“Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, ’till you find your dream.”
The Sound of Music
During my long years of misery and constant severe pain, I never heard of anyone coming back from a health situation as lengthy, dire, limited, and continually progressive as mine. This lack of knowledge and being told by doctors that my only recourse was a life of narcotics led to years where hopelessness was my predominant emotional state. Hearing a recovery story like mine and having it paired with a solution, as it is in my book, would have been worth the world to me. That thought is what drives me to do everything that I can to share what I’ve learned about managing and thriving through chronic health problems and to tell the world about what I overcame.
My goal with this chapter is to enkindle a spark of hope in you for your health journey, whether you have a chronic illness or an injury. A great deal can be done through Functional and Lifestyle Medicine approaches when paired with pain neuroscience and a proper mindset even when the damage isn’t fully reversible. (Sometimes, like in my case, it turns out the damage is much more reversible than I could’ve imagined.) To that end, I want to focus on one part of my journey that you surely have in common with my story if you’ve had a chronic health problem for more than a few months: you feel like you’ve tried everything for your health. It’s a feeling often born through years of effort and evidence to reinforce it, but it can be a mistaken impression, as it was in my case. I’ll now share my list of failed treatments over the thirty-four years I sought treatment for my health problems to show you that even as adventurous and desperate I was that I still hadn’t tried everything like I thought I had.
I tried everything that sounded even remotely plausible, and I even tried some crackpot options that I didn’t think would work. I progressed through every stage of the interstitial cystitis treatment roadmap and taken detours all over to no avail.
I can remember the names of forty different prescriptions I tried as an adult, and I’m sure there’s more that I’ve forgotten or had in childhood. That involved drugs such as antibiotics of all kinds, including ones not even used anymore, narcotics, nerve pain medications, antispasmodics, muscle relaxers, antidepressants, antihistamines, sleep medications, and even an experimental immunosuppressant. I also tried every over-the-counter remedy I could find and had years of where I eked by in school on constant ibuprofen and other minor pain palliatives.
I tried even more supplements. I took every relevant herb, vitamin, and micronutrient at all sorts of dosages from baseline to therapeutic and different forms of the same nutrients to see if a citrate or glycinate would work better. I tried niacin flushes, enemas, and castor oil packs. I tried around ten different diets, supplementation based on analysis of my genome, and chelation for metal toxicity. I tried excessive exercise with strength training and running, and then yoga, followed by complete idleness for almost a year. I tried acupuncture, massage, meditation, and chiropractic care. I had seven years of allergy shots. I went through five rounds of physical therapy, and four of pelvic floor rehab therapy. I tried adjusting for my left leg being slightly shorter than the right and compensating for the shape of the arches of my feet. I was scanned and scoped by every machine with an acronym that you can think of to find some growth or deformity. I tried ultrasound, other heat therapies, and ice treatments. I went to two different psychotherapists and tried amygdala retraining to rewire my brain. I tried bladder instillations to rebuild the lining from once to three times a week for years. I even had surgery to implant a spinal stimulator that involved inserting over a foot of wires through my spine. None of these approaches improved my health beyond some temporary symptom mitigation, and many of them made the symptoms worse.
Sound familiar to you? Have you tried less? More? Can you see why I felt like I’d tried everything? And yet I hadn’t because I was using the wrong method…