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.

Friday, July 17, 2020

My Breakup With the Medical Profession

Over the years, my relationship with conventional Western medicine has become more and more distant. You could say we've broken up, although I still respect and appreciate the two areas in which they shine...acute, life threatening situations and traumatic injury. Alternative medicine does a better job of calming symptoms without the toxic effects, but even my relationship with these forms of medicine has become more distant. We're still friends, but we don't see each other very often.

Growing up, my Mom took us to doctors whenever there was a health concern. Injuries were fairly routine for me and my three siblings. Mom was even-tempered and matter-of-fact when someone got hurt. If first aid wasn't enough to address it, she'd calmly put us in the car and take us to the doctor's office. Broken arms, broken leg, front tooth knocked out, deep fat fryer spill on a leg, head split open (from jumping on the bed), and so on. The broken arms (four times) and deep fat fryer incident were mine. 

She handled other health issues just as calmly, which for me included having my tonsils out (twice), allergies (including two rounds of allergy shots, in elementary school and again in high school), asthma, and surgery on my left ankle bone. In my teens, I began having pains in the general area of my appendix. As we were prepping to go to the doctor to have it checked, my Mom calmly told me to pack an overnight case...just in case it turned out I needed surgery. Fortunately, I didn't. 

She was no different with her own health challenges, which were numerous over the course of her lifetime and several of them life threatening. She was diagnosed with Lupus when I was in high school and it was not uncommon for her to be in the hospital now and then. As I was starting college, my Mom went back to school and got her nursing degree and license. After that, she spent even more time at the hospital, often as a nurse and sometimes as a patient. She died in 1991, at the young age of 56, from complications relating to the Lupus, six weeks after making the decision to refuse dialysis.

This was my medical upbringing. Doctors have the expertise, medications and recommended treatments can help us, stay on top of your own care, ask questions, keep a positive attitude, and quality of life is more important than quantity. These are the things my Mom taught me by example.

I carried on this way for several years with my own kids, but it didn't take long for cracks to start forming in my medical belief system. Part of that had to do with changes in the medical industry and how doctors practiced, but the bigger issue for me was when I started seeing that doctors didn't know as much as I was led to believe. 

The first crack formed with my Mom's Lupus diagnosis. She explained her condition as her body being allergic to itself, and essentially attacking itself. This made no sense to me. Why would a body do that? Do these doctors even know what they're talking about? A second crack appeared when our older daughter, who was 7 at the time, started not feeling good a couple of hours after we dropped her off at school. After several days of this, I took her to our pediatrician. He gave her a checkup and said she was perfectly healthy, giving the impression that she was just trying to get out of going to school. After we left his office, Kathleen looked at me with an expression that said, "He doesn't know jack! There's definitely something wrong." I replied out loud to her unspoken comment with, "I know. He's wrong. I'll keep looking." 

A third crack formed when our allergist saw that our younger daughter, at the age of 5, had chronic sinusitis, probably for years. When I asked her pediatrician why he didn't point this out at her regular checkups, he said he just thought she had a every visit. I stopped taking our kids to regular checkups after this one. I figured, what's the point? He's not really paying attention anyway. A fourth crack formed when our son's speech therapist, who was recommended by his preschool at the age of 3, said to me, "You might want to try Ritalin. You might like it." I told her I would homeschool Lewis before I'd drug him. After that, my faith in the medical system continued to crumble.

I started studying. If I wasn't able to rely on outside professionals for my family's health care, I had to learn as much as I could on my own. I studied conventional medicine's approach to various conditions, as well as medical history, herbalism, homeopathy, Chinese medicine, rolfing, massage, energy medicine, diet, nutrition, orthomolecular, and more. When people saw what I was reading, they often asked if I was a nurse. When someone in our family developed a specific condition, I would look into that one more deeply. 

