“A healer is not someone you go to for healing. A healer is someone who triggers within you your ability to heal yourself.”
Have you heard this before? Personally, the best healers I have encountered stand by this philosophy. They understand that they are not here to fix you but guide you in discovering that you are your own best healer. You hold the key to your transformation, health, and wellness, and healers act as a guidepost. The power to heal and thrive rests within you. Healers are not here to play God, sway you, or do the work for you. They are not here to convince you into anything. They help you to continue on your healing path.
Sometimes we assume that those with “health professional” titles know everything there is to know about health, including what is best for our health journey.
However, when I sift through the memories in my life and recall moments that propelled me into profound healing and health, most of these moments do not occur in medical settings. These profound moments occur with people I meet in all sorts of settings, with many different titles and backgrounds. These people include coaches, bus drivers, classmates, teachers, and servers at the local diner. The thing that all of these folks have in common is their ability to listen, see my potential, and speak the hard truth. However, years ago, I did meet a fantastic doctor who helped me take control of my life. This doctor is the one medical professional I have met with who truly stands out to me as a healer, and who has helped propel me forward in my healing.
Each one of us gets to decide for ourselves who has played an instrumental role in our healing and health.
I hope you cross paths with healers when you most need them, regardless of whether they are doctors, nurses, mothers, fathers, bus drivers, or dance teachers. A healer is a healer, and I hope you find all the guidance you desire.
In my experience, a healer’s ability to inspire my growth has nothing to do with their titles or years spent in academia. Often it has to do with their wisdom and deep understanding of self and life.
I am not here to say that any particular title can or cannot inspire healing, but rather that we get to be critical of those we let into our lives and energy. We get to be choosy when hiring professionals because all moments and especially vulnerable moments can influence our lives, for better or for worse.
As I mentioned, when I reflect on my experiences in medical settings, I can recall, clearly, one doctor who acted as a healer in my life. He stands out because he inspired me to take control of my health and look at my options with honest eyes. He communicated his frustrations with the system, and he believed in me and the power of lifestyle. I don’t remember this doctor’s name because we met just one.
But let me take you back.
Ten or so years ago, I had just moved to Chicago, and my stress was through the roof (Remember this note. This is a bit of foreshadowing)
I remember being somewhat aware of the stress, but I wasn’t aware of how to deal with it, and I don’t recall naming it “stress.” I experienced a vague awareness of discomfort that I now know to be stress, but that is as deep as I could get at the time. So what did I do? I pushed onward, right through it.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty, isn’t it, though?
At the time, my life was out of alignment, and my body was making sure that I knew this. What do I mean by out of alignment? I was not listening to my body, mind, soul, and life. I was in a relationship with someone, and it was a terrible fit, and it was slowly eating away at me. The story of why I stayed is for another day.
How was my body letting me know that my life was out of alignment? First, by stress, then by a constant and painful spasm in my stomach region.
The painful spasm felt like a charley horse. Imagine when you have a charley horse in your calf muscle that wakes you up in the middle of the night, causing you to grasp and massage to find some sense of relief. It was that but in my stomach, and 24/7. I couldn’t sleep. It was hard to work, though I kept showing up and clocking in. I spent many moments of my day bent over, grabbing my abdomen, hoping to find relief. I drank herbal tea. And maybe that was the extent of my efforts. This pain lasted for perhaps a few weeks or a month.
Finally, I decided to go to the doctor to find some support.
I went to urgent care in downtown Chicago. I had recently moved to the city, and I hadn’t yet found a primary care doctor. She determined that the pain was stress-induced and not diet-induced, then she proceeded to prescribe me a strong muscle relaxant.
I was, at this point, somewhat aware of my history with addiction, though I didn’t call it that at the time. I had spent time in and out of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I had a history of abusing alcohol but never muscle relaxants. However, the potential for addiction to these pills was on my radar due to ongoing conversation regarding addiction in the United States. But shit, I wanted this pain gone, and I knew of no other options for relief.
Later that day, I picked up my prescription from the pharmacy and started with the pills.
Forty-five minutes after consuming that first pill, my pain completely went away. The process felt like magic, and the relief caused me bliss. My pain and tension were gone. What more could I have needed?
I returned to my sound nights of sleep, my daily routine, working my job with ease. And guess what? I ultimately failed to address the stress that this doctor said caused the pain to begin with, but did it matter? My pain was gone.
Spoiler: It did matter.
