One of the issues that people struggle with the most when dealing with a chronic health condition is acquiring the ability to find peace and happiness as they go through the healing process. Regardless of what condition we are speaking of, healing is a process, not a one time event. It does not happen quickly or easily and it is not linear. There will be peaks and valleys.
Yes, I know, even in the natural and alternative medicine field, most practitioners claim that you can heal just about anything overnight, and with ease. But, that simply is not the truth the majority of the time. Overcoming most health challenges takes a great deal of time, commitment, persistence and inner strength. Throughout this journey it can be very easy to get discouraged, desperate and become completely consumed with your symptoms and the pursuit of health, which impairs your ability to enjoy the good moments and grates away at your quality of life.
However, much of the misery that is associated with living with an illness or chronic health condition comes from the mindset and preconceived ideas about how we think our lives are supposed to be, not the condition itself. We are constantly judging and comparing our life to the ideals that society says we should have, and when we can’t measure up, it drags us down even further. We live by judgments like “this is bad,” “this shouldn’t be happening,” and “I have to get rid of this immediately.”
On one end of the spectrum there are a lot of people in society who aren’t taking care of their health at all; they eat poorly, live recklessly, take drugs, etc. But on the other end of the spectrum is the mindset that we should have perfect health and a perfectly fit body. It is almost a sin or shameful if you cannot overcome all health limitations and achieve this perfection. Many people judge or look down with scrutiny on those that are not able to heal.
This creates a lot of pressure for people, lowers self-esteem and self-worth, encourages feelings of shame, guilt, helplessness and hopelessness and then they become frantic and desperate. If you frantically and desperately try to attain better health, this is just another form of stress that your body has to deal with, and of course it becomes counterproductive. Yes, we should pursue good health, but we should do so gently and with acceptance for where we are on the healing path at any given moment.
Additionally, the healing journey also requires a lot of money and the ability to find all the pieces of your biochemical puzzle. Unfortunately, there are a variety of roadblocks that may get in the way of achieving these two aspects, so complete healing does not always happen for everyone. Sadly, many people just do not have the finances that are needed for ongoing testing and treatment.
Yes, we can avoid, prevent and often reverse most of the serious life-threatening conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, and high blood pressure, as well as alcoholism, addiction, depression, anxiety, hyperactivity and many other mental health disorders, by simply changing our diet and lifestyle (e.g. eating paleo, exercising properly, getting adequate sleep and sunshine, managing stress, communing with nature). But, that is not always the case with the less life-threatening chronic health conditions.
When we are dealing with disorders that involve microbes (particularly parasites, Candida overgrowth , SIBO or other bacterial issue), autonomic nervous system disorders, and issues connected with toxins and detoxification, things get very complex and difficult. Sometimes biochemistry gets so messed up that it is extremely difficult to unravel completely no matter how hard you try.
Making the necessary changes in diet and lifestyle are still crucial for this category of health conditions, because nothing else you do is likely to be very effective if you do not have this basic foundation in place; and at the very least, you can almost always make some very significant improvements and increase your quality of life. However, they may not be enough for a full recovery.
Furthermore, nutritional supplements, prescriptions, herbs, etc., are often not effective in a large percentage of this group of people. Microbes are much more brilliant, cunning, resilient, and adaptive than we are, and they have developed the ability to evade many of the protocols we through at them and continue to thrive. They mutate, develop resistance, and create biofilms that enable them to elude your immune system, antimicrobials, or anything that tries to eliminate them. If the environment they are in does not suit them, they will simply alter the environment so that it will meet their needs. For example, they will release ammonia to change the pH in your gut so that it is comfortable for them and enables them to proliferate. Some microbes have developed the ability to make you excrete zinc in your urine in order to weaken your immune system, so it won’t attack them. While other microbes like Lyme change their mode of transmission. Lyme used to be transmitted only through a tic, but now it can be found in semen and breast milk and can be passed from mother to fetus through the placenta. When you take an antimicrobial, they will hide deep in the tissues until the coast is clear. Once you stop taking the antimicrobial they will come back out. Microbes are masters at survival. They are geniuses. Sometimes the best that we can do is a lot of damage control and ongoing maintenance to keep symptoms to a bare minimum.
