Saturday, September 19, 2015

On The Whole

Pamela Hsieh
Rehab Revolution
11 June 2010

I recently picked up a new book called Best Remedies. It is a reference book that teaches integrative medicine, which in my opinion describes exactly what I've been talking about this entire time: the importance of allowing your body to heal itself, by incorporating techniques that address all parts of what makes up a healthy body: the physical body itself, the mind, and the spirit.

It's not that I'm going to read it cover to cover, because besides its first chapters explaining the philosophy of integrative medicine and its benefits, it is predominantly a reference book for remedies, like yoga for anxiety and depression, or tea bags for itchy eyes. But I've been reading these introductions carefully and trying to see it from a point of view that is not my own. I objectively do not so far see anything to discount or discard, and so I recommend picking up a copy if you want to give holistic healing a try and see why "[traditional and alternative medicine] don't conflict at all . . . and combine like yin and yang, two sides of the healing process that together are much stronger than either one alone" (p. 14).

You may wonder why any of this would matter in our healing journey. It's both insultingly easy and inexplicably complex for me to attempt to expound upon, but I will at least try. Of course, though, if you disagree or have an opinion to share, please e-mail me or leave a comment, as I really would like this site to become an open forum, a community of people with a common goal, to share what they think.

The healing process starts off with a very specific problem. In my case, I had a bleed in my brain which wiped out my ability to move the left side of my body. So the problem was easily identifiable: I needed to move again.

And once my thumb flicked and my thigh lifted both for the first time, the problem became a bit grosser: Now that movement was slowly coming back, I had to learn how to move properly. Initially, trying to walk consisted of taking a normal step with my right leg and then hiking up the left hip and swinging the leg forward, landing on it with a hyperextended knee. And so the pattern began to form -- unfortunately, it was incorrect, and over time, I either developed more incorrect ways to overcompensate for this inefficient behavior, or I had to adjust the way I did things to do them correctly. This is why I cannot emphasize more that form is key. If you concentrate and train it right the first time, you won't have to relearn it AGAIN.

But I'm getting sidetracked. Anyway, as the recoveries spread, the problems also grew. Movement was no longer the main issue, but proper movement. And then, strength. Muscles had atrophied; my left arm had slightly shifted out of its socket and downward with gravity, an effect called subluxation, which apparently is common to stroke. (To this day I still have about a half a finger gap sometimes.) Sensation became an issue. (Pain, of course, returned first -- ironically, a good sign, as pain is a way the body protects itself.)

After a while, you begin to learn one of the most prominent principles of most alternative (like, Eastern) medicine: that the body, all interconnected, operates best as a whole. I'm not sure if this is common or unique to me -- or somewhere in between -- but I began to understand how each microscopic cell within the body works in harmony, or disharmony, with every other cell around it.

Since every little movement that seems so simple, when done incorrectly, causes a cascade of other, more exaggerated incorrect movements, it is all too obvious to someone in my position to see how everything affects the rest.

So I began to nurture my body, treat it not as a machine, but as an injured organism that needed to heal, that needed to be retrained and pushed, starting from my mind.

A friend of mine, an angel in disguise, who had visited me in the hospital every single day, gave me a shirt that said "It's all mental." I didn't really understand why at first, but now I totally do. It's clear to me now that in order for me to recuperate from and overcome this, I need to have the appropriate mindset. And this mindset affects my body as a whole: I need to treat it lovingly and gently to heal it, starting from the inside out.

So you might wonder why I talk about what you eat, or mention spiritual practice or emotional well being. Why would I go off on tangents about stuff that seems so unrelated to the root of the problem? Because it's not unrelated; you need no excuse to take good care of yourself, and you'll find no better one than your own rehab. Use this opportunity to make yourself over, to start afresh with a pure, stimulated, strong body that might be better than it even started off.

So that's why going to the gym is important -- it will rebuild your muscles, reestablish those neural connections, rewire your sense of balance, yes, but it'll extend your longevity, too, strengthen your heart and your mind. After all, why would you put in all that effort just to wipe it out with some other, more devastating health condition? Does that sound like a fair trade?

Didn't think so. Now start taking care of yourself. ;)

To our healing,

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