I found it quite easy to think like a conventional doctor. Pretty soon I was able to pre-diagnose my family member's issue. It was also easy to know advance what a doctor would offer for it, since conventional medicine has a pretty limited toolbox. If we wanted what the doctor was going to offer or even just a confirmation of my pre-diagnosis, I would make an appointment. If we didn't need either, we wouldn't go. 

When my older daughter was 20 and living in Wisconsin, she started having joint pain. She saw a doctor there who told her she had early symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis. The doctor said the treatments they had were too harsh for her early stage symptoms, so he told her to come back when her symptoms got worse! Well, that got me ranting. It became glaringly obvious that they don't have a clue about what really causes these conditions. They know nothing about real prevention. Their medications and treatments don't cure. They're just addressing symptoms. Alternative medicine has many of the same problems, but at least it tends to be less toxic...although the explosion of bad nutritional supplements out there is forcing a change in that conclusion.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Where chronic illness is concerned, both conventional and alternative medicine focus on symptoms. Now don't get me wrong. Symptom relief definitely has its place and can be seriously helpful when going through a rough patch, but settling there will not result in a cure. In hindsight, even my current back issues were aggravated by chiropractic and surgical symptom relief. 

When my springtime allergies became especially problematic again in my 30s, I gave my third round of allergy shots a try...with no lasting benefits. This time it dawned on me that the allergy testing only addressed natural things. What about the barrage of toxins and chemicals we're exposed to every day? Wouldn't those be a factor in creating sensitivity in the body? And yet, these were not even discussed. Plant pollen, dust, cat dander...yes. Toxic household products, pesticides, fungicides, mercury, chemical odors, solvents, car exhaust...not even on their radar.

Over the years I've tried what felt like everything, and I was gaining no forward progress in reversing any of my family's conditions. The medical profession's lack of knowledge about the true causes of conditions is astounding. How can anyone know what will help if they don't even understand what's causing the symptoms? 

As the number and severity of my own symptoms were on the rise, and my frustration was at it's peak, the first Medical Medium book was brought to my attention. This was in July 2016. I noticed there were no letters after the author's name indicating a professional designation. There was no bibliography and no references. The first chapter explained where he got his unique information. Okay, I thought, let's see what he has to say. When I finished the book, I declared that it was the best book on health and healing I had ever read (and I've read a lot of them!). I knew I had finally found the answers I'd been searching for...and they actually made sense! 

Lupus is viral. The body isn't attacking itself. It's attacking the virus. It's the toxins released by the virus that are causing the symptoms. Allergies are caused by an antibiotic-resistant streptococcus bacteria. The body isn't being overly sensitive. It's the bacteria that's causing the inflammation and mucus production. Rheumatoid Arthritis is viral. The body isn't attacking the joints. The virus is releasing toxins that inflame the joints. Cancer is caused by the combination of a virus and toxins. Both are necessary for cancer to develop. Get rid of one or both and cancer can't grow. And the answers continued. 

The growing number of problematic pathogens, combined with toxins and heavy metals in our bodies, are the reason chronic illness is on the rise. To heal, we need to stop feeding the pathogens, kill the pathogens (with plants and quality supplements), get the toxins out (gently and carefully), strive to minimize the amount of new toxins getting in, and give our bodies the nourishing tools they need to heal. The proof that this information is the truth, is in the millions of people worldwide who are healing "incurable" conditions with it. 

I will totally vouche. I've been able to cross several items off the list of chronic symptoms I had in July 2016. All other symptoms have reduced and are continuing to improve. With each additional Medical Medium recommendation I embrace, my healing takes a leap forward. And all of his information is available for free. There is no profit motive behind what he does. You can even check the Medical Medium books out of the library.

With this information I am finally empowered to take charge of my own health...and actually heal! Both conventional and alternative medicine have been put in the back seat. In the event of an injury or acute condition, conventional medicine may be asked to step up. For calming, strengthening, and rejuvenating, alternative medicine will be asked for support. 

With Medical Medium information as my foundation, symptom management can be relegated to the past...and health and healing will be my future.  

