Monday, October 12, 2020

Is Ignorance Bliss?

In the movie The Matrix, Neo is given the choice between a red pill and a blue pill. The red pill gives him the unpleasant truth. The blue pill leaves him in blissful ignorance. The question being, would he rather know or not know what's really going on? This question has been on my mind lately. 

For decades I searched for answers to health related problems, for myself and my family. I went from one resource to the next, one expert to the next, one protocol to the next, looking for answers. If a recommendation sounded reasonable, I would give it a try, using myself as a guinea pig. Sometimes I would experience symptom relief for a bit, but the condition would invariably come back. Every resource I found was just offering guesses or theories about the cause, typically blaming the person (you're not thinking right) or the person's body (you have a faulty body). No one had real answers.

I watched my family members suffer through these conditions, while standing by feeling helpless. I did the best I could with the information I had. Even my own symptoms continued to get worse, in spite of my diligent efforts to try to heal. The more I researched, the more I learned how little knowledge and information was out there. "Cause unknown," "condition can't be cured," and "can last for years or be lifelong" were phrases I ran into over and over again. Symptom relief was the focus of all healing modalities, rather than cure, and even the symptom relief was typically short lived.

Then in July of 2016, after reading Anthony William's first book, Medical Medium, I exclaimed, "Answers! I've finally found them!" His detailed explanations about the causes of each condition made complete sense. He laid out recommendations for healing. Real healing. Actually reversing conditions and then curing them, using food, herbs, and a few supplements. This path is simple, meaning you can do it on your own if you choose, but it's not necessarily easy. Is it worth it? Yes. Absolutely. 100%.

The proof of the effectiveness of his information is in the healing stories, including my own. Not just a few of them, but thousands of them...hundreds of thousands of them, all over the world. People are healing conditions that were considered incurable. Many had been debilitated for years, decades, and sometimes their entire lives. Going from doctor to doctor. Trying one treatment protocol after the next. Spending the bulk of their resources in the search, only to end up bedridden, misunderstood, and in despair. 

A young woman who went through this, and would have dropped out of college if she hadn't discovered Anthony's information, summed it up well. "In a toxic world full of noise and disinformation, there is truth, there is real healing, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel."

And yet, for a variety of reasons, many people aren't ready to give this information its due credence. I respect that. Each person has their own path, their own perspective, and their own free will. Many people have trouble accepting the source of his information. Much of his information contradicts what is generally accepted as true. I'm also aware, first hand, that this path isn't easy. Simple maybe, using real foods and a few supplements to heal, but definitely not easy. For those who want science to back up their choices, there just aren't any studies on the healing benefits of celery juice, bananas, or potatoes. And it's really unlikely there ever will be, because there's no profit in it.

So let's get back to the red pill / blue pill question. In the past, I felt helpless because I didn't know the cause of a condition or what to do about it. Now I feel helpless because I have answers, but people often don't want to hear or implement them. This is the question that I've been pondering lately. Is it better to feel helpless with answers or without them? 

When I didn't have answers, I was constantly searching for them. If someone presented me with a health concern, I gave them the best information I'd come across so far. After learning more, I would sometimes come to a different conclusion than the information I'd previously shared. It was a frustrating process, but I felt good that I was at least giving people a few alternatives to mainstream approaches, even if I sometimes wanted to revise my previous response. 

Now that I finally have answers, I've found that many people either aren't open to them or aren't ready for them. I watch them suffer, while sitting on the knowledge of what they could do to start feeling better. It's really difficult to withhold information that could be seriously helpful. Painful even, in my heart. I take solace in being able to periodically plant a seed about other options, but I've learned from experience to not share the information in depth unless asked. 

So which one is better? Being allowed to share information that won't be significantly not be allowed to share information that could make a huge difference in someone's life? The first one is frustrating. The second one is seriously painful. 

I'll take the pain. I'm a red pill person. Give me the truth. With all of its scary implications and disruption. Let's get it all out on the table, out in the light of day, so we can start dealing with it. It hasn't done us any good to keep it hidden...quite the contrary, actually. 

Now that I have answers, I no longer have to search for them. If someone asks for my take on a health issue they're dealing with, I'll give them the best information I have to offer, as I've always done. If they're not open to what I have to share or aren't ready for it, I might be able to plant a seed of possibility. At some point, the person may be back for more in depth info, after trying other methods and seeing little improvement, or they may not. At least I was able to let them know that more information and options are available, if they ever want to go there.

