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Fix It Or Accept It?

Recently, I was working with a client who has had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for about 40 years. She’s seen specialists who have diagnosed it as IBS because no other physical problems are present. I asked her about all of the different remedies that she’s tried, and she’s pretty much tried everything – from acupuncture to chiropractic to various supplements to eliminating allergenic foods from her diet. Without fail, no matter what she does, her symptoms have come back.

Coloured Chakras with Descriptions
Coloured Chakras with Descriptions (image from wikipedia)

Together, we realized that a good next step for her was acceptance. She told me she wanted to “relax into” her symptoms. Rather than trying the next big IBS cure, she just wanted to experiment with accepting the idea that these symptoms may just be a part of her life. It was a relaxing thought, she told me, that she didn’t have to see another specialist or look for another miracle supplement. She could just be with the discomfort, and honor her body by taking it a little easier when the IBS is acting up.

It may seem strange, but I’ve found in my own life that accepting an ailment often is more healing than trying to fix it. I’m not saying that you should ignore symptoms or not get treatment for ailments, but I do think that life comes with more discomfort than we might like to admit, and sometimes the most healing this is to relax into that discomfort, rather than to try to make it go away.

Truthfully, this goes against my problem solving nature and innate desire to “fix” everything. In my childhood and teens, I thought allopathic medicine was the end all and be all. By the time I was 19, I was on 5 different medications, and I felt absolutely horrible. For example, I took NSAIDs to deal with fibromyalgia, a side effect of which was such horrible stomach pain that I was incapable of concentrating in my classes. With the help of a chiropractor, I eventually got off all the medications and felt much better, but I then delved very deeply into alternative medicine, experimenting with various diets, supplements, herbs and modalities.

Certain issues I had healed completely, but some still remain issues. Despite all the acupuncture and diet changes and yoga and supplements, I still have twinges of fibromyalgia and I still have PCOS (the amount of work I did trying to heal that could fill a blog of its own!). And I’ve found that when I let go of trying to fix all of it, I actually feel better. I feel hopeful. I feel like my body isn’t wrong, or broken, or weird, it’s just, well, quirky.

I can certainly live with “quirky.”

Is there an ailment or issue that you’ve had for a while that you can’t seem to fix? Experiment with “relaxing into” it this week, and see how you feel. And of course, let me know in the comments section below.

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. Go to http://www.bodylovewellness.com/free to get your free download – Golda’s Top Ten Tips For Divine Dining! And if you’re in the NYC area, join Golda and Ragen Chastain for The Joy Of Being In Your Body Workshop this Sunday, March 25th from 3-5PM.

9 replies on “Fix It Or Accept It?”

This book

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Irritable-Bowel-Solutions-essential-treatments/dp/0091917069/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1332242508&sr=8-1

kind of saved my life (mild exageration) with regards to IBS.  When all my doctors just shrugged their shoulders at me and were all ‘I dunno’ when I asked them for concrete options I started hunting for solutions of my own.  It actually separates IBS into categories and acknowledges that there are multiple issues at play.  I found that be taking flax seed on a regular basis my life improved tremendously.  Obv it may not work for everyone, but it at least takes the problem seriously rather than the typical medical attitude of just telling you you’ll have to suck it up and figure out how to cope.

With regards to accepting chronic illness, I do agree there is value in it.  When I finally stopped raging against my reactive arthritis and IBS I was able to start viewing them more objectively and openly (that’s not the exactly right word, but is the best I can think of) and was able to start pursuing other avenues of treatment and means of coping.  I’m still actively trying to find solutions (particularly with regards to the arthritis) but the reduction in stress and anger at the condition has helped me avoid getting so caught up in the minutiae that used to derail me on a regular basis.  It’s a tricky balance though, and sometimes you need to rage a bit to get back to the acceptance

 

I’m very into accepting chronic illness.

It doesn’t mean that you don’t treat symptoms or try out new treatments that your doctor mentions has new research if it should come up in maintenance visits. but it does mean that that isn’t your main goal. You don’t have to hinge your happiness or found your desperation on the search for a treatment or cure.

Focusing instead on your quality of life is the only way to survive chronic illness. Maybe some day there will be cures, but today they are chronic-  sometimes manageable, but on-going- parts of our lives. If your focus is on treatment/cure rather than Quality of Life/acceptance, then you are making the rest of your life ABOUT the chronic illness, instead of having it be a part of your life.

I’m somewhere in the middle; migraines aren’t always treated properly even by the best drugs for them, and what works for some people makes things worse for others. So while I’ve been cycling through medications, I’ve also had to become aware that the things I’ve learned about dealing with migraines should stay with me and I should remain skilled at my own “palliative care”, so to speak. That doesn’t mean I stop looking for treatment, just that I’m aware I may never find it, and that’s OK (and I have to tailor my future choices around a need for flexibility).

Maybe (surely) every IBS patient isn’t as cynical as I am, but I think IBS is a particularly challenging thing to fix or accept–or anything in between–because it’s such an unsatisfying diagnosis.

In my case, it was “Well, you don’t have cancer, and you don’t have Crohn’s. None of these medications made you feel better. Therefore, you must have IBS.” Ten years later, I discovered there was an underlying medical explanation for my daily agony, and all my gastroenterologists had missed it.

I am all in favor of pursing as many different modalities of therapy as you can. Just . . . I hate to see anybody accept something that’s fixable.

Yeah I’m a “We don’t have any answers, so here have an IBS diagnosis!”. Cheers for that doctors. I think mine is related to a bad microbial imbalance in my gut (things improve after a nasty course of antibiotics to kill the bad bugs, I then have to work hard to maintain the good bugs in my guts) but it’s hard not being able to put a finger on what exactly is wrong.

 

Mr Kells has an IBS diagnosis as well.  Same kind of thing it sounds like you all had:  well, it’s not this or that, so it must be IBS!

Without making a conscious decision about it, it seems he and I have learned to live with it or maybe around it.  We discovered that it gets worse with stress, so together we made some significant life choices to keep him healthy.  He changed jobs, we downsized, and I stopped nagging him when he played video games for hours and hours.  He’s been extremely healthy for over five years now, but still occasionally will have flare-ups.  Medication never has helped, but living in a low-stress environment really has.  There are certain things that we have just accepted as part of our life, but I don’t feel that we’ve sacrificed anything for settling in to his diagnosis.

Very interesting to hear different takes on this – especially from several folks with the same diagnosis.

I have multiple friends who have had great success with tracking their habits to identify triggers and choosing to avoid those things and/or deal with symptoms, as preferred (for instance, before a party one friend would rather have a bunch of Immodium than not eat the party food). But I have another friend whose diagnosis is the same (“we dunno, and we call that unknowingness IBS!”) and avoiding certain foods doesn’t really help her, but “accepting” it means not eating in public, basically. So it’s still unsatisfactory. I think it depends a lot on severity and how possible it is to live with the symptoms.

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