Integrative Medicine

About a year ago I saw a doctor who practices integrative medicine for the first time.  Although I had experienced some progress through acupuncture, massage, and nutritional counseling while we were still living in St. Louis, I didn’t really know what integrative medicine was.  However, after almost three years of symptoms — fatigue, joint pain, psoriasis, and multiple issues with my eyes — and little help from traditional medical practice, I figured I had nothing to lose.

When I arrived at the office on the west side of Ann Arbor, I found it to be understated; it didn’t have all the glitz and glamour of the powerful University of Michigan.  It was a small suite of rooms in a strip mall.  The receptionist called my name, weighed me, took my temperature, found my blood pressure, and asked me to fill out some forms. Some of the forms looked familiar — family history, insurance information, etc. — but mixed in with those were others that were asking me questions no doctor had ever asked me before — questions about diet, mood, temperament, lifestyle, and sleep that went beyond the quantitative I had experienced in the past.

The doctor, an unassuming middle-aged woman, talked to me for over an hour.  She took notes, asked questions, examined me, and then gave me a place to start. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember that last December I followed the Ultra Simple Diet on the recommendation of this doctor.  She ordered some blood work and also had me submit saliva samples — yes, saliva samples– to a lab to determine my level of adrenal functioning.

I followed her recommendations, and then — bam! — life got a little crazy at our house for a few months.  I kept eating wisely, but I worked too  much, lost track of my exercise plan, and stopped seeing this doctor.

By the end of summer, I had taken a few steps backward health-wise.  I had fallen into some of my old soldiering habits, ignoring my symptoms and pushing through for the sake of family, work, and, most honestly, selfishness.  My fall visit to my rheumatologist at the U was very disappointing.  I was told I had fibromyalgia and that I should find a doctor who would help me manage my symptoms.  Period.

Well, that was the impetus I needed to go back to the integrative medicine specialist.  I limped into the examination room complaining of pain, fatigue, and — a new one — hot flashes!  I was having up to eight extreme hot flashes during the day and that many again at night.  They stopped me in my tracks during the day and woke me out of a sound sleep at night. Furthermore, I was nearing hopelessness because of the verdict from rheumatology.

Step by step, Dr. Mary Greiner, addressed my concerns.  She used homeopathic medicines to address my symptoms. (Some other time I may write about how affordable these remedies are in comparison to pharmaceuticals.)  She also encouraged me to re-adopt my healthy practices of exercise and rest in addition to the dietary changes that I had been following — no gluten, no dairy, no soy.  And, she said I needed to get in to see a physical therapist in Chelsea, Michigan.  She said it would take me a while to get in to see her, maybe months.  However, I needed to see her because she is the one who could help me.   In fact, I’m pretty sure that Dr. Greiner recommended I see Marcy Boughton during that very first appointment almost a year ago.  I didn’t follow through initially, but finally around August, I called and made an appointment.  Last week I met Marcy for the first time.

Just like Dr. Greiner, Marcy listened to me for over an hour.  She wanted to know my physical history, yes, but she also wanted to know about major life events — my parents’ divorce, my experience with anorexia nervosa, the births of my children, our relocation to St. Louis, my reentry into the work force, and our relocation to Michigan. She wanted to hear how I had managed the stressors and, get this, she wanted to applaud my resilience.  Then, she wanted to affirm that this is a good time to allow my body some time to recover.

Yesterday, during our second visit, after having evaluated my personality type and some other socio-emotional factors, she had me listen to some audio teaching while she was gently applying pressure to assess my body’s needs and address some areas of concern.  Hers is a very gentle practice.  She felt my pulses as my acupuncturist had in the past.  She applied gentle pressure to my neck, my skull, my shoulders.  And, by touch, she found the most troubling area, my right hip.

As she applied gentle pressure to my femur, she played two audios.  The first spoke to my personality — my tendency to do, to achieve, to push, to take charge.  The audio celebrated the strengths of these traits — people like me get things done, they lead people, they have what seems to be unstoppable energy and enthusiasm.  However, the audio also identified the weakness — the tendency to overlook the interior, to neglect self-care, to lose touch with the personal.  The information I was hearing resonated.  On just the second meeting with this practitioner, the dots that I have seen clearly on the page, were being connected with an indelible black Sharpie. The second audio was the next step.  The speaker invited the listener to speak words of affirmation celebrating this driven personality — the strength, the vision, the ability to accomplish.  Then, it invited the speaker to heal, to acknowledge the areas that have been overlooked, to give myself permission to set down my weapons,  to slow down and be kind to myself.  As I listened, Marcy continued to apply pressure to that femur, gently attempting to release its torque.  When the audio was done, she said that during the second half of the second audio she was holding my femur when she felt a snap as though my femur broke and then repositioned itself. Interesting.