At the end of the documentary about Linda Ronstadt, Linda explained that she had to stop singing because of Parkinson's disease. I now know that Parkinson's is caused by heavy metals in the brain, primarily mercury. These metal deposits disrupt the electrical impulses and neurotransmitter activity in the brain, resulting in the tremors. The condition is aggravated when these metals begin to run and oxidize, which is largely due to a high fat diet. 

Getting the metals out and lowering fat intake are essential with Parkinson's. If she were to consume the Medical Medium Heavy Metal Detox Smoothie on a daily basis and adjust her diet to significantly lower her fat intake, maybe she would soon be able to start singing again...even if just for her own pleasure. But I've learned, by trial and error, to not offer these suggestions unless asked. I won't be calling or writing to Linda to let her know. How sad, though, to see her spirit diminished by her inability to continue singing, at a time when information is finally out there that could make a difference for her.

If I didn't have the answers, I would just express sympathy for the person's situation, offer help where I could, and accept the situation as unavoidable. Actually, even with answers, I've learned it's better to continue to embrace the first sympathy and offer help. The third one, though, I can no longer do...accepting the situation as unavoidable. 

While I've had to learn to not offer help unless asked, it's not easy. And yet, I know that everyone has free will and their own belief system, and that has to be respected. In the meantime, I'll continue to acquire more answers and a deeper understanding of the information I already have. I'll continue to heal and strengthen my own body, share what I know when requested, and wait. Because some day, possibly decades from now, people will be ready to hear it. When that time comes, I plan to be ready.

As far as the blue pill goes, I've tossed it in the trash. Give me the truth...every time.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Coming Full Circle

The location sounded real familiar when he described it to me. When I learned the address, that confirmed it. I had been there before. My current chiropractor was moving into the same location where I saw my first chiropractor 13+ years ago. 

Walking into that office again was a strange melding of past and present. The essence of the past superimposed on the present. The reception area had been redesigned, but a hazy image of the way it used to be was still there. When Scott showed me around, we went into a room where I had had a neurological test on my legs after my back surgery. The memory of that flooded back. Things were different, and yet the same. I was different, and yet the same. The condition of my back was different, and yet the same. 

For more than 13 years, I've been seeing chiropractors in an attempt to heal my back. During that time I've seen seven different chiropractors, and now I was back at the beginning. Back where I started. Back at the office of my very first chiropractor. 

The first question that kept popping in my head was, "What does this mean?" Coincidence didn't seem enough to explain it. It felt deeper than that. The second question, which got more to the heart of the issue was, "Did you achieve a healed back? Are you better?" The sad answer My back currently has just as many issues, and actually a few more, than it did when I was first motivated to see a chiropractor all those years ago. 

A more encouraging question then presented itself. "What have you learned?" The knowledge and experience I've gained through all this is where my progress lies.

I settled on chiropractics after trying homeopathy, rolfing, herbal medicine, mind-body connections, acupuncture, and more. I didn't like taking pain meds, which I limited to ibuprofen infrequently, and I wanted to avoid back surgery. Chiropractics was my best option, based on what was available at the time.

Hindsight is a fascinating learning tool. When looking forward, we can only see through the lens of what we know. When looking back, we can see through the lens of what we've learned. "If I only knew then what I know now" is the phrase that often comes to mind. And yet, our past decisions need to be honored. We made the best choices we could with the circumstances and information we had at that time.

Seven chiropractors over 13 years might seem like a lot, but it was often the chiropractor's action that forced the change. My first chiropractor decided to stop practicing, giving me only 30 days notice, two others left the area, with even less than 30 days notice, and one cut way back on his hours and changed the focus of his practice. With the remaining two, it was my decision to make the change, due to unhelpful adjustments that required fixing by another chiropractor.

As disjointed as my path may seem, the chain of events ultimately led me to my current chiropractor, Scott Kolofer, who is providing me with a unique style of care that my body desperately needed. He is helping me move forward and actually heal. My chiropractic path led me directly to him, and for that I am grateful. 

My previous chiropractors provided varying levels of benefits, but the focus with all of them was on symptom relief, rather than long-term healing. In early 2008, after four months of nearly constant pain, my first chiropractor recommended back surgery after seeing my MRI. From a symptom relief perspective, the surgery worked. I woke up in the recovery room virtually pain free for the first time in months. It did not, however, help with any long term healing. The scar tissue build up from the surgery has been an aggravating factor in my current condition.

