What is Healing? I have pondered this question many times.
Recently, I have begun to see signs of deep physical healing at long last, but why? What has changed?
I now sleep 12-15 hours a day. That’s a 10-12 hour night and one or two naps during the day. Until last November, I could sleep no more than 9 hours a night and never napped. How can this be good?
As well, I have seen signs my digestive system is healing. The same amount of digestive enzymes I took two months ago is now too strong. I have reduced them by 25%. This means for the first time in 10 years my body is producing more stomach acid instead of less. Until you’ve suffered from long term digestive problems it is hard to understand how large of an impact quality digestion (or lack of it) can have on your entire health. This is actually an impressive improvement for me.
But what does digestion have to do with me sleeping over half the day away?
There are a lot of mumbo jumbo scientific words I could toss around right now to describe what essentially comes down to a simple concept. Inside each one of us is an ‘on/off’ switch. It toggles between the flight/fight response and being restful/calm. This is part of the autonomic nervous system.
In CFS and MCS, evidence shows that some of the cause behind these conditions is likely the flight/fight response being stuck turned on. This means the body is always ready for a lion to try and eat you so it only worries about keeping you alive another day, not what will happen after that. To do this, it supercharges some systems – like making you run faster, but this has a price. It has to take away from other systems – like digestion and immune functions, because they won’t matter if the lion eats you.
In other words – sleeping more and digesting better means my ‘on/off’ switch isn’t stuck on flight/fight anymore. It means my body is finally able to put energy toward healing instead of running away.
But why has this happened now? What is so different today compared to the last 10 years?
I think this question has a few answers. There is the obvious one – I’m taking herbs and vitamin supplements that have been slowly tailored to my specific needs and it took 10 years to figure those needs out. We are also spending a considerably larger sum of money on those supplements now compared to when we were trying to build our house and pinching pennies from every place we could.
But that answer is boring. The intriguing answer is much harder to define because it isn’t a pill that is popped or anything which can be seen with the eye. Nor is it the excellent diet we’ve been eating since going paleo. Though paleo is making good progress in lowering systemic body inflammation, providing materials for building muscles, strengthening joints and ligaments, and it just plain tastes better!
No, I think the main answer lies in the emotional and spiritual healing I have been discovering for almost a year and a half. I have been practicing EFT, reiki, qigong, meditation, and learning to listen with my heart as well as my head for guidance. Gradually, these techniques have been re-balancing my turbulent body, mind, and spiritual energies.
I’ve been releasing trapped emotional energy by letting go of old fears; learning to fully let go of painful past events and forgive those who caused them, including myself; and in general finding an inner calmness I have rarely known before now. It is a lot like time travel, change the right thing in the past and the ripples have an impact on the future. Although I can not go back in time and change what happened, I can change how my body reacts to those memories. Over time this is positively changing how I react to similar events when they occur.
Stagnant body energy is balanced through meditation and movements which directs my body’s yin and yang energy into healing pathways. This energy flows through each of us and everything around us – plants, trees, earth, sky…
Basically, I’m learning to harness the power of the Force!
I suspect this is the key to my flight/fight response beginning to turn off at last, thus allowing physical healing. No matter how many pills I took to support and heal my body, it could do little good if my body’s own healing systems had been turned off by a wonky ‘on/off’ switch.
As I find an ever deepening sense of peace in life, my body is waking from its shadowy slumber into the new day of better health.
What is healing? I still am not fully sure, but I do know there is no simple answer. The human body and mind are a mysterious place, no less grand than the mysteries of the Universe itself.
Some have a path we are meant to follow. I think great sickness and tragedy has led me to mine and though it sounds odd, I am grateful.
My life has been led by far too much fear.
If you had asked me ten years ago while I was still healthy, I would have been very sure that fear played little role in the direction life was taking.
I would have been wrong.
Over the last several months I have been thinking about fear’s role in my life. Its not just the fear I felt every time I stepped out into the darkness at night alone the last eight years, but also the fear that has unknowingly held me back from jumping in and living life instead of life living me.
