Getting Started – the Process of Healing

Estimated read time... 7 minutes
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.” 
Mark Twain 

I was inspired to write this post after a series of health issues started early in 2014.  I wrote this hoping that someone will receive some sort of help or assurance from my experience.

You first admit that you need to go see someone about your condition (whether by choice or force), then you learn that all of this stuff is going on that needs to be worked on.  I will not say “fixed” here, because we are all works in progress and all we can do is take what is given us, work on it, hopefully learn from it to move on to the next lesson so we may become more of who we are as individuals.

The biggest lesson that I learned through this process, because sometimes the simplest lessons are the hardest to learn and retain, is: you do not need to know all of the answers, or know what you need to do.  Doctors do not know all of the answers, neither do herbalists.  We are all, as humans, seeking out those who know more than us, and learning what we can from them to help us on our journey.  We can go to a doctor to learn that we have anemia, a herniated disc, benign tumor in the lymph, or PCOS.  We then either have that doctor (herbalist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, etc – who I will now call “helpers”) work with us on that issue (ie removing the benign tumor via surgery) or move on to someone else (ie moving from the diagnosing physician to a physical therapist who can assist us with managing a herniated disc.) 

We are all but walking a path, it is important to know that we don’t need to know all of the answers, know where to turn, or know what to do.  It is okay to not know!  It may be frustrating, and the more serious your condition may be the more frustrating it will be.  What is important now is figuring out where to turn: inward to yourself, and then outward.  It is kind of like breathing – you breathe in, acknowledge that you need to seek help, breathe out and go seek that help, breathe in and process what information you’ve received, breathe out and seek more help.  Help can be in any form: doctor, herbalist, physical therapist, a book, nature, spiritual counselor, therapist, acupuncturist, friend, family member and last but certainly not least: yourself and your intuition. 

Our health issues come from myriad sources: diet, lifestyle, emotions, the environment, forces beyond our control, over-exertion, under-exertion, iatrogenesis, rest (too little or too much), parasites, stress – there are many, many sources.  When we receive a diagnosis or health assessment, we hopefully learn the source of the health issue, if we do not – it is okay, we can work towards learning what is happening (and at the very least, what we can do to start the process.)


Redwoods in Ben Lomond, CA

Redwoods, Ben Lomond, CA

You’ve gotten your diagnosis, and you know that you don’t know enough or are not satisfied with what you are hearing.  What you are hearing is not resonating with you.  If you are anything like me, you are frustrated!  Guess what I learned?  It is okay! 

Being okay with not knowing means allowing yourself to feel what you feel without judgement, while recognizing that there is a piece missing in the puzzle.  Write down your thoughts, your fears, your goals, what you are able and willing to do and what you are unable or unwilling to do.  All of these can show you where you are at right now in relation to a health problem.  It is okay to feel scared, worried, hopeless, sad, apathetic, angry, etc.  

In many cases, you may know what you could be doing different in your life, on your path to wellness, but you need to hear it confirmed from someone else – that is okay too!  I cannot tell you how many times I knew that I should be doing one thing, but then had to hear it from two other people in order for me to actually start doing that one thing.

You have your thoughts written down, now what?!
Pick one small thing that you know you can do every day, starting today.  In other words: do something!  After a week, add something else.  After another week (or so) add something else. What I’m trying to say is that you can do something, you can know something, if that is all you can do or know then you are starting something.  Starting is the most important step.  Once you have started, other pieces can start falling into place because you are building on those starting steps.  This is not to say that starting will provide you with a miracle “cure” to all of your ills and woes, this is to say that starting empowers you to move forward in a way that can be helpful.

Here is an over-simplistic example:
Not long ago, I learned that I had pretty severe iron deficiency anemia.  Even though I am an herbalist, it does not mean that I can self-assess objectively.  Alas, I do not have that ability – I had to turned to a doctor for help, since what I was doing was clearly not working anymore, and with a little bloodwork she figured out what was going on with me.  I was upset: “I take care of myself as well as I’m able, I am conscious of what I eat!  How could this happen to me?! Why didn’t I see this, it was obvious!”  I set out to figure out what went awry in my diet, since I had the diagnosis from my doctor, I could then utilize my herbalist skills (and call on other herbalists and healthcare workers) to figure out an optimal diet, herbal options, and so on.  I learned that I was taking in very little iron with my otherwise healthy diet!  At this point, I knew I was not capable of overhauling my diet, so I went to the store and got an iron supplement.