To get on the path of real healing, I had to learn about the specific factors that were causing my condition. From Medical Medium, I've learned about the viral component of low back pain; what to do about it using foods, herbs, and a few supplements; how to knock back the variety of Shingles that commonly aggravates the low back; which foods to avoid that promote scar tissue build up; and which foods and herbs to embrace that break up scar tissue and reduce it. 

Scott is the first chiropractor I've seen who takes the time to help me see the musculoskeletal reasons for my back problems. He shows me exercises and stretches to promote healing, and how to do them correctly. He doesn't just hand me a few xeroxed pages of exercises and say "Do these," like my previous chiropractors have done. He actually gets me on the floor and gives me instructions about what my various muscles should be doing during each exercise. My ability to heal is now at a place it's never been before. I'm actually feeling the difference, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

So here I am, 13 years later, back where I started. My future looks far different than it did all those years ago. At the start of my journey in 2007, I was desperately searching for answers and for a practitioner who could fix me. My healing would move forward for a while and then backslide, and I didn't know why. The process was so disheartening.

Today my back issues are at a more challenging place, but my outlook is brighter. I finally have answers. What a difference that makes! It's so empowering to know the real causes of my condition and what I need to do to fix them. My current chiropractor is an equal partner on my healing journey. I am so grateful for his skill and compassionate care. I'm no longer looking for a practitioner to fix me. That's my job. 

Healing is simpler than we've been led to believe. Simple, but not necessarily easy. It takes focus, study, determination, and work. I had to be willing to change my daily routine and make healing my top priority. Has all that effort been worth it? 

Absolutely. I can see a healed back in my future, and it's no longer just wishful thinking.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Trusting My Body

I've never felt really healthy. I've always been dealing with something, especially respiratory and digestive issues. Once my back problem kicked in, that has been a constant issue as well. Having had chronic symptoms my whole life, it's been pretty easy to conclude that my body was just not as strong or resilient as other people's. 

My mom told me I turned blue at the age of six months from asthma. I had my tonsils out when I was 2 years old and again when I was 10, allergy shots in my late single digits and again in my teens, frequent bowel issues from diarrhea to constipation, several broken bones, a few strep throats starting at 18 months, pneumonia when I was 9, and that's just some of the highlights from my youth. Problematic symptoms continued into adulthood, and more were added to the list. 

I've always seen these symptoms as being who I am. I am a person with allergies, weak bones, back problems, and weak digestion. I came to accept that my body had faults and all I could do was to manage those weaknesses. When I broke a bone, I accepted it because I had weak bones. When springtime came around and my allergies made me a wreck, I understood that I'm a person with allergies and did what I could to manage the symptoms. When digestive symptoms kicked in, I did my best to help my weak digestion. When I came down with a cold or flu, which happened often, I attributed it to my not so strong immune system.

I never thought my body was working against me, I just concluded that the one I had been given was faulty. Not as strong as other people's. When my mom's diagnosis of Lupus was described as her body attacking itself, that made no sense to all. It wasn't logical for a body to do that. The ridiculousness of that diagnosis got me to start questioning how much doctors really know about illness and how to heal.

I searched for answers for decades, in an attempt to find out what was really going on with my various health issues. My tonsils had clearly been inflamed, but something must have caused them to become inflamed. My ongoing and lifelong allergies had to be caused by something that made my body more sensitive than other people's. I hadn't had a low back injury, and yet my back seemed to be collapsing. What was causing that?

For years, all I was able to find were suggestions to manage symptoms and theories about what might be causing them...and the theories didn't make much sense. Then, finally, in 2016, I discovered Medical Medium and got the information I'd been desperately searching for. The real causes of my various conditions. Explanations that made total sense and rang true. To heal, he says, you need two things. You need to know the real cause of your condition and you need to know what to do about it.

Allergies are caused by streptococcus, which is antibiotic resistant and settles in the liver, digestive system, and respiratory system. Low back problems, when no injury has occurred, are commonly caused by a variety of shingles virus. Rosacea, which I developed as an adult, is a form of eczema caused by the combination of the Epstein-Barr virus and heavy metals, particularly copper. And the answers kept coming.

To heal, I needed to stop feeding the viruses and bacteria, get the toxins and heavy metals out of my body, and bring in foods and supplements that would help my body heal. Simple, yes. Easy, no. But it has been worth it. I'm healing in ways I never thought I could.

My body is showing me that it's not faulty. It's not weak. It was just overwhelmed and trying the best it could, given the circumstances. Our bodies can be challenged by pathogens and toxins at birth, as was the case for me. With the knowledge I've gained, I look back at my diet over the past six decades and cringe, especially so with my first two decades. Later in life I tried to eat healthier, but my diet has always been high fat, which totally bogs down the liver.

