Harnessing the Power of My Illness
The first two-and-a-half decades of my life were subsumed by experimentations, hospitalizations, and illness; it was all I knew. The condition was my identity and my badge of honor until I decided it was time to let go.
At the age of one, I lost the use of the left side of my body while playing with toys and fell into a seizure. Following that episode, every month for a week, like clock-work, my body would flare with high fevers (103 degrees), swollen, painful joints, and ulcers. Dragged from one specialist to another, forced to endure endless hospital stays and painful medical treatments, doctors spent years experimenting and formulating a diagnosis. By the time they landed on the label Behcet’s Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease of the vascular system, I was twenty years old.
Western medicine was my doctrine, but it had become clear that wellness was not my doctor’s specialty. An exceptional doctor with exceptional bedside manner, he did the best he could within his purview. His years of expertise fell still fell short. It was not Dr. Steinberg’s fault; his protocol was no different than the countless specialists I had seen. One pill for this, a few others for that, and soon enough my mornings began with a toxic tincture of drugs that did more harm than good.
Everything changed in my mid-twenties when I fell into a cycle of monthly flare-ups. My physicians with all their well-intended attempts had sent me to sea without a life jacket. After spending months battling fevers, arthritis, and other symptoms that made it impossible to work, I was lost, hopeless, angry, depressed and I needed a new solution.
A mentor of mine recommended I see a woman named Angela. “I don’t know what she does but she heals people who have cancer,” a compelling reference that piqued my interest. After all, I was desperate and hitting my rock bottom.
Angela was the first healer I had ever worked with. Given my heavy indoctrination in science and western medicine, I was skeptical when I first went to see her. Rather than take time to explain how she worked, she got right to work that first day doing with breath and bodywork. Simple breathing exercises as she held her hands underneath my back, which was filled with pain. As I breathed, she guided me through visualizations, and over the course of the session, my back loosened up. It was unclear at first how my back was connected to the disease, but my brain fog began to fade away, the inflammation simmered, symptoms ceased, and the disease began to yield within the first few weeks of working together.
Through our work together, I became conscious of buried memories. As my guide, she helped me uncover painful traumas from my past that my body had recorded and converted into pain. None of my physicians, or therapists for that matter, ever made the connection of childhood emotional stress and trauma with health impacts for me. Living through non-threatening traumatic situations like a death in the family or a stressful divorce can change a person’s brain structure, contributing to long-term physical and behavioral consequences. The body’s stress response causes inflammation, which can lead to chronic conditions, including chronic illnesses.
By excising the toxic enemy in my subconscious my body began to relax, its’ fight-flight response ceased, and I was able to heal. The more we unearthed and transformed my subconscious, the healthier I became. Symptoms I had lived with for twenty years disappeared as though I had never had them. Within two years I was the picture of health.
Outside the sessions, I made significant changes to my life including dietary alterations, movement practices, and cutting out toxic relationships. Healing past trauma was only helpful if I rebuilt my life to support a healthy mind, body, and soul.
That meant removing present-day sources of trauma, like relationships that are abusive. This was the most painful, most challenging, and most pivotal step in my healing. As soon as I chose me, true wellness was within reach.
The impossible became possible, for the first time ever.
Healing in Alignment with Truth
The world looked different from a healthy body. Having shed the illness identity and everything that came with it, I chose to recreate my life to reflect the person I had become. Over the course of two years, I had found my voice, cultivated inner wisdom and intuition, connected with my higher self, and aligned my mind, body, and soul. The previous me was a shadow of my soul that was radiating through a new physique.
I spent the next decade traveling and living overseas in Southeast Asia, studying and practicing healing methodologies. As I let go of my “sick identity” I found a new one; as the healer. If I could be guided to heal myself, I could learn how to heal others. As I looked back on my life I realized my entire life had been devoted to the healing journey, and that much of it was spent in a similar state as , and it was the illness that lit the path to my dharma: practicing modern-day-shamanism.
How to awaken your inner healer
It doesn’t matter what stage you are at in your healing process. and you have a tremendous capacity to heal yourself and others. You, too, have the potential to be a modern-day shaman-in-the-making. A few things to keep in mind:
1. YOUR PAIN HAS A PURPOSE.
The darkest moments of your suffering contain the most opportunity. The times you spend dormant, waiting, resting, healing are your training ground as a healer. Do not discount this time.
2. BEGIN WHERE YOU ARE.
Healing others does not require you to be 100 percent healed yourself. There is no such thing as wholly healed; it’s a life-long process. The knowledge you have to share, whatever stage of your processing, is invaluable to others at a different stage.
3. YOU HAVE THE CAPACITY TO OVERCOME.
If you transitioned from sickness to health, and then back again, that is powerful. I will repeat: that holds tremendous power. In our society, we perceive this as a weakness, but this is simply not the case. You are not taking steps backward, regardless of the messages you may receive by those around you and your ego.
After a decade-long remission, I evolved by slipping back into a disease state. Although in the moment I felt as though I had lost years of forward progress, this period of hibernation allowed me to transcend the disease more effectively in an integrative way.
4. YOU ARE AN INTUITIVE HEALER.
Contrary to popular belief, shamans do not become who they are through bliss or enlightenment. Traditional shamans are called to their role through what’s known as shamanic illness. This is a severe physical challenge brings them to grave physical challenge, often to the edge of life.
While you or I might not work with traditional medicines like ayahuasca, we have the capacity to become modern-day-shamans. Your psycho-spiritual death and rebirth can manifest in many ways, spontaneously or planned. It will happen when you are ready.