Toxins of all kinds are pervasive in our environment, and not everyone can achieve the level of greenness that is needed for optimal health. On top of that, some individuals are so impaired in many different organs and systems from the microbes, toxins or the dysfunction in the autonomic nervous system, that they are incapable of taking the products that may help them or don’t respond. Many people get caught in an unfortunate catch 22.
Additionally, if the individual dealing with microbes or autonomic nervous system dysfunction has a history of childhood abuse, then recovery becomes even more difficult. Childhood abuse alters brain chemistry and structure, damages the endocrine system and the autonomic nervous system and can make the immune system either overactive or underactive.
Therefore, within treatment for this category of conditions (microbes and autonomic nervous system dysfunction) there is a very high rate of failure. I work with clients all the time who have been to some of the most highly skilled and well-known experts in their field who have not been able to recover completely.
This is not something you ever hear practitioners talk about. As a matter of fact, there is great denial within both the natural/alternative health field as well as mainstream medicine, about the lack of effective treatments that are available for disorders that are associated with microbes and the autonomic nervous system. Practitioners tend to talk only about their successes, and leave out (in some cases, totally ignore) the fact that there is a very high rate of non-responders. Non-responders become a forgotten, pushed-aside, and neglected group of people. Many practitioners would rather not deal with them and often blame them. Finding a health care provider that can deal effectively with non-responders is very difficult to find, which only compounds the problem even more.
From what I observe in my practice, there is a very significant percentage of this population that does not see the amazing recoveries that many practitioners claim can be achieved. This is not any fault of the practitioner, it is simply due to the complexity of the disorders and the adaptability of microbes. However, I think it would serve their clients better if it were acknowledged, because many people feel isolated and blame themselves when they are not able to succeed in a full recovery. Again, this mindset encourages desperation, shame, and hopelessness and lowers self-worth and self-esteem. It’s important that people know that it may not be any fault of their own.
Furthermore, the old analogy that you can’t bring a knife to a gun fight comes into play here. One must know what to truly expect and what they are really up against, in order to prepare themselves adequately emotionally and physically. You can’t send someone into battle with faulty intelligence and an outdated map. No, we do not want to dwell on the negatives, but we must have the facts if we are to make any improvements and to cope adequately.
Additionally, obtaining and holding on to good health is very difficult in this day and age because there are so many factors that are out of our control. Our immune system, brain, endocrine system, nervous system, etc. are bombarded with toxins, electrosmog, stress, pathogens with biofilms, and much more on a daily basis. We literally have grenades coming at us from every direction. Yes, if you are eating a crap diet, not living environmentally friendly, not managing stress and getting adequate sleep or physical activity, then it may be your fault that you are not healing.
However, sometimes it is not your fault. Even when you do everything right, life can throw you a curve ball and things can go wrong. For example, in my own life, I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone to be as compliant and self-disciplined as I am in regard to diet and living healthy. I enjoy it; it is who I am; so it isn’t something I struggle to do. But, all of this hard work and commitment did not prevent me from gaining a little weight and my adrenal glands from crashing when I went through menopause or protect me from herbicide poisoning inflicted by a neighbor. As the saying goes, “shit happens” that can impact your road to recovery and the best we can do is to take these things in stride.
I’m not saying that you want to approach healing with a mindset that you won’t get well. Quite the opposite. You should operate assuming that a full recovery is completely possible, but with awareness of reality and the challenges that this entails. You want to continue to pursue options that may improve your health, but have acceptance for wherever you are in the process.
Regardless of whether you are going to make a full recovery or just improve your level of health, it is going to take a significant amount of time, and you must be able to make peace with the situation and live your life as fully as possible throughout the process.
It’s important to be aware that one does not have to be in “good” health to enjoy a peaceful, meaningful and joyful life. Here are some steps you can take to help you achieve this goal.
Curiosity & Adventure
Try and approach your health condition and all it entails with a sense of curiosity and adventure. For example, instead of being horrified by an organism that is taking up residence in your body or the biofilms that it creates, be awed by its ingenuity, creativity, ability to adapt and will to survive. Research and experiment with new healing modalities like you are on a scientific adventure.
