Newsletter #17 The Courage to Heal



          I was inspired to write about this subject when I recently re-read one of my favorite books, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert. What Elizabeth Gilbert is writing about is essentially creativity—-how to find it and nurture it—and how important it is to our spirit to make it an integral part of our daily living. In that context, she writes: “Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?” And, while she is talking about creative treasures, that same statement can also be seen as relevant to having the courage to live the productive life you were given as your birthright. Are you going to let your illness take that away from you, or are you going to “hunt to uncover those jewels—-that’s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place—that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one…..I’m talking about a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” 

     That got me thinking that healing is not that much different, conceptually. In the face of prolonged debilitating illness, we must face those fears, with courage, to get well. Mobilizing our courage to create something (which is laden with potential fears) is not so different than
mobilizing our courage to heal.

     At first glance, one might wonder why it would take courage to get well. After all, wouldn’t everyone want to get well from an illness or injury?  So why would it take courage, as opposed to your basic pluck or fortitude or even common sense? “Of course I want to get better… you think I am enjoying feeling this lousy?”

     But, like most things in life, healing is quite a bit more complicated than a simple desire to get well. And, as an illness does not resolve quickly, and lingers, this gets more complicated still.

     So, when someone begins to realize that they are not well, their first assumption is that this is going to be temporary, like, say a nasty viral infection. When that presumed viral infection does not resolve after several weeks, then several months, it begins to dawn on that individual that something more serious is going on and that they are going to have to start working on it.

    They go to their primary care physician, who runs some basic testing, and they are surprised to hear that “everything is in the normal range.”
Perhaps, they are told, if they are more patient, their symptoms will indeed go away on their own in another month or so.

When this does not happen, then they begin, understandably, to become a bit more worried. What, actually, is causing this illness?

     What if I don’t get better?  What then? After a while, they begin to realize that their primary care physician is not able to help, and they go to specialists or to functional/integrative physicians to dig deeper. Perhaps they are fortunate enough to get a clear diagnosis and to then begin effective treatment. But, more often in my world, they are given dozens of different diagnoses: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME, Fibromyalgia, Mitochondrial Dysfunction, Methylation Dysfunction, Lyme Disease, Chronic Viral Infection, SIBO, Parasitic Infections, Genetic Disorders, Neurotransmitter Deficiencies, Heavy Metal Toxicity, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities……and worse, “No one could have all of those symptoms so this must be psychosomatic” and they are offered an antidepressant and the opportunity for psychotherapy. After several months to years of treatment attempts, they may be somewhat better, or not better at all, or worse.

     By now, they have spent thousands of out-of-pocket dollars, and financially they begin to worry about how much more this may cost them. Now, that niggling little worry about getting better has become a much louder voice adding additional concerns about whether or not they will have to live with this for the rest of their early lives. Now, their family and friends have begun to wonder whether this is all “in their head” and how long they, too, will have to put up with this prolonged fatigue, cognitive impairment, anxiety and depression and …… they have entered a rabbit hole which can be hard to climb out of.

     This is where courage comes into play. I am increasingly aware that as I try to help my patients navigate the turbulent waters of this journey, I need to remind them about how to find their bravery again. It requires faith (in themselves, their support systems, and the universe) that despite the difficulty of their journey, there is a reachable end in sight. That if they are strong enough to survive it thus far, they surely have the strength to go the rest of the way.

     For some, the hardest part of their journey comes after they have started to improve and realize that they now have the opportunity to reclaim their lives and live it fully. Having lived a life of illness for so long, do they have the courage to embrace this opportunity?  Yes, it is scary to have to step up to the plate, but also, how wonderful!  Can they move past their fears (What if……?) and envision a life filled with joy,
wonder, vibrant health and creativity?

     I hope so. 

 Happy New Year, everyone.  May this usher in a year filled with healing, prosperity, and love….and peace.