Posts Tagged ‘healing’

How I Got My Health Back After Being Diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

If you have read more than a few of my previous posts, you know that I am a strong believer in the benefits and the importance of self compassion. I have seen many people experience miracles from using it, and have experienced some myself.

But in this post, I’m going to share with you the thing I did after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease (in 1996) that had the biggest effect on reducing my symptoms – and it wasn’t giving myself compassion. It was deciding to do whatever it took, for as long as it took, to get my health back. In effect, I vowed to myself that I would either get my health back, or I would die trying.

To honor that promise, I read everything I could find about standard and alternative treatments. And when my doctor told me he needed me to diligently follow his orders, I fired him.

I needed a doctor who was willing to answer all my questions, listen to my concerns, and give me thoughtful feedback about my ideas about which standard and alternative treatments would work best. I needed a partner, rather then someone who just gave me orders and expected me to mindlessly follow them.

Now I’m not saying you should follow my example and decide not to always follow your doctor’s orders.

I had a hard time finding a satisfactory doctor. So I wrote a letter describing the qualities I was looking for, and also the kind of doctor I wanted to avoid, and I sent the letter, along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope, to the 35 gastroenterologists within a 25 mile radius of where I lived.

Of those 35 doctors, only two responded. But the one I chose was great.

My journey to recover my health was not easy. I had to deal with many very difficult challenges, including feeling sometimes like I would be better off dead. But after three years, I got my health back.

I’ve had some moderate setbacks since then, but have overcome each one, and have now been symptom free without drugs for over five years.

In spite of my success, in one way I have been a rather slow learner: It took me years to realize I could use this same strategy of deciding to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes, to achieve other important goals in my life.

But I’m glad to say that I have learned and am making use of that valuable lesson. And if your goal is better health, a more rewarding career, or more satisfying relationships with the important people in your life, I invite and encourage you to give the strategy I’ve shared with you a try.

A Death in the Family

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

My brother Ben died last week. I miss him a lot and always will. He was a wonderful man, husband, brother, and human being. You can read more about him in the tribute on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bennett.a.robinson.

I’m writing about his death for two reasons. The first is because I am grieving and am trying to come to terms with and accept the reality that I will never see him again. And writing about it, my memories, and my brother’s (mostly) wonderful qualities, will help me heal.

The second reason I’m writing about Ben’s death is because I think it may have been preventable. And while nothing will bring him back, I want future possible deaths that can be prevented to be.

Here are a couple of my memories: Ben was five years younger than me, so he had five less years than I’ve had to learn the lessons life gives us. So it seems kind of ironic that I, as someone whose job and career is to give people ideas and suggestions to help them live better lives, would call him for help and advice. But I did, more times than I can count. And the counsel I received was always compassionate and wise.

One more thing I want to share about Ben is that he was a gifted french horn player. While I’ve heard him many times, one time that was especially memorable was last year when my girlfriend and I stopped by to visit on our way home from a trip out of state. We were treated to our own live performance, and I can truthfully say that what came out of Ben’s horn was richer and more heartfelt than anything I have heard from any other french horn player’s horn before or since.

I’m grateful for those and many more memories, but of course I wish Ben hadn’t died. I’ll probably never know for sure, but I think his death could have been prevented. I’ll describe how by sharing my own story.

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1996. When the treatments my doctor gave me didn’t help, I decided to learn as much as I could about my illness and all the standard and alternative treatments people were using to treat it. I made a vow to myself that I was going to do everything I could to get well, and do so for as long as necessary.

While doing my research, I was well aware that on the internet people can say anything – and some do. So I got corroboration before trying anything. I ended up trying many standard and alternative treatments, and even devised one of my own.

In effect, I became the head of my medical team of doctors and other practitioners. And after three years, my Crohn’s went into remission. With the exception of a few relapses (the last one was four years ago), it has stayed in remission without drugs ever since.