Look for the hidden gifts that your health issue has given you. Perhaps it helped you realize what was most important in life, how to relax more often, appreciate yourself more, or gain important insights.
Find the humor in the situation. Instead of looking at how awful a symptom or limit might be, turn it around and look at how ridiculous it is. Additionally, find ways to bring more humor into your life by watching funny movies, reading comedy and spending time with humorous people.
Do not keep your focus on your symptoms or how bad things are, this only perpetuates the stress response system and lowers your quality of life. Whatever you put your focus on becomes bigger and more powerful. So, if all your focus is on your symptoms, pain, complaining, etc. then it will become worse. Focus on what you do have rather than what you don’t have. If you focus on the good things in your life, then you are happier and less symptomatic.
Yes, indeed, it is not fair, it is unjust, and it may be sad and horrific, that you have to endure this condition. These are valid feelings that should be acknowledged as well and you should allow yourself to grieve. You may need to express these feelings from time to time, but don’t allow yourself to wallow there indefinitely. Get it off your chest now and then, and get back to focusing on the good things in your life. The neat thing is that the less you focus on the bad things, the less you will feel the need to vent.
Don’t surround yourself with other people who are completely focused on their symptoms and suffering either, as this will drag you down.
Change Your Language
Along the same lines, the language that you use can either reinforce your suffering and symptoms or reduce them. If you are using words like “this is so horrible,” “this is a nightmare,” “this is unbearable,” “I can’t take it,” or you are talking about your symptoms and suffering all the time, then you will reinforce those situations. If you avoid those kind of statements or replace them with statements like, “I am strong and capable,” you will reinforce that instead.
If you have trouble changing your focus or your language, then you should consider a brain retraining program.
Use cognitive reframing techniques to help you see your life and your health condition in a different light. Examine unconscious expectations and truths that you live by that may no longer serve you well. Make adjustments, use replacements and adaptations for your unique needs.
In order to change the current circumstance, one must first have acceptance for where they are. The more you resist something, (be it pain, loss, suffering, the situation, or what have you,) the more persistent and stronger it becomes. Acceptance reduces the impact on your life and allows you to move forward.
You must fully embrace your pain, symptoms, losses, sorrow, grief, suffering, etc., in order to move past them. If you have trouble with acceptance and embracing, the regular practice of mindfulness can be very helpful.
Sometimes it is hard to see that you are making any improvements on a day-to-day basis. However, if you look back to six months ago or the same time the previous year, you are likely to see that improvements have been made. Celebrate how far you’ve come, even if it is minimal.
Be grateful for what you do have; even the little things. Make a list of the positives in your life if you must. Learn to appreciate and enjoy the simple things in life.
As long as you have hope, you can get through anything. Hope reduces stress, changes our outlook on life, and enables us to carry on, regardless of what we’re going through.
It is vital that you develop tolerance for discomfort. Do not judge it or label it; just let it exist. We are conditioned by society to have no tolerance at all for discomfort; we are encouraged to medicate it or run away.
Remember, anything that you resist grows bigger and stronger. When you embrace your discomfort, it loses its power over you. You must learn to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. Seeking out quick fixes never work and only perpetuate the problem.
Be your own best friend and give yourself love, support and acceptance no matter what. Take it easy on yourself and really be there for yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend. Say reassuring things to yourself out loud like, “it’s okay,” “you’ll be all right,” “you’re so strong,” “you’re amazing,” or “there’s nothing to be concerned about.” Be present with yourself.
Acknowledging that everything I have just suggested on this page is very difficult and that you will not always be able to rise to the challenge is also part of the healing process. There will be hours or days when you hang out in the dark pits, and that is okay, just so you don’t stay there. There must be acceptance for the inability to have acceptance as well.
The definition of health does not necessarily mean that one has overcome all the health limitations they face, it may also mean that they are living life as fully as possible in that moment. It’s about finding harmony and balance in the midst of the storm, while continuing to strive for a more optimal level of health.
Mary Budinger. Dispatches from the Front Lines of Autism and Lyme Disease. Townsend Letter. October 2009.
Teicher, Martin H. “Scars That Won’t Heal: The Neurobiology of Child Abuse.” Scientific American 286.3 (2002): 68-75.