It's always in the shower, isn't it? Good ideas, I mean...why is that?
Maybe because it's the closest many of us come to meditation? I certainly haven't been too successful in that department thus far, although I plead impossibility right now with 2 little ones always needing something. 30 minutes alone in a quiet room? Ya right. Maybe in ten years.
But I digress. So the shower last night...I realized this blog is what I'm supposed to do, what I'm supposed to be a part of, and will lead me to the life (career) i'm dreaming of! I realized my niche is about trying to raise my family vastly holistically/naturally/homeopathically, whatever you want to call it, and all the trials and tribulations that accompany that.
I was raised in a pretty healthy home - no sodas or candy readily available, but were allowed treats at friends' homes or on special occasions. I LOVED going to my Aunt's house because her fridge was always stocked with Coca Colas. My mom did her best to keep us on the "everything in moderation" track, so my older brother and I never felt deprived of anything.
I was a super active and athletic So Cal beach girl, so I figured it was a pulled glute muscle when I started feeling a dull ache in my left butt cheek. I was 22 years old. Fast forward a few months to 9/11/2001, and I was the youngest patient in the Cedars Sinai Surgery Center awaiting back surgery (L5 and S1 discectomy for herniations). The Twin Towers fell as I was being wheeled into surgery, my parents later told me.
It was a couple years later that my mom would begin learning about more natural / holistic approaches to health, and would then pass on that info to me.
Meanwhile I had discovered the beauty of yoga and swimming, especially for those with "bad backs."
Fast forward 8 years to 2009: I'd had a wonderfully easy pregnancy with our first child, whose homebirth you can read about here, despite some doctors' predictions that my back might have trouble with pregnancy weight. We had moved back to CA from AZ and were living with my parents temporarily. My husband had just finished a year of schooling and testing for firefighting and had just begun the grueling Fire Academy.
I had gone back to work full time, and tried to keep the peace in the house between my husband, my parents, and raising a toddler.I was stressed, to say the least.
One particular Monday, the straw, literally, broke this camel's back.
I was physically exhausted from a friend and her toddler visiting over the weekend (hauled kids and gear to and from airport and all over the place).
I was worried sick about my husband who had sustained a head injury at the Academy a few days prior that was severe enough to make him think he might not be able to continue.
I had a big work presentation that day, and it was a rough morning with Son trying to get out the door.
I made it through Monday somehow, but that night in bed, I tossed and turned with what was the most excruciating sciatic pain shooting down my left leg. I had experienced sciatica with my herniated discs 8 years prior, but that was a duller pain that I could maneuver around by bending and sitting differently.
This pain was unlike any I'd ever experienced...I even said at the time that it was worse than childbirth, and I had a med-free homebirth, with a manually extracted placenta and 6 stitches. But that's a whole other story.
I could not walk. I could not stand. I could not lay on my back. I could barely crawl.
My husband was living away at the academy and could not come home to help. My mom had to take care of my toddler AND me, placing my plates of food on the floor for me to eat while on all fours, rocking back and forth. I literally developed callouses on my knuckles from crawling - I felt like a gorilla.
I needed help.
I frantically searched online (on a laptop on the floor) for acute pain management in my town, as I needed some immediate relief. I found nothing that looked right for me, until I finally searched for acupuncturists. I'd done acupuncture only a handful of times in the years after my back surgery, with good results, but was skeptical of its ability to deal with this intense pain.
The first authentic Chinese acupuncturist I called could get me in that afternoon, so I booked it.
Then I happened upon a website for a husband and wife acupuncture team that specialized in acute pain. I called and left what must have sounded like a pretty desperate message, because the wife, Helen, called me back within the hour and said she could tell I was in a lot of pain. My eyes welled up with tears over her empathy...someone UNDERSTOOD! But she couldn't get me in until the next day, and I told her I needed help TODAY so I'd have to pass. When we hung up, I felt sad, as though I knew I'd just passed on my ticket to help.
