It was a special Monday morning, so I dressed up. A new silk blouse caressed my skin under a crisp teal suit. Impeccable make-up, great hair, a Hobo bag slung over one shoulder symbolized a purposeful happiness as I slipped into my favorite shoes and strode confidently out the door.
Even LA traffic was easy driving to the office. I was excited. I won raises for my staff in grinding budget negotiations with a tough CFO. I couldn’t wait to break the good news.
Even better, Saturday night my husband and I celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary. Smart, sexy, funny, handsome, w-a-y upwardly mobile, Jim was a dream man. We vowed to love each other all our lives. My white gold wedding ring set with a fiery opal sparkled in the morning sun. I loved, and was loved. My heart was full. Life was wonderful.
For the millionth time I glanced down at my ring, and suddenly a wave of dizziness swept over me. I gripped the wheel tightly and focused hard to avoid hitting the next car.
The dizziness passed, but my stomach churned as I walked into the office at 9 and celebrated with my work family, smiling through slightly clenched teeth, trying not to throw up.
At 10 in the middle of a meeting I felt another wave come over me, this one severed my brain-mouth connection leaving me so fatigued I was mildly incoherent. I escaped to the bathroom, my blouse now sticking to clammy skin. I had to hold onto the wall to keep my balance as I walked back to the office.
What is going on here?
The flu. I must have the flu… or maybe food poisoning. I called Jim…maybe he has it too. “I feel Fine, honey. Just Great!!! See you tonight…Love You.”
At 11:30 I called it, and went home, barely able to drive; soaked with sweat, I crawled into bed.
I never went back to the office, my professional home for 7 years.
Body on Fire
The next morning the strain of lifting a cup of tea produced hot pain. At first only the muscles needed to lift the cup -- hand, wrist, arm, shoulder -- hurt. Soon, all the muscles in my body were on fire. The flu on steroids.
A low-grade fever accompanied “brain fog”. I left one room and walked feebly into another, and upon arrival would have no idea whatsoever why I was there. Random episodes of vertigo and constant exhaustion transformed me into a stooped over, frail creature.
My digestion froze. Not much could be assimilated.
After a week I went to the doctor who promptly placed me on disability. “What’s wrong with me?” “Burnout” he said, and told me to rest.
I rested for a month and was still completely exhausted. I went to another doctor who suggested anti-depressants, which I declined. (Like, of course I was depressed! Depression was a side effect of something else!) I went to another doctor who prescribed a walk on the beach and an ice cream cone.
Jim was empathic, supportive, sympathetic for the first year, as we went to doctor after doctor after doctor with no help. He made my breakfast, then went to work. After work he made my dinner and walked me to the couch where I usually fell asleep watching mind-numbing TV.
I kept going to doctors with Jim, and then alone after he divorced me. A year after our anniversary, he was through. He didn’t sign up for this.
I was moved into a 1-bedroom apartment in Van Nuys, and he left.
Every day for the next 8 years I woke up hoping, praying that today would be better, and every day it felt as though all the cells in my body had lead weights tied to them. All I really wanted to do was lie down. Anywhere.
I had lost my brain, work and marriage. I still had a body, but she had betrayed me and was only a source of fatigue and pain.
But I never lost the intention that some day, somehow, I would recover my life.
Keeping the Faith
These two truths helped me keep the faith:
“The unconscious always tries to produce an impossible situation in order to force the individual to bring out his very best. Otherwise one stops short of one’s best, one is not complete, one does not realize oneself.”
C. J. Jung
My situation was impossible. I vowed to do my best, kept the faith, and held on.
And from the I Ching:
“The Turning Point: After a time of decay comes the turning point. The powerful light that has been banished returns."
I kept the faith that light would return, and held on.
And then one day I began to heal.
9 years later, on another Monday, I went to the next doctor on my list. 90 minutes later I was weeping with relief because I had a diagnosis:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia, “a complex, debilitating, and often disabling illness which affects multiple systems of the body.”
There was (and is) no magic bullet.
But, to name my condition was a critical turning point. I was not crazy, my condition was not “all in my head”, nor the “yuppie flu”, accusations thrust on me by those who didn’t understand, and were sick and tired of me being sick and tired.
My healing began.
Illness as a Teacher
Fundamental to transforming illness into restored vitality was the (reluctant) acceptance that my illness was not my enemy, but my greatest teacher. I had not been victimized by fate; I had been challenged to learn something, including why I got sick, and how to not just recover, but to thrive.
First lesson: “I am not a Toyota” to be driven like a car, a fact one acupuncturist insisted that I understand. My body possesses great wisdom, and had responded intelligently and appropriately by collapsing when the burden of internal and external assaults became too great for her to withstand.
This breaking news ironically gave me power. I realized that if my body was smart enough to say “no” to being assaulted, she was also smart enough to say “yes” to being supported. I remembered another quote of Jung: “There is a natural gradient towards wholeness within every individual.” I made a decision to trust my body’s intelligence, and to support her in every way I could.
Second lesson: I learned the psychological, environmental and biological conditions that made me sick, and the remedies that made me well. This took a buncha years.
