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Are You Overwhelmed by Chronic Illness or Chronic Pain?

Have You Reached Your Last Resort?

As you’re reading this, are you in pain? Have you done all the tests, had all the treatments–but you’re still in pain? I’m not talking about that sprained ankle from your run yesterday; I mean that back pain or that general malaise you’ve had for years.

According to the CDC, in 2005, 133 million Americans – almost 1 out of every 2 adults –had at least one chronic illness. Your illness might affect your physical abilities, your appearance, or your independence. You may not be able to work causing financial problems. About ¼ of people with chronic conditions have one or more daily activity limited. For children, chronic pain and illnesses can be frightening because they may not understand why this is happening to them.

There is hope. Let’s look at a few key facets to healing a chronic condition.

Modern medicine of the past
Image by Michael Flick via Flickr

Chronic vs. acute

You injure yourself, you get a cold – that’s acute pain or illness. Chronic is the illness or pain that doesn’t go away or keeps coming back. Allopathic medicine, or standard medicine, is great at fixing trauma and killing infections. We are becoming bionic with all the advances in surgery. Premature b

abies’ survival rates continue to improve. Science and medicine keep on developing more technology as their contribution to healthcare.

Unfortunately, preventing and healing chronic illness and pain is not allopathic medicine’s strong suit. Fixing an immediate problem is different than preventing or curing a long-term problem. Andrew Weil, MD, the Harvard-trained doc, internationally renowned author, and University of Arizona professor, claims that “modern medicine” is not the place to go for healing chronic conditions. He directs his patients and medical fellows to look at holistic medicine.

Secondary Gains

Before we can explore using holistic medicine for healing chronic conditions, we need to look at some of the reasons why we might have a stubborn condition. Often there is a secondary gain or an underlying reason why we develop a problem. For some people these “other” reasons can sabotage even the best allopathic or holistic medicine.

What do I mean when I say you might gain from being sick? For example, as a boy when I was sick I got a lot of attention and I allowed myself to receive it. As an adult I certainly didn’t consciously decide to get sick to get attention. But at some point I did realize that some small part of me enjoyed the upside of being sick.

I am not saying you’re sick because you’re seeking attention. I don’t know anyone who does that. In fact, one of my clients, a work-at-home mom, told me the exact opposite: that when she’s sick, it’s the only time she doesn’t feel guilty telling her kids she needs to rest quietly, ALONE, in her room! Yet, I have seen with myself and others that as kids we learned that when we needed attention, often the only available means was being sick.

Your first instinct is to survive not just physically but also emotionally. When the more positive options are unavailable, you default to the less advantageous options. Much of this occurs unconsciously. I once had a client, whom we’ll call Sue, who had “tried everything” to get well. Sue started with the medical docs, then moved on to holistic practitioners. She came to me desperate. We talked as I Rolfed her. Through a few sessions she revealed her father was domineering. Her mother was the “loving one”. It soon became clear to her that she unconsciously learned that to get attention, she needed to be sick. Her father would back off and her mother would pour attention on her.

As a child in Sue’s world, there was no other way to receive attention than to be sick. That wasn’t true as an adult. Unfortunately, her body and mind were trained to get sick to get love. When she understood how her past was haunting her present and allowed herself to really feel the sadness she couldn’t feel as a child, she got well. Knowledge will set you free. Usually you will also need to fully experience the feelings—from beginning to end—that you were not allowed to express. Then your new awareness can have its full effect.

Much of Sue’s healing was letting go of her old story of always being sick. That meant she needed to let go of how she described herself as well as her way of relating to people as a sick person. She quit her support group because, as she described it, they were supporting the sickness. By letting go of her unconscious affinity to being sick, her holistic medicinal treatments worked. She got well.

Get out of the box

Our thinking and our healthcare system is oriented towards fixing problems. Plus, things are so complicated and confusing these days, with all the tests and newly-identified illnesses, we have given away authority over our own bodies to the healthcare system.  If you have good insurance, it almost seems like free healthcare—it often doesn’t cost extra out-of-pocket for all the tests and specialists. But with that sense of healthcare entitlement we gave up self-responsibility.

Getting well may mean not just doing what some expert tells you to do.  Don’t assume the expert knows everything; don’t give up your body. You may need to seek out new information and new therapies. You likely will have to pay for these therapies. Like the athlete, you will need to invest in your body to be well.