As I've learned what my body really needs, and what it needs me to avoid, it feels like my body and I are learning to work together better. With each step forward in my healing, my trust in my body increases. With each day that I give my body the tools it needs to heal, I hope my body is learning to trust me as well. 

After decades of unknowingly bombarding my body with unhelpful foods and exposing it to so many toxins, it wouldn't surprise me if my body were to just get fed up with me and say, "You're on your own, lady!" But it doesn't. It keeps doing the best it can to keep me safe. Medical Medium says our bodies love us unconditionally. I've sensed that my body is now cautiously optimistic, now that I finally have the knowledge I need to heal. It's my intention to build on that optimism and turn it into confidence. 

To encourage supportive communication between me and my body, I have a few mantras that I like to say on my walk to work:

  • I trust my body's intelligence and its ability to heal.
  • Now that I finally have the knowledge, I will strive to give my body what it needs, avoid things that cause it trouble, and work to earn my body's trust.
  • My body is a healing machine. It desperately wants to heal. All it needs is the right tools.

My trust in my body continues to grow. With each symptom that improves or heals, my faith in my body's capabilities increases. I'm not faulty. I'm not a person with allergies. I am a person with a strep infection that's causing my body to develop allergy symptoms. Once I kill off and heal from the strep infection, I will no longer be a person with allergies. Once I kill off and heal from my shingles infection, my back issues will stabilize. Once I kill off Epstein-Barr and cleanse out the toxic heavy metals, I will no longer be a person with Rosacea. 

Knowing the true cause is essential. Knowing what to do completes the puzzle. I'm now seeing what my body is really capable of...and it's truly impressive.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Perceived As Homeless

I was walking down Broad St, going from work to yoga class, when a bicyclist rode up behind me and said "Excuse me. Are you okay?" I smiled and said, "Yes, I'm fine." We stopped and chatted a bit. He said he'd experienced challenges in the past, so wanted to see if there was any way he could help. It didn't take long for me to realize he thought I was homeless...and I knew why. 

I explained that I was barefoot by choice, and that my feet often caused people to conclude I'm homeless. He admitted that my bare feet were the exact reason he came to that conclusion. We chatted a little longer, I thanked him for his concern, and we both went on our way. When he left, he went back the way he had come. He had gone out of his way to come check on me.  

Now I have to admit a couple of things. I'm not the most fashionable dresser, sometimes referring to my style as upscale bag lady. My bags are knitted rather than plastic. And in this instance, I was talking to myself. I had recently listened to a podcast that recommended free form brainstorming and the advantages of doing it out loud. I'm not sure if the bicyclist saw me doing that, since he came up behind me, but it's a possibility. 

Even still, this is not the first time someone thought I was homeless because of my bare feet. It happens quite regularly...and began immediately after I kicked off my shoes eight years ago.

I've been regularly walking up, down, and across Broad St for decades. When I worked downtown, I walked the 1-1/2 mile commute once or twice a day. For a good number of my downtown working years, I was on a pretty regular walking schedule. To make my commute time more productive, I would often read, knit, or even spin while I walked. 

During my pre-barefoot years, it was not unusual for people I didn't know to stop and tell me how much my walking inspired them. These conversations happened in movie theaters, in line at various local businesses, and while I was walking...and they happened frequently. The conversation would typically start by them saying, "You don't know me, but I see you walking on Broad St every day." They would then share their desire to walk or bike, rather than drive. Some would follow that with the reason they can't, but others would say that I inspired them to pull out their bike or go for more regular walks. 

As soon as I took my shoes off and started walking barefoot, these conversations stopped. Now when people stop to talk to me, they want to make sure I know where the homeless shelter is. I've been told where I could get a meal. I've been asked if I had a place to sleep that night. And more than once, homeless people have offered me a pair of shoes. Nothing else about me had changed. I just took off my shoes. 

It baffles me that people associate bare feet with homelessness. I've encountered numerous homeless people over the past several decades, on my walks, working downtown, and on my current shorter walk to work, and they are all wearing shoes. I've been racking my brain to remember if I've ever seen a barefoot homeless person, and I may have seen one, once, from a distance, many years ago. That's it. 

I'm guessing this misguided perception comes from the phrase "they were so poor they couldn't afford shoes," because it seems pretty obvious to the majority of people that no one would be barefoot by choice. 