Here are a few of them, which are not confined only to my illness, but address the origins of disease in general. These learnings have been distilled over 2 decades from Homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Integrative Medicine, Ayurveda, Osteopathy, Genetic Medicine, Neuroscience, Food as Medicine, and Jungian Psychoanalysis.
The digestive system— is the root of all disease, and all health. I spent years restoring my “digestive fire”. No body can function optimally unless the digestive system works. One easy reference is: http://gapsdiet.com/, a possible substitute for the shelves of antacid remedies at your local pharmacy. (Just go into your pharmacy and look at them!!! Amazing!).
Nutrients— The job of our digestive system is to deliver nutrients to our cells. If they don’t receive the nutrients they need, the body will decline. An organic diet is essential—pesticides are bad.
My gut was severely compromised by a lifetime of substituting nutrients with processed foods, sugar, including grain-based carbohydrates that metabolized as sugar, combined with an overuse of antibiotics in my early life, mercury from amalgam fillings and lead from auto exhaust, creating an acidic “biological terrain”, a happy environment for infection. The beginning of my healing was in my gut. Unbelievable that a very smart adult woman didn’t know how to eat. A Nutritional Therapy Association practitioner was very helpful teaching me how to eat. http://nutritionaltherapy.com/
First I needed food. Then, supplementation, based on sound testing, both clinical and applied kinestheology.
Battling infection — With the lack of nutrients and the presence of mercury and lead, my body developed chronic subclinical (under the clinical radar) and clinical bacterial and viral infections. (Initially, CFIDS was thought to be caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.) I had my amalgams removed. No other way. Inconvenient, expensive…necessary. Bottom line: When my cells were nourished and my body was strengthened, I had fewer infections.
Neurotransmitter imbalance— Because my gut, sometimes called the “second brain”, was compromised, over time the balance in my actual brain was also compromised. (Of course I was depressed!!!). In addition to restoring my digestive fire, I also restored the balance in my brain with biofeedback and amino acid protocols.
How are you doing so far? Sound complicated, hard, impossible, want to stop reading and eat chocolate?
I totally get it.
When I began to really understand what it would take to get well, I didn’t think I could do it. Too expensive, too complicated, too hard: “I just can’t do this.”
This was a trap that I almost fell into…like just wanting to go to bed forever is a trap. With help, I avoided this life-stealing trap, kept the faith, and moved on.
Remember what Jung said about the unconscious producing an impossible situation? I entered therapy and uncovered the psychological causes of my illness.
I learned that a lifestyle change and psychotherapy wasn’t enough. I needed treatment, and specific kinds of treatment. These are just a few of the approaches that have generated increasing vitality and health.
Integrative Medicine— While most MD’s were unable to help me, I found an Integrative Medicine MD and a DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) who could. DO’s treat the whole body and have all the training of an MD, including running blood tests and the ability to prescribe. Just because some traditional doctors couldn’t help, I discovered both an Integrative Medicine MD and a DO who could. Integrative Medicine and Osteopathy is good medicine.
Energetic Medicine— I found Traditional Chinese Medicine, including herbs and acupuncture helpful at the beginning, but insufficient for complete healing. Today I rely only on homeopathy as my energetic support.
Genetic Medicine— This growing specialty is being incorporated by more and more Integrative Medicine MD’s and chiropractors, and it’s fundamental. The effect of All other modalities and healing approaches will be reduced unless and until the methylation process in the body is functioning. Because I’m committed to total health and vitality for the rest of my life I have ordered a simple test from https://www.23andme.com. For $99 I have the information about certain genetic mutations or “speed bumps” that I was born with that inhibit optimal functioning, and have a protocol to restore my “methylation pathways” to optimal functioning, thus maximizing my fundamental biological functioning. It is very exciting.
Today I have not only recovered, but am thriving. It became clear to me that the key elements of my healing journey can benefit others, each in his or her own way. Today, through my counseling and coaching practice, I am helping others to heal, and thrive.
It’s true that while there there is no One-Size-Fits-All, these key essentials that supported my healing may support yours.
• First: Find, then Keep the Faith, remembering that Faith is the Evidence of Things Unseen.
• Second: Your Illness/condition is your teacher. You are not a victim.
• Third: You are Not a Toyota, just to be driven. Your body is smarter than you, or your illness. Listen!
• Fourth: Whether you are vibrantly healthy, or ill, always remember that the gut is the beginning of your health, or illness.
• Fifth: You may need treatment in addition to making a lifestyle change. Keep researching and reaching until you find the practitioner(s) that are right for you. You may need multiple approaches to your wellness.
• Sixth: Watch out for traps. Just because you want to lie down all the time doesn’t mean you should. Move, both physically, mentally and emotionally.
• Seventh: Find a good friend or family member or therapist who will always be there for you, no matter how you feel.
• Eighth: Find the best practitioner, therapist, coach to facilitate your restoration to health, both psychological and physical.
• Ninth: Always enjoy good chocolate, an essential food group.
I’m writing this on a Thursday. The day before me is rich with possibility. I am looking at my beautiful ring right now. The opal is my birthstone, and sparkles as the sun reflects its fire. I designed this ring that once served as my wedding ring. Today it is a symbol of the light that shines for all of us.