When I first began I knew nothing about so called “natural health”. I ate a mostly organic diet, I believed, but this is as far as my understanding went. Many years earlier, with the use of a book called Reversing Fibromyalgia, I had my only experience with ‘natural health’ and it included hundreds of dollars of vitamin and mineral supplements with unpronounceable names and throat gagging pills, powders and tablets. I failed. Even in Dallas 1999 did not provide a useable selection of organic foods and food allergy substitutes. The idea of going down this road again, even with access to many huge, well supplied Organic Natural Food stores like Whole Foods, was unpleasant. But down it I went, taking my family with me. Though my father, who lived with us at the time, did not choose to join us and continued to stock the house with his usual foods, the kids and husband were along for the ride.
I started by calling around town (Austin, TX) to find an acupuncture clinic that I could afford since my insurance did not cover such things. It was days of tears and defeat as I called office after office to find that treatements averaged $75 per visit, and that they weren’t as likely to help unless I went at least every week, if not twice every week. It was again a friend who told me about ‘group acupuncture’. In a seedy part of town I found a low cost clinic that provided acupuncture to multiple patients during the same appointment. We each arrived 15 minutes apart and were placed in cushy recliners behind japanese style screens in a large, perfectly tempered, zen inspired room. Spa like music played quietly, everyone whispered, and the earthy smell of herbs floated around the darkened space. There was nothing familiar about this experience. I was afraid of the needles, afraid of the herbs, afraid of having a flare up during treatments, afraid that I would suffer for the rest of my life. It took everything I had to go into this new world, but very quickly it became my world… my new comfort. I was not alone anymore. I could now give all of my fears to a person who did not share them, and believed, fully, in my ability to be free of this disease, even when I could not.
The treatments were working, but the improvements were short lived. Sometimes hours, sometimes days, but they worked none the less. Very quickly my acupuncturist discovered that I did much better with a very simple ‘opening’ treatment. Complicated, symptom specific treatments were too much for me. They overwhelmed me with sensations, energy, and sometimes flare ups, so we backed off of that and stuck with what worked. I even began learning to meditate with the use of a favored guided meditation by Jan Bennett Collier.
With a taste of what could be possible and a growing belief that I may actually find a life of complete health I started moving forward with great intention. I began trying every single thing that was suggested to me. Faith healing? Sure! Body Talk? Why not! Chinese medicine? Okay! And why the hell not? I no longer cared how kooky it seemed. In fact I couldn’t care less whether or not I could believe in it. I did it all anyway. I did it all with complete commitment. The things that seemed to work got more of my time/money/effort, those that didn’t moved to the back burner and fit in where they could.
I started learning about sleep, the process, the theories, even the new agey stuff. I started trying to pinpoint the place where sleep was going wrong for me. I was consumed with discovering the answer to the deeper question… the question beyond the label of Fibromyalgia… What is wrong with me? Then the real question, How do I fix what is wrong with me?
All the while I had to continue to tackle the now lessened, but still present, symptoms. I started researching western herbalists and what herbs I could take to help me with the still flaring symptoms. Susun Weed’s philosophy spoke to me, and I picked three herbs (in tincture form) that seemed right in doses that she recommended: Skullcap 3-6 drops, St. John’s Wort 25 drops, and California Poppy 15-25 drops. I learned things about these plants, what they did, how they worked, what elements of them were being used to create bastardized and adulterated forms in prescriptions. St. John’s Wort turned out to be much more that a mood lifter. It was a powerful anti-inflammatory and treated nerve pain. The Skullcap, also a nervine, eased the fear and stress present in every day life as well as in living with this disease, but it also treated nerve pain! California Poppy? Powerful, good stuff. The more I took them the more I could start to see how they effected me, when my body needed them, and how I could use them best. There was no road map, but in taking responsibility for my body, owning my own self, I started to trust, bit by bit. Gradually I realized that my body was communicating with me in more subtle tones than just pain and tired. There were are myriad of smaller, more specific symptoms that had blended into a huge noise that I called Pain and Fatigue. Smaller, more specific symptoms that I could manage.