This is integrative medicine, folks.  I’m not going to tell you that my pain is gone today (although I will say I am no longer having hot flashes!). But, I’m feeling much better as a whole.  I feel like I am understanding myself — my whole self — a little more fully.  We are, after all, complex beings — we are body, soul, and spirit.  Addressing the needs of the body without attending to the soul and the spirit is, at best, a partial fix.

I’d like to tell you more of this story, but I’ve already used more than enough words for one day.  Perhaps tomorrow I will be able to tell you what I am learning about holding it all together.  For now, though, it’s enough to say that we are complex beings created by an even more complex Creator.

I Thessalonians 5:23

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hope for Healing

About a month ago I read a book given to me by a pastor friend.  I mentioned it in the post, “Praying for Healing.” I was wrestling with the conflict between believing that God can heal me and being content with my current state.  I still am, but some shift has happened.

First, I have begun to pray more consistently for my healing.  In those prayers, I have imagined what it might look like if I were fully restored to the health that I had just over three years ago.  It would be amazing.

Second, I went to my rheumatologist who has declared that my malady is not psoriatic arthritis, but fibromyalgia.  She has been saying this for a year, but this time she was more insistent.  In fact, her recommendation is that I go to a primary care physician who can prescribe medication to manage my pain.  She doesn’t need to see me any more; I just need to accept this diagnosis. Period.

Third, I consulted with my primary care physician, who specializes in integrative medicine.  She believes that I can feel better than I do. She believes that I will one day have a regular schedule again.

So, as any rational person would do, I decided to ignore the rheumatologist. I am not going to see her any more. Instead, I am stepping up the treatments suggested by my PCP.  And, oh yeah, I’ve been praying.  For improved health.  For complete healing of my body, mind, and spirit.  For an understanding of the pace that will work for me.

For the past month or so, my integrative medicine doc has been prescribing some homeopathic interventions.  They are weird. Small tiny pellets that look like the interior of a vintage bean bag come in a small brown bottle.  You put 3-5 of these pellets under your tongue, as directed.  That’s all.  Oh, and you can’t drink coffee.  Tea is fine, but something in the coffee renders the homeopathic remedies ineffective.

And here’s the thing about homeopathic remedies — sometimes they cause a mild flare before they improve health.  And, guess what.  They did.  I was on one of the remedies for just a few days when I had a recurrence of the ocular herpes that I contracted about a year ago.  It was miserable.  I had to see my ophthalmologist and get an antiviral to get it under control. Also, I have had a slow simmer of psoriasis for most of the time that I have been on these treatments.

However, here’s the good news.  I am noticing an increase in energy.  Now, granted, I did just change jobs, so I might be flying on adrenaline.  I did just reduce my hours, so I might not be as exhausted.  But, I am pretty sure this is legit improvement.  I mean, anyone with chronic illness will tell you that the overwhelming fatigue you feel on a daily basis is not something that can just be disguised by excitement or adrenaline.  I have been so exhausted for the past three years that I have been barely able to see to drive home at night.  I have had difficulty forming complete thoughts or sentences after dinner.  I have hardly been able to walk into the house at the end of the day.  But guys, this week I have started a new position.  I have met new students and remembered their names.  I have helped my daughter load up all her belongings for a cross country move.  I have hosted dinner guests.  And, I have stayed up late at night to blog, to read, and to manage family details.

It’s something.  I’m hopeful.  And for even this small improvement, I am thankful.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,

Psalm 108: 1-4

Praying for healing, pt. 2

A week ago I wrote about a book that had been given to me by a trusted pastoral — How Can I Ask God for Healing? When I left you, I was headed to that pastor’s house to return the book.  I read all the way there and still had about 100 pages to go when we walked into his house.  I handed the book to him and said, “I want to return this to you; you can see by the book mark how far I made it.” He said I could keep it longer to finish it.  I replied, “Doesn’t somebody else need it?”  He said, “I only loan this copy out to special people; I would really like you to finish it.”

Well, what do you say so an octogenarian pastor whose speciality is prayer?  Do you tell him, “No thanks, I’m good.” And, to be honest, by that time, I had kind of become attached to the book, I did want to read the ‘rest of the story’.  So, I thanked him and brought the book back home.

While we were in his presence, he pulled me aside and shared several stories of how prayer had changed the lives of people he had been working with.  He wasn’t trying to build his argument; he was simply sharing his awe at the power of God.  I was reminded of his rich history in ministry and of the authority he has in terms of spiritual things.

This week I finished the book.  This morning I turned back to the introduction and started reading again.

(Note to my children and any former students, this is a prime example of my favorite saying, “Anybody can change.”)