Let’s fast forward about a month when the prescription was empty. It wasn’t immediately after consuming the last pill from the bottle that the pain returned. Still, once that medication left my system, you better believe I returned to the fetal position, grasping my stomach, begging for relief, and dreaming of pills. I was adjacent to where I began: stressed out, spasm in the stomach, but now I yearned for more drugs.
I went back to the doctor’s office.
The same urgent care.
But this time, I met with a different doctor.
I filled him in on my pain and the medication I took.
He was pissed and mumbling under his breath, “Why the hell did she prescribe this to you? It’s fucking stress-related. Why the hell would she give you muscle relaxants?”
He knew nothing of my history with addiction.
As I said, I barely called it that at the time. I was informed of addiction, what it can look like and where it can lead. I knew that I was not exactly smooth with alcohol, but as I said, I never had a problem with muscle relaxants.
His blood was still boiling. Though he was kind, he was also direct. He looked me in the eye and, assertively and earnestly, said, “You have a choice. I can prescribe you more pills. You can take them, and depend on them, possibly forever, or possibly not,
Or you can address your stress now. You can change your life and how you live and deal with your stress head-on. The choice is entirely yours.”
Looking back, I thank God for the time I had spent in AA. It helped me to develop an awareness of myself and situations like this one. I had seen how bad it could be with pills and quick fixes, I have experienced firsthand how rough substances can make a life, and I had met addicts before, plenty. Bless all of them. I hope they are well.
So I declined the pills. I’m not saying it was easy, but somehow, I found the courage to make this decision even in my younger years and even in pain. Maybe it was this doctor’s straightforward -ness and faith in the potential of lifestyle changes and daily choices that helped me to make that decision.
I went home and immediately found a yoga class and went right away.
I don’t exactly remember how I knew that yoga could help with stress. Maybe I heard a friend mention it. Perhaps it was a teacher from one of the three classes I had been to before. This doctor didn’t tell me how to address the stress. What he told me was that stress management could and probably would relieve me of the pain, and that it was entirely up to me. He placed the power in my hands.
I went to yoga consistently, and to my surprise, my stress melted away, and the pain left, too. Not more than five or so days later.
People will tell me, “If the pain went away that quickly, then it must not have been that bad in the first place.”
People love to say things like this. How can you measure my pain? Frankly, why would I try to prove my pain anyway? If these skeptics had been in my body and experienced my pain during those days and nights, maybe they wouldn’t respond with doubt, but alas, only I know the truth of my story.
Honestly, I can’t blame these folks. Many of us have learned that our choices hold no power and that lifestyle can only take us so far in health and healing when this couldn’t be further from the truth. How we live is incredibly powerful, and our choices can change the trajectory of our lives. We hold the medicine.
My experience was not a miracle, and it wasn’t out of the ordinary. My body needed support from my choices, and my chronic stress needed somewhere to go.
I don’t believe myself to be incredibly strong for going to yoga instead of taking the second round of pills. It is a blessing that I had previously been to Alcoholics Anonymous and that I interacted with a doctor who believed in the possibilities of lifestyle and me.
I share this with you because there are options and choices and the people we invite into our lives, including the professionals we hire, is no joke. They can influence us in life-altering ways.
Imagine if this doctor had slipped me another prescription, no questions asked. Imagine if his anger didn’t fuel him that day, or if my yearning for pills manifested a bottle filled to the brim with muscle relaxants that lived on my shelf for years to come.
Even after this experience, stress can get the best of me from time to time. I am human, after all. On the rare occasion that I lose myself to stress, a tiny tickle can arise in my belly. It’s kind of like a pre-spasm in the exact spot where the pain lived years ago. And this is my clue, my whisper, and all the heads up I need to get in alignment. What do I mean by alignment? I mean to listen to my body, my breath, my life, and to do my best to show up for it. The body is miraculous like that: always showing us how to be right with ourselves.
The full spasm has never returned because now I have the tools to manage the stress as it inevitably comes up again.
To this day, I am grateful for this doctor. I may not remember his name, but I will never forget what he offered me that day. He was a force, and he was looking out for me, my health, and the health of the world. I felt as though he respected me enough to tell me the hard truth. He trusted that lifestyle could take me to a place of inner peace. He allowed his anger to fuel how he interacted with the system and me. And even though I was a blip in his life, he gave me an option and guided me, rather than forcing or blindly prescribing.
I met this man just once, but he changed my life forever. Not only did he help me to make a choice that would empower me, but he inspired me to look for more healers in the world: more people who show me a path to healing on my own terms.
In my mind, he is a true healer.
(These words are not intended to declare the use of drugs as good or bad. This is not medical advice or life advice. This is intended for storytelling and sharing)