I learned this, not in medical school, but as a patient.
I was a 24 year old third year medical student on rounds in the ICU, when I felt my heart begin to pound, faster and faster. I felt a lump in my throat, my chest felt tight, I couldn’t breathe, and I could hear my blood rushing in my ears. I took my pulse. It was 230 beats per minute.
The Diagnosis: Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia
The Treatment: Lay off the caffeine and keep right on seeing patients in the hospital
Nobody ever suggested that my heart might be acting up because I was being sexually harassed by the surgeon who was supposed to be my teacher. For twelve solid weeks, I had been scrubbing into surgery, while my teacher thrust a suction catheter into my hand and said, “Suck me good, Lissa. Suck me hard, Lissa.” This went on Every. Single. Day.
A year later, I was at a beachfront resort, wearing a sexy black negligee and preparing to have sex with my husband. Although I was smiling on the outside, I was cringing on the inside, because having sex felt like getting stabbed with a knife, like razor blades were slicing into my vagina and tearing me open. After sex, when I’d urinate, it felt like I was covered with cuts and taking a bath in vinegar.
The Diagnosis: Vulvar vestibulitis
The Treatment: Antihistamines, estrogen cream, antidepressants, and maybe some day surgery to cut out the diseased part of my vagina
Nobody once asked me whether my vagina might be rebelling because I had married a guy who wanted me to drop out of medical school and have babies so he could be the doctor in the family.
When I was 27 year old, my doctor noticed that my blood pressure was alarmingly high. She referred me to a cardiologist, who ordered a whole battery of tests which failed to reveal any explanation for my 180/100 blood pressure.
The Diagnosis: Chronic hypertension
The Treatment: 3 drugs that still didn’t control my blood pressure
Nobody ever suggested that my blood pressure might be high because the doctors in charge of my education expected me to work 17 hour days, even when I was sick. When I had the flu, I was throwing up and had such severe diarrhea that I assumed my teachers would send me home. But instead, they hooked me up to an IV, pumped me full of anti-nausea drugs, fitted me with a diaper, and told me to scrub into surgery. When I then passed out and dropped my instruments into the patient’s abdomen, I assumed I would finally get to go home, but instead, they put me on a gurney, took me to the recovery room, pumped me full of more fluids, and sent me back to the operating room. Not to mention that I was in the middle of a divorce and I had attended four funerals within a year.
By the time I was 31, I was remarried, this time to a veterinarian, and every time he came home from work and kissed me, my whole face would break out into hives, I’d sneeze 100 times in a row, and my eyes would turn beet red. Needless to say, we quit kissing. When he’d come from work, covered in animal hair, he’d have to strip out of his scrubs in the garage, throw his scrubs into the laundry, and jump straight into the shower before he could enter the house, much less touch me. Even still, I walked around with a tissue in my hand all day and could barely leave the house, much less go on vacation anywhere that oak trees were blooming. I was a prisoner in my own filtered, carpet-free, hypo-allergenic home, and I was still symptomatic. It got so bad, I finally went to an allergist, who poked me full of allergens and finally announced, “Congratulations Dr. Rankin! You’re not allergic to Latex!” because I was allergic to everything else she tested me for: dust, mold, food, pollen, grass, animals, air.
The Diagnosis: Chronic allergies
The Treatment: Allergy shots and three pharmaceuticals that failed to control my allergies
Nobody ever suggested that I might be allergic to my abusive husband.
I was just starting to get the hint that maybe my body was pissed off at me for how I had been living my life, when my Perfect Storm hit.
In January 2006, I gave birth to my daughter via C-section, my 16 year old dog died, my healthy young brother wound up in full blown liver failure as a side effect of the antibiotic Zithromax, and my beloved father died of a brain tumor - all within two weeks.
Then, eight months later, just when I was starting to breathe again, my husband cut two fingers off his left hand with a table saw.
They say that when your life falls apart, you either grow or you grow a tumor.