Here is the journey so far:

I have an autoimmune disease — or at least something that looks like one. For the last three years I have struggled with extreme fatigue, psoriasis, joint pain, inflammation, and eye irritation.  These symptoms limit my life and have caused us to make major life adjustments — change in careers, relocation to a much smaller home, significant financial decisions, and numerous lifestyle changes including diet, exercise, social life, etc.

Some positive things have come from this situation. We move much more slowly; I have experienced significant emotional and spiritual healing;  I have been freed to write again, which brings so much value to my life. We have praised God in this disease for the ways He has used it to alter some patterns that have needed to be altered for years.

But the truth remains, I do have a disease. Why wouldn’t I ask God for healing?  Let me clarify by saying that I have prayed for healing.  It is a regular prayer of mine that God would heal my body, mind, and spirit.  In fact, shortly after my symptoms started, we gathered many trusted members of our faith community to pray over me.  As I look back and remember all those hands on me and tears rolling down my cheeks, I picture myself hoping God would heal me, but actually feeling that these prayers were step one in accepting the fact that things were going to be different from now on.

Let me further clarify by saying that my husband is a faithful man of prayer; I doubt that a day has gone by in the last three years that he has not asked for my complete healing.  He, and our pastor friend, and probably my mother.

Me, I regularly pray that God would heal my body, mind, and spirit, while at the same time accepting the fact that I am walking in a new reality. And I want to affirm that accepting reality is, by its own right, rather healthy.  Acknowledging that my symptoms are real and not fabrications of my mind has been a struggle in itself.  I really do have limitations even though it may not appear from the outside that I do.  Saying out loud, in the presence of others, that I “can’t” do things has been a monumental step in this new chapter. Is it possible for me to know that I have a disease while at the same time praying for and believing God to heal me?  I think that is the conflict of the moment.

So, as per usual, I read my Bible study this morning.  Joshua and the Israelites marching around Jericho seven days in a row, because God said so, and making the walls “come a-tumbling down”.  As I was reading it, a page from How Can I Ask God for Physical Healing popped onto my brain screen– it’s actually a chart, two pages long, of all the healing stories in the Bible.  Shriveled hands, blindness, leprosy, paralysis, fever, death — all healed because Jesus said so.

Again, I know God can heal me, at His word.  Do I trust Him enough to ask boldly and believe that He will? Or will I continue to pray, “Well, if you want to, it’d be great if you took away this disease.”

I’ll keep you posted.

And the prayer, offered in faith, will make the sick person well;

The Lord will raise them up.

James 5:15

Praying for Healing?

So, a few days ago I ended my blog post with the scripture from Matthew 7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”  Sounds simple, right?

I mean, didn’t I just write on Thursday about all the prayers that had been answered?  I have seen the beauty of ask and receive, but in one area I am struggling.

My husband and I have a dear pastor friend — no, he’s more than that.  I will call him a spiritual father — especially to my husband.  He is a prayer pioneer who has spent more hours on his knees than anyone else I know. Since he heard about my illness he has prayed for me every day.  Every. Single. Day. Several months ago he passed a book to me through my husband called How Can I Ask God for Physical Healing? So, knowing that it was from the man who we deeply respect and love, I opened and began reading it immediately, right?  Nope. I actually stuck it in a drawer and forgot about it.

Why?  Well, my reasoning has been that although my physical health is suffering, many areas of my life are much healthier than they have ever been.  Why would I beg God to take something away that He has used to create dramatic change in my life?  I mean, if He heals me, I will probably just go back to my butt-kicking, name-taking habits, right?

When I received this book I thought to myself, “(Sigh), I am not one of those name it and claim it type of people. If God decides to heal me, great.  If He decides not to, that’ll be ok, too.”  I mean, yes, my life is very different than it once was.  I move more slowly, my thoughts get a bit cloudy, some of my activities are limited, but I’m not dying over here.  I could live like this.  I don’t love it, but worse things could happen.  “I don’t need to read a book about healing; I am just coming to terms with the new realities of my life.”

So I was at work the other day when my husband sent me a text asking if I was done with the book; our friend wanted it back. Gulp. No, I hadn’t actually started it.  Later in the day, my husband told me that we had been invited to this friend’s house for a family dinner — today.

Well, that was the nudge I needed.  I read about a hundred pages yesterday and picked up the book again when I got home from church today. Here’s what I have so far — the book does not outline a 12-step process that ‘guarantees’ healing; I don’t know why I thought it would.  It doesn’t tell me all the things I am doing wrong in my life or ways to change so that God will provide me with healing.  It doesn’t say that God will heal me; it does say that God can. 

