Chronic Health Challenges; Our Greatest Teacher
Navigating the world of chronic health challenges is indeed an overwhelming and often daunting journey. I understand how difficult it is to have one's lifestyle become altered due to symptoms such as pain, fatigue, digestive distress, and more. I also understand the desire to resist these types of symptoms and seek solutions that will make them go away as quickly as possible. Avoidance of pain and discomfort is hardwired into us and also enforced by cultural programming and the medical community at large.
This mindset about health challenges, however, is not conducive to long-term wellness. One will not make the best decisions from this mind space. The desire for symptom suppression can often cloud one's judgement and lead to quick fix interventions that don't yield long-term gains and ultimately can cause harm. From my personal and professional experiences with chronic health challenges, I know that this mindset often leads to succumbing to many health-blocking roadblocks and pitfalls on the road to wellness. Here is a list of the top 10 pitfalls that I faced and learned strategies for overcoming on my individual healing journey.
#1: Skipping Foundational Work and Jumping Into Running Expensive Labs and Treatment Protocols
I made the mistake of investing huge amounts of time, money, and energy into pursuing in-depth testing and complex healing protocols without first creating a solid foundation for health. By solid foundation I am referring to the day-to-day lifestyle habits and choices that dictate the trajectory of one's life and wellbeing. All the best nutritional IV's, ozone treatments, state-of-art functional lab testing, therapeutic-grade supplementation, etc., will not help one move the needle forward in the presence of destructive habits such as eating crap foods, too much screen time, staying up till wee hours of the night, using toxic personal care products, unmanaged stress, and more. Cleaning up all of these aspects of one's life lays the foundation from which a successful functional health journey can be built.
#2: Self-Identifying With Illness and/or a Specific Diagnosis
I spent many years of my life where the words “I, Jennifer” were almost always followed by "I have Chronic Lyme or CFS". This lead to an extreme state of a victim mindset and dysfunctional thinking patterns. Outside of my conscious awareness, I used my condition as a means to elicit like-minded thinking from people around me and on social media. Beyond this, I also used it as a rationalization (also outside of my conscious awareness) to not take 100% full responsibility for my role in the negative things that were occurring in my life. Until I did the deep interpersonal work required to understand "the self" and my role in the world, I remained stuck in the stress-pain-illness cycle that my dysfunctional mindset was fueling.
#3: Underestimating the Power of Invisible Environmental Toxins
It seems to be human nature to not concern ourselves with things that cause us harm that we can't objectively and easily see with the human eye. The factors that I am referring to are things such as EMF's (electromagnetic frequencies), toxins within food, water, household products, and personal care products, hidden environmental mold, and excessive blue light exposure from TV's, computers, cellphones, and tablets.
It has been scientifically proven that these things all cause incredible damage to the body at the cellular level yet so many people pay little attention to them. Some people even completely dismiss them as possible factors in their health challenges.
I was no different at one point. It was not until I reached a point of being sick and tired of being sick and tired did I take serious measures to begin learning about and addressing hidden environmental toxins. The truth of the matter, however, is that all this should have been one of the first steps in my healing journey because it is part of laying the correct foundation for health. All the best detox protocols in the world won't yield favorable results until all sources of toxic input have been eliminated or at least greatly reduced.
#4: Underestimating the Power of Thought and Limiting Beliefs
Up until the point where I read the book "Biology of Belief" by Dr. Bruce Lipton, I resisted any notion that our thoughts and beliefs influence our health and greatly contribute to creating our lives. Prior to getting sick I continuously engaged with destructive, stress-based patterns such as perfectionism, worry, catastrophic thinking, and rumination. These mental patterns kept my body and mind in a perpetual state of fight or flight, which over time primed my body for illness to take hold.
After becoming ill, all these patterns then became even more prevalent. Couple the non-illness based dysfunctional thinking patterns that depleted me, with the new self-limiting beliefs around illness such as "I have chronic Lyme and I am doomed to be sick for ever" and you have a recipe for a mindset that perpetuates a neurology that negatively influences biology. Bottom line, what we focus on and how we choose to respond to life events truly does dictate our outcomes.
#5: Hyper-Focusing On One Aspect of Health at a Time
I first did this by simply chasing symptoms and taking RX drugs to control them. Once I realized this was no longer serving me and the impact they were having on my body, I did move away from the conventional, drug-based model. Once doing so, however, I continued to make the same mistakes; albeit with natural measures (aka: handfuls of supplements).
Whether it was trying to go Vegan after hyper-focusing on toxic, industrial-farmed meat or thinking that a combo of D-ribose & serrapeptase alone was the answer to resolving CFS, I was missing the complete picture. By complete picture I am referring to looking at my situation in the context of ALL factors that create dis-ease and thus taking a comprehensive, holistic approach to address ALL aspects of one's life; not JUST illness/bio-chemical imbalances.
#6: Continuing to Seek Answers From a Broken Health Care System That Focuses on Symptom Management
In an ideal world, medical insurance would cover health-care services that provide the support and expertise needed to help somebody overcome chronic health challenges. Sadly, as many of us find out the hard way, this is simply not the case. It took me many years to understand and accept this reality.
For the first 7 years of suffering with chronic health challenges, I bounced around the conventional medical arena in hope to find the "one" doctor that would find the "one" cause and thus "one" solution to all my woes. And, when this did not happen, instead of embracing a growth mindset and seeking alternatives, I became angry and resentful. I engaged with thoughts such as "It is my doctor's responsibility to figure out what is wrong with and then fix me" or "I should not have to pay anything beyond my copay to get the help and support I need."
As unfortunate and "unfair" as the state of affairs of our current medical paradigm is, it is a reality we all must navigate accordingly. If you desire results beyond what the current medical paradigm can help you achieve, then you must be open and willing to step outside of the box and accept the financial responsibility of doing so. Choosing to remain in a state of anger and resistance to this, will only serve to keep you in disempowered state.
