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.
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.
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.
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!