FYI, this post is looong!
Last Week was the last opportunity to sign up for Taste of Herbs and Rosalee, the instructor, sent out an email entitled “Why herbs don’t always work”. This got me thinking about how herbs, in fact, don’t always work and the myriad of reasons why. It also got me thinking about all the times they do and all the times I’ve had conventional meds fail and function for me and my immediate problem. Then I had this overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the times in which I live – what a blessing to have so many options and so much information to study. I’m also grateful for mentors like Rosalee and others at Learning Herbs, as well as the multitude of herbalists who’ve inspired and instructed me. I’m also thankful for the good Western doctors I’ve encountered over the years and, especially, a friend of mine who happens to be a doc and is always willing to answer my questions from her point of view. Even with all that gratitude, I’m still no fan of pain, despite the great teacher that it can be and on that front, I’ve had a rough couple of months, I don’t mind confessing.
First, it must be pointed out that, I have a wonderful life full of people who love me, good work in which to engage and a peaceful knowledge of who I am and who God is. However, aforementioned God felt that it was time I had a learning experience and, pain being that great teacher, He chose the physical ailment route. I’ve decided to take the experience as a compliment. Praise Him, my trial did not involve a life threatening, wasting disease (we have a young mother at church facing trials much larger and harder and with much more grace than I managed to exhibit with my comparatively puny experience). The one thing that can be said about physical pain is that it teaches quickly.
I have always had a hard time breast feeding; in fact, all but one of my four earliest children went on formula after only a few months of being at the breast. You really don’t know much of anything useful when you’re young and I had never bothered to read anything about how formula is made or what goes into it; neither did I know anything about yeast overgrowth or acid diets or soaking grains or any of the banquet of things I know now. I just knew that breast feeding equaled constant breast infections complete with horrific pain, burning fevers and unhappy babies. I also knew that, even when I wasn’t battling infection, my milk supply was insufficient to keep baby happy and well fed. My first, one I breast feed for eleven months through shear will power, was colicky and unhappy all of the time. I mean, all of the time. And I hated being a mom. With the others, the formula magically seemed to fix that; never mind what the trade off was because I didn’t realize anything negative was happening as a result of using it. I digress.
With this caboose baby, I’m much better informed all around and I have enjoyed breast feeding for many months now. I had started to heal my gut before I got pregnant but never quite finished (I need to do a few deep cleanses, some more rebuilding and make a few more dietary changes) and when you’re breast feeding, it’s not really a good time to fiddle with your system. Not being quite “there” yet, I experienced my first breast infection with this baby. Wowzers had I forgotten how incredibly much that hurts. I immediately went for my herbal antibiotics, my probiotic kefir and started using warm packs with essential oils, cabbage leaves and mullein fomentations. What didn’t I do? Slow down. One of the biggest things your body is telling you when you get a breast infection is, rest. I didn’t do it. I was finishing up our pathetic harvest (this year was less than stellar but we did pull in a bit, God being great), trying to get school started and dealing with various other responsibilities. The world would have stopped turning if I slowed down, right?
Despite the lack of respect I showed my system, the breast infection mostly (only mostly) abated but the infection moved into my outer ear. Ever had an outer ear infection? Y’all, I’ve had staph present on my eyelid, a cavity in Russia and birthed a 12 lb 6 oz baby in my dining room – I am no stranger to stuff that hurts – but that thing left me curled up in the fetal position, moaning incoherently and sobbing in pain. Realizing that I’d gone beyond what my home remedies were able to do for me (especially since I wasn’t willing to do what I was supposed to), I went to an urgent care clinic. You know, if you’ve got to go the conventional medical route, I love those places – no nonsense, typically cool PAs and a simple format without all that doctor mumbo jumbo about tests and specialists. Anyway, I was prescribed a powerhouse commercial antibiotic (antibiotics hardly work on me anymore because I used them so much growing up) and some drops for the pain in my ear. Yeah, the drops were worthless and as I got more and more delirious with the pain, I went to my family doctor (whom I hadn’t seen in years) and was prescribed a powerhouse pain pill to go with my antibiotic. I like this doc because he doesn’t just hand out pills because you have an owie; I told him I didn’t need it not to hurt, I just needed to be able to stay conscious.
