We truly have no idea what we are capable of handling as human beings. Sometimes our healing journey takes us down a path we wouldn’t choose, and would eagerly say “I could never handle that”. We have all proclaimed that statement at some time and only to fine some time later that we can indeed handle our worst fears. No one likes to be in situations that are out of our control, but often the ultimate healing remedy to our physical, mental, or spiritual ailment is found within those dreaded “I could never handle…” journeys. Life experiences do not make you what you are, they reveal to you who you really are. And once you realize who and what you are, a beautiful partnership with God begins. I am learning to believe life can really become amazing and even fun when we reach this point of surrender, even if we are still ill or hurting.
In this post I am very candid about my current journey and the emotional and psychological issues involved. I hope my readers can respect my transparency regarding my mental and emotional journey that has gone on alongside my physical illness. I share the following story in hopes of helping others recognize a dangerous belief system that often accompanies chronic illness. In the past 6 years I have been really sick with Lyme disease and generally unwell since 2003. In the past 9 months I have been trying to treat Lyme with Chinese herbal remedies (side note: the Chinese refer to chronic Lyme disease as Gu Syndrome which is worth looking in to for those treating Lyme disease) that included over 35 different daily vitamin, mineral, anti-bacterial/viral medications prescribed by my reputable Lyme literate MD (LLMD). I have had intense herxheimer reactions, often resulting in left sided paresthesia and symptoms that mimic multiple sclerosis. I’ve had severe insomnia. I’ve had ammonia toxicity symptoms due to genetic defects that lead to poor sulfur metabolism and methylation issues. Additionally, my body has been unable to drain the neurotoxic die-off in a timely manner. My gut has been very symptomatic with food allergies showing up left and right even though I was already on a low-FODMAP, gluten, dairy, soy, corn, sugar, high-sulfur free diet and eating a mostly SCD/Paleo diet. Despite my best efforts of being perfectionistic with my protocol and strict about food choices, I ended up becoming more sick than ever this past August with a life-threatening onset of destructive thyroiditis resulting in severe hyperthyroidism (not Graves disease). We have no idea why exactly my T4 levels scaled to almost 6.0, TSH of .01, and T3 to over 10.0 except that possibly excessive iodine intake from supplements combined with a high neurotoxin load from 9 months of unending herxheimer reactions all may have caused my thyroid gland to go crazy. Or maybe it was the next area of attack by Lyme or a viral infection, who knows? Or maybe it was all the yoga, meditation, and intention setting I’ve been doing to clear my 5th chakra (throat region) to be able to speak my truth kindly and lovingly, who knows?
What I do know is 2 months ago while being on bedrest and incapacitated physically with this latest health crisis I received a message in my mind loud and clear- “Cathleen, you cannot control your healing with your apparently noble and justified hyper-vigilance, obsessive learning/study, and even spiritual practice. You have got to let go of control and trust that your body can heal and that the path will be made clear as to how this will happen. And I need you to trust that I can heal anything, even genetic issues causing roadblocks to your wellness.” I saw that I was actually being asked to surrender understanding, surrender trying so hard to find the solution, and surrender my victim attitude, especially about my genetics. All my life I’ve tried really, really hard in all areas. And that effort has led to great accomplishments. This effort has also led to chronic fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, and eventually chronic Lyme disease. Who knew the type-A ambitious drive had such serious side effects? Well we all know every virtue truly has it’s vice.
Unfortunately it’s been hard to give up the ambition and hyper-vigilance even though for many years I know it has contributed to my mental and physical fragility. These attributes of mine did help me to survive some dangerous and traumatic situations in my childhood, that trained my ego to falsely believe that these characteristics are necessary for safety and protection. How do convince your ego to stop trying when you aren’t where you want to be? Or to stop looking for solutions and accept your currant illness with the “hope” that the solution finds you? How do you just get rid of all the supplements that your doctor and your blood tests indicate you need because your body is so depleted and infected?
To initiate a battle against the beliefs and fears of my ego regarding health consciousness I decided that my first step was to address the false control I felt that taking medications to “help” me heal gave me. Admitting to myself and others my mental/emotional dependence on medications/supplements to control my body symptoms and “fix” me was the initial step. On that day my husband, a close friend, and I cleaned out my medicine stash and now I am left with only a couple supplements to take daily like digestive enzymes and probiotics. I knew in my heart I had to do this counterintuitive intervention, in spite of my Lyme doctor’s opinion, because I painfully and regrettably realized that I had lost trust in my body’s ability to absorb nutrients on it’s own or fight against any pathogens. I felt that I “needed” those supplements or my body would just die. I had unconsciously put my personal power, a lot of my faith, and untold amounts of money into those prescribed supplements/meds. God had an internal message that He wanted to teach me that my body is stronger than I think. I believe God wants me to regain my personal power and faith by believing I was given a body that is designed to heal itself. I had an impression that a divine reset of my metabolic function would occur by letting go of the egotistical and fearful strongholds. I don’t know if this means not taking supplements forever, or just until I break my mental dependence on them. I’ll explain this more later in a future post about a vision I had 6 months ago, in April, after a spiritual fast where I experienced in my mind an image of how my complete healing would occur as I understand the biochemical effects of belief patterns that exist with chronic illness.