Ben didn’t do that. He got the best medical care he could for his atrial fibrillation and his lung disease, and followed his doctors orders religiously for years. His health would get better, but then get worse than it was before, but he continued to follow orders.

He also didn’t give his heart or his lungs – or himself – the kind of compassion I have written about in many of my posts. And he died, much too soon.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying you should disregard what your doctor says. He or she has studied and learned a lot about diagnosing and treating illnesses.

But doctors are human and they make mistakes, and in my experience they often ignore potentially helpful alternative treatments.

So what I am saying is do your own research, and ask questions about the treatments you’re given and also about alternative treatments you think may be helpful.

I don’t know if the holistic approach to treating illnesses and healing the body that I have briefly described here would have prevented my brother’s death. But I have seen far too many positive results for me not to strongly encourage others who are struggling with illnesses to try it themselves.

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To learn about other effective ways to heal your pain, I invite you to sign up for my free E-Course: Learn How to Raise Your Energy – and Your Spirit – in Just 21 Days.

Love Heals

Monday, June 30th, 2014

I’m sure you have read or heard it said that love is the greatest healer of all. But often when we need it the most, that healing love can be hard to find. In this post, I’m going to share a very personal story about how I found a way access the healing power of love, with the hope and the intention that it helps you find a way to access it for yourself.

What happened was that after sharing some special intimate time with my girlfriend, I was half awake and half asleep, and she was gently and lovingly touching me. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, I was enjoying her touch a lot.

But what happened next was both unexpected and healing. I’m not sure how, but I went into the same state I was in many, many years ago when I was lovingly touched by my mother, and I stayed there. In it I felt very vulnerable, and also very loved and cared for.

While I eventually came out of that state, being in it has had a lasting effect on me. Over the next 24 hours, I realized that even though I haven’t been in touch with or aware of it, I have wanted and needed that kind of love and care ever since the time that memory was formed.

The next part of my story is hard to describe, but I’ll do my best.

Getting in touch with the part of me that needed that love and care was very empowering, because I have learned that I can give it to myself. In a way, it’s like having another person, who has his own needs, inside me.

That may sound strange, but it’s a pretty good description of how it feels. It’s a part of me I wasn’t aware of before. But even though I wasn’t aware of it, I have a strong sense that a lot of the sadness and discontent I would feel about my life from time to time came from it. Also, my sense is that a lot of the procrastination I used to suffer from was due to the angst that was coming from it.

Once I started checking in with that part of me, and then giving it the love and care it wanted and needed, I found myself happier, more at peace, and more focused.

Before the experience you’ve just read about, I knew that, like you and everyone else, I needed love and care. To meet that need, I would spend time with people who loved me and cared about me. I would also do my best to give myself love and care. Unfortunately, I was not able to do that nearly as well as I wanted. But that changed dramatically after I got in touch with the part of me that had long needed so much of it.

Having learned about myself, my sense is that there are many people (maybe most people) who have parts of themselves that need lots of love and care.

If you’re one of them, I hope this story will help you identify and get in touch with that part of yourself, and give it the love and care it needs. I know that doing so can – and does – heal both emotional and physical pain.

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To learn about other effective ways to heal your pain, I invite you to sign up for my free E-Course: Learn How to Raise Your Energy – and Your Spirit – in Just 21 Days.

Is this why you have a hard time having compassion for yourself?

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

When I tell people all the reasons why they should give themselves lots of compassion, some of them do. But others don’t. They may try, and they may even think that they’re giving themselves compassion, but they aren’t.

For a long time, I have wondered how to help that second group of people so they too can experience the peace and the healing that results from self-compassion.

One answer became clear to me recently when a good friend, whom I’ll call Jane, finally understood how to give herself compassion, three years after I saw that she would benefit a lot from doing that because of the illness she was dealing with, and told her so.