Of course I knew that.  I have said that all along.  But, further, it challenges me to take a good long look at why I became sick in the first place — I have done this to a degree, but this gives me some additional areas to consider.  It also challenges me to examine my relationship with God and what I believe about Him.  I am fine with all of that, but I am getting to the sticky part of the healing prayer topic– you may have heard this language before, I know I have. Trusting God for healing. Using authoritative faith. Believing God for his promises.

Now, to be fair, I am judging the second half of the book before I have read it…and I am planning on giving the book back to its owner in just a few hours. I am not sure I will finish it.  So, why am I blogging instead of reading?  I think because I am not sure I want to totally invest myself in ‘believing for a miracle’.  I mean, I do tend to invest 100%.  And the book has already told me that God may choose not to heal me.  What if I ‘believe for a miracle healing’ and I don’t get it?  Will I be angry with God and give Him the silent treatment — again? I don’t know that I want to take that risk.  I think I would feel better about just accepting what I have been given, walking in this path, and not questioning it.

You know what I mean?

But nagging in the back of my mind is this thought — why don’t you just finish reading it?  will it kill you? is it possible that you could learn something or reshape your thinking? why are you so closed to this topic?

Ok, ok…I have another hour before we have to get in the car.  Let me read a little further and see what I find.  I’m trying not to be stubborn over here.  I’ll let you now what happens.

John 16:23-24

I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name…

Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

“Trust Talks”, re-visit

This post, written in January 2015, refers to a book I edited for a friend several years ago. The free e-book, which I will send you upon request, is an excellent tool to help you reveal and heal the hidden hurts that are getting in the way of communication in your relationships. I’m re-visiting the post in June 2019 to connect with my post “Both Sides” staying with the theme of improving communication.

In 2010 a friend called to ask if I’d be willing to accept an editing job. As a therapist, he had discovered a strategy to use when communication had broken down in relationships; he felt led to share this tool through a free e-book. Would I be willing to sign on for this labor, he asked, knowing that my pay would be of the ‘eternal rewards’ kind?

I had met this man, Brad, and his wife, Lori, several years earlier when we had toddlers at home. My husband and I joined them in their home on Monday nights for a time of worship and prayer that included a half dozen other people. It was our one night out each week. We hired a babysitter to come put our kids to bed so that we could have fellowship with these people who had previously been strangers. These Monday nights were oxygen to us. We never missed. No matter what the circumstances, we got ourselves across town so that we could join others in singing, scripture, and prayer.

This couple supported us outside Monday nights, too. Brad encouraged my husband, who was just beginning his own counseling practice, by meeting with him and providing professional oversight and collaboration. From time to time, Brad also provided, at a deeply reduced rate, counseling services for each of us. Lori taught our children piano lessons. If that’s not enough, whenever we went out of town, they let our golden retriever hang out with their golden retriever.

What I came to know about this family was that they were God’s people. They had humble spirits and open hearts. They were passionate about speaking into the lives of others — sharing what they had learned with whoever would listen. Many times I heard the voice of God through them. Often, that voice provided healing.

So, would I be willing to edit Brad’s book about an effective communication strategy that he had used in therapy to break down walls of resistance in relationships? Guys, he asked me this in 2010, the height of my butt-kicking, name-taking soldiering years. I was busy with three teenagers. I was teaching full-time. I was a pastor’s wife with tons of responsibility. Why in the world would I say yes to more?

But I did say yes. It was the summer. I had responsibilities, sure, but I did have a little bit of room. So, yes. Yes! 

I might not have been willing, at the beginning, to admit that there were communication break-downs in our own family. And Brad and I lived three states apart; there was no way that he could have known that either. But as I engaged in the text, it became obvious that the first recipient of the free e-book would be me. As I read scenario after scenario I saw myself in the conversations-gone-wrong. I felt the emotions that the people in the book were expressing. I also saw where their listeners shut down.

As I read about the author’s strategy for ‘graphic word pictures’ I began to put my own emotions into words that I felt others in my life could grab onto. The ‘graphic word pictures’ were not accusations, but representations of my feelings. I practiced by writing one for my husband. Just one ‘graphic word picture’. We’d been having trouble communicating emotions for a while. We’d both been in the trenches, and, as soldiers, hadn’t taken time to identify what we were feeling, let alone to appropriately communicate those feelings to each other. As soldiers we’d been busy surviving, deflecting attacks, patching up wounds, and running for cover.

But as I read, I found myself retreating from the front, pulling off bandages, and examining wounds. I took a first look at the depth of the injuries. Seeing the damage, I painted a word picture of it for my husband so that he could fully appreciate the depth of each gash, the amount of infection, and the need for healing. He didn’t respond defensively; instead he helped me ice and elevate. He brought me a cool glass of water. He sat beside me while I healed.

