Monday, February 23, 2015

I'm Breaking Up With Traditional Medicine

Dear Traditional Western Medicine,

Our relationship is no longer working for me. I think it's time we see other people. We have evolved in different directions, and I find that our relationship is becoming unhealthy for everyone.

And honestly?  I think it's you, not me.

I know that I have to thank you for the many things you brought into my life. I've been on thyroid replacement for more than 30 years now, and that's allowed me to function.  The fact that you never explored why I might be hypothyroid when it doesn't run in my family and I was only 19 years old registered, but since we were managing the symptom, I never thought much about it. I am grateful for the two c-sections I had which allowed me to produce these spectacular and stubborn teenagers of mine instead of, you know, dying during childbirth. I appreciate the fact that you're so good with broken bones. If my appendix ruptured, I'd be knocking on your door.

But remember the reconstructive foot surgery in 2007? I'm pretty sure this is about the time we started to go off track, although it might have been in my 20's when I had hammer-toe surgery and the doctor never noticed the abnormalities in the REST of my foot. Or it might have been the exercise physiologist I went to in my mid-30's when I couldn't run anymore who never even x-rayed my foot before pronouncing that I had something called "lateral impingement." The treatment for that did nothing to actually restore my ability to run, but the orthotics meant I could walk pretty fast and I did that instead.

Then, at the age of 42, I couldn't even walk. My deformed foot was not your fault and I honestly think you did everything you could to try to help me, reconstructing the bones that had eroded, and attempting to fuse them. But something went wrong during that surgery, something you couldn't explain through your Western Tradition.

The chronic daily pain I was in was so excruciating, it deserves its own paragraph. I was in that pain for three years.

Three years is a long time when you are living fifteen minutes at a time. I kept trying to find answers. I had a wonderful podiatrist who was really trying to help me. I had second opinions. I worked with an internist. I saw another doctor, who prescribed anti-depressants that had an effect not unlike a lobotomy. When I tried to describe how disconnected I felt and how my life was unraveling due to the effects on my body of the constant stress of pain and that drug, he brushed me off, discounting my symptoms. (I did note the proclamation posted on his door that he received money from the Big Pharmaceutical company who made the drug.)

But see, that's my whole issue with Cartesian medicine--with YOU: why is it that if you can't figure out what is wrong with me and how to treat it, then you assume that I must not actually have those symptoms?

Maybe I could have forgiven all that. Because I know you're only taught so much in medical school. But what is unforgivable is that you never once suggested I look outside of your tiny paradigm for true healing. You were treating some of my symptoms, barely, but you never made the leap to suggestions that might lead to actual healing.

Dude, didn't you take an oath about that?

So I blundered my way into yoga and acupuncture and I found miraculous healing. And as I began to make other changes in my lifestyle, I found radiant health.


And now, I have to admit, I met someone else.

Someone named Functional Medicine. As I began to do more and more research into the effects of diet on the body, I kept coming across Dr. Mark Hyman, whose work really resonated with me. Dr. Hyman is a pioneer in the world of Functional Medicine and wow, it's just sexy as all heck. It just makes so much sense that we start to look at our bodies as entire systems, not disparate parts! Granted, I haven't actually MET Functional Medicine yet. I have a blind date--er -- appointment on March 11 with a local FM doctor. We'll see how it goes.

But this isn't really about the new guy, anyway. This is about the way you're not meeting my needs, nor the needs of the people I love. You can't seem to hear me, Traditional Western Medicine, and you you sure as heck can't seem to SEE me.


I believe it's our birthright, every one of us, to find radiant health.  And unfortunately, as long as I am in an exclusive relationship with you, I'm pretty sure that can't happen.


I hope we can still be friends,

Barb

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ushering In a New Half Century

So, I turned 50 on February 19th.

That's a pretty big birthday, and I celebrated in a pretty big way.
Vegan carrot cake--my favorite.  (I didn't have a "5 "candle, so that's 48 plus 2!)

I'd been thinking for a long time that I wanted to thank people for sticking by me during what I think of in my mind as the Great Transformation. After the pain years, as I made my way back into the world, I found a new way of being in it that is more closely aligned with my fundamental self. The (probably) alcoholic Party Barb has given way to a teetotaling, vegan yogi who would rather talk to you about things spiritual than go to happy hour. Who would rather talk about composting than go shoe shopping. (Well, okay, that's not new.) Who isn't going to sit down and eat wings and watch football --not that there is anything wrong with that, it's just not for me. I'm just different now.

