“Failure is not falling down, but refusing to get up.” – Chinese Proverb
by Susan Tretakis – This past week, the first week of the 2018, I was “down”. And worse, “getting up” just seemed to be too much effort. And as much as it pains me to write this, the truth was that I was so flat on my emotional floor I did not even want go to acupuncture last week.
Yes, you read that right. Me – contemplating canceling an acupuncture appointment.
If, as Mahatma Ghandi said, “Strength does not come from physical capacity, but comes from an indomitable will”, I was in big trouble.
I was “will-less”.
I was cold, cranky, dealing with December’s trials and tribulations, dealing with friends’ problems and concerns, trying to figure out why I was so out of sorts – and, by the way, did I mention I was freezing? As the rest of the nation was buried in snow, South Florida was in the 30’s four mornings in a row. One cold morning is fun, two cold days is OK, but by the third day I was using my electric heat which now aggravated my chronic dry eyes and dry mouth – not to mention giving my hair enough static electricity to resemble a multi-colored Smurf.
I didn’t want my TCM doctor to look at my tongue and see that the best food and drink choices had escaped me over New Years. I didn’t want to be judged, I didn’t want to go outside and I hated staying inside.
I was cranky as Hell.
Like so many others, I had made a few New Years’ resolutions. Procrastinating and hibernating were not among them. Neither was canceling an appointment which I knew would be counter-productive to what I actually needed.
But I was so damned cold – chilled from the outside and from within. I wanted to just stay home, bundled up, on the couch with my new laptop. I wanted to use the new stand that would enable me to write standing up from any room in my house.
There were only two problems – I was too tired to stand at the new computer, too short tempered to learn how to use a new laptop and words were not forthcoming when I sat at my old computer.
I did not cancel. On January 4th, I dragged myself down to my wellness center in Margate and gracefully (I hope) accepted and returned New Year wishes from the office staff and other doctors. I carefully watched my doctors’ face as he inspected my tongue and took both pulses. I knew the questions he asked about my shivering, my cold hands and feet, my digestive issues, and my exhaustion wasn’t simple small talk. I knew that when he positioned the heat lamp over my stomach and knees and pinned me in many different places that he, too, knew something was amiss.
And now I was even more tired.
I have always had “connections” with people and events; today, one might term me a “sensitive” but I can tell you that even as a child, I knew many things instinctively abut people and events. To this day, I know within ten minutes of meeting someone whether or not I will allow them to play in my psychic sandbox.
I have such a connection with my doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Without saying much, he knew what I needed – and desired – and it was not another performance timeline to have to follow, not another list of things to do, not another list of foods to buy and prepare. I didn’t need any more noise being directed at me or coming from within me. I needed to get away from my internal nagging – and the somewhat frightening – possibility that all was not well in my physical Universe.
Truth disclosure: As I have written before, any illness scares me. As a child, I was rarely sick, but as a child, there was always someone to take care of me when I was. Now, in this age of TV advertisements for medications where ¾ of the time is spent on horrific side effects and more and more people are using walk-in clinics because their doctors are unavailable – I freely admit that I am senior living alone who is terrified of being a burden to anyone. Being sick and unable to care for myself is a real fear.
Yes, I fully understand there area levels of sickness – and that in the big picture, it could always be worse. But in my case, these first days of 2018, I was living in a miniature world.
So, as I prepared to leave the office that Thursday, I admitted to him I was a bit frightened, that I felt sure I would not have an article written in time, and that I really did not know what remedies I should have on hand if I got sick. He handed me my herbs and reminded me that while TCM aims to “prevent illness”, it would be wise to have some things on hand which he wrote down and texted to me so I’d have them on my phone. He reminded me – again – “knowledge is power”.
His comment made me think of something I had read earlier, courtesy of Google. In the 2017 Yinova Center blog: “the first fact of TCM is that people often refer to Chinese medicine as preventative medicine, which is interesting because historically, Chinese medicine practitioners were paid to keep people healthy. So, in those days people paid their doctor a regular fee unless they got sick. Then the doctor would not be paid until they were better.”
Truly not the case with the Western world of medicine. My TCM doctor would be a zillionaire if he charged for emails and text messages.