Just because of some words.

I had the opportunity recently to talk to this friend again. I was struggling to communicate some emotions and had written a graphic word picture to try to express my pain. I emailed him and asked if he would read what I had written to see if I was correctly utilizing the strategy. He read it, then asked me to call him. For an hour he allowed me to see not only the wound I had described — the one on the surface — but also the much deeper crippling wounds that I had been ignoring. He helped me pull back the protective layers of body armor so that I could see the severity of my injuries. He helped me describe them with words. As we did that work, I cried and cried. The wounds were real, but I had not been acknowledging them. I had ignored the pain and soldiered on.

In the midst of my soldiering, God saw me. He saw all the hurts I was covering, and He cared so deeply that he utilized my desire to return a favor to a friend to expose those hurts and begin the healing that He’s still working on many years later. I recently opened the e-book and noticed that the publishing date was 2011, long before my health crisis, but in the middle of a summer that would impact the lives of our family for years. None of that was a surprise to God. He knew what was coming, and He was already beginning the healing of wounds that hadn’t yet been inflicted.

That’s what He does — He sees the big picture of our lives and steps into them. He sees our attempts to work things out on our own, and He inserts people and circumstances designed to disrupt us, to slow us, to change our trajectory. For some of us he has to be persistent — we are so bent on our own ways, that we fail to see all the different paths He is offering.

After five years in this little house by the river — a different season, a new chapter that we were invited into –I am still often tempted to return to my life of soldiering. The hard-charging, butt-kicking, name-taking lifestyle is a survival strategy that has worked for me in the past, so when the going gets tough, it’s the path I turn to. However, any soldier will tell you that the lifestyle takes a toll — physically, mentally, and emotionally. And, frankly, it’s effectiveness is a facade.

All the disruptions in life — all the interventions, all the people, all the circumstances — have taught me what I should have known all along: I have no need to fight. I am a child of the King.

Who do I think I was battling, anyway? All this time I have been sitting in the palm of His hands.

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

Romans 2:4

Next Chapter Living

I sent you a little subliminal message yesterday; I don’t know if you saw it.  In the midst of explaining my need for a day without driving, I mentioned that I had been busy for six days.  In a row.  Many of you are saying, “Welcome to my life.”  I know.  I used to live your life.  I used to move at break-neck speed for days, weeks, months, even years at a time.  But, guys, this is the Next Chapter.  

When we were packing to move to Michigan, I remember sitting in a chair as my husband packed stuff into boxes asking me what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to get rid of.  Why was I sitting in the chair?  Because I didn’t have the strength, the physical strength, to pack a box.  And I thought I would always feel that way.

When my daughter graduated from high school last May my mother and older daughter were in town to help.  I went to work every day.  They cleaned my house from top to bottom, did all the grocery shopping, prepared all the food, and basically ran my life for me.  Because I couldn’t do it myself.  And I was beginning to believe that I would never be able to do things for myself again.

On moving day, my husband and a dear friend of ours followed behind the movers cleaning our house so that renters could move in when we left.  They worked tirelessly for hours while I drank water, then tea, then water, then tea.  Our daughter volunteered to run out for lunch, knowing that I didn’t have a plan; I was busy sitting on the couch catching my breath.

All last year, I would groan myself out of bed in the morning, shower, get dressed, drive to school, interact with students and colleagues all day, then drink some caffeine to help me stay awake for the twenty minute drive home.  I rarely cooked.  I did the minimum around the house.  I tried my best to interact with the people I love.  And then I fell into bed — often before 7:00pm.

For much of August and September, here in the house by the river, I carefully planned my days so that I could have a rest either in the morning or in the afternoon.  I was sure to fit in a walk or some other exercise, but I often spent several hours either reading or watching TV.  My big accomplishment most days was preparing dinner for my husband.

But guys, it’s January, and I worked six days in a row.  Now they weren’t the ten-hour days of my former life, but they did involve getting dressed, driving to meet a student, preparing for that student, interacting with her, and then driving home.  Not only did I meet with a student, I also did some proofreading for another student, encouraged the grad student I am working with, sold a half-dozen items on eBay, prepared paperwork for the tax man, cooked, cleaned, exercised, AND interacted with others socially.  Without a nap. Without going to bed at 7:00pm.  Ok, I have to be honest.  Near the end of that stretch I crawled into bed one night at around 7:30 and read until around 10:00.  I was physically exhausted, but not yet ready for sleep.  And then yesterday, I really needed the day at home.  But you know, being home, I still did laundry, cooked dinner, dusted and vacuumed, paid the bills, and managed to interact with people that I love.

Guys, it’s the Next Chapter! I am feeling better, not perfect, but better.  I am finding a new pace that seems to be working.  I am learning to listen to my body and take a break when I need one.  I’m not pain-free, but who is?