Saturday, July 11, 2020

From Disheartened to Determined

In Kelly Turner's Radical Remission docuseries, she shares that there are ten common actions taken by those who experience the radical remission of a condition or disease. One of those actions is taking charge of one's own health. Of those she interviewed, this step is often described as an epiphany moment; a change in perspective; an elevated level of determination. 

Through the challenges I faced with my back last year, I experienced this epiphany moment as an elevated level of determination to heal. I'd had problems with my back for a couple of decades, including a back surgery in 2008, but the level of pain and debilitation I endured last fall was a new lowpoint. It took a few months for me to fully understand and accept the seriousness of my condition. 

The aggravation of my back symptoms began at the end of June 2019. I was working with a chiropractor and doing my best to calm this flare up. I had preplanned a train trip to Portland to visit my oldest daughter in September. As the date approached, it became clear that my body wouldn't be able to handle the trip, so I postponed it a month. Surely I would be healed enough by October to make the trip...or so I thought. As the new travel dates got closer, I had to come to grips with the fact that I wasn't better. 

On the October date that I would have gotten on the train, my back reached its absolute low point. I was dealing with frequent back spasms and a collapsed lumbar. My lumbar was in the shape of an "S". I couldn't sit for more than 20 minutes, and couldn't stand or walk for more than 45 minutes. I had to lie down for 15 minutes every hour. 

Walking had to be done slowly and carefully, so I didn't bounce. I drove the 1/4 mile to work that I usually walked. I shifted to one-day-at-a-time mode. All activities and tasks beyond day-to-day maintenance were shelved. Crafts, writing, movie theaters, and even my poor garden had to be ignored. Traveling was limited to the city of San Luis Obispo.

I cut my work hours from full-time to part-time. My husband set up a bed for me in my office, to allow me to lie down on my back every hour. I arranged the computer to allow me to continue working while on my back. I'm seriously grateful that my employer was so supportive and accomodating with this arrangement. 

My bed setup at work.

I hate taking medication, but I regularly found myself staring down the bottle of ibuprofen...and periodically succumbing. It didn't provide a lot of relief, but it sometimes helped take the edge off. The pain was exhausting and difficult to bear. It was at this moment that I understood how someone could get hooked on pain relievers, especially when no other option seems available.

I didn't know why my back had declined so much and so quickly. There was no incident that triggered it. I had noticed a slight increase in symptoms at the end of June, and here I was in early November almost bedridden. I couldn't see a path forward to get out of this. I was deeply disheartened and my optimism diminished. 

In that low point, I dug deep within me and found a glimmer of determination and confidence. It was just a glimmer, but there was potential to fan some life into it. I knew my diet was on the right track, as I had healed so many symptoms over the prior two years with it.  Clearly, though, there was something going on that I wasn't addressing.

I decided right then and there that healing was going to be my highest priority. Everything else would be secondary. Symptom relief was not enough. For years I'd been striving to be able to say I used to have a back problem. Now I was going to achieve it. 

Stretching and strengthening were essential. I had to learn which exercises were the most beneficial and how to do them right. I had previously been straining my body by trying too hard and not doing the exercises correctly. Recommended exercises and stretches would be done every day, even if my abilities were limited and the exercises needed to be gentle. No excuses.

I was going to be even more focused on the healing aspects of my diet. Every bite of food I ate and beverage I drank needed to have a specific healing purpose. Since there was no injury or incident that caused my back troubles in the first place, the cause was most likely a variety of Shingles that liked to feed on toxins, heavy metals, and troublemaker foods. It was time to starve this little bugger. My focus would be on getting the toxins out, avoiding foods it likes to eat, and consuming antiviral and healing foods, beverages, and supplements.

I kept my eye out for options that could help turn my condition from declining to stabilizing to healing. Things like meditation, acupuncture, epsom salt baths, and infrared sauna all helped to calm my symptoms and give my spirit a boost. When they no longer helped with my forward progress, I moved on. 

