My Functional Medicine Journey, Part IV: Finished?

black stackable stone decor at the body of water

This year I decided to explore functional medicine as a way to address chronic health issues. It’s been a very interesting journey, but it didn’t lead quite where I expected. I suppose I was hoping to find someone who would finally solve my problems, if I was willing to put enough time and resources into their method, and commit to following some expert advice.

What I found out was rather that no one person or system can give me the answer to my own health. Laying my life into the hands of another authority, however wise and experienced, will never bring me healing. I have to take charge of that for myself, which means that practicing compassionate self-inquiry is more important than any diet or protocol.

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So although I appreciate what I gained from my practitioners, and do think that some of the diet advice and supplements and other health care measures were and continue to be helpful, I’m pretty much done with asking them to tell me what to do. They have their ways that have worked for them and for other people, and I have to find my own way, which combines their perspectives with other things I’ve learned and figured out for myself.

My symptoms (mainly migraine headaches) are not gone, but I think I understand their origin better now. For a long time, maybe all my life, I’ve been stuffing down my real feelings and not allowing myself to honestly express them or even to know what they are. In childhood, I did not feel I had anyone I could share sad or upset emotions with, and that is now known to be a major source of stress, which is correlated with chronic health issues in later life.

One of the most interesting things I’ve learned is how strongly our inner life is connected with the bodily functions that keep us in balance, maintaining homeostasis. If something is off in our emotional processing mechanism, that will be transferred into our physical state–for me, disrupting my digestive processes and eventually leading to headaches. And this emotional processing is strongly connected to our experience of social belonging, of feeling securely held within trusting, intimate relationships, where we can share our pain and feel heard and seen. People are social creatures, and feeling lonely and isolated can literally kill us.

black stackable stone decor at the body of water
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The functional medicine practitioners I consulted have helped me to give my body a boost with healthier input, but they can’t help me with my emotional processing patterns or social engagement. I have to help myself, there. It’s not easy, because I am so used to censoring feelings that I do it before they even register in my consciousness. But I’ve resolved to stop trying to live out of the erroneous notion that I can overcome sad or upset feelings purely by force of will, and above all that I can do this all by myself. It’s okay to need people, and I have a support system now that I can call on. I just have to do it.

I am now actually grateful for the physical symptoms that tell me that I’ve suppressed something. Noticing that has led me to investigate what might have happened before the headache hit, and given me some clues about the kinds of things that trigger me. In time, I hope to be able to feel my feelings better in the moment, and choose mature ways of dealing with them, not remaining stuck in my childhood habits.

Will that, in turn, relieve the headaches? I don’t know, but it’s worth trying. I do know that merely trying to get rid of those painful messengers is not the answer. I have to understand what they are trying to tell me, and I think I’m getting closer to that now. This painful pattern evolved as a protective measure, so attacking it won’t work, but will just make me feel more threatened and raise up more barriers. Gentleness and patience, not aggressive tactics, bring barriers down and reveal what’s behind them. I’m rather a blunt and impatient person, so I have to learn some new ways of being. It’s a challenge, but a good one.

brown wooden door
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Thank you for being there as I’ve shared this journey with you. As always, having an open space where I can share my thoughts and feelings has been invaluable. In fact, it has played a very real part in my healing, as far as that has gotten. I always value your responses and they mean a lot to me. Courage to you, in whatever challenge you may be facing!

10 thoughts on “My Functional Medicine Journey, Part IV: Finished?

  1. Good for you! I feel like one of my comments here about how I’ve cut down on the number and intensity of migraines was a version of what you say so well, that “I have to find my own way, which combines their perspectives with other things I’ve learned and figured out for myself.”

    1. People want to sell you their system, of course, but I think it always comes down to individual needs. Along the way I’ve learned that our bodies are so incredibly complicated, it’s amazing that they function at all! Still much to learn, but I’m glad that both of us seem to have come to a better place.

  2. I have seen your whole journey as one big self-care hug. You have not given up on yourself and all of these professionals, while not ‘curing’ you, it looks like they’ve given you many bits here and there that you can continue to work with, especially with self-awareness.

    I have noticed this with me and my stuff this year, inner work can be so helpful. Even though my issues are with bones, I never would have gone there, because I just figured you can’t change bones. And it’s true, but I can move differently, I can sense my body’s certain twists and turns for good or painful and find ways to stand, sit, walk and lie down that won’t cause additional injury. We are “knowing thyself” and I wish for you a continued growth in self-knowledge and self-awareness. I think that’s where the answer are!

    1. “You can’t change bones” is like a metaphor for my own prejudiced thinking that had to be transformed! I have not yet studied up about the physiology of bones, but I have a feeling that there is always opportunity to bring about change when it comes to body/soul relationships, even in places where we assume all is finished and immutable. I am wishing you also continued growth toward resolution on your healing journey.

  3. I am so impressed with your perserverance and willingness to examine your feelings and how you’ve dealth with them. You have been an inspiration to me and I’m happy that you’re recognizing the need to be gentle with yourself.

  4. Having to be in charge of our own health (and all the other things too) isn’t the fun part of adulting. But an important part. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey with us, Lory. It’s so amazing how our emotional life can be so intricately connected with our physical life. I’ve seen that this year myself.

    1. The mind-body connection is the cutting edge of medicine and it’s not just a fringe theory any more. That still hasn’t filtered down to many practitioners though so we have to do our own research a lot of the time. As you say, it’s not fun but an important part of adulting.

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