Now, I’m not going to run back to my old life, although it was meaningful, and important, and great at the time.  In fact, I don’t know fully what the Next Chapter looks like, but I am hopeful.  I may need rest along the way, but I am confident that I will have plenty to do in this Next Chapter.  Thanks be to God.

2 Corinthians 5:5

Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God,

who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

I love a parade!

Every morning I wake up and make a parade — a parade of beverages.  It’s all part of my quest for wellness.  Each member of the parade serves a purpose (or several purposes).  Let me guide you through.

The first member of my parade is a tall glass of water.  Here in the little house by the river, water comes out of the tap at room temperature or warmer.  Weird, I know.  I run it through my Brita filter,  pour it into my tall insulated tumbler over a few ice cubes, then take the first swig to chase down the handful of pills that I keep in a pill organizer.  Right now I am taking a daily multi-vitamin, two fish oil capsules with Omega-3 fatty acids, 400 mg of magnesium, a 5,000 iu capsule of Vitamin D, and a prescription anti-inflammatory called Voltarin.  And, guys, that’s a reduction.  I take a similar combination in the evening — and it’s not going down without that glass of water.

We all know we are supposed to drink water, right.  Google told me this morning that 50-65% of the human body is water.  In order to be healthy, we have to recirculate that water regularly.  Water cleanses our systems, washes away impurities, and generally makes us feel better.  In fact, it can reduce headaches, improve your appearance, and give you energy.  We have a joke in our house that no matter what your ailment is, it can be cured with a glass of water.  Got a stomach ache?  Drink a glass of water.  Feel crabby? Drink a glass of water.  Can’t sleep? Here’s a glass of water.

Next in the parade is a smoothie.  Last Mother’s Day, my kids got together and gave me an individual blender that whips up a smoothie in just a couple of seconds.  Since then, more days than not, I have started my day with a blend of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and a variety of other ingredients.  While I was on the Ultrasimple Diet (Mark Hyman, MD) I purchased a prescription shake mix called UltraInflamX — it’s a rice-based formula chock full of nutrients and antioxidants designed to provide nourishment and reduce inflammation.  It’s expensive, but seemed to be effective in starting off my day and helping me feel well.  For the last week, since I ran out of the expensive stuff, I consulted Mark Hyman’s book, The UltraSimple Diet, and found three recipes for the same type of shake that I can make at home for much less money.  The recipe I am using at the moment is 1/2 cup almond milk, one banana, 1 T. cashew butter, 1 T. flaxseed oil, and 2 T. ground flax seeds.  It’s pretty tasty, and, according to Dr. Hyman, provides essential protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and anti-oxidants.

Following the smoothie in the parade of beverages is a concoction that also grew out of the UltraSimple diet.  It started as hot water with the juice of half a lemon.  Then someone sent me a link singing the praises of cinnamon and honey, so I threw 1 t. of cinnamon and about 2 t. of honey in with the lemon water.  That is incredibly yummy by the way.  Cinnamon and honey have been said to reduce the pain of arthritis, to improve gastrointestinal health, lower cholesteral, strengthen the immune system, etc. And it tastes good!  So, down the hatch it goes.

A little over a week ago when my doctor called to tell me that my cortisol was low, she prescribed an herbal supplement that should improve my cortisol levels in just a matter of weeks.  I should take 1/2 t. of Licorice (not the candy form) and 1/2 t. of Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) in water or ‘juice’ 2-3 times a day.  Sounds simple.  Tastes horrible.  So, in the morning, I try to drown these herbs in the cinnamon, lemon, honey goodness, and it almost works.

Finally, my reward for drinking the other three beverages is a cup of green tea.  Can you believe I am calling that my reward after all the whining I did about ‘having’ to drink green tea on the UltraSimple diet? Well, have I mentioned lately what a wonderful husband I have? For Christmas he found me a loose green tea blend that is fruity and delicious! So, the grand finale in my parade of beverages is a lovely cuppa fruity green tea.  Now, you might think by now that I am following some crazy schemes to improve my health.  You may be skeptical, but even medical doctors have cited the research that shows the benefits of the catechin in green tea to do everything from lowering cholesterol to improving brain function to stabilizing blood sugar.  Drink up, kids.

So what do I do after the parade?  What does anyone do after a parade? They exercise, of course.  So, I am off to the gym for come cardio, some strength, and then some relaxation in a warm salt water pool.

I do believe all this work is paying off.  I am feeling better, not perfect, but better.

Proverbs 3:5-8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and shun evil.

This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

Updates, anyone?