My second intervention of extreme health consciousness surrendering was that I won’t let myself research and learn about Lyme or my latest symptoms, or diet ideas anymore. Basically I’ve enrolled myself into a “type-A” recovery program. I realize the addictive “drugs” in my life were actually my books, google, my meds, my diet plans, my constant body scanning for the latest symptom, my doctor visits, etc. This addiction created an internal opposition regarding my spiritual belief system and my healing that has caused me much mental anguish. In the past 2 years I have wanted to be spiritually focused and faithful and believing that I would easily release my body from Lyme disease when I learned what it had to teach me, and that the treatment would be easy for me. But my best intentions of walking this higher spiritual path have been over run by the my lifelong, type-A, highly motivated, knowledge seeking, hyper-vigilant personality most of the time. My ego convinced me it was too risky to surrender my health to divine guidance, faith, and love. I needed to use my wit, my mind, and control to beat the bug first, THEN I would be able to give God control back. Doesn’t that sound like typical human erroneous thinking?
Thankfully it seems that eventually mental exhaustion causes the mind and the ego to give up their fight a bit, especially when all their efforts lead to pain, anxiety and dead ends. And then we might be ready to listen to the Voice within, and hear God’s direction. With that surrender of self comes a beautiful awareness of the spirit intelligence we all have, which cannot be defeated or exhausted. It’s voice speaks of peace and hope and gives the comfort even in the most frightening situations. The Spirit is what urges the human heart to keep hoping, despite all evidence of failure. The comfort the Spirit can bring when scared feels like a mother holding her injured child- the wound is still there, but the child relaxes peacefully in her mother’s embrace and love. Once we find the resolve to partner with our inner spirit for guidance we truly can “endure all things”. This process of finding the inner compass is complex and different for everyone. For me, it was thru meditation, prayer, reading scripture, fasting, and just plain exhaustion of my old methods.
Perhaps the most important step I am taking has to do with self-talk to my body. When my symptoms are flaring, or a new issue pops up, I am having a new conversation with my body. Instead of praying and then running to the computer to research what to do, or seeing the doctor right away, or eating even “better”, I am instead telling my body the message that I trust it to know what to do and I am going to give it some time to do its job. In other words, I am kind and not frustrated with my body. I am patient with the symptoms and not reactive or hypervigilant. And I trust God and my body to make it clear if I need to do something different or see a medical professional for help. This step involves affirmations and imagery to help send a new message into my body- it’s like rewriting my mental scripts that I have operated on for 38 years. This step is about changing the scripts passed down to me from my family and ancestors. It’s a sort of reprograming which I’ll explain further in my next post regarding my vision of how to heal from chronic disease.
Let me be clear that I don’t believe that surrendering means doing NOTHING. It means letting God bring into your path the recommended next step. It means not acting on the latest remedy or diet you read about and instead trusting it will be made CLEAR to you if any treatment change needs to take place. And I’m not saying everyone should abandon their supplements, I only know that I needed to at this time. It has been amazing to me recently what my body has done as I have let go of some of my treatment protocols and just allowed myself to BE in this body that has an illness. First of all I’m eating a lot. And I’m eating what I crave, except gluten for now. That one still scares me but I hope in time I’ll let go of that control too. And you know what? I”ve put weight on for the first time in years while being hyperthyroid and I feel a TON more energy. My ego/mind likes to scream that I’m feeding all sorts of bugs, SIBO, etc by eating so abundantly. However I can’t deny that I feel more energy and am physically doing more than I have been able to do in several months, when 6 weeks ago I was bed bound and in and out of the ER each week. I’m not eating junk food exactly as I’m eating tons of veggies (mostly low sulfur), tubers, lots of gluten-free grains, some healthy dairy, some nuts, very little meat (I’m sick of it after being Paleo for so long), and even some treats and potato chips! I know that I’ll have to find a balance at some point but for now I”m just taking in as many calories as I can to give my body a boost of nutrition after being so diet-strict for the past few years. Yes my belly is bloating, stool isn’t great, gassy, etc…and you know what? I don’t care as much about that because I FEEL better. I’m sick of these gut healing diets causing mental eating disorders. I would rather feed my soul, have gas and be happy with energy than a flat tummy. I’m sure other people feel better energy-wise on these strict diets, but I didn’t. I felt my inner voice say “just eat for now and we will dial in the diet later”, so that’s what I’m doing. And as for my thyroid we will just have to see how this plays out. I trust I am healing and will be well at some point with that too.
For now I try to be content with having Lyme disease and co-infections, a grumpy gut, hyperthyroidism, etc. But I also believe that I am being guided to journey down a path that leads to my “promised land”. I have learned that there isn’t much a human being cannot endure when they are willing to be comforted by the Spirit of God. Those “I could never handle…” statements become null when you feel the comfort of the Spirit. As I have sought His ways he has recently renewed and deepened my understanding of the healing powers of Christ and enhanced my spiritual journey with yoga and meditation, while simultaneously deepening my LDS faith as well. I’m learning that when you are sick that you need to do what matters the most and that alone is a powerful awareness and just might be part of the antidote for the illness. Lastly, I know that I’m on my healing path and that there is a plan for my complex and special health situation. This understanding all started with that vision I had 6 months ago that prepared me to be willing to try an alternative healing protocol which I will describe in my next post!
UPDATE Oct 22, 2015- My thyroid levels have returned to perfectly normal- even though I went off ALL thyroid meds in Sept! (T4 level=1.4) My endocrinologist was amazed as well as my Lyme doctor who was very skeptical at my decision to stop my meds/supplements. My body is healing itself even with stopping all supplements and eating a variety of new foods that I “shouldn’t”. I am hopeful that this “divine metabolic reset” will continue to impact Lyme and other issues. It is amazing what our body can do when we let go and trust!