Sometimes the best way to make a point is to share a story.
I am recovering from a two-week summer cold. My three and a half year old son had it first and after a few nights of bad sleep and life stressors, I succumbed to it as well.
It started out with a sore throat, which turned into stuffy nose, which turned into a night of severe muscle, bone and skin ache with a fever, which turned into no appetite, which turned into sweats and more fever, which turned into an alternating wet and dry cough, which turned into something I had never experienced before: heart palpitations.
I had noticed my heartbeat speed up a few times during this infection, but I didn’t think anything of it, until one morning last week, I told my husband that I felt really funny. I went to lie down in our bed and at that point the symptoms peaked. My heart was racing faster and faster and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of anxiety. Frankly, it was terrifying.
I said, “This is it. I am dying. We need to call 911.”
My husband held my hand and said, “Sweetie, you have pink cheeks. You are well. I am going to stay here with you. Let’s give this some time to work itself out.”
I was scared. All I could think about was how much I love my son, husband and mom. Then, I started chewing a number of Standard Process supplements geared to support the heart, and I took a few key herbs to shift the state of my nervous system.
We have a blood pressure monitor that tracks the heart rate, so we utilized that to help me connect my heart rate with the symptoms I was feeling. We watched my heart rate and blood pressure change with the supplements and herbs I consumed. It was fascinating.
It took about an hour of attention, and then I felt well enough to get in a warm bath with 4 pounds of Epsom salts and lavender. I rested in the tub for two hours and when I got out, I felt like the worst had passed.
Saturday morning I woke up and felt better than I had in months. My mind was clear, and I felt physically strong and content with life.
I am not sure what kind of infection I had. It could have been in my heart. It could have been in or affected my nervous system. It fit the profile perfectly for an enterovirus. Who knows?
But my question to you is: how many people are willing to live in this kind of mystery? In this situation, most people would have ended up in the emergency room, and surely endured a litany of unnecessary tests and pharmaceutical drugs to slow the heart rate.
Fortunately, I leaned on my husband’s confidence in my body and recalled a moment when I was birthing our son.
I was in the bathtub, moving through contraction after contraction, and I thought to myself, “I think that I just want to go to the hospital and do this. That might be easier.”
I will never forget what happened next. My midwife walked over to me, touched my arm, and said, “Charlotte, there is nowhere to go. Call on every hard thing you have ever done. You can do this.”
She read my mind.
Acute infection and childbirth have two things in common: pain and the thought that you are dying. We need to address both of these within ourselves simultaneously if we are going to live well.
Life is uncomfortable at times and healing hurts. This is a fact, but we try to avoid it with drugs that block that vitality from flowing. Moving through the pain of being human strengthens you physically, mentally, and spiritually.
In terms of childbirth and acute illness, we have thoughts of dying because we are, but it is a symbolic death. In natural childbirth, the mother is going through a transformative process, developing the spinal fortitude to bring new life into this world. In acute illness, the body transforms its vulnerability into a shield of armor, exercising the amazing muscle called the immune system.
Acute illness and childbirth put you in the way of the Divine, where something much larger than you takes over your body. This is where we develop TRUST. Trust in our selves and trust in something greater than our selves. This kind of transformation can only happen one person at a time, one event at a time.
It is up to you to strengthen this intangible, yet visible part of yourself.
My experience reminded me of a book I read a few years ago – Breaking the Iron Triangle: Reducing Health-Care Costs in Corporate America by Robert Duggan. Duggan founded the Tai Sophia Institute, now known as the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I studied herbal medicine. He is an educator, acupuncturist, and healer with over 40 years of experience. (You can watch his TED talk HERE).
Don’t let the title of this book fool you. It’s about a lot more than corporate America. It is good education for anyone interested in wellness. In it, the author shares the following:
“A well-respected senior public health officer told me the following story a few years ago. I had known this person professionally for some time, and I knew that as a very traditional public health officer, he was reluctant to support the wellness approach to health care that I advocate. In a personal capacity, however, he had asked me about some family issues regarding pain and disease. I recommended that he and his wife learn yoga. And indeed, they began to do yoga; and he told me how much they enjoyed and benefited from it.
Then, one day, home alone, he fell while coming down the stairs. The pain in his back was excruciating, and he felt he could not move. He knew he needed to call 911 but had no way to access a phone. As he lay motionless on the stairwell platform, he had the thought that perhaps some of the breathing techniques he learned in yoga might help. He began to breathe deeply, mainly to settle himself. Then he thought that some of the other things he had learned in yoga might be helpful. It took about 15 minutes, but after settling down through breathing and then stretching out with yoga techniques, the pain was gone. He got up and walked down the stairs, never calling 911. He was keenly aware that if he had called an ambulance, the expense probably would have been close to three thousand dollars, whereas helping himself with yoga was free.
I’m sad to think that he did not immediately turn that learning experience into a public health campaign. The resources were available to him, but it would have meant his ‘coming out of the closet’ with a radical approach.
The public continues to be told to call 911.
Instead, often they first could be told to breathe” (p16).
That’s what I did. I breathed through my pain. With the help of my husband, tried and true supplements, trust, and a tincture of time, we didn’t call 911. Because I held on and worked my way through the experience, uninterrupted, I was gifted with renewed vitality and a deeper confidence in my body’s ability to heal itself.
Are you willing to sit in discomfort long enough for your body to reveal its abilities? And when you feel bad, do you seek out herbal allies and rest as your first line of defense? Next time you find yourself in an uncomfortable physical state, see what happens if you take a new approach to healing. Trust yourself; you just might be surprised at what you find.
Heal in Peace, my friends!
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