Not five minutes later, Helen called me back, saying she had moved some clients around and could get me in that afternoon.
Little did I know that Helen knew I needed her and her husband. She truly is a clairvoyant; she was born and raised in China, and discovered her abilities at the age of 14, using them to help people and animals ever since. My first few visits were with her husband, who does the acute pain management with the Bowen Technique and energy healing. My mom drove me to the appointments, with me lying down in the passenger seat, my son in his carseat in the back. I would shuffle into the clinic, hunched over, rocking side to side to try and alleviate some of the excruciating pain going down my back and leg.
After the sessions, I'd shuffle to the sidewalk and lay down to wait for my mom to pick me up. I had no idea what passersby thought of me, and I did not care one bit. I must have looked as insane as I felt, because, mercifully, no one ever tried to talk to me or ask if I was ok.
During one of those early sessions, in which he did Bowen Therapy (non-needle) on me, he shifted some muscles or fascia in my sacral region and asked if I'd ever been physically or sexually abused (which I haven't, thankfully). I told him I'd had a child, though, and he said that made sense for what he was feeling and that often the strain of childbirth leaves a womans body structurally altered and it can contribute to dis-ease.
After 4 days of daily visits with Mr. Acupuncture, I was walking.
Certainly not pain-free, but at least upright. I was so thrilled to be amongst the non-knuckle draggers again that I attempted to go to work one week after my collapse. Getting in my car was agonizing, and I was sweating bullets by the time I reached my destination 20 minutes away. I went in one appointment for 10 minutes, feeling my face getting whiter and whiter. I almost passed out before I reached my car, but managed to get in and twist my body into a position that offered a little relief, and rested before attempting the drive back home. Work would have to wait.
I started seeing Helen, who does the needles for the underlying mental and emotional issues behind physical ailments. The first session solidified in my mind that I had found my healer - it was quite unlike any acupuncture session I've ever had. I laid down on the cushy massage table, my right hand resting on a purple velvet bean bag. Helen sat next to me, and lighly tapped my wrist with her slim fingers, almost as though she was tapping out the morse code. Then she spoke - "Why were you so sad in 1989? What is this great conflict I see when you were 20? What were your emotions when your son was born?" It was question after question like this for over an hour, and each reflection on the incident/emotion/time was a huge release of tension in my body. I discovered that I'd had this great inner sadness since the age of 10, although I had only recognized it in my 20's. We identified a huge burden of guilt I'd carried with me for over 10 years over an incident with my brother - every time I had thought about the incident, I cried out of guilt. As it surfaced in Helen's office, I again wept uncontrollably. Since that day, I have not cried over it again - the guilt is gone.
I now understand that Helen's work is akin to meditation; her results are those one hopes to achieve through deep introspection and patient mindfulness.
At the time, though, all I knew was that she was successfully releasing some ancient crap I'd been carrying around forever, and that it sure felt good.
I went home after the 2nd session with Helen feeling like a golf ball had been strapped to my left heel. Every step was strangely awkward and painful, and my heel was super hard to the touch. I called Helen to inquire, and she said that it was toxins and negative energy leaving my body, that it would dissipate, and that it was definitely a good sign.
Before my 3rd session with Helen, I was lying in bed trying to nap. Sleep had been non-existent thus far - only that horrible intermittent napping where you jerk awake every time you start to fall asleep. I was a zombie - still unable to carry, or play with, my son...it was torture. I could stand and walk, but it was excruciating. Lying there awake, my mind drifted to a vision of myself pregnant, lying on a field of grass with my husband and son happily playing next to me. (I had been becoming a bit anxious recently about getting pregnant with our second child, not wanting our kids to be too far apart, even though I knew very well it was not the right time for us - we were living with my parents while my husband went through the fire academy).
