What follows is the last part of Carol’s story about her involvement with The Way International and her journey out of it. I thought it would be interesting for readers to read the story of someone who journeyed out of a non-orthodox Christian religion. I hope you have enjoyed reading Carol’s story. (though it is hard to read this last post and say the word “enjoy.”)
In the summer of 2005, one of my counselors asked if I would write my health story to be included in a book. She asked a few of her clients this same request. She had specific topics she wanted covered…and thus the content of the following narrative, a rendition of what I submitted for the book.
It took me about nine months to write the narrative. At the time, varying factors made it an arduous tasks.
In the midst of writing it, I made the life-changing decision to exit The Way International to which I’d been a loyal follower for 28 years. I had gotten deeply involved with The Way in 1977 at the age of 18.
During my fourth year of Way loyalty, at age 22, I developed asthma and other symptoms of an over-responsive immune system. These symptoms worsened during subsequent years and continued for the following seventeen years. At the age of 41, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II, a diagnosis which was later questioned with evidence that a more accurate diagnosis would be PTSD or C-PTSD.
In 1998 during my twenty-first year of Way loyalty, at 39 years old, out of desperation, I began to journal. In 2005, seven years and over a dozen journals later, I left The Way; I literally wrote my way out. I had allowed myself to begin to understand that certain Way doctrines had played a major role in my emotional suppression which manifested as chronic illness.
The Way teaches a health and wealth gospel.
Seeking Life Along The Way: III John 2 ?
(Addendum to Parts 1 through 4)
[Originally penned in 2005, with later adaptations.]
At 46 years old I sat across from my counselor. She looked in my eyes and stated, “Carol, I want you to start thinking like a well person.”
The statement stunned me. I felt nebulously lost within it having no concept of what her words meant. Over the next few days I rolled the statement over and over in my head and heart. The ensuing story is part of the journey endeavoring to discover what it means to think like a well person.
I choose the 39th year of my life as the threshold for the following meandering, a snippet of my journey. It was in that year that I began to submerge myself in ink and page, writing my way toward wellness. Journaling changed my course from death to life, from despair to hope.
At 39 years old I was married with two children, ages 8 and 10. For the last 17 years I had suffered with severe asthma; numerous bouts of pneumonia; multiple sinus surgeries; environmental, chemical, food, and inhalant allergies; hives, welts, and various skin disorders; systemic candida; depression; anxiety; mood swings; chronic fatigue; body aches; and a myriad of other symptoms that go with an over-responsive and depleted immune system. I had been pumped with intravenous drugs, swallowed or inhaled a host of pharmaceuticals (including 1000′s of doses of steroids), been pricked with needles 100′s (if not 1000′s) of times for various reasons, and received a myriad of allergy antigens. Alongside with conventional treatments, I had utilized alternative therapies including homeopathy, oral and intravenous vitamin/mineral supplementation, strict dietary protocols, acupuncture, herbs, bodywork, and some psychological counseling.
Exhaustion and depression were constant companions. I was caught in a sticky, mucous-coated, stagnant, thickened, stringy web that felt like it morphed in every tissue and cell beneath my skin. I felt trapped in my own body. I craved to breathe freely. I thirsted for fluid energy and to move without pain. I dreamed of running like a deer, graceful and free through the woods. I hungered for freedom.
I often felt like a complete failure as a believer, as a mother, as a person. Shame coursed through my veins. My suicide plan was foolproof, but I couldn’t leave my children with the legacy that their mother had committed suicide. My children were my saving grace, my reason to keep drawing one more breath, to keep trying.
Life was not always dreary; I had stretches of hope, using affirmations to convince myself of improvement. Yet now my hope was depleted; it was time to quit hoping. I had clung to a belief that, according to the scriptures, God’s will for me was complete health. It was time to give up the dream that I could actually get well; death seemed the only alternative for release. Instead of a pistol for death, I chose a pen and began to write.
Emotions crystallized into words upon the page detailing the self loathing, the asthma attacks, the pain that racked my body, the exhaustion, the anger, the murky darkness of it all. I felt such deep, deep shame and self-hatred. Day after day I filled the pages; I held nothing back. I poured it all onto paper, including dreams and hopes. I wrote because I had to; I did not know what else to do. I never imagined that by putting pen to parchment my circumstances would begin to change, but they did in a most powerful way.
Within a few months of starting to journal I was hospitalized yet again (October, 1998) and connected with a doctor that discovered I was suffering with mercury toxicity, a typical cause for immune dysfunction. In January, 1999, I was again hospitalized and connected with a different doctor who confirmed the mercury toxicity. That same month I began an intense two-year detox regimen which included oral chelation therapy, intravenous and oral vitamin and mineral therapy, hydrocolon therapy, low heat saunas, and coffee enemas. I continued to journal profusely and began to re-educate myself on healing; I began to have hope again. My doctors believed I could gain wellness. Unknown to me at that time, I suffered my last severe episode of asthma attacks.
After six months from the last asthma attacks, I was able to start addressing more definitively other symptoms: fatigue, mood swings, hives that crawled on and under my skin. Aches and pains surfaced all over my body, like chained prisoners desperately crying for release. Yet I was hopeful; the asthma was curbed. I had new treatments to try. Maybe my body could get well; if I could learn better how to listen to what it was trying to communicate to me, maybe I could allow it to heal itself. Maybe, maybe, just maybe….
