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Friday, September 2, 2011

Healing Symptoms vs. Disease Symptoms

It feels like this is a month of new beginnings. September often signals a change in direction or course in life. People begin to move on with things they have been "toying with" over the summer and come out with new motivation. In many ways, September feels more like new beginnings to me than the new year feeling of January.

For some people, that new beginning is often a commitment to take stalk of their health and change what they might be doing. New eating patterns are established, gym memberships increase, and people sign up for classes and programs they might have been thinking about for awhile. That includes a shift for some from conventional medicine to alternative forms of healing. If that's the case- this blog is for you. Alternative healing is not just another type of medicine, remedy or even lifestyle switch.  True alternative healing is a different mind set and therefore truly a new beginning.

Lots of people dabble in alternative healing techniques by starting out with something like ginseng or a homeopathic combination remedy  for a cold or flu. Some people try Arnica for a cut or injury. Others go to an osteopath or a Bowen therapist for a back or limb adjustment. People starting out in Bach Flower remedies often first use Rescue Remedy for sudden shock or trauma. The results of any of these can be dramatic and immediate relief is found. The cold or flu never really takes hold, the injury is gone in record time with no bruising remaining, long term pain has suddenly disappeared, or immediate calm and rational thought is restored. These people suddenly become "believers". That sense of "newness", wonder, and miracle work can be amazing.  It can also come crashing down when you start to address some long term issues and don't experience the same immediate results.

Maybe you have allergies or sinus congestion and you turn to homeopathic remedies expecting  the miracle cure.  Instead of a cure, you nose starts to run like crazy, you develop a weird rash, or you find you are tired and just want to sleep. You notice your feet hurt in the morning, your throat seems to have a lump in it, or an old cough has returned.  This is the point where a lot of people give up. They decide alternative cures no longer work for them and they go back to conventional medicine and take a pain reliever, an anti-inflammatory, a cough suppressant, etc. etc. 

A lot of "modern medicine" is about "getting rid of symptoms". You tell your doctor or pharmacist what your symptoms are, and they give you something to suppress the symptoms.  It isn't "acceptable" to have a runny nose, a rash, or a productive cough. You can't be sleeping all day when you are sick, you need to suppress that urge with some sort of cold and flu medication. Hmm...

Being tired may be a symptoms of disease or illness, but it may also be a symptom of healing.  If your immune system has taken a hit and needs to work really hard, it may need you to stop for a bit and let it do it's work in peace without you throwing more stress on top of it. That runny nose or productive cough may mean you are expelling the virus from your body. That rash may mean you are releasing toxins through the largest organ of your body as you finally release something that was making you ill. Maybe the fact that "you are disgusting to be around" as you cough, blow your nose, and examine your rash, is nature's way of putting you in quarantine to save the rest of us, and allow you time to focus on healing!

I am sorry to report that the "blows" can be even more crushing than having to work through the symptoms. Modern medicine is not without it's miracles. It has allowed us to eat things we shouldn't, be in environments that are not healthy for us, be with people that are hurting us, and ignore lifestyle choices we know are not in our best interests. Many people, in order to really cure chronic issues like allergies, fatigue, or pain, have to change their food and lifestyle habits. Sometimes this isn't forever, but for a period of time in order to allow the body to re-balance. For candida for instance, the cleansing diet is pretty strict before you gradually introduce certain foods again, and you may never be able to eat that favorite sugar covered danish thing without paying the price. There is work and effort involved in really curing what ails you.  It isn't about explaining a symptoms, getting a medicine, and moving on through the exact same motions you did before. That's the point that some people decide they don't really need to be cured that bad, they'd rather just suppress the symptoms and carry on. That's a personal choice to make.

Because conventional medicine usually deals with one symptoms at a time, we can get pretty caught up in that cycle. When you start using alternative therapies you almost forget that 5 out of 8 of your symptoms are no longer there because you still have 3 and perhaps you have even in the course of treatment picked up another one.  It isn't always easy to differentiate between symptoms of disease and symptoms of healing. To do so, you really need to step back and take a strategic look at yourself.  It helps to keep a journey to record how you are feeling and to reflect back. Consider overall, as a whole person, how do you feel? Are you really tired and fatigued to the point where you can't enjoy life or are you tired of doing the same old thing that no longer makes any sense to you?  That's the difference. Is that rash itchy, painful and the outward manifestation of real deep inner pain and discomfort or do you overall feel better if only that  unsightly, irritating, and embarrassing rash would go away? Or does that rash appear when you find yourself doing one of those things that no longer makes sense to you, or in an environment that you know isn't good for you? It may be a signal, as much as a symptom.

Conventional medicine masks and suppresses symptoms so we can carry on with our lives. There is a time and place for that and that may be what is right and needed for you at this time. Only you can figure that out. Most alternative therapies attempt to reveal the symptoms so you can alter your live to enjoy greater harmony and health. That's a huge difference. It isn't for everyone, but if it's for you, it can truly be a new beginning.

Some of this information I learned by studying and being very scientific in my approach. Some of it I learned from "the school of hard knocks".  Most of it, I'm still discovering. One of the horses that chooses to live with us, developed a cough a while ago. I treated, and continue to treat it with a wide variety of alternative "things" including consultations with alternative professionals. He is often "cough- free", but every once in awhile he will cough again.  Every time I hear him, it twists something in my brain.  I immediately start to worry and want to treat him with something, anything, that will stop that cough!  That's conventional thinking.  When the knot in my head untwists (Bach Flowers help do the untwisting sometimes), I am able to look at the whole picture. He runs "like a crazy man" when he feels like it, rolls around in the dirt, and the cough doesn't actually change.  He eats everything I will feed him with gusto, drinks and eliminates just fine, has a clear worm count, and has wonderful hooves. He seems very happy and is quite capable of putting his much larger "sister" in her place when it suits him. I do have to be very careful of the hay that I feed him.. The cough is a signal. Moldy hay and he's coughing. Grass and he's coughing.  I do have to pay attention to him. If we haven't talked to him quite enough or given him enough treats and loving, I might just start to hear that cough again. I also have to respect his journey and accept that he may be going through things and making choices over which I have no control and am not responsible. He does still get experimented on, and  in that regard, he is helping me with my journey.

All this to say, if you are thinking about starting something new this month, and that something happens to be alternative healing- "chin-up" and enjoy the journey. If you feel like you are hanging from a branch, take a deep breath, reward yourself for thinking outside the box, allow yourself some backsliding,be gentle with yourself,  find someone to talk it out with, and above all appreciate the healing rewards.

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