The other misconception people have about bare feet is that they're dirty and unsanitary. They believe that health and safety codes require customers to wear shoes when going into a business, especially a restaurant or grocery store. Actually, there are no health or safety codes requiring shoes in any business...for customers or their employees. The only time shoes are even referenced for employees are the requirement of steel-toed boots for construction and industrial workers. 

This perception that bare feet are a health or safety code violation is partly related to the "no shirt, no shoes, no service" era that started in the 1960s, when businesses wanted a way to refuse service to "long haired hippies." If people don't assume I'm homeless, they'll often conclude I'm a hippie. Sorry, I missed the hippie era by about 8 years. 

As far as bare feet being dirty goes, yes I do get dirt on my feet. It tends to be more noticeable against my skin color, than it was against the black soles of my shoes, but my feet are far cleaner than my shoes ever were. I wash my feet every night. I never washed the soles of my shoes.

The reactions I get from my bare feet continues to fascinate me. Many times when I've walked towards someone and smiled, they've smiled back. Then their gaze drops downward, they'll see my bare feet, and then they'll look at my face again. But this time their expression has completely changed to one of confusion and caution, while I'm still smiling just like I was before. 

I've learned to not assume a person's change of expression is a negative response to my bare feet. Many times people in that position have approached me after a few minutes and shared the joy that going barefoot brought them in years past. Rather than being confusion and caution, their expression change was actually reminiscence and longing. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between the two until they start talking. 

People ask me if I'm bothered by glass and hot pavement. Glass is not a big problem and my tolerance for hot pavement has increased. I generally don't need footwear on concrete or asphalt unless the temperature is over 100° or under 35°, and even in those situations flip flops will suffice. As far as foot and ankle injuries go, I've had far fewer of them without shoes than I ever did with them.

Eight years in and living barefoot is totally working for me. My feet are happier and my spirit is lighter. My alignment and posture, the strength and flexibility of my feet, and my stability when walking have all improved tremendously. Back when I wore shoes, I was always afraid of falling when going up and down stairs, especially so after my back surgery. As soon as I took off my shoes, that fear went away, because I was now able to feel each step with my foot.

My bare feet have also helped me improve my overall health. In my early years of barefooting, I had regular problems with periodic foot sensitivity that would kick in a couple of hours after eating. With the diet changes I've made, that problem has now been resolved, along with several other symptoms. It was my bare feet that made me aware of the problem. If my feet had been in shoes, I doubt I would have noticed the sensitivity. 

People who know me are comfortable and accepting of my bare feet. In fact, many of them now expect it and will call me out if I happen to have flip flops on. On more than one occasion, I've had someone who knows me, or who knows of my barefooting, ask me why I'm wearing shoes. I'm okay with that. It's awesome to have people encouraging me to take off my shoes, even on those few occasions when I actually put some on. 

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Tension or Relaxation?

In my youth, I often heard comments about my ablility to relax. My Mom would gently lift my arm, and then let go of it to see how quickly it would drop back onto the armrest. "Wow," she would say, "you're really relaxed." I was also a slow eater. At the dinner table, I would often be the last one still eating after everyone else had finished and left the table, and I was comfortable with that. Even though I had times of worry and nervousness, my ability to physically relax was always there. 

When I reached my late 40s and started looking for ways to heal my increasingly problematic low back issues, I pursued body work for the first time...ultimately settling on chiropractics. When my first chiropractor noticed tension in my neck and shoulders, she would often suggest that I was too stressed and should find ways to relax. 

Actually, my life was not stressful, but her comments led me to believe that I was stressed and didn't know it. So I consciously tried to relax my body and my muscles, in an attempt to counteract the stress that apparently I didn't know I had. Based on her comments, I came to the conclusion that tense musles were bad and relaxed muscles were good. 

I also noticed that I was now a fast eater, rather than a slow one. I was frequently the first one finished at the dinner table, rather than the last. Being a mom to three kids may have had something to do with that, but I sensed that there was more to it. 

As I pondered my childhood ability to relax my musles and eat my food slowly, I wondered when things had changed. I'm sure it was gradual over the years, making the change unnoticeable, but looking back it had resulted in a pretty huge leap.

For years I believed I was aggravating my physical issues with my mind, based on the comments by my first chiropractor. If I could control my thoughts and relax my muscles, my shoulders wouldn't be so tense. If I could rediscover how to physically relax, like I was able to do in my youth, my back problems would start to resolve. If I could stop worrying about what needed to be done next, I would be able to slow down my eating speed.