I continued to take my herbal antibiotics to make it all go faster and upped my probiotics with a raw supplement to avoid a yeast infection from the conventional antibiotics (historically, I can’t even look at those things without getting a yeast infection). I continued with my oils and hot packs for my ear and continued to pray. Let me just mention, lavender and melaluca oil on a cotton ball, placed just inside an infected ear can really help with pain management. However, as the ear infection subsided, another breast infection began, as well as migraines. Was I resting enough yet, you ask? Apparently not. I took to my bed, finally, and got really adept at making fomentations for my breast using breast pads and saran wrap. I felt gift wrapped. And silly. But, ohhhhhh, do those fomentations help – especially when you put a heating pad over them. I digress again.
So, after several months, I learned several things. Here are a few:
* As much as I disagree with the paradigm of modern “healing”, Western medicine can be a boon, especially at managing acute conditions. Painful, immediately presenting issues are where modern medicine can excel. True healing will, in my opinion, always allude a physician trained to only treat a few symptoms without addressing the vital systems of the body as a whole but emergent problems can be helped with some western intervention, properly prescribed. Let me tell you, once the pain starts, the first thing you think of is how to make it stop. Human condition.
* In this instance, modern meds were a safety net that had to catch me because I refused to do what my body was asking me to do. If I had obeyed, I would have been healed with my herbs, oils and prayers. My husband gave me a priesthood blessing for healing and the Lord basically ripped me a new one on that very topic – lovingly, of course, but it was very definitely a lecture.
* I believe that energy plays a vital part in our health and well being. Interestingly, there was a topic close to my heart on which I was unwilling to hear the Word of the Lord; He was telling me what to do and I didn’t like the answer so I was refusing to truly hear Him. I had worked myself up so much that I simply didn’t have ears to hear – literally. Needless to say, after this experience, I am much more willing to listen. If you ask the advice of an omniscient being, it’s a good idea to listen to His advice. Donchya think?
* I need to rest. Period. I am one person and the older I get, it seems to me, my biggest flaw is that there IS only one of me. But you know what? I am not indispensable. The world will go on turning if I say no or nap or stay home. I do no one any good sick and useless for three months.
* The family farm down the road grows amazing produce and I didn’t have to freak out about not having the homestead up and running at a 100% this year; Farmer Luke is there to cover the deficit. Once I got to feeling better, we actually made pickles, our favorite; they weren’t our cukes, they were Luke’s, and they were fabulous. I supported local agriculture and there was no shame in it – indeed, it was fantastic! It’s ok, I reminded myself, to rely on other people sometimes and to benefit from their talents – that’s what community is for. On that note, letting my visiting teacher (a friend from church) do my laundry, wash my dishes and bring me dinner was also a great idea; she’s amazing and was blessed for her service, as we were.
* There’s a place for most healing modalities in my world. Yes, some I use more often because I have more faith in them, but whether it’s Western medicine or energy healing or herbs and oils, I’m grateful for all the tools the great Healer has given us in our times. I’m convinced that God wants us to be healthy and that He has given us all we need to find healing when things go awry. We tend to feel like we’ll always be stuck with the pain and for some, like Paul with his thorn in the side, that might be true but far too many of us live beneath our privileges in this matter by not taking care of ourselves first. Quite often we won’t need anyone’s intervention, Western or holistic, if we’ll just listen to our bodies and do what it takes to find health in the navel (heal our guts) and marrow in the bones (nourish our systems).
Bottom line, be wiser than I have been these past few months; deep breaths every day, say no to everyone but your spouse and children (or those people to whom you are deeply connected) and fill your body with light in the form of whole food, whole communication with your god and a whole lot of sleep. Namaste.
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