Get the support you need

As you step out of the institutional box of our healthcare system you will need support. Do your due diligence, become an expert about what you have. Don’t just look at what standard medicine and science says. Look for what others who had similar conditions did to get well. Who knows what you are going through better than someone who went through it too? Learn from their failures and successes. It’s rarely one thing that gets a person well. There are no magic pills.

The Internet is a great place to start. People want to help. Many current or past suffers become geeks about their illness. There are people out there who know a tremendous amount firsthand about their illness. Ask are they still sick or are they getting well? Discern which information is useful to you.

I am often amazed by my clients. Many will come to see me as an authority on their condition. I freely admit they know more about their illness than I do. They certainly know what doesn’t work. Frequently they will comment that before they started their healing journey they had no interest in holistic medicine. Through first trying all the traditional means to get better, they found themselves trying holistic therapies and finally getting well.

A year ago I had a client, whom we’ll call John, who was going from one specialist to another  while continuing to get worse. After listening to his wife and his kids, John decided to see a naturopath in Seattle where he lived. The naturopath ran a few tests and came back with a new diagnosis which essentially described a nutritional imbalance, not the degenerative disease that he was diagnosed with previously. Within a month, he was feeling better. In six months his regular doc said his tests were normal and there was no need for the liver transplant he’d been told he would need.

John is now an evangelist for holistic health. His year of healing converted him into a champion of changing your lifestyle to get well. He no longer eats the foods that made him sick. When he was last in to see me, he shared how he can’t understand why someone would not give up a few things to feel good.

The downside of getting well

I always mention to my clients that getting well is like getting in shape. At first it’s work. Sometimes it’s not fun in the beginning. But stick with your program and you will see results.  It gets easier, and then it becomes fun.

You know how, when you first start working out, you’re actually more tired than normal and usually sore? Well, when you start on a program of holistic health, something similar can happen: as the stress leaves your body, so do the old toxins held in your tissue. These toxins can be from normal physiology such as uric and lactic acid from your body’s metabolism. They can also be from chemicals or drugs your were exposed to. Twenty-five years ago I remember working on a big man you grew up applying chemical solvents. For several sessions the room reeked of those chemicals. It took several washings before the smell was gone from my hands. After several weeks the client was feeling better than he could recall ever feeling. My hands and the room stopped smelling.

One law of homeopathy, a holistic medical therapy, states that you get well in reverse order to how you got sick. That means that the more recent symptoms may show themselves as they release from your body, then the older symptoms could present themselves later. It is like peeling an onion one layer at a time. For many, getting well is just removing the tensions and toxins that created the illness or pain, for others it will also involve rebalancing. For everyone it will involve work.

There is more than hope

Over the last 30 plus years I have treated thousands of clients, many referred to me by physicians. The one thing that is consistent with all these clients is their commitment to get well. Some come desperate; others come because they just want to feel better. A few have commented how they were as guilty as the next person when it came to not investing in their health. Often they admit they would be better at investing in maintaining their cars than their bodies.

Realize that chronic means that the cause has existed for a long time. Explore any secondary reasons that might be a benefit from being sick. Expand your thinking and options by seeking the help you need. Get the support you need along the way and understand that getting well can have setbacks.

There are no panaceas, there is just collaboration. With the help of many practitioners, I have seen people cure themselves of “incurable” conditions. I cured myself of Asperger’s Syndrome through my journey. At age 57, my body and my mind are doing things that I thought impossible when I was 17.

Chronic illness and pain can be transformed. It will take work and investment on your part. You are worth the effort. Create your support team and get started today. Please apply this strategy to your children. The rate of chronic health conditions among children in the United States increased from 12.8% in 1994 to 26.6% in 2006, according to results of a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Children respond very quickly to alternative therapies; we adults are a little tougher.

Use our blog – as a resource for your own healing journey. All the members of the council are happy to speak to you about what they know. Don’t give up, keep expanding your box, keep asking questions, seek out those who have gotten well, question authority–even mine—create a plan and work it. You don’t have to live in pain. You don’t have to be ill. You really can feel fit, healthy, and joyful.

Owen Marcus, MA Certified Advance Rolfer,, 265.8440. Call Owen if you have any questions. This article and many more health and wellness articles are at the blog: Go to the blog to ask questions or add your comments any article.

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