A couple of weeks ago, I spent seven days on the Ultra Simple Diet, ( http://drhyman.com/downloads/UltraSimpleCompanion.pdf).  Then last week I decided to embark on the Minimalist Challenge (http://www.theminimalists.com/game/).  After four months on a pretty predictable routine, these activities have been worthwhile digressions.

The Ultra Simple Diet was an experiment suggested by a new doctor I am seeing — she practices Integrative Medicine which means that she is open to traditional Western medicine, but also finds value in using supplements — vitamins, minerals, and herbs,  believes that nutrition can impact health, and generally just thinks that there are a variety of ways to approach physical issues. The first time I saw her, she listened to me talk for an hour and then suggested we start with the Ultra Simple Diet to eliminate all foods that have been known to cause inflammation. After two years of seeing doctors who believe that medication is the only route to deal with my symptoms of fatigue, pain, stiffness, etc., I was willing to give it a try.

Last week I reported that I had not been miraculously healed. After further evaluation, I believe that I am feeling better than I have in a while.  Specifically, I have more energy.  Yesterday I got up, did my devotion, wrote my blog, listed a dozen or more books for sale on Amazon, tidied the house, ran to Target, then to the library, and stopped to get a haircut.  After that I went to the Post Office, then the drug store, then to two thrift stores to donate items and look for a couple of things. I then came home, took the dog on a short walk, made dinner — baked fish, kale chips, fried potatoes, and fresh veggies — and took a break to eat dinner with my family.  Finally, I listed several items on eBay, did a little more tidying and then read for a while before I was ready to go to sleep.  Did you notice anything? No rest.  No nap.  No junk TV. Guys, I wasn’t tired. I was energized.

I have resumed some of my regular diet, but I am doing it cautiously.  For one thing, I am still drinking one cup of green tea every day.  It’s not horrible.  I have done a little bit of research on its benefits and I think they are enough to warrant drinking one cup a day. I have also more than quadrupled my intake of magnesium and added a pretty significant dose of Vitamin D.  Finally, I am still starting each morning with the UltraInflam shake — the doctor recommended that we keep some things the same while I experiment with adding foods back.  And, just for your information, I have NOT run right back to coffee.  So far, I have only had 1-2 cups of black tea each afternoon. And that’s all I want.

Interesting, isn’t it?

And guys, as far as the Minimalist Challenge goes,  it hasn’t been difficult to let go of one, or two, or three, or four, or five, or six things each day.  I haven’t even had to look outside my office yet.  (And, I still haven’t dusted!) It’s actually quite freeing to let things go.  I am actually looking forward to tomorrow and getting rid of seven things. As the clutter has cleared from my desk, I more clearly see what remains — pictures of my family, my Bible study materials, a candle, writing supplies.

Re-evaluating my diet and paring down my possessions–not typical December activities for me.  Historically, December has been about indulging and acquiring.  But, you know, neither has left me feeling content.  And, maybe, if I am being honest, it has typically made me feel a little overwhelmed.  And feeling overwhelmed, has typically just caused me to dig deeper into my soldiering.

This Next Chapter continues to be a journey of discovering what I’ve been missing, what I’ve been doing wrong, and what I could be doing to live a healthier life. I know I can’t live on rice and vegetables alone, and I will never give away both of my copies of Five Smooth Stones, but I can and will continue to make adjustments that take me further away from soldiering, and draw me closer to a life of being still.

Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the patterns of this world,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —

His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

journeying

It is day 6 of 7 of my journey on the ‘ultra simple diet’ and I haven’t been miraculously healed.  Sigh.  But it’s not for lack of trying.

I have stuck to this thing — even the 30 minutes of daily morning Pilates, the mid-day walk, the late night restorative yoga, and the nightly epsom salt/baking soda baths. That’s on top of drinking the olive oil/lemon juice combo every morning and eating mostly rice, vegetables, and chicken all week.  It has been a full-time job!

I will admit that I have had the energy to do all of the exercise and the cooking required for this regimen.  So that’s something.  I will also acknowledge that I have fallen into bed each night dead tired.  Zonked.

So what have we learned from this little exercise?  I am not sure yet.  I will go back and see the doctor on Monday.  She should have some lab results by then.  Also, I think I will learn more as I attempt to add foods back.  I am not the typical ‘customer’. I had already eliminated gluten, dairy, and soy from my diet for most of two years. This week took out nuts, beef, pork, most of my fruit, any starch other than rice, most of my caffeine, all alcohol, all sugar, …

So what am I going to add back first?  The doctor said to be gentle with myself over the weekend until she sees me, but I am going to have to have some popcorn.  And some raisins/dates.  And probably a glass or two of wine.   I won’t have a cheeseburger or a steak, but I might have a baked potato.  I won’t eat pizza, but I may have some scrambled eggs. I eyed the clementines sitting in a bowl on my countertop today and thought to myself, “Two more days.”