Change is hard, not only for the person working to change, but for the people who have to find a way to adjust to the changes. I really wanted a way to say thank you to those people who understood that this was less of a choice and more of a calling, and who showed up so big in supporting me.  Part of the cognitive dissonance of moving back to Austin was coming back to our old life as a different person. It's had its moments of discomfort and loss, and it's had moments of discovering new, meaningful friendships with familiar faces. I am just so grateful for the willingness of most of the people in my life to see this new me and accept me with wide, open hearts. I am really blessed.

So, we had a big party at the house on February 19th, the actual day. It's hard to describe how much it meant to me. It was...

I just...

I will live for a long time on the joy of that night.

I wanted a way to honor some people and entities who played a role in my journey. We collected donations for the Capital Area Food Bank, which was the first place I worked in the non-profit world after college, which I think was a precursor to living a life of service, although I didn't know it then. And we had Whole Foods do the catering because Whole Foods has been instrumental in the enormous dietary changes I've made. I'm not sure how you can be a gluten-free, sugar free, caffeine-free vegan if you lived in a town without a Whole Foods. (Well, I know it can be done. Maybe I would have risen to the occasion and actually, you know, COOKED SOMETHING or something really outlandish like that.)
Photo by Ian Nadas

We were lucky enough to have Darden Smith play a house concert. If you don't know Darden's work, he is an amazingly talented singer/songwriter, and a fantastic storyteller. Also, a genuinely nice guy. He created a program called "Songwriting With Soldiers" that speaks right to my heart, as you might assume given the story of my dad. Anyway, having Darden play seemed like a great idea to this introvert because I could get a lot of the people I like best in one room, but not actually have to figure out what to say to anyone! Win/Win.

Darden himself has been instrumental on my path because about four months after we moved back to Austin, we were lucky enough to see him at a house concert (which is where I got the idea) and he said something that I've carried with me ever since. He was talking about how at some point he realized that the life he was living didn't look anything like the life he THOUGHT he'd be living, but that it was exactly the life he was SUPPOSED to be living.

Um.

WOW.

I could relate.

So I saved the yoga money and was able to have him come play. His concert and the whole evening were everything I could have imagined and more. It was just magical. I wish you all could have been there.

And then, my lovely Ziggy (the artist formerly known as Ana and then Katherine) worked up The Adventure Song on guitar as my present. Years ago, the girls and I dubbed the Indigo Girls' song "Get Out the Map" our Adventure Song. We played it for every single trip that could have remotely been considered a possible adventure--from going to the grocery store to driving across the country. I have heard this song, conservatively, about 64 million times and each time, when it gets to the line about, "I'm going to love you good and strong while our love is good and young," I smile. Every. Single. Time. Because my loves are good and young.

Here's the moment as Coop caught it on video.  A little messy, a little raw (for a song I've heard that many times, you'd think I would know the words,) but a moment that will be forever etched right into my heart.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Year's Day, Reboot Style

So, we rebooted the New Year.

I wasn't happy with the way 2015 was going --just more of the same blurg (technical term) of 2014. A lot of cleaning. A lot of illness. Very little joy. Just...drudgery.  I tried to do the 10-Day Detox again and just threw my hands up after day four --and you KNOW I love a good detox. My FULF is really acting up.  All gray, cold weather, but no snow.  I don't know, I just WASN'T FEELING IT.

We needed some sort of exorcism, because I am NOT doing another year like 2014. And because, as Sri Dharma Mittra says, "How you begin a thing is of great importance." (On the actual New Year's Eve, the City of Austin canceled all the fireworks and other activities due to a threat of inclement weather.  It ended up just raining a little.  I went to bed at 10:00. That's a pretty "meh" beginning to a year right there.)

My family...gosh I just love my kids.  I said, "We are having a do-over for New Year's."  And they said, "Okay.  Sounds good." No drama.  No, "Oh, Moootherrrrrr."

So, I cleaned the house, and then we made a nice dinner and all sat down and discussed our dreams and hopes for the New Year.  We talked about what we liked best from the last year.
Coop's cousin is visiting from Cuba. She may indeed have thought I was crazy, but she played right along and got to light her first sparklers.

Then we went outside and lit sparklers and shouted, "Happy New Year!"

Monday, January 12, the official first day of 2015 (Reprise) was such a fun day!  Yes, it was school and work, but everyone had such a good day! The girls were bubbling over with funny stories from school, Coop took his cousin to watch a Cyclocross competition, and I taught two inspired yoga classes and did no laundry.  (My friend Cheryl says that her grandmother had a superstition that if you do laundry on New Year's Day, you wash away your prosperity for the New Year.  I am SO down with that.)

And now, instead of implementing sweeping changes and rebooting my entire life, I am making tiny, consistent efforts on a number of fronts. More about that in my next post.

Happy New Year, whenever you celebrate!

