#47. Heal thyself!

Some people are just exceptionally lucky. Maybe you’re fortunate enough to have one outstanding Cathi/Kathi in your life who spells their name with an “i.” Me? I have two. And although they’ve never met, and although each is from a very different part of my life – one I’ve known two decades, the other just a handful of years – I have a strong connection to both. Why am I bragging about my Cathi/Kathi wealth? It’s relevant, I swear. Because another thing they have in common, although to different degrees, is the openness to alternative ways of thinking about how our mind and spirits and energy interact with our bodies. And they’ve both influenced me to be less skeptical and more open and to try things I mightn’t have otherwise.

Like trying to heal myself of fibromyalgia.

See, when you have a condition like mine – there’s no clear cause, no unilaterally effective treatment and certainly no sure cure – people develop all sorts of ideas about how to treat it. People, I should note very clearly, who mean very well. They suggest to you this one thing they heard on the radio that they’re certain will make me better. It’s both really lovely and really annoying. Because my general, pragmatic sense is that if someone had found a way to make people better from fibromyalgia, we’d all kind of know about it.

Thus, in general, when people offer me their groundbreaking methods to heal myself – biofeedback, reiki, etc. – I thank them as kindly as I can and stick to my largely Western medicine approach, even as I admit it isn’t entirely successful.

For my 40th birthday, my Cathi sent me a box of tricks, so to speak, that she hoped would help ease my pain, if not cure me of fibromyalgia entirely. Knowing me as well as she does, she asked that I try to have an open mind about the things she was sending me. Her package included sage with which to cleanse myself and my environment, a beautiful green tourmaline necklace meant to help heal me, a book of physical ailments and the corresponding mantras to ease them and a CD with a meditation for self-healing.

I was so struck by the love with which her gifts were selected and the obvious strength of her own beliefs, that I decided to give it a try. All of it, piece by piece. I decided to spend one week opening myself up completely to these – and other – approaches. After all, what’s the worst outcome? I actually get better and have to swallow my pride?

The first thing I had to deal with was my skepticism, but it wasn’t as big an obstacle as I would have imagined. It seems over the past decade I’ve become increasingly open to different ideas. In some areas of my life I’ve had great success setting aside my prejudices and instead believing what other people believed would work for me – as kooky as it may have all sounded. Why, then, not try it with this?

Day one, I decided to start with the big guns – smudging myself with sage to clear my energy. The booklet that accompanied the sage said it was possible to smudge oneself, but I didn’t have an ounce of confidence in my ability to do so. That’s where the other Kathi came in. There are few people I trust enough to ask to smudge me – and probably even fewer in my life who’d be game – but I knew Kathi would.

And smudge me she did. I stood still while she waved the sage along the lines of my body, following the directions in the booklet to the letter. She was open to smudging someone for the first time, I was open to being smudged. I am certain of little more than I am certain of the limits of my knowledge. So if some burning herbs can help clear my energy, who am I to argue?

Kathi pronounced my energy clear after the first go-round, which surprised me. I assumed I’d be a two- or three-timer. But no. And I can’t say I felt much different, but I did feel a strange kind of excitement, I think just at having had the openness to try it.

Day two, I put the tourmaline necklace into action. I had to smudge it first to clean any residual energy off it, which I did by lighting the sage again and passing the necklace a few times through the smoke. Then I put the necklace on with, I am sheepish to admit, the hope that maybe I’d feel better instantly. Like maybe it was a magic necklace. Then I remembered I don’t live in a Harry Potter book.

Day three, I started tapping. No, not tap-dancing, self-tapping as an “emotional freedom technique,” designed to help rid you of negative thought and energy. It wasn’t part of Cathi’s gift box, but it was a suggestion made by Kathi. She showed me how to do it, selecting a phrase to repeat as I tapped myself repeatedly in various areas of my head, face and upper body – energy points – to resolve the feelings. For me, I focused on relief from the pain and fatigue I felt.

On the one hand, the tapping was weird. It just seems so random. On the other hand, the fact that I found myself giving it a shot – I mean, really trying it – was indicative of how seriously I was taking this whole effort.

As for progress, I was nearly halfway through the week and, physically, I wasn’t feeling any better. But I wasn’t sure I was supposed to yet. It’s not like these alternative healing methods come with a timeframe for success. What I did notice, though, was that I was feeling more calm and more centered, maybe a little more positive – and on that front, it was hard to make a case for giving up. That was a definite improvement.

Day four I started with the meditation CD. The fact that I procrastinated on the meditation should tell you something. I’ll be frank here: there is no question that regular mediation makes me feel better, if not physically, then spiritually and emotionally. So why don’t I do it every day? Because I’m a moron.

By day five, there was nothing new to add, really. Just a few more days of trying to think positive, wear the green tourmaline necklace next to my skin, tap away and meditate. Think positive thoughts. Breathe. All that good stuff.

But I also battled my own nature – the impatience at not feeling any better, the frustration on the days when I actually felt worse than I had the day before, the self-pity that creeps in at having a condition that seems so hopeless at times.

I’m not sure what conclusion to draw from the past seven days of trying to heal myself. The skeptic in me says: I didn’t. But there are voices in my head that, even as I type those words, know that seven days isn’t enough time to resolve that expectation. Do I believe, then, that these things I tried could ultimately cure me? I think I’m too much of a pragmatist to say yes.

However, I think they helped me, in a number of ways, even though none of them was (thus far) easing my physical pain. They helped me be more open-minded. They helped me slow down and focus on my thought patterns and my mindset. They helped keep me calm and focused and helped keep my innate negative thinking at bay. There’s a lot to be said for anything that makes you feel like you’re doing something, rather than sitting by idly, feeling powerless about a situation. Maybe taking action is the healing part.

Maybe that’s what this was all about. Maybe I’ll keep at it with some of this stuff, if not every day, then from time to time. Maybe one day I’ll wake up, completely cured – free of pain and with energy to spare. I think what I’ll do is more forward, slowly, trying to have hope but not expectation.