Listening to Carrie Fisher’s encapsulated biography, “Wishful Drinking” on audiobook recently, I thought about how the Baby Boomers, and their Greatest Generation parents, had no choices when it came to depression, mental illness, homosexuality, or pain and grief.
Oh, I take that back – they could choose to keep quiet or get electroshock therapy.
Now, we find ourselves in a time where many, in the West at least, are presented with a lot more choices. We craved opportunities for growth, and they have been provided. Problem is, sometimes there are too many from which to choose, mucking up our ability to know where exactly to begin.
Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired
Me? I got sick somewhere around 23. Well, it wasn’t “sick” in the traditional sense. Or maybe it was. All I knew was that it started with a sore throat, one that lasted. And lasted. It became an all day, every day occurrence of phlegm sitting deep around my Adam’s apple, with me attempting to clear it out.
Not that big of a deal, I initially thought. I had quit smoking several months before, and I thought my body was clearing itself out. I had also just become a full-fledged vegan after being vegetarian for a couple of years, and just knew from all my vegan propaganda reading that my system was just experiencing cleansing run-off, Herxheimer’s reaction, or whatever you would like to call it. This would all be over soon, and I’d be a fantastically healthy, gorgeous, well-adjusted person once I was, you know, detoxified.
Yep. Some serious expectation I had going on there.
It took me 5 long years of chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia/candida symptoms to realize being vegan wasn’t going to help me, and neither was just food or for that matter, electroshock therapy. I’m sure I would have tried it somewhere in there had it been readily available, maybe sandwiched in-between purchasing the $600 air filter that would remove all impurities from my immediate surroundings and the zapping device meant to kill all the bad little buggies supposedly wrecking havoc on my system.
I also tried taking about every supplement on the market, colonics and enemas galor, NAET allergy elimination, oxygen therapy and oh…the list goes on.
I’m not trying to imply that any of these health systems are bunk; in fact, I have no doubt that some, if not all, helped me in some way. But I was missing the key component to true health: spirituality. I don’t generally put spirituality above the other important aspects of health, such as the physical and the emotional, but in my case, I do.
Because I was looking everywhere but there.
The Missing Piece
To me, spirituality meant Christianity. Or Judaism. Or even Buddhism, Taoism. Some sort of -anity or -ism. I had been raised Catholic, spent eight years in schools that had “Religion” as one of their core classes, attended Sunday morning rituals that taught me that Christ and the Holy Spirit were good and sex and Madonna were evil. My youth had been spent as the consummate “good girl,” undoubtedly due to the repercussions of wrath and fiery hell that awaited me otherwise. No, I was done with “spirituality,” “religion,” or whatever you wanted to call it.
Yet it was hard to ignore the fact that every single book I read during my Holistic Health education program said a spiritual practice was necessary for true health. I’d sigh, and try to come up with how I was spiritual, dammit. After all, I was vegan, connected to animals and the Earth, working in social justice and handing over money most of the time when people asked, AND living by the word of do unto others (as much as possible).
And sure, these play into spirituality. But they ain’t the whole enchilada by far. I wasn’t living, but rather staying in the mindset of the restricted physical–when my diet was perfect, so would be my health. I was dedicated to the idea of having strength through yoga and dance, getting and staying clean through detoxes and no-sugar diets and…well, no, that was pretty much it.
OK, I knew my emotions were all-out-of-whack, but that was also because of my diet, of course. They would settle down too.
But the more I attached to diet and exercise as the answer, the worse I got. I actually began to experience disordered eating and body hatred in a way I had never felt before, all due to this idea of perfection. The Perfect vegan diet. The Perfect Raw diet. Perfect Atkins. Perfect yoga. Perfect meditation.
Perfect-anxiety-breakdown is more like it.
Only when I began to slowly let the idea of spirituality be something else, something simpler than “religions that kill in order to impart their messages,” or “just another way to oppress the hell out of women,” did things begin to turn around. I had been stuck in the doing, which didn’t allow for any receiving.
In a way, I had traded the restrictions of Catholicism for another religion – “perfect” eating. Our society needles, prods, and desperately presses for hardness – on others, on ourselves. I fell deep into the American way of finding something to subscribe to instead of sitting in the questions and wonder.
That hint of a spiritual sense did grow into something larger, and yes, even into an “organized” religion of sorts. But I refuse to tell most people what it is; thankfully, it is one that can be practiced on its own and does not press for evangelical conversion tactics.
But the basics are the sprouting seeds of every spiritual or religious practice:
- we are all connected – in fact, everything that we see, feel, hear, sense, and don’t sense, is connected;
- treat others the way you want to be treated;
- understand that there are karmic considerations to all decisions made, whether in this life, the next, or for those who only believe in one life, where your soul ends up after your body is done;
- and share love and goodness as much as possible.
Towards a Holistic Health
My health was then allowed not only to turn around, but suddenly, there was the possibility of it beginning to thrive. More, in fact, than it ever had in my life. This new-found spiritual place somewhere deep inside of this ole’ body gave me a stable ground from which to push ahead in my career, my body acceptance, and my love life–all places I had struggled with for longer then I care to count.
This is not to say everything was magically OK, that I never struggle with these areas at this point, but the occasional struggle has a different flavor to it now. It has the flavor of something outside of me, that it is not mine. The greatest gift you can give to your health is the knowledge that those struggles aren’t yours – they are simply life’s actions and lessons that are getting you closer and closer to well, you.
And then you can kick those electroshock therapy sessions to the curb.
About the Author:
Christine Garvin, MA, is a certified Nutrition Educator and holds a MA in Holistic Health Education. She is the founder/editor of Living Holistically…with a sense of humor, and co-editor of Brave New Traveler. When she is not out traveling the world, she is busy writing, doing yoga, and performing hip-hop. Right now, the road is her home, which thankfully gives her a lot to write about.