Sue Wang’s compelling account of her holistic healing journey, Messages from the Black Recliner, is a poignant and inspiring narrative that will resonate with many of my readers, particularly those suffering from chronic mysterious illness. She describes the way life as she knew it, was utterly derailed by terrifying and debilitating symptoms which began five years after the loss of her newborn son. This cross cultural memoir chronicles her frustrating and bewildering quest to get answers from conventional medicine, the challenges of the holistic approaches, the complex impact chronic and mysterious illness had upon her marriage, and how healing was effected through addressing childhood trauma.
There are many very ill people with stories like Sue Wang’s, who can get no satisfying answers or relief from conventional medicine. I often get desperate e-mails from them and sometimes they show up in my office.
These people have been to one specialist after another without getting helpful answers. The results of the laboratory and diagnostic testing often are “within normal limits”. They feel frustrated and often really angry, particularly when helpless doctors, who have thoroughly investigated their conditions according to the conventional standard of care, are out of options and have no solutions to offer. The default conclusion when nothing can be identified, is that “it’s all in your head.” And yet these people suffer from a variety of symptoms such as profound fatigue, malaise, body pain, crushing anxiety and debilitating depression, brain fog, chemical and food sensitivities, and gastro-intestinal complaints. Their psychiatric symptoms respond only partially to pharmaceuticals and sometimes are made much worse by them, not to mention that most medications have uncomfortable side effects.
Conventionally trained physicians have no framework for understanding what is going on with these people. The centrality of the health of the digestive tract and its relationship to the immune system and the gut brain axis is not widely understood. The stunning therapeutic power of identifying and avoiding foods which are causing an auto-immune response is not recognized. The possibility of diagnosing and treating a biochemical abnormality such as a methylation disorder, pyroluria or copper toxicity is not in their consciousness. Household mold as a trigger for chronic illness, and infections like Chronic Lyme Disease, are often not part of the diagnostic considerations. There is little awareness of the reality of the effect of childhood trauma on the immune system, and little weight is given to the enormous value of energetic and spiritual approaches in healing from chronic illness.
Since my training last October with Dr. Walsh in Advanced Nutrient Therapy, I order blood work and urinalysis to test for biochemical abnormalities on every patient who comes to see me. I then develop a protocol of supplements to correct the underlying imbalance. For anyone who is willing, I recommend the Paleo Auto-Immune Protocol to identify food sensitivities. If a patient feels unable to take on such a big project, I encourage them to avoid gluten, dairy and sugar. I ask many questions about what life was like in the family growing up, and am particularly interested in knowing if there were overwhelming experiences such as neglect or abuse in childhood. Therapeutic conversation to increase psychological awareness and emotional intelligence is an important component of holistic healing. Attention to exercise, play, rest, sleep and substance use, as well as the cultivation of a spiritual practice can be very helpful. I encourage my patients to develop sacred rituals that are meaningful to them, to learn to meditate and do yoga, to pray for guidance and help, to cultivate gratitude and to spend time in nature. I also often refer my patients to gifted energy and body workers to complement our work together.
If a person is interested, we may consult their astrological chart, which is a symbolic map of the psyche and a blue print for the evolution of the soul. Astrology is not about fate, but rather about empowerment. It can provide another lens to make sense of experience, foster compassion for self and others, and put us in a better position to harness the energies of the moment and flow with them, rather than to waste opportunity or struggle. One of my teachers, Maurice Fernandez, had this to say about astrology, “Planetary cycles capture the meaning of time and define timing in our lives- they act as a cosmic clock. When we align our consciousness with their rhythm, life works. Naturally our body is vitalized, our mind inspired, our spirit finds peace and our heart says, “yes.”
Paul Romer, an American economist, wrote ” A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” For some people, illness is the crisis that can serve as the catalyst leading to transformation of consciousness. We are also living in an unprecedented time of ecological crisis and illness on our planet. Joanna Macy, a Buddhist scholar and sacred activist wrote, “” The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world- we’ve actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world to ourselves and each other.” I believe that healing from personal and planetary illness involves waking up to the reality that everything is interconnected. The body is not separate from the mind or the the heart or the Spirit. We are also inseparable from our environment, from each other, from the animals, the plants, the earth and the stars. True healing is holistic and takes into consideration everything.
Here a wonderful very short video of Joanna Macy talking about this beautiful and terrible time of Uncertainty. We are living on the knife’s edge, and the fact that we don’t know how this is all going to turn out, has the potential for bringing out the best in us.