I decided in that instant I was done manifesting my emotional sickness physically, and instead of growing any more tumors, I was going to grow.
I had tried every biochemical treatment my doctors prescribed - drugs, surgeries, diet, exercise. Nothing worked. My health problems kept piling up. But after my Perfect Storm, I had a radical thought - one Louise Hay, author of You Can Heal Your Life, has been teaching for decades but that had never been introduced to me during twelve years of medical education and eight years of practice. What if the root causes of my illnesses weren’t biochemical? What if the solution to all my health problems wasn’t more medication or more surgery or even more supplements or more vegetables or less salt? What if I needed emotional/ psychological/ and spiritual treatment instead?
That’s when I decided to take my health into my own hands. A wise little voice inside of me, which I came to call my “Inner Pilot Light,” started guiding me. I asked that little voice, “What does my body need in order to heal?”
The little voice said “Stop trying to please everybody and start being Unapologetically YOU!”
Prior to that point, I was wearing masks to cover up my anger, my grief, my regrets and my resentment. I had the doctor mask, where you put on your white coat, stand up on a pedestal, play know-it-all, and pretend you’ve got it all together. I’m also a professional artist, so I had the artist mask, where you’re expected to be dark, brooding, mysterious, manic-depressive, alcoholic, and poor. I had the dutiful wife mask, where I’d make sure dinner was on the table and keep myself outfitted with enough sexy lingerie. Then you have a kid and there’s this Mommy mask you’re supposed to slip right on as if we’ve all inherited the gene that teaches us how to bake the perfect cupcake.
In my quest for love and acceptance, I had covered myself up with so many masks that I had forgotten who I was. My life was out of alignment with my truth, and my health was suffering as a consequence.
Once I stripped off the masks, I asked my Inner Pilot Light what else my body needed in order to heal, and I repeated that question every single morning and finally took action by writing The Prescription for myself.
Every single one of us suffers from some emotional sickness. What’s yours? Maybe you’ve never healed from being rejected by your mother, you’re miserable at work, you’re in an abusive marriage, you haven’t had sex in five years, you feel creatively thwarted, or you’re full of resentment against the father who molested you. You can do everything “right” with your health but if you’re still emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually sick, no amount of medication is going to make you well. You’ll never be cured until you heal your life.
I finally realized what they never taught me about in twelve years of training to become a doctor and eight years of practicing as a physician, that promoting the health of the body without encouraging people to be healthy in other aspects of their lives is an exercise in futility. Not until we realize that our bodies are mirrors of how we live our lives will we truly heal.
I believe that stripping off your masks, tapping into your Inner Pilot Light and discovering what is true for you - and then having the courage to take action - is the best medicine of all.
So many of us are walking around like I did, wearing masks to cover up our pain, our anger, our longing, our desire. We’ve forgotten who we are - and our health is suffering as a consequence.
The body speaks to us when our lives are unhealthy. It begins with whispers, and if we ignore the whispers and fail to heal what’s in need of healing, the body begins to yell.
Millions of people in this world are ignoring the whispers of the body like I did for so many years. My Perfect Storm was six years ago, and since then, I’ve diagnosed the root causes of all my illnesses and continue to write The Prescription for myself. The good news is that, with the exception of half the dose of one of my blood pressure pills, I’m off all of my medications and shots and all of my symptoms are completely gone.
Is your body whispering to you? Is it yelling at you like my body did? What are your symptoms trying to tell you?
Once you diagnose the real reason your body may be breaking down, it’s time to write your own prescription. Don’t wait for your body to start yelling. Be brave enough to take action now.
Ask yourself “What does my body need in order to heal?
Would you be willing to strip off all your masks, tap into your Inner Pilot Light, and be unapologetically YOU if you knew it was the key to curing your illness?
I dare you.
You just might make your body ripe for miracles.
With love and wishes for whole healing,
Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine Revolutionary, motivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.
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