I see fear in my choice to stop following veterinary medicine after a negative experience while observing a surgery on a large dog in my 2nd year of college.
There was a great deal of hidden fear that caused me to be content with stoner friends who rarely did anything but sit around and have a good time.
In fact, an amazing amount of my life decisions have been chosen based on an unknown fear of failure. Much easier to set expectations of myself lower so that I can be the superstar I want to perceive instead of merely being average at something I put a lot of effort into.
I have done a lot of really great and brave things in life, but there was so much more I would have done had fear not gotten in my way. I wish I had known this years ago, before illness took away huge chunks of my ability to live and follow my dreams.
After becoming ill, my fear took on a whole new dimension as there was suddenly a tremendous amount of things to be afraid of. Overnight I had to become hyper vigilant of toxic exposures which could severely impact my quickly diminishing health.
These could be found hiding in plain sight on any stranger I passed on the street, in any building I entered, any street I walked down, a shift in the breeze, a box in the mail, and many other places. Perfumes, fabric softener, car exhaust, fresh paint, solvents, pesticides… so many things and more to be wary of.
Suddenly everything I knew about being safe in the world was turned completely upside down and every where I turned was another dangerous situation that had to be avoided or minimized at all costs.
My world had become a battlefield in a hostile and foreign land.
Even at home I was not necessarily safe. Living in a tent with nylon walls does not offer much protection against anything. I found myself fearing mountain lions, bears, trees falling on our tent in a wind storm, heavy snow storms, power outages, people not respecting our privacy and strolling into camp at their leisure, shifts in wind bringing toxic fumes from neighbors into our tent, neighbor dogs rooting through our stuff, and raccoons doing the same. Worse yet was all of the above, but in the dark where I could not see it coming.
This fear had made me unable to leave the comfort of our lighted tent at night without Jeremy nearby, even for a simple trip to our ‘facilities’ because it meant being completely enclosed in the dark with nothing but my flashlight to see by. I used to go backpacking alone overnight and now I could not even tolerate 1 minute in the dark by myself without a panic attack overwhelming me.
Then a few months ago something began to change.
At first it changed so slowly I didn’t even see a difference until last month. I was up at our refrigerator area (about 70 ft from the tent) and using my sinus medication. It takes about 20 minutes for the whole process and it was quickly getting dark. Oddly, this hardly bothered me at all. I stayed the whole time and then calmly walked back to the tent. First time in eight years I have been able to do anything like this.
Over the last few weeks I have even gotten to the point where I have wanted a little quiet “me time” some evenings. I walk up to the chair we have by the fridge, have a seat, and just relax for a while – after dark. Critters rustling around in the bushes, breeze making strange noises in the trees – none of it freaks me out anymore.
When I do get spooked a bit, it is a pretty simple matter to calm my mind and body back down to a place where I can continue to enjoy the time spent alone, in the dark with only my flashlight. I have actually turned it off a couple of times. Only briefly off, but I still had the courage to do it.
I am seeing this same shift away from fear in many aspects of my life and how I look at situations. Such as making a very important and empowering choice to stop fighting my situation and working with it instead.
To fully explain what brought about this change would take at least one more article, very possibly more. In summary, I have been utilizing alternative mind/body healing practices for nearly a year, specifically EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and Reiki. It is these practices to which I attribute many of these massive changes.
I have not spoken of these things here in my blog because of my fear that at even merely mentioning I am finding healing in alternative means, it would damage my credibility and the degree my chronic illness is taken seriously.
Having one’s integrity and mental soundness questioned goes hand in hand with a diagnosis of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was reticent to add to that by opening the door for further skepticism with alternative therapies. It appears that in writing this article, I am again seeing the same shift from a fear led life to one I lead on my own.
Too much of my life has been governed by fear. That chapter is now closing and it is time for me to write the next chapter in my own words.