Before I left, I haltingly explained I wasn’t going to be able to submit an article last week; in fact, I had already sent an email message to his partner admitting what was to me, a major failing. His partner had written back that I should not worry, “Just concentrate on letting your body heal”. My TCM doctor was now telling me to let that worry go – and again, he used that strange phrase, “Let your body heal itself.”
So I drove home, with a quick side trip to the health food store, and slept straight for almost 24 hours. And when I awoke, I was shivering – wearing two layers of clothes with my electric heat burning its way through my electric bill. I stumbled to the kitchen, loaded up on zinc and colloidal silver and drank almost a quart of water. Finally locating my thermometer in my junk drawer (don’t ask) I saw I was running a fever of 102 degrees.
Now, I know that in TCM a fever is a good thing – it’s one’s body was fighting whatever it needed to fight. I just didn’t know how much that fight would drain me. Yes, I was taking my remedies, but I wasn’t really eating – I was drinking soups, broth and tea and doing a lot of sleeping.
So much so, that as I stepped out of the shower on Sunday night, I slipped and fell – missing the grab bar and landing smack down on cold, white tile.
I was now experiencing my second biggest fear – one which pushed having a fever right out of my head. Being found by paramedics lying naked and wet on the bathroom floor is right up there with the emotional horror of dying while sitting on the toilet.
I was dizzy, wet and cold. I knew I had to get up and take inventory. I knew I needed not to panic. I had to dry off, get dressed and yes, text my TCM doctor.
In “Your Good Health in the New Year”, Steven Sonmore. L.Ac. wrote that that “Vision is the ability to see something so clearly in your mind that you can manifest it in physical reality. What you conceive is what you create. When you bring your consciousness to your vision, the invisible forces of your subconscious mind and, indeed, the whole Universe go to work to bring your new vision into reality.”
The reality was that no paramedics were coming – nothing was broken (I did offer up another prayer of thanks for my daily intake of bone broth) – and I will tell you that while I felt like I was hit by a train, I survived.
And yes, once up, dry and dressed, I was able to text. And while I admit it was at this point, I let the tears come, I was able to read the response from my doctor, reminding me “that my main responsibility was now to my body. That a fall like the one I experienced – and landing how I did – was the equivalent of being in a car crash without a car – or air bags.”
Monday was a painful nightmare as the black and blue marks began to appear. Arnica cream became my friend. So did grilled chicken and Alaskan salmon and lots of green leafy vegetables. Tuesday was better, and today, Wednesday, I am typing for the first time in ten days – while standing – stretching out my bruised leg.
The panic is gone. I realize I had simply fallen, perhaps from my fever, perhaps because I had not eaten or perhaps, to quote my TCM doctor, sometimes “Shit happens.”
TCM encompasses many different practices, and truly, I have only experienced acupuncture, cupping herbal therapy and dietary therapy. Google will tell you that TCM also includes “moxibustion (burning an herb above the skin to apply heat to acupuncture points), tui na (Chinese therapeutic massage) and tai chi and qi gong (practices that combine specific movements or postures, coordinated breathing, and mental focus).”
Here’s what I know: I am truly blessed to have the TCM support team that I have. I also know that Traditional Chinese Medicine is not simple. It’s an ongoing progress – and that takes a total mental commitment. While eating the right foods, taking herbs and doing what one should do to stay healthy is one component, there is also a philosophical aspect to TCM.
TCM allows us to accept that as humans, our bodies may falter and that there will be days of discomfort. There will be days – and some nights – of fears. Healthy living is an ongoing process; a healthy lifestyle is evolutionary, not fixed. TCM is evolutionary – perhaps the reason it has been around for thousands of years.
Acupuncture and TCM have indeed changed my life, but perhaps the most important lessons TCM taught me was these past 10 days are these: I can get lost – and I can get help to get back on track. Sometimes, I need to remind myself that I am in control of my life and my health and, indeed knowledge is power. Sometimes, I need to ask for help. Asking for help is not a weakness; it does not make me weak or stupid or a disappointment to others.
I just have to ask the right people for help when I get lost.
In today’s healthcare world, caring, compassionate TCM Doctors are the best GPS system a person can have.
- Google / WebMd / Wikipedia