on their way. It’s your turn soon. Nobody is getting out of hear alive. We are going to experience these things. In the western world (read, “first world problems”) we are lucky enough to say we don’t have to experience first-hand, war, or genocide, or see our entire population in extreme poverty.
I think we have been taught to believe in fairy tales. Everyone doesn’t live happily ever after. I bet Snow White and Prince Charming argued about cleaning up after the 7 dwarves. Everyone doesn’t get a free pass. Life is not easy. But damnit it is so worth it! Don’t waste your time here worrying about everything and forget to live!
We have been conditioned to live in fear of failure and fear of new things, but we can overcome this. The human spirit is incredibly resilient. If it wasn’t this species would have died out thousands of years ago. When you look at history, or even scroll though social media, you have to admit, we are kinda dumb after all! There are people out there who can make a living posting silly videos on youtube. If they can do that, you can do anything! I believe in all of you!
Now go get started on figuring out how to heal yourselves! I am going to try applying that riding a bike determination thing to my own health issues. I have to. I have to stay in shape so I can keep patching up your sorry asses while you find your way!
With much love!