Over the past year, I have seen my life as I knew it fall apart thanks to the physical devastation of rheumatoid arthritis. This disease, which many metaphysical teachers connect to harsh self-criticism, has turned my own immune system against my joints. My ankles, knees, wrists, and hands are chronically inflamed, swollen, and painful. On top of this, I have joint deformities and limited mobility.
When I was diagnosed, I was a practicing Reiki master and doe-eyed follower of 70s health icons who extolled fasting, raw juices, and simple living as the path to cure any disease. My prayers advised me to attempt natural treatment, and I pursued my healing fervently on all levels. I have worked with acupuncture, homeopathy, supplements, diet, massage, psychics, Bowen therapy, deep meditation, and many more modalities on my quest for healing.
Something I am doing must be working, because my pain has diminished and my mobility has improved in my upper extremities. Still, I have encountered a lot of “healing mishaps” from various individuals and practitioners along the way. These people have shown me how important our words are, especially when talking to a person who is dealing with physical health challenges.
Some background information: I investigated stories from people who had helped their disease by changing their diet. Apparently, many autoimmune disorders are caused by a leaky gut that allows food particles to sneak into the blood, where they are attacked as foreign invaders. I immediately had ALCAT allergy testing done. The test identified many common vegetables, fruits, grains, meats, fish, and herbs as allergens, and I cut them out of my diet.
This radical shift in eating habits was extremely difficult to manage, especially since my physical ability was rapidly declining to the extent I would need to use the grocery cart as a walker so that I could complete my shopping trips. My body was constantly in pain from head to toe, and I was still trying to maintain a job and pursue a graduate degree while living far away from my family.
Healing Mishap #1: Blame It On Karma
In the midst of this, I went to see Amma, the so-called hugging saint, who gives blessings to her many devotees through hugs. I always love the spiritual energy at the event and find it very uplifting, but this year I could not stop crying because everything hurt and nothing seemed to be helping. One woman, dressed in the standard white Indian-style garb and scarf spackled with some om signs, noticed I was walking slowly and asked what was wrong. I told her I had rheumatoid arthritis, and she immediately suggested that I try echinacea. I told her that I was allergic to echinacea, and she looked at me, smiled, and said almost jovially, “Darn that karma!” before walking off.
This completely devastated me, and I spent the rest of my time at Amma’s event trying not to be completely pissed off at that completely callous, unfeeling woman. I could not understand how she could say that to me or anyone. Even if my condition is karmic, it is completely rude to throw a comment like that at someone who is clearly suffering quite a bit. I stewed over her ability to walk off quickly and her need to disguise herself as an Indian woman to prove her spiritual worth. I chalked it up to experience and told myself I would never tell anyone that their suffering is their own fault because of karma. This was healing mishap number one.
Healing Mishap #2: One Session Didn’t Heal You?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that stays with you for life. if you are lucky, however, it can go into remission so that you no longer experience the debilitating symptoms. Attempting to treat the disease with dietary changes can take a year or more to see any clear progress. So, it is understandably frustrating to try to heal the disease. As much as I wish I could snap my fingers and make it all go away, it is still with me despite my best efforts to approach healing on every level. I have faith that God is helping me to be healthy, and I also (sort of) have acceptance that health might take a different form for me in this lifetime.
For a while, I went to a community acupuncture clinic hoping that the acupuncture would help me out. I would park as close as possible to the door and bumble in, dragging along feet that felt heavy as rocks with pain shooting up and down my legs with each step. It was worth it because acupuncture was always a peaceful experience and would help lift my mood. One time, though, a new practitioner worked on me. After the session, it took me a minute to get my shoes and get ready to stand up. He looked at me and said, “What? You are still having problems after I treated you?”
Those words really affected me. I had not expected a miracle from one acupuncture session, though I was hoping that it would help manage my symptoms and possibly even heal the root cause. I had been doing everything I could to help myself feel better and had begun to realize that it was a slow path.
