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.
Great article! This is confirmation of what I have been thinking for myself for sometime.
I started having histamine issues about 5 months after my second late pregnancy loss. Although I do not think about the trauma actively, I still struggle to repress the wave of emotions that come now – 6 years after the first and 2.5 years after the second loss. So I think that is a major player in my struggle.
My question – who do I look for to resolve these types of issues? As far as some sort of therapy/counseling to help my mind to process and begin healing my body… I’m not concerned about them having food/holistic knowledge as a component because I’ve researched enough for the past years to handle that part. I just need help in releasing these bottled up feelings I repress. Compounded by the fact that my husband will not hear about it and those around me act like they never happened so I feel uncomfortable bringing it up.
Additionally, are you familiar with EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing? Would this be something you would consider to help that type of situation so I can hopefully have better success with diet?
EMDR can be very helpful to some people. I have heard that it is more helpful to those people who have a specific incidence of trauma, rather than trauma from growing up in a neglectful or abusive environment. There is a therapeutic approach call iRest, which is based upon Yoga Nidra, which is very helpful for treating trauma, and there is something called Somatic Experiencing Therapy based on the work of Peter Levine, which people find very powerful Here is a link:
Thank you, that is very helpful!
Another great article! Thank you.
Thank-you for another great article. What lab work do you routinely order for your patients? I received results last night that the lead on my urine element test was 38 and should be less than 2. Ironically, to help me detox, I take a lot of epsom salt baths in my 1968 mobile home bathtub so now suspect the tub is a source of my chronic health challenges. l will be researching William Walsh’s metallothionein protocol. I used Andy Cutler’s low dose ALA protocol to chelate mercury a few years ago and may try DMSA or EDTA with my Holistic MD’s help. http://www.mommypotamus.com/lead-leaching-bathtubs-the-dirtiest-secret-in-your-bathroom/
That is scary about the bathtub. Wow. I routinely order blood work: Histamine levels, Copper levels, Ceruloplasmin (the carrier protein for copper) Zinc, Homocystiene if a person is over 30, and the urinalysis is for pyrolles.
Janet Kessenich says
Thank you for your post, Judy. I appreciate the knowledge and experience you bring to your work with your patients and clients. You are truly a holistic psychiatrist – and we need more people with this kind of approach as we come into a deeper understanding of our complexity and interconnectedness of body, mind, and spirit. You not only understand this connection, you are actively helping people heal through all of these levels of being. This creates a valuable and inspirational energetic template for all healers. Thank you for all you are bringing onto the planet.
Deb Gowen says
This is such a sensitive and well written outline of so many of the ways that our health crises move us beyond our accumulations of dis-ease processes,including trauma and drama, into a stronger personal self, by way of expansion of our definitions of health care. With such a glowing review of Sue’s memoir included, I very much look forward to reading it.
I have to thank you for showing me Joanna Macy words just at a time when I needed to hear them. Slowly realising just what a knife edge the world is on is frightening when alone but knowing others are there is less so. Her words are comforting and powerfully galvanising. Thank you Judy, so often I take away great stuff from your blog.
So glad it is meaningful to you. Thank you for telling me. We all need to join together.
Lovely and wonderful words of wisdom. Loved what Maya Angelou said about knowing then and knowing now.
Sue Wang says
Much gratitude for featuring my life’s healing story. I was really lost in the conventional health care paradigm, and fought my way to get better. It was over 13 years ago. I hope my memoir resonates and inspires other to do the healing work within. The mind-body-heart-spirit connection is much more recognized now (thanks to wise, compassionate, open professionals like you). You’ve laid out things to consider, for those who are lost and suffering.
Indeed ‘true healing is holistic.’ Pluto transited my ASC when I lost my precious newborn. I’d only discovered this months ago, and after writing for 5 years. Whoa. What Pluto asked of me was profound -after the death- to endure, cleanse, transform, and ‘self-empower.’ 19+ years later, I am a different person and engage the world differently. I’ve become a healer. It was so harsh and difficult going through the loss and illness, but I am a much better version of myself now. I see the big picture, my role in the world.
I encourage everyone who is suffering any kind of malaise and illnesses to connect the dots from childhood, diet, play, angst, sense of purpose, astro chart …all things Dr. Judy mentioned above. There is wisdom within our bodies, our inner child, the energy realm, the universe. It’s time for more people to embrace (and benefit from) the holistic paradigm of healing. Much love to you, Judy, and all.
Wow, Pluto transiting the Ascendent. That is a heavy powerful and deeply transformative energy. And look how you made use of it! Transforming your journey into art that I am quite sure will be of service to others who are suffering. And becoming a healer. It’s really inspiring. Thank you for the gifts that you are giving to the world.
Sue Wang says
It is my honor. Ever since we met. your kind and beautiful energy has buoyed me in this journey, I treasure the goodness in your work and in you.
The feeling is mutual, my friend.