#7: Not Addressing Life Dysfunction That Fuels Illness
When it comes to health challenges, it is very easy to get wrapped up solely in the bio-chemistry of the illness. In other words, "What is the bug that is causing this infection and how do I kill it?" while completely ignoring the aspects of our lives that prime us of illness. These aspects can include toxic relationships, unfulfilling careers, lack of passion and joy, approval seeking, and more.
Even though I was well aware that my career as a high-school teacher had become more depleting than fulfilling by the 7-year mark, I proceeded to stay another 13 years! I did this because I was paralyzed by fear and self-doubt. The comfort zone of sticking with a steady-income, a pension, and health insurance took priority over my happiness, health, and general well-being. In doing this, I ended up burning out and ultimately suffered a nervous and physical breakdown that caused immense damage to my mind and body of which I continue to dig my way out of to this day. Lesson learned, NO job or relationship is worth sacrificing one's physical or mental health. Without health, we have nothing!
#8: Running Labs In Which the Results Do Not Translate Into Action Steps to Move the Needle Forward
This is something that I did not become aware of in my healing journey until after formally studying functional health and nutrition. I spent many years and thousands of dollars running countless labs that ultimately did not yield useful information nor change the approach.
As a practitioner, I now see clients that come to me with numerous labs that have not translated into actionable steps to move them forward in their health. Sometimes these labs can provide small nuances that can help one better understand how the dysfunction is playing out but for the most part, the results often do not change the approach in addressing the dysfunction.
To be clear, I am by far anti-lab work. I absolutely utilize lab testing in my practice but I make sure that labs are chosen based on their ability to inform the path forward. Prior to deciding on labs to run, I encourage you to ask yourself the following:
1. How will knowing this information better inform my healing journey?
2. How will the results change my approach?
3. Is running this lab the best use of funds?
4. Can I achieve the same results without running this lab?
At this juncture, the labs/assessments that find I find most useful in informing the path forward are:
Comprehensive Blood Lab Testing; which is where I begin with all clients and use to perform a thorough, functional blood chemistry analysis. This is useful in helping to determine if there are imbalances that require medical intervention and thus referral to an MD, to identify which bodily systems are the most stressed and how best to support them, and to guide the path forward for creating the foundation for health.
Some Deeper-Level Investigations Include:
Gut Zoomer, Wheat Zoomer, and Neural Zoomer tests from Vibrant Wellness Labs. These labs take a deep look into the gut and brain-gut axis to help determine exactly what is triggering inflammation.
OAT (Organic Acid Testing); which helps to identify how active dysbiotic gut bugs are as well as imbalances in metabolism, digestion, energy production, neurotransmitter synthesis, and more!
GI-MAP and/or VIOME; which are both stool tests that assess the microbiome and digestive integrity. Each uses different technology and provides a different view into the digestive tract.
DUTCH (Dried Urine Total Comprehensive Hormone); which provides a deep look into hormone imbalances, liver detoxification, methylation of toxic estrogens, neurotransmitters, circadian rhythm, oxidative stress, and more!
Nutrition Genome; which is a comprehensive assessment of genetic strengths and weaknesses as well as how to best support them via a functional approach and lifestyle interventions.
And lastly, I LOVE NES Bio-EnergetiX Assessments which provide a view into trapped energy and interference within the human bio-field; which is the master control center of everything else that happens in the body. This modality is very much in support of the role that subconscious programming is playing in continued states of illness.
Note: This list is not all the lab testing I use to help identify and reduce stress in the body. The labs I suggest for each client really do depend on that client’s bio-individual presentation.
#9: Spending Way Too Much Time On Social Media, In Chronic Illness Forums, Ruminating, & Commiserating!
When going through any troubling and life-altering situations, it is 100% normal to want to seek the support of others going through similar experiences. While online support groups can be helpful to some degree, most of the time they end up only perpetuating victim mindsets and dysfunctional thought patterns.
I found the majority of conversations within these forums to focus on complaining or symptom management with Rx drugs or even supplements. Rarely ever do people initiate conversation about causal factors and those that do are often persecuted or removed from the group for being unsympathetic, too radical, or some other dysfunctional assumption. I strongly encourage you to choose your support groups wisely. Make sure that you are not spending time within dysfunctional support groups that would be better spent on engaging in productive self-care strategies to help you achieve your wellness goals.
#10: Allowing Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
At one point in my journey I engaged in the habit of constantly second guessing everything and looking for answers from multiple practitioners at the same time. I thought "if I implement numerous protocols at once, I will increase my chances of getting well." This, however, could not have been further from the truth. By engaging in such a practice, I only increased the amount of stress, confusion, and overwhelm on my mind, body, and spirit.
As a practitioner I now see the same pattern in some of the clients that come my way. They sign up for a consult with me yet they are also working with numerous other practitioners. When I consult with them, I can clearly see that their decisions are being driven by fear, self-doubt, and lack of understanding of a holistic approach and what it takes to cultivate sustainable wellness. The success of any healing protocol is 100% reliant upon the level of belief and intention put into it. Giving 33.33% of your intention to 3 different practitioners and their protocols will never yield the same level of response of 100% intention on a truly comprehensive approach.
If you have doubts in a protocol and/or a practitioner, it is best to explore the source of where those feelings are coming from. If it is apparent that a protocol and/or practitioner is not working for you or you don't resonate with it, then by all means, it is time to move on. If your doubts, however, are being fueled by limiting beliefs and other destructive patterns mentioned in this article, then it is time to focus on self-growth and mindset.
In closing, I hope that this article provided you with some useful food for thought and prevents you from making the same mistakes I made in my wellness journey.