My chiropractor realized that manual adjustments were actually aggravating my low back, so we swiched to having him give me a monthly 90-minute chiropractic massage. That change has been seriously beneficial. I'm so glad he has skills in both!

Day-by-day, week-by-week, I slowly started improving. Each sign of forward progress, no matter how small, was celebrated. In January I was able to roll over in bed, without having to get out of bed first. In March I was able to sweep the kitchen floor and use a dustpan...all by myself!! I was so excited, I told everyone. In April I was able to drive to a town 30 miles away. At the end of June, I did my first solo farmers market trip in over nine months. 

I still have a lot of healing left to do, but I can see my path now. What a difference that makes! I am so thankful for all the people who assisted and inspired me during the past year, including family, friends, and practitioners. You helped to make the road a little less bumpy.

I give special thanks to Anthony William and Scott Kolofer. They have provided me with skilled care, support, compassion, and knowledge that has pulled me out of the depths of despair and helped me find my path to healing. By helping me to understand the real causes behind my problems and teaching me how to better care for myself, they are increasing the odds of my being able to achieve my goal of a long and healthy life. I am deeply grateful to them both.

During my lowest point last Fall, I started to question whether or not my goal of living to 120 was realistic. This was the first time I'd ever had that thought. Now I'm back in the game. 120 is totally possible. Anyone who doubts me on this can just keep up and see if I make it. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Unraveling My Past

For decades I’d been accumulating books and craft projects. After our kids grew up and moved out, I turned their former bedroom into my craft and writing room. When I accumulated new books and projects, I rarely let go of any I already had. The books were reference sources for me, so I didn’t want to get rid of them. The projects were ones I had hoped to get started on, or get back on track with. What this room really held was my history, and something about that felt precious and worth keeping.

As is bound to happen when you keep adding things to a fixed space, my craft room got fuller. Actually our house got fuller, since some of the stuff buildup spilled over into the rest of the house. There was less and less space for me to work on my projects, or even my writing. It was also becoming more difficult to access things or even find them.

Then my back gave out. All projects were put on hold. The best I could muster was to peek into my craft room periodically and long for the day when I would be able to get back in there and start working on projects again.

Back issues were not unusual for me, but this one was the most debilitating I’d ever experienced. In an effort to find my path to healing, as well as some symptom relief, I started meditating on a daily basis. The introspection that meditation encourages helped me to see the lack of confidence I had in my own voice. The need I felt to find other, seemingly more qualified people, to validate my opinions and viewpoint. This explained why I felt the need to keep so many books. My project accumulation was largely due to my need to finish what I started. If I didn’t complete a half-finished project or if I never started a project I’d bought supplies for, I would feel like a failure on some level. If I kept them, though, there was still hope for me.

Then there was the history factor. How much of my own history do I need to keep? And what about the history of my relatives that has been passed on to me? The books that showed the progress of my learning, the projects that harken back to a specific period in my life, the furniture that belonged to my relatives that have passed on. If I don’t need these things, don’t use them, and they’re taking up space and weighing me down, is it okay to let them go and allow someone else to make use of them?

Through this process of exploring my emotional interior, something shifted in me. I was ready to let go. I no longer needed others to validate my voice. Projects that didn’t inspire me could be thanked for what they had taught me and given to a new home. Possessions that reflected my personal or family history could be reduced to the things that had real meaning and value for me. Reading a Marie Kondo book and watching a few of her Netflix episodes was especially helpful with the family history aspect of stuff accumulation. She advises keeping only those things that spark joy, although I also opted for things that sparked meaning and usefulness.

Once my back was healed enough to handle the physical side of downsizing, I began going through things. Our book collection was a big first step. We had a lot of books...and I mean a lot, far more than most people. We ended up giving away roughly 1,300 books, and we still have about that many left.