Step one was getting the diagnosis, step 2 was learning and accepting my circumstances, thoughts and feelings, step 3 was picking the small thing that I could do and then doing it. 

After I had started feeling better, I was able to work on making small (but steady) dietary changes.  It took effort and time. I’m not going to lie, some days I did not succeed, but the next day I tried again and eventually got into my new routine and way of life.  The effects were well worth the effort – between the supplement and my dietary changes I felt better and more able to handle the other things that were on my plate.

When I was able, I started to address other health issues, seeking out help where I needed it from those who knew more than I about the subject at hand.  It was great.  It made me feel like, “I can do this, I can get better, I can manage this without it taking over my life.”  I felt like I was building a better home for my body and soul, it was a great feeling, humbling yet very empowering.  I found myself listening to my intuition more, instead of stamping out those nudges of guidance.  It was a powerful learning time for me.

What do you do if you are not getting the information you need from your chosen source?   If something is not sitting well deep within you – if it is more than a rejection out of discomfort for the need to change, but a rejection from the deepest parts of your body and soul?  You don’t have to take that information as the be all end all of information about your health, if it doesn’t work for you: get another opinion! Getting into heated arguments with doctors is not advisable, but not standing up for yourself is also not advisable!  This is when the second opinion issue comes into play: if your doctor is pushing you to take pain medication for an issue that you feel deeply is not warranted – say so, then go out and find someone who can help you manage that condition while maintaining communication with that doctor (or another doctor who is more empathetic with you.)  You do not need to be screaming across the divide between yourself and your doctor (or other healthcare worker.)  Remember that your chosen helper wants to help you feel better, you want to feel better – you both want the same thing.  The way that you arrive at that goal may be different, but remember to be respectful of who you have chosen to seek help from, even when it is clear that you need to move on. 

Caveat: getting another opinion would not have negated the information I received about my anemia.  Getting another opinion is necessary when a course of treatment or diagnosis seems more severe than how you feel deep down inside.  There is a fine line, it is something that you will have to learn on your own and decide for yourself.  According to the Patient Advocate Foundation, over one third of US adults will not seek a second opinion, and almost 10% of patients do not understand their diagnosis.  If you are going to seek another opinion, do this sooner rather than later so as to not cause any delays on your path to treatment and wellness.

Be clear with yourself regarding what you are seeking from your chosen “helper” (doctor, herbalist, etc.)  When you are clear with yourself and what you are seeking, communicate that in a gentle and tactful way to your helper, your helper is better equipped to help you in return.

You may wind up surprised what a second opinion looks like: one diagnosis that’s seemingly unrelated to another diagnosis and the second opinion finds that they are related!  What an “aha” moment that is!  When that happens (most often when moving from a modern medicine perspective to a holistic perspective such as herbalism), things really click into place and change happens more fluidly – there will always be bumps and rapids, but like water you keep moving along without becoming stagnant.  If you do become stagnant, you know what you can do to get things moving again: START.

Here are some other lessons that I learned: 
1. If something isn’t right, don’t let it slip under the radar or burn on the back burner for years.  Take care of it sooner – even if it means you have to give something up to do it! 

2. If something isn’t right – slow down, take care of yourself.  Stop putting other people, things, work, etc. in front of your needs.  It is okay to not be a top-performer all the time, trust me on this!

3.  Your doctor does indeed want to help you.  Your idea of how that help is given may be different than his/hers, if that is the case find a respectful, kind, and patient way to discuss with your doctor(s) your concerns.  If he/she does not want to listen, or berates you, find another doctor if possible.  Sometimes you’ll get lucky with a wonderfully supportive doctor, if that is the case hold onto that doctor!