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How Did I Get Here? Chronic illness, its layers and what's in a name...

You have pain all (or almost all) the time. It moves around, it’s often different and hard to pinpoint. You’re tired, even though you get “enough” sleep. You do the yoga, the meditating, you exercise even though it makes you feel worse afterwards, because that is what everyone is telling you to do. You’ve tried talking to people about what is going on with you, but aside from all this advice, and the occasional comments about adjusting your perspective, no one really gets it. I mean, you don’t look sick.

Does this resonate? This collection of symptoms, layers of them, is becoming increasingly common today. They’ve given it many names – fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, polymyalgia, myalgic encephalomyelitis, depression, anxiety, or even ‘serious, complex, multisystem disease’.

Giving something a name is serious business. A name gives something power, makes it real. But sometimes it can be a double-edged sword…. On the one side – these symptoms are VERY much real, and the people in your life need to understand that. Where I think things run off the track is when our mainstream medical paradigm thinks of all these symptoms as one entity, under one name when they seek to offer treatments. They put that one name down on paper and seek to quantify it as one entity and look to solve it with one type of solution.

I am a practitioner of Chinese medicine, and this tradition teaches us to identify the patterns we see in the bodies in front of us. We treat each person and not each disease. When we see layers of pain, fatigue, anxiety and many other symptoms, we understand that that is what we’re looking at: layers. The key is to peel them back in the proper order. Think of it like this:

Let’s say your house was damaged in a hurricane, windows were blasted in by wind and a tree fell down on the roof and a lot of rainwater has gotten in, soaking the carpets, some structural support was damaged and there is creaking in the house. It is cold, damp, moldy and not perfectly structurally sound right now. To solve the problem, you cannot begin by simply turning on the heat to warm the place up. (You would just create a humid swamp) Step one has to be replacing the windows, patching the roof, followed by removing the carpet, getting out all the water, and cleaning out the mold. Then you can fix the structural issues, get new carpet, turn on the heat and move back in to a comfortable, warm and dry home.

By asking you to take pain meds and exercise is like turning on the heat before getting rid of the water and the mold, before you’ve secured the perimeter – replacing the windows and fixing the roof.

In China, a country with over 4 times the population of the US, there are fewer than one quarter the number of sufferers with these chronic pain and fatigue syndromes. My colleagues and I wondered why that was. My colleagues Dr. Andrew Miles and, Xuelan Qiu, PhD., an herbal pharmacologist spend part of their time in China, associated with the university and teaching hospital in Chengdu. They saw how effective the treatment protocols were and together with a group of colleagues here in the US, we have come up with a protocol using the highest quality herbs, sustainably wildcrafted in the Tibetan plateau and processed into teas and pills using methods and standards that preserve the maximum potency of the herbs. It also makes powerful use of breathing techniques. A form of qi gong that is taught to you to help you modulate the gasotransmitters in your body which regulate cell function, metabolic processes and hormone release. We teach you how to hear your body and react to what it’s telling you. We work with the layers of your symptoms in a specific order, peeling them back, so that as each one is resolved, we can actually reach the next one. By the end of the process, you will be an expert in how your body responds and will have the tools to control your pain, your energy. You will be able to take your life back, do the things you want to do, return to a normal schedule and change the narrative of your life.

On my website, the page dedicated to these symptoms is titled “Fibromyalgia” – because space is limited and longer explanations are too overwhelming to click on—and there you can see videos of women and men who have gone through the program I offer and describe how they’re finding it. Additionally, I would like to share a recent comment from a colleague of mine in Maryland, whose patient travels over an hour to see him:

“I just got off the phone with [name redacted]. She started the program [in April 2018]. She remains symptom free almost a full year later including going through this difficult winter. She has taken full responsibility for her wellness and regularly performs her “rituals”. She knows what to do when she feels “something coming on.” She controls her fibromyalgia with qigong and diet and only occasionally herbs.”

The videos in the daily emails were made by my colleagues with varying specialties who teach you the tools you need to take control of your symptoms and your life. You’ll guide your own treatment, know if a particular stage needs to be repeated, and react accordingly. You’ll reduce your pain and increase your energy. Each layer peeled away will take away from the name your syndrome was given, and you’ll just be you, in all the ways you want.

If you’ve come this far in this post with me, you’re a fighter and you don’t want a syndrome to define that. I’d like to be your partner in changing the narrative of your life.

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