My Body is My Teacher

As a holistic life coach and a writer, I am often alone and focused on my internal world. And I am always wondering about the healing process. I call myself a holistic life coach because it reflects my background and expertise that has been synthesized into my version of helping others in a non-traditional counseling capacity. My studies in energy healing have blended into my work and so my approach is unique, just as I am and as my accumulated studies and mastery of the helping process are. I want to share a personal story. I was diagnosed with Grave’s disease during the onset of peri-menopause. It was late fall, seven years ago, that I began feeling unwell chronically. It seemed weekly I had some version of the flu. I might bounce back in a few days. Then again within a few days or a week or so, I was feeling sick. Next the itching started, slowly but eventually a torturous itching from within, all over my body, ceaselessly. I was weak and tired, more and more, losing weight slowly. Months passed before I was diagnosed properly and treated for this hyperthyroidism condition.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to sustain a sense of wellness and strength, in a physical way, since the beginning of this condition. I have been on and off medication, had some periods of feeling pretty well, the longest lapse of time was three weeks once, I believe. Usually I would get a two-week window before some part of me was aching, sick or exhausted.

During this period I began peri-menopause and another host of symptoms began appearing. Both of these conditions, the peri-menopause and the hyperthyroidism, were about instability, fluctuations. Part of it was a natural transition of life because I am a woman and the other was a disease in which my immune system was attacking my thyroid, causing some of the symptoms – but which symptoms went with which thing? I still do not know.

And I was not surprised that my body was attacking my throat. Looking through my lens of energy healing, I made sense of this ailment. All my life I had trouble using my voice with real ease. It seemed simply a part of who I was. I have no early memories of being comfortable speaking up, confronting others in ways that felt satisfactory, or speaking at length about myself. I was shy; my throat became inflamed on the outside when what I said got attention from others. This was a condition that caused me embarrassment over the years as I could feel the heat of the redness creeping up my neck and across my chest as I gave a school report, answered a question in class, talked about myself to others for more than a few seconds. I have spent years as a therapist, speaking to others. In that role, I am most comfortable because I am not speaking about me. I am simply creating sacred space in which another can share herself openly, and I may respond in an authentic and caring way. In a teaching capacity I am at ease imparting information and knowledge. But put me in the place of speaking about me, and the redness begins. It plagues me to this day. At times I still feel the heat in conversations with others when I am talking about myself or speaking at length about anything important pertaining to my life. Even with all the healing energy I have spent on this, I can still see that I am struggling with this issue. I know it because I wrote the word “plagues”, instead of something else, softer, more accepting. So the fact that my immune system has been attacking what was in my throat somehow seemed fitting. The discomfort with which I imparted the words that came from this throat center of my body, the swallowing back of words to avoid confrontation all those early years of my life, the words that still elicit inflammation during their flow of truth for me, these conditions all seem, rightfully so, a grave disease within.

This past year, after having been off medication for five years, no longer being followed by an endocrinologist, I started having bouts of itchiness and extreme fatigue once more. I had spent significant amounts of time and energy taking care of myself, going into the depths of my life and soul, wanting to heal and feel good, whole in every way. I had done what I could, I thought, to heal this ailment. Back to the medical doctor I went. Eventually the initial diagnosis was reconfirmed. I have had another dance with medication and am hoping now that the disease will remain in remission since I am post-menopausal, if indeed, this is where it has crept to this time.

I know that it doesn’t make sense to anyone in my life that I am chronically feeling unwell. It does not make sense to me. I am a mathematician among other things and the equation is supposed to look like this: good genes + healthy lifestyle + attention to healing self  = vibrant health + oodles of energy + feeling terrific Unfortunately the equation does not always add up. Just like individuals who become terminally ill, have bad accidents or a host of other things that can and do go badly in life, health is not a given, even when you believe you are doing everything in your power to feel well. Having been involved with healers, having become one myself, I understand deeply the urge to make me well. We all want me to feel great! I want everyone to be healthy, well and happy! Wouldn’t it be lovely for all of us to experience perfect health, all the time?

I recently became aware of a deeper part of my healing process. Finally becoming more accepting with my limitations each day, I am learning to let go of layers of resistance that I had been assuming in my discomfort with my lack of health. One day while driving off to an outing with my daughter, unwilling to say no to this precious time, not wanting to miss it because of my physical weakness, I became acutely aware of the deep fatigue I was experiencing. Instead of pushing against it internally and casting it aside to minimize the distraction it presented as I often do, I told myself to breathe into it. Gently I felt the breath infusing my inner world of fatigue. It did not make the fatigue go away but it did not exasperate it either; rather it subtly shifted to a more gentle space. As I continued to give attention to this breathing and the awareness of the shift from resistance to nonresistance to the fatigue, a deeper awareness became suddenly apparent. It came in its formless wordless way that my inner wisdom often does. It just appears in its fullness, a simple and powerful knowing. I knew in that moment that I was inwardly judging myself for this physical weakness and instability, for having a disorder that I try hard to ignore, that I desperately want to shed. The words that I would not allow my mind to speak inwardly but were there anyway, illuminating that formless, wordless knowing were, “I am so disappointed in your weakness – I cannot count on you when you continually let me and those I love down by not being what you once were, full of endless energy and enthusiasm and the ability to do, do, do, how could you do this to me and when will you stop this madness?” Ouch, ouch, ouch.

In that moment I became instantly sad for myself. How could I be so unaccepting, setting expectations that were driven by my past and not the present, by what I want, not what I am in need of and capable of easily.  I knew immediately this is not how I would treat anyone else in my life. I would feel terrible if anyone I loved thought that I would feel this way about their limitations and their weaknesses, their realities. It made me cry to realize how harsh I was being deep inside to myself.

Today, grateful for this deeper awakening to my inner world, I continue my process of healing. I feel more at peace now that I really am accepting my health each day just for what it is, not just saying that I am. I realize that when I used to tell clients healing is not necessarily about making the “sickness” go away, but rather feeling whole in spite or because of it, I could impart this as a piece of information. Now it is a deep wisdom that resides within me as life experience. I do not know if this grave disease will stay in remission. I do not know if there is perhaps another chronic condition that contributes to the fatigue, the chronic aching and the lack of sustainable energy within. But I do know that this is my life experience right now. I can either live it fully or I can resist it, ignore it and judge it. I have tried the latter ways of living with these limitations and am aware that they only caused more dis-ease and would never have helped me feel better in the long haul. Now I am learning to live it fully.

Yet again my breath leads me into and through my body to a deeper existence, beyond my physical form where I am aware that I am more than my body. Today I thank my body for the lessons of non-resistance to that which I would change if I could, but sometimes cannot. It reminds me of my true power - the “me” that is more than my body. But it is my body that allows me to be aware of this. This aging vehicle that transports my growing consciousness about, I am still fortunate to have it. Today I honor it as the gifted teacher that it is to me.

As a footnote, I was diagnosed with Graves disease again at the onset of menopause, nine years after the first diagnosis. This imbalance signaled great passages of my life where I took the time to more deeply love and understand myself. I am happy to report that I do not experience the symptoms of Graves disease today.