I’ve been on a strict diet for a week.  I’ve been dealing with chronic pain, fatigue, and a variety of other annoying symptoms for two years.  It sucks. (Sorry, Mom.) But this morning a friend from the past sent me a photo of the car she was in during a crash in 2008.  She then described the journey to relief/healing she has been on for six years — back surgeries, physical therapy, steroid injections, etc.  That sucks, too. (Sorry, Mom.)

We all have our stuff, don’t we?  We have physical issues, emotional issues, family issues, work issues.  Yours don’t diminish mine.  Mine don’t diminish yours.  We are all on a journey of trial and error.  We’re trying to figure out life — how to hurt less, how to live more.

And we are not alone.  We have each other to lean on, to share with, to encourage. And we have the Creator of us all, who knows each and every hurt intimately.  He is aware of when we are having good days and bad days. He knows the stuff that we won’t say out loud to anyone.  He hears our cries — the loud ones and the silent ones. He wipes every tear from our eyes. And sometimes He uses us to wipe those tears.

Today is a good day. My pain and fatigue are about a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10.  But I know people who are closer to an 8 or a 9.  Perhaps today I will be their tissue; perhaps tomorrow they will be mine.

Isaiah 25:8

The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces;

He will remove His people’s disgrace from the earth.

The Lord has spoken.

Cry out!

 When the righteous cry for help,

the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.

Psalm 34:17

That’s it?  We just call out for help and we’re delivered? Seriously? I think so.  I’ve been running a little experiment.  I spent a significant time on this earth trying to figure out my own problems — my own troubles.  Ummm….after analyzing the data it appears that my attempts to ‘figure out my own problems’ have resulted in actually making the problems — the troubles — grow in significance. Yeah.

So, you want a concrete example, huh?  Well, let me see what I’ve got.

My freshman year of college, I felt life spiraling out of control — I had broken up with a long-term boyfriend, I was putting on weight, and, most importantly,  I didn’t know who I was in the sea of faces who looked like they had it all together, knew exactly who they were, and knew exactly where they were going.  So, I cried out for help, right? Nope. I took matters into my own hands.  I embarked on a strict regimen of diet and exercise that would get my life “back under control” and “solve all my problems”.  It worked, right? Nope. Oh yeah, I lost weight.  A lot of weight.  I got all kinds of accolades for being “so skinny”.  But that didn’t make me feel better, it just put me under more pressure to maintain my skeletal self.  I hadn’t solved my problems, I had buried my ‘self’ even deeper under more issues.

In fact, it wasn’t until the weight of all that pressure and confusion almost crushed me that I cried out, “Help!” As God would have it, I cried out in the presence of a nurse on my college’s campus and “just like that” I was being delivered.  Her phone call, a friend’s transport to an appointment, a season of therapy and re-learning, and I was on the path to discovering who I am and what God has for me.  It might have been easier if I would have cried out to God a little earlier.  But here’s the thing, God uses “all things”.

Since that time in the mid 1980s I have shared my story so often that I feel like the whole world must know it by now.  Certainly many of you who are reading this right now are saying, “Yeah, yeah, the anorexia bit…blah, blah, blah.”  But I won’t ever stop telling this story. Ever.  Because every time I tell it, someone comes to me later and says, “Really, you had an eating disorder? Can I talk to you?”  “How did you recover?”  “What is life like now?”  “Would you mind reaching out to my daughter/sister/friend/cousin?”  God uses “all things”.

Just today I woke up to find a message from a former student.  She had interviewed me during her senior year for a film project on eating disorders.  She’s been struggling through her freshman year of college — trying to figure out who she is.  She remembered my story and wanted to let me know.  She said, “sharing your story with me has inspired me and has let me know that everything will be all right.” Yup, it will, my dear.  But, don’t do what I did, cry out for help, now!   You will be delivered.

I am a slow learner; you’ve figured that out by now.  That lesson was in the 1980s and I am learning it again now — in 2014.  When life started spiraling out of control several years ago, when I was in a new situation with tons of stressors and very few outlets, I was overwhelmed!  So, I cried out to God, right? Nope.  I soldiered up and worked harder, faster, longer, trying to work everything out on my own.

I’m beginning to realize that my strategy made my problems bigger — marital stress, family dysfunction, and guys, two medical professionals have hinted that my health issues may be the result of prolonged stress. There, I said it.

Why do I have to get to this point before I call out for help? He says, when we cry for help He delivers us.  Well, kids, I’m crying out for help — for my health, for my family, for our future.  And, I am confident of this He will deliver me.

Psalm 27:13

I remain confident in this: I will see the goodness of the Lord…