Hearing his disbelief made me want to cry, as all the shame I felt for not being able to heal my disease suddenly rose up in my consciousness. I felt like I had messed up because the acupuncture session didn’t Immediately achieve radical transformation. It seemed like there must be something wrong with me as a healer and perhaps even as a person. I stopped going to acupuncture for several months because of what he said and potentially missed out on an effective therapy that could’ve helped over time. When I did go back, I made sure to avoid him and told another practitioner how it made me feel. She chalked it up to his ego…
Healing Mishap #3: Crab Mentality
I studied with a shaman once who told a story about crabs in a bucket. When one is about to escape, all the other ones will pull it down so that it falls back into the bucket and no one gets out. He said that humans are a lot like those crabs. At the time, it was just a story, but now it’s a lot closer to reality for me. I’ve had many people who are supportive and I’m very grateful for all of that support. But just one harsh word, one doubt about my progress has been enough to topple me in my delicate condition, and I have had loved ones tear me down when I felt elated for rising up.
Most remarkably, I visited a Bowen therapist and found I was able to ride my bike for the first time in several months. Excited and filled with joy, I called a friend to celebrate the improvement in my condition. But rather than rejoice with me, she began criticizing me and basically expressed that what I’d done would never work and I needed to be seeing a doctor. That was the last time I was able to ride my bike. My physical condition went downhill after that, and I even began sabotaging myself by eating things that I knew I was allergic to. It was like I needed to prove my friend right and be just another crab in the bucket.
Healing Mishap #4: When Healers Attack
Most recently, a healing teacher whom I trusted turned against me and caused another physical decline. Although I had concerns about the quality of her energy work, she requested that I visit and I decided it would be okay as long as I had a lot of spiritual protection. I hoped she wouldn’t try to do any hands-on healing, but as things unfolded, that is what she wanted to do, and it seemed like it might work so I agreed.
Although my time with her was inspiring because she supported the vision of me where I was fully recovered, I was not sure that the energy work itself had done anything other than make me feel inexplicably pissed at my boyfriend. I still had a sharp pain radiating from my foot, and I noticed that I would get incredibly emotional when the pain was triggered. I began investigating links between pain and emotions and discovered the website for a psychic healer.
This gifted woman immediately uncovered the fears that were locked in my foot and did energy work to release those fears. The next day, the pain was completely gone. This was pain that had been so excruciating that I had not been able to walk and needed to use crutches. I was so incredibly grateful for her help that I posted a celebration on Facebook.
A few days later, the healing teacher called me to let me know that her spiritual master had directed her to my Facebook page and that she saw that I was working with someone other than her and that I ruined things because my spiritual masters actually needed me to be in pain as part of their plan and I needed her to help me connect to my spiritual masters so that I could heal and that I couldn’t work with anyone else if I was working with her and that since she had discovered that I was working with someone else, she would just go ahead and revoke all the healing that she had given me. Before she hung up, she told me I could expect to be in more pain and for my condition to get worse.
At the time, I was feeling incredible and so confident that I was healing that I kind of laughed at this seeming curse from her. Two days later, I did feel notably worse, and now I had to wonder whether it was because of her, because of the incoming storm, or if it was something totally unrelated. I think it was a combination of many factors, but I know that her vengeful response triggered the subconscious aspects of myself that are not in full line with healing and probably activated some deeper wounds so that yet again, the crab stayed in the bucket.
Your Words Can Hurt Or Heal
I write this not to send out a bitter rant, but rather to emphasize the importance of being truly supportive to anyone you know who is working on their personal healing. Even if someone seems strong and certain, if they are in pain and suffering, they need your help (and really, who isn’t in pain or suffering on some level?). One harsh word can derail their efforts, and you may need to think twice about how you speak to anyone you know who is healing. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of needing to pull others down, but do help others to rise up and know that as they rise, you rise as well.