A good chunk of my book collection was related to health and healing, as I had spent decades searching for the real causes of various chronic conditions and recommendations for reversing them, preferably with natural methods. I wasn’t able to find the answers I was looking for until I discovered Anthony William’s first book in July 2016. After reading his book, I threw my hands up in the air and said, “Answers! I’ve found them. Finally!!” Four years and five more books later, he’s still the real deal and continues to provide more and deeper information about health and healing...and his recommendations work.

Now that I finally had the answers about chronic illness and how to heal, I no longer needed to search for them. I had previously chosen to keep all my older books as a record of my personal journey in health research, but now I was ready to let them go. I decided to only keep the health books that complemented or added to Anthony’s information, as well as books that were especially meaningful to me.

I had a similar experience with my fiber arts books. Having owned a yarn shop for five years in the late 1990’s, there were lots of memories in those books, even if I no longer had use for many of them. I gave them one last browse and then boxed them up for travel to their new home. Strangely, I kept the majority of my sock books. As a barefooter, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, since I no longer wear socks. But who ever said humans were logical. I really enjoy knitting socks and reading about their history and the techniques that have been used to make them. So the sock books will stay with me for a while longer.

Next it was time to address my fiber, yarn, unfinished projects, and projects I had planned for the future. I started with a deep reality-check breath. I love spinning fiber, but don’t actually spin that much. I had a significant accumulation of yarn, some going back to my yarn shop from 20 years ago, but I no longer knit as much as I used to and had no plans for the majority of the yarn. And then there were the partially finished projects, including partially spun yarn, knitted garments in varying stages of completion, a cross-stitch Monopoly board, and three pairs of socks with only one sock finished. It was time to decide if I really wanted to finish any of these.

I set aside a few bundles of fiber and yarn that still inspired me, and two or three of the partially finished projects. That’s all I would be keeping. Everything else would be finding a more appreciative home. As I went through each skein of yarn and each bundle of spinning fiber, I basked in the memory of where and when I got it. This is something Marie Kondo teaches. Thank each item for the joy it brought and the lessons it taught. Then let it go. Feelings of gratitude add a touch of ceremony to the process, which is calming to the heart.

With the unfinished knitting projects, I started unraveling them so the next person would have fresh yarn to work with, instead of a half-finished project. As I pulled the yarn and watched the stitches unravel, it felt like I was not only unraveling my project, I was unraveling my past as well. Taking it apart stitch by stitch and appreciating where I had been. The whole process of destashing was a walk down memory lane. I felt gratitude for my journey so far, but was finally able to see that I didn’t need to take all of my past into my future.

What will my future hold? I’ve been trying to figure that out for the last decade or so. When we’re young, we’re regularly asked what we want to be when we grow up. Then there’s the expectation for us to finish high school, go to college, get married, and have kids. After that, we’re not expected to do much. In conversation we may be asked what kind of work we do, or did if we retired from that work. Any additional questions are typically inquiring about our past. We’re no longer asked about our plans for the future, because it’s assumed that we’ll just continue to do what we did in the past.

For me, the future is a blank canvas. For as long as I can remember, I have planned to live to 120. I’m 62 now, which means I have nearly 60 more years ahead of me...if things play out as imagined. That’s plenty of time to start something new. My project wish list includes writing, healing, broom making, letterpress printing, sewing, typewriter repair, woodworking, fiber arts projects, plus plenty more things that I haven’t thought of yet...or that haven’t shown themselves as being my destiny.

My craft room is now a wonderfully inspiring place. Three pieces of furniture were moved out, half of the books are gone, and the bulk of my craft projects and supplies have a new home. I removed the closet doors and installed floor to ceiling shelves, which makes my remaining supplies and projects visible and accessible. My letterpress proof press and sewing machines are now situated so I can use them easily and readily. Letting go has been hugely beneficial for my heart, my mind, and my need for creative space. My back and body continue to heal, and I’m getting prepped for my next 60 years. Bring it on. I’m ready.