I started focusing on calming my breath, taking regular baths, taking magnesium supplements, altering the focus of my thoughts, intentionally relaxing all my muscles, and giving meditation a try. While each of these gave me a little break from my symptoms, to varying degrees, none of them made a difference for the long term. Meditation wasn't clicking for me. It felt like I was mentally tapping my foot and looking at the clock the whole time. Letting go just wasn't happening.

When I discovered Medical Medium information in 2016 and learned the true causes of my various symptoms and conditions, I was finally able to cut my mind some slack. I wasn't a mind over matter failure. There were physical reasons for my inflamed joints, tense muscles, anxiety, and racing mind. The culprits were viruses and toxins, primarily toxic heavy metals. When viruses eat heavy metals, they release neurotoxins that inflame the nerves. When the inflamed nerves are the vagus and/or phrenic nerves, that's when anxiety kicks in.

I started incorporating Medical Medium recommendations into my diet and supplement routine. Gradually at first, and then more diligently as I started noticing improvements. Looking back at my 60+ years of food consumption and toxin exposure, there was a lot that needed to be cleaned out. And I mean, a lot. After decades of searching, I finally had the tools to turn my health around.

The more diligently I embraced Medical Medium recommendations, the more I healed. My mind became calmer, my anxiety reduced, and my muscle tension continued to ease. When my back reached a serious low point last year, I reassessed everything. Based on the amount of healing I'd experienced over the prior three years, I concluded that my diet was on track. That left mental/spiritual and physical to focus on. 

I gave meditation another try. This time it made a significant difference for me. I had knocked back and cleaned out enough pathogens and toxins to allow my body and mind to do a better job of relaxing and letting go. Meditation was actually able to relieve my back pain temporarily. I started meditating daily for at least an hour. What a difference this made! 

Physically, my track record of exercising and stretching was sporadic. The real problem, though, was my lack of understanding of the specific muscles in my body, how they worked together, and what they really needed. This is where my current chiropractor, Scott Kolofer, has been such a big help. Do muscles need tension or relaxation? The answer is yes. 

Tension is not all bad and relaxation is not all good. We need a balance of both. Learning about core muscles vs supportive muscles helped me to understand a significant factor in the decline of my back. I needed to learn to tighten and tone my core abdominal muscles, so that the muscles in my back, that had been spasming from overwork, could relax. I needed to achieve tension and relaxation at the same time!

Exercising is all well and good, but doing the wrong exercises or doing the right ones the wrong way will often aggravate the situation. Both of these were issues for me. Pushing myself too hard was also a problem. Doing the right exercises for my current condition (gentle is okay when it's needed), doing them the right way, and doing them every single day have been essential parts of my healing routine.

As far as the speed of my eating goes, I'm still a work in progress there. I've found that I like my food at the optimum temperature and texture. Eating it promptly is the only way to achieve that with every bite. I guess a cold plate of food didn't bother me as a kid. Smaller portions have helped, as well as allowing some time to pass before refilling my plate.

Step by step I continue to learn, and my body continues to heal and strengthen. This process typically happens more slowly than I would prefer, and is not without periodic setbacks, but that's okay. As long as I'm utimately heading in a forward direction, all is good. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Keeping My Power

It's been a challenging couple of weeks. I've been working to understand and come to terms with the incident that happened with my brother, which was mentioned in my last post Finding My Voice...and My Power. His words left me feeling attacked, betrayed, and disregarded. The pain I've been feeling has been deep in my heart, the deepest emotional hurt I've experienced in a long time.

My thoughts about the incident have been flipping back and forth between trying to understand what may have caused him to behave this way towards me, and trying to find ways to protect myself from this type of hurt in the future. 

I don't all...with the many of my brother's social and political views, nor the anger that those views tend to bring out in him. And yet, his love of family has always been deep and strong. At family gatherings, this love shines through. When our Dad was injured last year, my brother was the closest one at hand to help out. He made the 2-3 hour round-trip drive several days in a row to be there. My knowlege of his capacity for love caused me to feel even more blindsided by his verbal attack. I didn't see it coming.

My emotional skin is on the thin side. I admire people who have thicker emotional skin. Reading about Connie Rice's ability to walk confidently into a room of 1,000 people and 5 panelists, who all disagree with her on the topic being discussed, and ultimately sway many of them to her viewpoint is so cool. I'm glad there are people like her out there, but that ain't me...yet.