She told me how helpful truly giving herself compassion was and how good it felt to finally be able to do that. And in response to my question about why learning to do that took so long, she had two answers. The first was that she thought she actually was giving herself compassion, even though I told her many times that it didn’t look like it to me.

Her second answer touched me very deeply, and I will never forget it. I knew that her father had died recently, that she loved him very much, and that she had a very complicated relationship with him. But while she knew he had punished her a lot when she was growing up, she was not able to admit to herself that she had been very badly abused. What had happened to her was that until she was 17, her father had beaten her every day after he came home from work for her transgressions that day, no matter how minor.

While she wasn’t consciously aware of it, admitting that she needed and deserved compassion would have been admitting that her father had done that to her. It took her three years and her father’s death to be able to do that.

Once she did, she was able to give herself compassion – and her tears started to come and she began healing.

Having worked with people with chronic illness for more than 10 years, I have found that like Jane, many had been abused. Maybe you were too. But whether you were or not, if you are finding it hard to give yourself compassion, I strongly encourage you to look and see if things happened to you in the past that you haven’t fully let in and acknowledged. And if you find them, do acknowledge and let them in, so that you too can start giving yourself the compassion you need and deserve.

One final reminder: giving yourself compassion is not a one-time event; it is an ongoing practice, I encourage you to continue for the rest of your life.

What’s so great about situation-specific self-compassion?

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

What’s so great about situation-specific self-compassion is that it is an extremely powerful tool for healing. In this post, I’m going to tell you what it is and how it differs from “normal” self-compassion.

Over the past few months, I recommended to several clients and others who have been going through very difficult challenges that they give themselves self-compassion, and they responded that they were doing that. But they weren’t- at least not in the way I meant.

From the descriptions they gave me and from their answers to my subsequent questions, I realized that the self-compassion they were giving themselves was broad and general, and was like the compassion a person would feel for an acquaintance or a distant relative who was going through a hard time. Maybe it was somewhat stronger than that. But it wasn’t self-compassion that was specifically about and for the challenge they were going through at the time. And because it wasn’t, it wasn’t very healing for them.

So I told them about situation specific self-compassion. And I told them that a good way to give it to themselves would be to imagine that someone they loved and cared about a lot was experiencing the same difficult challenges they were, and think about how they would feel knowing that.

They all said that they would feel lots of compassion for the person, and empathy too, and that they would want to comfort them. Some said that they would also feel sad or hurt because of what the person they loved and cared about was going through. That often happens, and it’s the main reason that it’s often hard for us to give ourselves situation-specific self-compassion.

Once they were in touch with the compassion and other feelings they would have for someone they loved and cared about who was going through the same challenge they were, I asked them to have the same feelings for and give the same compassion to themselves. Doing that didn’t make their difficult challenges go away, but it went a long way toward healing the emotional pain they were feeling.

I know it can do the same for you.

A New Golden Rule

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

My New Golden Rule will help you have a better life when you have a chronic illness. But before I tell you what it is, I want to say that if you aren’t following my frequent suggestion of giving compassion to any parts of your body that are hurting, I strongly encourage you to do that, because it works! Here are just two of many examples I know about:

1) A colleague of mine has a neighbor of who had been in a lot of pain for several weeks after her recent knee surgery. My colleague told her about my suggestion, and she began using it and experienced a remarkable and complete healing.

2) Over three recent days, my knee became more and more painful and swollen. I will never know for sure why, but the gradual onset of the pain matches what happens when the meniscus is torn. So I think I probably tore it on one of my occasional runs. It got so bad that I couldn’t sleep, and bending and straightening it was excruciating (which made walking very difficult and climbing stairs all but impossible). I went to the doctor, who prescribed a month’s worth of Advil and said I might need surgery.

I got home from the doctor’s office, took the first pill, and my knee started to heal. It continued to heal until, three days later, it had recovered completely (and I didn’t need any more pills after that first one). As I said, I don’t know what happened to my knee. But I have no doubt that all the love and compassion I gave it since the pain and swelling began were what enabled it to heal so quickly.