(Some people asked if I haven't done this before and yes, it's true, I have a history of just making up my own timeline of events. July, 2006 seemed like prime time for a reboot and May, 2011 seemed like a good time to celebrate the New Year. I believe in starting over when you need to, symbolically or otherwise.)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Happy New Year-Ish

So far, 2015 limped in and then bit me hard in the tush.

So, I am rejecting it. Sorry, New Year 2015, I am OVER you.

Announcing, New Year 2015, Version 2.


On Sunday night, January 11, I'll be celebrating New Year's Eve (Reprise) --although I'll be ringing in the New Year at about 9:00 because it's a school/work night-- and then on Monday, January 12, I'm starting my New Year all over again. 

Basically I'm taking a do over for the start of the New Year. So far, 2015 has been full of "meh. whatever." I don't know if it is because I was so tired from all of the work of the holidays, but I just haven't been motivated or organized or full of my normal joy at a good clean slate. 

I don't do resolutions, but my intentions for the New Year (the Sequel) are: 

  1. Do something that scares me every day
  2. Treat myself like someone I love
  3. Live out loud
  4. Seek joy
I might think of a few more things before Monday morning --and I have some smaller intentions involving my spiritual practice --but I'm looking forward to a good clean slate and starting the New Year rested and resolute.

If your New Year hasn't measured up so far, please join me! Let's do this!


Friday, October 31, 2014

Thirty Days Hath Newvember

Well, wow, THANK YOU.  This blog is still alive and well-- thanks to its amazing, and loyal, and thoughtful, and encouraging, WONDERFUL readers. You humble me.

So, November is National Novel Writing Month. I always attempt it, even though I know that I won't "win" it because I just don't write that fast.  So, I think I'm going to do my own version of that. I don't know if I mentioned that I have begun my book about my journey through chronic pain. It's been fermenting for a long time now and one day, I read this post by artist Jennie de Groot (BLOG READER) and when I read this: "I just did it. Because every time I painted a totally crap painting, it was still 100% better than not painting at all," I decided to just, well, start writing. Because any writing was better than NO writing. I'd been fighting with myself over the shape of the book and whether it was interesting enough and was it too narcissistic and... and then I started writing and the shape appeared. Anyway, I've been trying, with various degrees of success, to write a little bit every day. My November goal will be to write 200 words per day.  I have this theory that it's like yoga -- if I tell myself to go get on my mat for five minutes, it inevitably turns into at least 30. But it's the constancy that I'm looking for, because as Sri Dharma Mittra says, "It takes constant practice."

November is a particularly joyful month for me.  It holds my favorite holiday (Thanksgiving) and it marks the anniversary of my first yoga class on my journey back to health. (November 3.) If you wanted to join me by setting one small daily goal for yourself, I bet by the end of the month, we'd have created enough positive, disciplined energy to change the world for the better, just a little bit.

Who's in?

And excerpt from the book in progress:
Here’s the thing: I believe our natural state is one of radiant health.  We are DESIGNED for radiant health.

 I have a story.  It’s a story of disassociation from my body, a long chronic pain episode, and then finding my way out of that, and back to radiant health. It is a story of triumph and valiance, and also despair and depression.  But mostly the former. It is my biggest hope that telling my story might spur you to write your own story, with an ending that you get to choose.  I remember the despair of chronic excruciating pain.  I remember thinking that I couldn’t seem to explain it to the people around me; that no one could possibly understand how bad it was. I remember thinking that I should just either kill myself or shut up already.

 I remember. You are not alone.




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ten Years of Blogging

I know I haven't been updating the blog very much recently, and I probably only have about three readers left, but today is my ten year blogging anniversary.

I've been thinking about my blog a lot recently because one of my favorite bloggers, Mrs. G, is shuttering her long-time blog, Derfwad Manor, and I needed to do a little soul searching about my own blog and the usefulness of it.

I haven't had much time for writing lately, and there have been a lot of tender things that I haven't felt I could write about, which makes me feel vaguely dishonest.  But not all stories are mine to tell, and this blog has always been more about the highlights (and sometimes lowlights!) of my personal journey.  I started blogging in earnest after my foot surgery in 2007, and that has been a wild, twisty path. I am so grateful to be where I am, and interested in what's next.

In the end, I decided I'm not willing or ready to give it up.  For one thing, I've met some amazing people through this blog, people I call my friends now. And I'm about to hit a milestone birthday in February when I turn 50, and I'm sure I will have a lot to say about that. But mostly, I feel like I haven't said all that I'm supposed to about living with chronic pain, and finding one's way out of it.

So, thanks for your patience with me over the past few years, and thanks for sticking around.

Some of us have changed more than others in the last ten years.