Looking at the factors that may have caused my brother to behave this way, Fox News is definitely implicated. Many of the phrases he spewed at me came straight from Fox News and/or their affiliates. Propaganda techniques have been in use throughout history and many of them are now accepted advertising strategies. Manipulating people's emotions alters the way they think, which alters their actions. Fox News has employed these techniques on a level that one has to question morally and ethically.

An article by Dr Cynthia Boaz on the Fourteen Propaganda Techniques Used by Fox "News" gave me some helpful insight. Then I started reading Tobin Smith's book Foxocracy. He was a Fox News contributor and guest anchor for 14 years. He lays out in detail the techniques intentionally used to manipulate people. He points out that being able to recognize these techniques makes them less effective. It's good for all of us to know when we're being subject to propaganda techniques, because they're being used on us everywhere to some degree.

With all I'm learning about the impact of heavy metals on our mental and emotional health, my brother's work as as airplane mechanic is quite likely a contributor. Then we can toss on top of this the stresses relating to the pandemic and country-wide civil unrest, plus anything else that may be going on in his life that I don't know about. Any combination of these could have been influencing factors, which helped my understanding of what may have caused him to behave the way he did, but it wasn't helping me feel safer.

Protecting myself while the wound was still fresh has been a top priority. Since my brother and I live a few hundred miles away from each other and COVID has put a halt to any family gatherings for the foreseeable future, I had time to work through this. I was grateful for that.

I've been focusing on healing my emotional wound and figuring out ways to protect myself from being attacked like this again. I was making some progress in the healing, but soon realized that I was not in control of his behavior. This left me feeling dependent on his willingness to change in order for me to feel safe. 

Then I came across a video clip by Kyle Cease. In it he said, "The truth is not what's happening outside of you. The truth is what's happening inside of you." 

That's when I realized my mistake. I was giving my brother my power. I was allowing him to determine how I feel, giving him power over my emotions. If my healing and strength are dependent on his choices, then I've just given him control over me. Awareness is such an essential step! 

That's when the light bulb went off. I had to take back my power and keep it. It's mine to use for my highest good. It was not meant to be given away.

To be truly safe, I need to focus on strengthening and stabilizing my inner self. To not let what's going on outside of me determine how I feel internally. Having compassion for myself needs to be my foundation. 

With this new perspective, I now see what I need to do. I need to work on thickening up my emotional skin. To not be so affected by what other people think of me. To be able to use my voice and accept that others have the right to not like what I have to say. I may say things imperfectly. I may not get my point across as clearly as I'd like. And sometimes I may be wrong. And that's okay. I'm human. And humans cannot achieve perfection.

Emotional healing, like physical healing, is a three steps forward, two steps back process. At times I will falter and slip back into my old ways, but I'll just brush myself off, learn a bit more, and get back on track. I've made great progress in reducing the physical causes of my worry and anxiety, thanks to Medical Medium information. This improved internal calmness has made it possible for me to start working through my emotional triggers and begin altering how I respond to them.

I am grateful to my brother for providing me the opportunity to learn this lesson. As my emotions calm, my pain reduces, and my path for healing becomes clearer, compassion for my brother is slowly starting to grow. I don't know what our relationship will be like going forward, since that's not entirely my choice, but I do know that I'll be fine regardless of what he decides.

In one of my emails to him, I signed off with the word "Love." He responded that it was too late for that. I know for a fact that he is wrong about this. It's never too late for love, as long as compassion is riding along beside it.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Finding My Voice...and My Power

I've always been more of a listener than a talker. If attention is focused on me and I think my words are being judged negatively or even doubtfully as I speak them, the nervous adrenaline rush will cause my face to blush. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. As I watch the reaction in others as I feel my face get red, embarassment kicks in, which makes my blushing even worse. I often try to ignore their reaction and continue on with what I was saying, but it's not easy. My words become less focused, due to everyone, including me, being distracted by my red face. At a young age, I concluded it was easier to stay quiet than to try to use my voice.

For most of my life, if I found myself in a group setting,  I listened and observed. Handcrafts, such as knitting, were enjoyable, calming, and gave my hands something to do while everyone else talked. When I had an opinion that differed from most people, I would sometimes speak up briefly, but often kept it to myself. If I decided on a path that I knew others would judge, I frequently still moved forward with it, but did so quietly. 

Over the past year I've been doing a lot of internal work. Meditation has been a great tool to calm my mind and emotions. It helps me to see the heart of an issue more clearly. As I got the hang of meditation, I started addressing situations that triggered my emotions. I looked for the real cause, the true emotion that was triggered. Finding the correct emotional word is essential. With the wrong word, you're on the wrong part of the map. Like trying to find your way from LA to Monterey, but all you have is a map of Colorado. You won't get there without the correct map.