As I wrote at the beginning of this post, I strongly encourage you to give any parts of your body that are hurting lots and lots of compassion. And I hope you will share your results in a comment.

Now here is My New Golden Rule. It’s a modification of the Golden Rule, which as you probably know is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule comes from the New Testament of the Bible, but all major religions have similar maxims because the principle they are based on is so basic and important.

The New Golden Rule, which if you follow it will help you have a better life when you have a chronic illness, is this: “Do unto yourself as you would have others do unto you.”

The reason for the modification is this: We know we’re supposed to treat others well (and I’m sure you do your best to do that), and we always want others to treat us well, but many of us often forget to treat ourselves well.

So remember to treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. I know you will have a better and better life the more you do.

For other ideas for living well when you have a chronic illness, sign up for my free report:

The Healing Power of Self-Compassion

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Of all the strategies I teach my clients to help them live well when they have a chronic illness, the one I teach the most is compassion. I teach it and reinforce it by having them wear their watch on the non-normal wrist and put notes on their bathroom mirror as reminders, and by assigning them the task of trying to give themselves an overdose of compassion every day – even though it’s not possible to do that! The reason I focus so much on that strategy is because I have found that it is one of the most healing things people can do.

I know, both from my own experience and from the experiences of my clients, that self-compassion can heal the emotional pain that almost always comes with having a chronic illness. Not only that, but I have seen people stop both migraines and herpes outbreaks by giving themselves compassion.  And while I can’t prove it, I’m convinced that giving myself compassion is the main reason I’m able to keep my Crohn’s disease in remission without drugs*.

But I’ve learned that self-compassion can do more than heal the emotional pain we’re feeling today; it can also heal the emotional pain we suffered when bad or traumatic things happened to us years ago.

Maybe you’re wondering how a person would use compassion that way or why they would want to. I’ll answer both questions with a true story of a client I had not too long ago. I had a sense that some emotional pain from Maria’s past was affecting her life, so in our telephone session I asked her some probing questions. I found out she was given up for adoption and also that her country went through a revolution when she was a child. It was clear that both of those events were scary and traumatic. I had her visualize the seven-year-old that she was, and then I had her compassionately comfort that little girl. When she did that, we both simultaneously felt a palpable healing energy. And the next time we talked, she told me that her insomnia of eight years had disappeared.

So how do you know when it would be helpful to heal emotional pain from the past? I can’t answer that question. However, I can tell you that my clients have benefited from 1) revisiting the following: car crashes, being diagnosed with an illness or an emotional illness, the death of a family member, getting fired or laid off from a job, the ending of a relationship, and similar events; and then 2)  giving the person they were at that time as much compassion as they could.

I have done the same thing for many similar events in my own life, and I know that doing so was healing because my memories of those events don’t have the same painful feelings associated with them they used to.

For both myself and my clients, self-compassion has helped us to heal a lot of our emotional pain. It can do the same for you.

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*As I recently wrote, I had flare of my Crohn’s disease at the beginning of March, but it ended on its own a week later, without my taking any drugs.

When you get angry, be gentle and understanding – with yourself

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

I decided on today’s topic because of a conversation that took place recently in one of the online support groups I belong to. A woman I’ll call Carolyn wrote about her long, ongoing struggle to try to get disability insurance. She said she was very angry because she was being treated unfairly by the disability insurance system, especially compared to a relative of hers who was getting a much quicker response.

I don’t know Carolyn, but from what she shared about herself it seems clear to me that she qualifies for and should get disability insurance. I can easily empathize with her, not only because of her struggle to get the insurance, but because she lives in constant pain and shouldn’t have to go through all that additional stress. The fact that it’s well known that valid claims are routinely denied, especially the first time they are made, doesn’t make Carolyn’s-or anyone’s–experience of trying to get disability insurance any less trying and stressful.