Then the vision changed, and I was still lying in the grass with my happy family around me, but I was no longer pregnant. I immediately realized I could be perfectly content with my one beautiful child, and that if I never had another, it would be ok. I realized that maybe this whole experience was telling me that my back wasn't strong enough to carry another child. The minute my mind accepted that idea, a crazy thing happened: I literally felt a huge "chunk" of pain in my leg dissipate with a warm melting sensation.
It was such a big sensation that I knew something had changed - I tried to stand up, and....I stood! With almost no pain! It was a miracle! I walked to the door, opened it, walked down the stairs for the first time in 2 weeks, and found my dad at the kitchen table. I started crying, and said, "Dad, I can walk! And I think I'm not supposed to have another child!" He looked at me with totally confused tears in his eyes and said, "Let's go find your mother."
Later that day I told Helen about my epiphany, wondering if she could confirm or deny my revelation. She said she would listen to my body and see if it could tell her.
At the end of the session, she said, "You will have another child, if you wish to. Your back is fine." I wept yet again.
A few weeks went by with more treatments, and I slowly went back to work, but I now had no feeling in my left foot, and my left calf muscle was atrophied and totally shot. I could not point my toes if my life depended on it, and had a nasty limp if I tried to run. I seriously feared my toddler getting away from me and running because I would not be able to catch him. The sciatic nerve in my left leg was seriously damaged. I began to worry about permanent nerve damage, which is why I decided to see a locally renowned Spine and Sports Medicine doctor. Helen, my acupuncturist, assured me my body would heal itself completely in time, but I was still enough of a skeptic to want to hear an allopathic opinion.
After a costly CT scan and office visit, it was confirmed I had re-herniated L5 and S1 - the same discs I'd had my discectomy on 8 years prior. Surgery was my only option, the Allopathic Doctor said, otherwise I'd have permanent nerve damage just as I feared.
In the back of my mind I'd known all along that no matter the prognosis, I wasn't going to have surgery again. It didn't make any sense...what if I re-herniated discs every decade? Would I have surgery every decade? I was only 30 years old and too young to be going in for a second surgery...there had to be alternatives.
I was lucky enough to already be experiencing one of the alternatives, acupuncture. And after some research, I discovered another in Spinal Decompression at Chiropractors' practices.
I was thrilled to find a Chiropractor close to home who offered it, and went for a consultation. Dr. H reviewed my CT scan, and performed his own physical evaluation in which he could see I had almost no use of my left leg, and said he thought I'd be a good candidate for Spinal Decompression, but there were no guarantees. I told him this WOULD work for me because it HAD to, and put the entire $3,800 tab on my credit card that day to get a discount for paying upfront.
I'd deal with the bills later, and boy did I have bills.
So for the next 16 weeks I went to acupuncture once a week and decompression 2 or 3 times a week. Did I mention the bills? Holy moly...
Dr. H hoped I'd experience some relief by the end of the sessions, and hopefully regain some feeling back in my leg. Well, half way through my sessions, in week 8, I cried tears of joy and amazement as I stood on tip-toe on my left leg in front of him. He was astonished and so thrilled for me that he gave me a hug. He would later have me record my experience for his "brag book," saying it wasn't everybody who had such drastic improvement.
I had purchased some hideous but gloriously comfortable and supportive orthotic shoes that were specifically fit to my feet, and had worn them day in and day out for 3 months straight, even after feeling "back to normal." The day I allowed myself to put on a pair of heels for a rare date with my husband was another tear jerker of a day. We went to PF Changs for dinner, and I remember my left calf cramping up just walking from the car. I had a bit of a limp since calf muscles are essential for walking in heels, but I didn't care.
I continued with monthly acupuncture sessions for the next 2 years, and through my second pregnancy. I came to learn just how powerful our mind is over our body, and how crucial dealing with our mental and emotional health is. The body manifests dis-ease in infinite ways, and it WILL manifest.
The key is....r e l e a s e.
Love + light ~