The next regimen on my agenda was a treatment known as Enzyme Potentiated Desensitization (EPD), a complex treatment that approached the reprogramming of miscoded T-helper cells. Every eight weeks, for 1-1/2 years, I would receive an injection containing over 200 antigens mixed with an enzyme to penetrate the miscoded cells; go into quarantine for five days; and eat only venison, tapioca flour with water, and sweet potatoes. My health improved with EPD: a “sore spot” in my left lung that had been present since my last bout with pneumonia cleared; some skin conditions improved; my sense of smell was restored; allergic reactions and energy improved. My hope was growing. Then the FDA abruptly stopped the use of EPD in the United States. My sense of smell was stolen again and some allergy troubles resurfaced. But I remained hopeful that other doors would open for me.
With the improvements and hope, I pulled out books I had previously read regarding healing and reviewed them. I was led to new books and devoured them. During this time I was diagnosed with a herniated disc, confirmed with an MRI. A friend loaned me the book, Healing Back Pain, by Dr. John Sarno. Within six weeks of applying what I had read, the back spasms were 80% better; after five months they were completely gone.
Due to the improvements gained from applying what I had learned via Sarno’s work, I was prompted to delve more deeply into the relationship between my emotions and my physical illnesses, the effects of the dance between the two. How many of my illnesses and symptoms could be due to suppressed emotions? Was I honest enough to be able to open up and see what really lurked in my soul? In late 2000, I began weekly psychological counseling. This soul excavation was a gruesome task at times, but in the end was more than worth the effort.
Over the following four years, as I delved deeper into this excavation, I developed a support network and program which consisted of journaling, bibliotherapy, and relationships with a handful of people and professionals that I could call upon. The support network was vital for me. I grew in my ability to open up, to peek within and see the ugliness and the beauty. Of course I saw more ugliness than beauty. But I began to understand that even what I perceived as “ugly” was okay; I didn’t have to fear it. My hope grew. My life was changing.
During these four years my symptoms became less intense and then plateaued. I lived managing mood swings; hives and sneezing attacks a few times a week; and a hormone dysfunction that would manifest in severe aches, depression, and cognitive impairment at least five days per month. I continued my search for relief through conventional means (including medications for the depression), bodywork, nutrition, homeopathy, and energy medicine. I took about 50 pills a day in the form of supplements. I continued with counseling and journaling. I began to think that this was as well as I could get.
Then, in latter-2004, I was introduced to a nutritional product that had more life-changing effects. Within nine months of consuming this product my hives completely disappeared. The mood swings and debilitating hormone dysfunction were probably 85% better. I was able to get off my daily psychiatric medications. My energy was more stable. I went from feeling I was hit by an 18-wheeler at least five days a month to being hit by a bicycle a few days a month. I was beginning to taste freedom.
It was during this time, when I began to taste freedom, that my counselor stated those unforgettable words , “Carol I want you to start thinking like a well person.” My adult life had revolved around sickness – a science of schedules and charts and foods and medications and tests and treatments. This new experience of wellness was scary. Oddly I found myself wanting to break down, but couldn’t. I thought I would run free once liberated from this tyranny of entrapment. Yet, I was in new territory, unfamiliar, uncomfortable. What was I to do with myself now? It took me six to eight months to become comfortable with being “well.”
In the fall of 2005 I was well enough to make some major religious/spiritual changes; after 28 years of involvement, I chose to leave, what I had slowly come to see, was an abusive religious organization. In hindsight, I have no doubt that certain doctrines and practices of this group were a major contributor to the chronic illnesses with which I had been ensnared. Without the wellness I had been granted by 2005, I don’t know if I could have made the break from that organization; it took much resolve and energy that I didn’t have prior to 2004.
Since divorcing the organization, personal relationships that were shunned from decades past have been renewed; crevices I had sealed have been exhumed; step by step hidden bubbles have surfaced and closet doors have opened. Certain of these exposures allowed my heart a resuscitation, new life. I came face to face with neglect and abandonment issues, grief, and loss. I see with greater clarity underlying emotional causes that contributed to those decades of illness from the age of 22 until I was 46. My relationship with my husband has been restored. Music and poetry have become integral parts of my life. I have been able to tap into my heart again.
What are my maintenance practices? Decent nutrition, medications as needed, rest; movement, nature, play; mindfulness, reading, writing; music, movies, laughter; and relationships. Relationships with myself, my environment, and loved ones are the fabric of life instilling hope and encouragement, even when times look dim and dark and when it seems the sun will not rise again. When I experience physiological symptoms or tumultuous emotions I endeavor to seek self-awareness and then to listen and follow the paths that offer relief.
What does it mean to think like a well person? It means I recognize that I am significant, worthy of love, fully human, and a vital member of the human family. I am not an appliance that requires fixing; rather, I am a yearning individual with an innate need for love, acknowledgment, and to know my value.
The book, Healing Back Pain (mentioned above), prompted me to dig deeper for a specific program to help guide me in uncovering emotional causes for physical symptoms. That search led me to MindBodyMedicine.com by Dr. David Schechter. Dr. Schechter, has a specifically designed journaling, reading, and education program that enabled me to better tap into emotional causes that had prompted certain physical symptoms, thus providing healing and relief in those areas.
Addendum to the addendum
- In 2008, at age 49, I had full, left hip replacement surgery. Doctors speculate that my left hip bone degeneration was brought on by the high doses of steroids I consumed in the past – consumed to keep me breathing. That said, all in all under the circumstances, my bones are in good shape
- In 2010, I contracted MRSA, which erupted 4 different times that year.
- In 2011, I developed an “idiosyncratic serum sickness like response” to oral terbinafine.
- In May, 2013, the “serum sickness like response” diagnosis was changed to drug-induced peripheral neuropathy, specifically polyradiculitus (inflammation of the nerve roots), which has produced nerve damage in all my limbs. My body and brain and heart are still coming to terms with the nerve damage as I continue to seek answers.