When it comes to alternative health vs. the medical world, I’m a recovering extremist. Although I’ve softened my black and white thinking over the years, strange aches or illness can send my level-headedness AWOL. The following is an embarrassing example of one such silly, yet sacred, jihad.
After a stupendous day with my son and his friends at the lake, I wake to a mound of mosquito bites. I’m pissed. Arthritis has never allowed me to scratch my ankles, lower calves, feet or back. The situation triggers a frenzy – a strange and fearful loneliness. Life is always out of my reach.
Note: words like “always” and “never” are indicators of old BS (Belief Systems.) As you read, I’ll put my BS in italics or followed by exclamation points. Fear will be in CAPS. “Right and wrong” dogma and perfectionism will be all over the place.
When there is holistic hubris, a humbling may be on the horizon.
CRAP it’s POISON IVY! Deep breath. My spiritual medicine cabinet is at the ready – miracle supplements, organic nutrition and a positive attitude! I’ll triumph in record time! (It will NOT be like that HORRID hot summer as a kid – three agonizing weeks with P.I.) I’m so healthy and aware now!
I. WILL. NOT. ITCH!
I. WILL. NOT. TAKE. MEDICINE. PERIOD!
DAY 3 – 7
I’m SO DOOMED. The raging rash has taken charge! The pus is gross and the itching is KILL. ING. ME. It’s all over my calves – it burns, it bleeds, it sucks! DO. NOT. ITCH. DO. NOT. ITCH!
I lunge for the bristle hairbrush to rake every seething inch. After a burning-teeth-gnashing three minutes, I hang my head in shame. I’ve made it worse! I’m an idiot! How will I last THREE WEEKS?!
I look down at my alarming oozing calves, over and over. I’ve forgotten to keep looking up.
I realize I have swollen cankles. There are NO signs of healing! The poisonous b*tch is as firey as ever! Pain, panic, prison. Unanswered prayers. Devastation. Trapped inside my skin.
Is the rash a little better?? I feel a speck of hope.
I find the teensiest deer tick attached to my left boob. WHAT?! Doctors. Lyme disease. Medical nightmares. The fury is building. What the hell have I done wrong? Don’t I do what’s right?
(Ah judgment. My greatest BS . . .)
“I won’t go to the white coats! In their books I’m defective. Broken. A genetic mistake!”
Then it hits me. This week is the anniversary of my knee replacement surgeries, after which my calves had itched RELENTLESSLY. One went completely numb for six weeks. Morphine, codeine, bandages and wounds all brought a deep untouchable itch. Pain, panic, prison. Unanswered prayers. Devastation. Trapped inside my skin.
My body remembered.
“Deja Moo. When you realize you’ve seen this Bull Shit before.” ~unknown
Our wounds often revisit us, not to hurt, but to help us heal. The connection somehow settles my grief. My frantic molehill was echoing the old medical mountain. My fear of facing it again keeps mindfulness out of reach.
The P.I. is drying! Oh supreme joy! High five!
There’s a small itchy rash where the tick bit me. NO. NO. NO! “D-d-don’t I properly adore all things au natural? Escorting bugs out of my home? Cheering for deer, dandelion or dirt? This is my thanks?
I cry on the way home from the holistic doctor. Four weeks of antibiotics. I bless the bottle of doxycycline as I take my dose. Such a hard pill to swallow.
The side effect I manifest is . . . itching. It’s backlash for forsaking the natural ways!
So far, I’ve kept my melodrama and panic inside. I’ve resorted to denial and “control” to keep from looking like a loon.
A tidal wave of self-judgment is ready to crash.
Enter the hubster.
Sweaty from yard work, he stands at the threshold of our bedroom and proudly announces he’s just clipped the poison ivy vine on the far side of our home.
“YOU WHAT!?!?!?” I scramble & scream, “IN THOSE CLOTHES??!!?
Raging Rambo, formerly known as Julie, goes into full frontal finger pointing. “The POISON IVY OIL can stay ACTIVE on clothes and tools for FIVE YEARS!! It does NOT evaporate!! HAVE YOU TOUCHED ANYTHING IN THE HOUSE?!??”
Hubster had believed he was a hero for saving me. I, already seriously compromised, can only see an infidel! P.I. can steal in on shoes, shirts and shitheads!
That night, itchy bumps erupt on my arm and pointer finger (nice metaphor.) OMFG!!
I go to sleep crying and cursing the hubster for his careless act of love and devotion. I’ve lost all control.
I wake up to smooth arms and finger. The bumps must have been the meds ~ I go and give the hubster a humble hug.
A few hours later, my son has an I-hate-my-life-and-all-of-you melt down. This week, I’ve fought P.I., my period, ticks, medics and the hubster. But I don’t overreact to my son. Huh? I don’t try to sway him from his anger with a list of all the goodies in his life or all the people who love him. I listen. I feel a tenderness. While he fumes, none of his ridiculous claims hurt.
As I’m calling-all-angels, I realize my other son’s hamster has died (she was heading there.)
My angry boy comes to the cage . . . it helps him cry. Me, too. We hug. I listen to all his earthly complaints for an eternity (an hour.) They’re true for him in this moment. I keep calling in the light that I know he is. I understand the deep isolation. The injustice. The loneliness of feeling lost in our own skin.
I feel no need to do the things I’d planned today. Broken by my own panic, I’m now present. With his pain. His wholeness. And my own. I breathe in the fear and the fullness, and I’m there with him as he breaks open, too.
I realize the fight is gone (for now.) Life has emptied out my control freak fears. My self-judgment. There’s compassion for the itch that can’t be scratched. For my dangling human dread. I realize my own nature can move closer to Mother Nature’s after a fall. There’s power in yielding to the flow of every season, not just the fine ones.
In the Great Mystery of life, I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface.
One thing I continue to learn ~ the medical and the metaphysical don’t need to shake fists at each other from opposite arenas. Yin and yang work more peacefully when they shake hands somewhere in the middle.
Pema Chrodron says, “We are the sky and everything else is the weather.”
It’s tempting to rail against the tides, to feel hopelessly tossed back and forth across the ocean of who we really are.
When we trust there’s a deeper current, and bless the crazy life that keeps us afloat, then slowly, again and again, we can surrender to the rhythm and the light beyond the storm.
with lotsa love and ginormous joy,
P.S. I have to wait a few weeks to have blood work to test for Lyme. I’ll letcha know…
P.P.S. The hubster has poison ivy.