The majority of the patients I see have chronic health problems that limit their way of life in some way. It makes me sad when a patient has come to accept their fate of being ill for the rest of their lives. Often, those same patients feel dependent on pharmaceutical drugs. I call that slumped down, tired, and painful place a “health hole”. I like to show my patients that we do not have to be limited by any diagnosis to live our fullest lives possible. In actuality, we can choose to climb out of the health hole by lessening or alleviating symptoms, slowing down disease progression, and in many cases, reversing the disease process all together.
Illnesses such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are common afflictions. These, along with other seemingly less severe health problems such as chronic pain, digestive problems, hormonal imbalances and emotional instability can last indefinitely. However, with proper and thorough intervention, there is much hope to achieve balance and restore health. A successful intervention occurs when an effort is made by the patient and practitioner(s) alike to achieve balance in all levels of health, even when a disease seems to be occurring in one aspect alone. When the patient is assisted by a caring and dedicated team of health care practitioners to do the work it takes to climb out of the health hole, the chance of success increases significantly.
Being at the bottom of a health hole is not fun, and it can feel overwhelming. However, one certainly can crawl out of the hole and toward feeling healthier, happier and more energetic. It can be helpful to patients experiencing the slippery slope of the health hole to expect the healing process to be just that, a process.
Here is a six step process to getting out of your health hole:
- Believe and trust in the possibility of feeling better. This can be a very challenging step because from the bottom of the hole, the situation may seem hopeless. Furthermore, there is often utter exhaustion from being in a chronically unwell state. If you cannot muster the strength to do it yourself, ask and accept help from loved ones. Either way, find the light at the end of the tunnel, and then focus on it.
- Find a team a practitioner(s) you resonate with. Ask for referrals from friends and family. Make calls and ask to talk with the practitioner before making an appointment or simply meet at least once with a practitioner to see if you jive with the practitioner and his or her healing personality. One way to know if a particular practitioner is right for you is by doing a gut check. Did the practitioner say something that resonates with you? Did the practitioner provide at least a glimmer of hope that he or she knows how to help you feel better?
- Expect somewhat of a long journey ahead of you. If you have a chronic condition, there is NEVER a simple way out. Short of spontaneous remission (which I have heard stories of but have never witnessed myself) no one pill, no one practitioner, no one or two or three treatments from any one therapy will get it to happen. The reason why a journey lies ahead is because we are created beautifully and masterfully as complex creatures, immersed in a web of emotional, physical, mental and spiritual connections, all of which depend on each other to function optimally.
- Recognize there are layers to your health problem(s). For example, chronic acid reflux is not just a physical gastrointestinal problem, arthritis is not just a musculoskeletal problem and anxiety is not just an emotional problem. There is no “just anything” when it comes to our bodies. We have been trained to think of the body in a compartmentalized way, but there are no compartments! Everything is connected and dependent on the health and functioning of other “parts”.
- Keep your eye on your health goals, but also appreciate your progress. As human beings, we are so good at seeing in our mind’s eye where we want to be. While this can be a very useful and helpful tool, it can also feel discouraging when we are not where we want to be. Sometimes the road to health is so long that we wonder when we will finally arrive at our goal. The process can seem so slow that we may not even realize we have propelled ourselves forward until we take a moment to consider where we started.
- Know that the road to health is up and down, but as long as the general trajectory is up, progress is being made. When dips in the road are encountered, take a few deep breaths and remain calm. Those dips always occur when crawling out of a health hole. Always. Just keep your eye on the prize and utilize the tools you have learned from your practitioners.
- Once you are feeling better, keep things running smoothly by listening to your body. What is it telling you? Perform regular maintenance checks with your team of providers.
Our health is a guidance system to help us live our lives in the fullest way possible. A chronic illness has a tangled web of connections just begging to be untangled. Jump in, accept the challenge, and do it with a team of practitioners willing to serve you by going the extra mile to help you achieve your health goals. I encourage us all to appreciate and enjoy the journey.