It was time for me to get to the heart of the trigger behind my blushing when someone seemed to disagree with what I was saying. This included the varying extremes of reactions in others, from doubt to disagreement to offense to anger. Even someone who was just unsure about what I said would trigger a reaction in me. So what was going on inside of me to make me feel triggered?

At first I attributed it to fear, insecurity, and/or lack of confidence. That kind of touched on it, but those emotions weren't at the core of my issue. So I kept looking. Then during a meditation session, it came to me. Guilt. That was it. But why would I feel guilty about my ideas and opinions?

I'll spare you the play-by-play of my emotional work. It turns out that somewhere along the way I'd gotten the impression that I was supposed to be perfect. To always know the right answer. To not be wrong. To always know the right thing to say. If someone doubted what I was saying, then maybe I was wrong. If someone got upset by what I was saying, then I had chosen the wrong words. If it turned out my statement was not correct or that I had said something upsetting to another person, then I had failed in my perceived expectation to be perfect...and I felt guilty about that failure. 

Where did I get the idea that I was supposed to be perfect? Well, school is a big one. Teachers judge us by our mistakes, rather than our successes. When you get a test back from a teacher, it typically shows how many questions you got wrong, in bold red ink, rather than the number you got right. Combine that with my Mom's belief that all four of us kids were geniuses, and this increases the pressure to get the right answers and say the right things.

I skipped a year in school, from first to second grade, was put in a gifted program in elementary school, and was expected to sign up for Advanced Placement classes in high school. Keeping up with all this was a struggle for me. I was often praised for being a "good" student, because I was cooperative and quiet. 

In my early teens, I had a brief conversation with my Mom that, in my mind, confirmed her expectation for me to be perfect. I came home from school one day and happily told her I got an A- on a test. Her response was, "Why didn't you get an A?" Now I know she was just trying to help me see where I could improve, but what I heard was that I wasn't good enough unless I was perfect. After some more emotional work, I've come to realize that I'm human...and perfection is not achievable as a human.

The other issue suppressing my voice was my feeling of unworthiness. This came out during a guided meditation that directed me to feel worthy. My emotional reaction said, "No, you're not worthy. Other people are more important than you." This surprised me. I had no idea this feeling ran so deep. 

I regularly put other people's preferences and needs ahead of mine. This seems to be the unspoken expectation of women and moms. If I did anything purely for myself, I often felt selfish. In my previous writing efforts, I found myself researching other people's findings and opinions that rang true with mine, to help justify my own conclusions. My own beliefs had no value, unless someone more worthy than I believed the same way. 

Now that I had identified the two issues that needed to be addressed, guilt and worthiness, I was able to start making some forward progress. I started this blog to give my voice some practice.

My progress was put to the test last week when two emails from my brother landed in my inbox. The topics were a couple of issues currently facing our country that I have pretty strong feelings about. His words were filled with such vitriol for any group or person that believed differently from him, which included me, that they hit me hard in the heart and left me deeply saddened. 

In the past, I would have deleted his emails and moved on, but these hurt too much. Silence felt like complicity. To not speak would show a disregard for my own voice. I had to respond. I expressed the hurt I felt from his words, and referenced examples where compassion and understanding were more successful at achieving resolution in the topic of his emails, rather than additional force. 

Family love had always seemed to be the foundation of our relationship, even when we disagreed. I thought I would at least get a response that showed concern for my feelings and perhaps a toned down effort on his part to communicate his point. Silly me. Boy was I wrong. His replies focused directly on me, saying I was either evil or an idiot, and pushed the verbal knife even deeper into my heart. I was blindsided.

It's been a rough ride the past few days. My wounds are still pretty fresh, but I'm making progress working through my emotions. My first response, of course, was to question whether or not I should have expressed my opinion at all, and to wonder if I had made a mistake by choosing the wrong words. Old habits die hard. I was able to rule out those concerns fairly promptly, with the help and support of my sisters and husband. 

My voice is absolutely valid and valuable. It has just as much right to be expressed as his does. I don't need to get into a full on debate with someone, but I have the right to say I disagree. With my silence, I've probably been giving the impression that I agree for far too long. It's time for that to stop.

Although this recent experience shook me up pretty harshly, it has strengthened my resolve. It confirmed the value of my voice and my right to express it. Through this blog, I plan to give that right some exercise. Thanks for listening.