Carolyn was denied not just once, but twice, so her anger is completely understandable and very probably justifiable as well. But I hope she follows it up with a lot of gentleness and compassion for herself (and I let her know that). When we get angry when we feel like we’ve been treated badly or unfairly, we often don’t realize that underneath that anger is a lot of emotional pain. And just as we give those we care about compassion when they have been emotionally hurt and are in emotional pain, we can do the same for ourselves.

Another person in the group told Carolyn to try to stay positive. That sounds good, but when we’re going through a hard time, neither I nor people I’ve talked about it with have been able do that for very long. And not only is giving ourselves compassion is much easier to do than staying positive, but it heals the emotional pain rather than just covering it up.

Another way to benefit if you’re in an online support group

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

In this post, I’m going to describe a very different way to benefit from participating in on online support group. But first I will say a few words about them for those who have never joined one.

They are great places to connect with others who understand what it’s like to have your illness because they have it too. And the groups are also a great place to support others and receive support in return.

To find support group, go to yahoogroups.com or groups.google.com. There are literally thousands of them.

If you are someone who already participates in online support groups, here is a new and very different way to benefit from them: go through your group’s message archives and read your old posts. Read them not as you normally read things you’ve written, but the way you would if someone else wrote them.

Read them with empathy and compassion. Let yourself be deeply touched by the writer’s words and try to imagine what he or she was feeling, when he or she wrote each post.

If you were hurting a lot physically or emotionally when you wrote those posts, reading them may bring tears to your eyes. If they do, give yourself a big, comforting and compassionate hug, and keep reading.

From my own and my clients’ experience, I know you will find reading your old posts with empathy and compassion to be very healing – healing that you deserve!

I’m So Sorry

Friday, August 14th, 2009

In this post I want to tell you three of the most important words I’ve learned in my life. Those words are: I’m so sorry.

You may be wondering or guessing why I think those words are so important. The answer  is that I have learned how to live very well in spite of having a serious chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) and learning about those words – and how to use them – has been a major reason why. They helped me when my symptoms were severe, and I’m convinced that they’ve helped me keep my illness in remission. Also, like many others with a chronic illness, I’ve suffered from depression, and those words have been miraculous in helping me heal from it. And when I’ve taught my clients and others with chronic illnesses those words, and then told them how to use them, they’ve helped them greatly too.

So how did those words do that, and how can they help you? After all, they are very ordinary words and you’ve probably said them many times. So had I. But they didn’t help me with my illness until I discovered who to say them to, and how to say them.

What I discovered, after struggling for many years, was that the person I needed to say them to was me. While I had family and friends who cared about me deeply, that wasn’t enough. I saw that there was a part of me that needed to know that I cared about him, that I was really sorry he was in so much physical and emotional pain, and that I wanted the best for him.

The other part of my discovery process was really seeing, for the first time, the tremendous amount of physical and emotional pain I was in. I had become pretty good at minimizing and even denying it, and a part of me wanted to keep doing that. But the pain became so great and had such a big negative impact on my life that I knew that continuing to deny it was no longer an option.

So I told the person in the mirror how sorry I was that he had so much pain and I hugged myself several times a day. And over time, the emotional pain lifted and my Crohn’s disease went into remission.

Let me say here that my discovery about those three words was not a magic cure for my illness. I did extensive research into standard and alternative medicine from the day I was diagnosed. I found the treatments that worked best for me and benefited greatly from them. But I truly believe that my discovery of how to use those three words is what has made it possible for me to keep my illness in remission without drugs.

So what about you? Are you trying to minimize or deny your physical or emotional pain? Is there a part of you that is yearning to hear the words I’m so sorry from you? If there is, I hope you’ll say them with lots of kindness, compassion, and understanding, and give yourself lots and lots of hugs. And after you’ve done those things for a couple of weeks, I would love for you to come back here and to leave a comment about how well they worked.

Best wishes,

Tom