Our triggers are the key to our healing
And why a couple of responses on Reddit triggered me
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I once read somewhere that if you read a single book on a given topic, you can probably hold a 5-10 minute conversation about it. After reading 2-3 books on the same topic, you could probably talk about it for half an hour, and any book count over 5 puts you in the realm of an academic, because (let’s be real) — who would read that many books on the life of caterpillars anyway?!
So after reading a few books about the mindbody connection and how our bodies can heal themselves once we deal with repressed emotions, I became more and more convinced that I could actually heal my Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition wherein your body produces antibodies that attack your thyroid. Common symptoms include fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, brittle nails, and hair loss. About 1 in 8 women are affected by thyroid diseases, and women are 10x more likely than men to suffer from them.
There have been many instances where I have opened up to a girlfriend about my Hashimoto’s symptoms and it was like holding up a mirror: they were suffering from the same ailments, but neither they nor their doctor had a clue as to what it could be! Here’s why their doctors are in the dark: it’s not common practice for your GP to order labs that include a complete thyroid panel — the standard lab only includes TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and T4 (the thyroid hormone thyroxine, which is produced by the thyroid gland and helps control metabolism and growth). The complete thyroid panel includes a few more markers, namely:
T3 (free and total) — hormone that affects growth and development, metabolism, body temperature, and heart rate; made from T4
Reverse T3 — also made from T4, reverse T3 is inactive in your body and competes with T3 to bind to receptors (not good)
Anti-thyroglobulin antibodies (anti-TG) — these attack your thyroid
Thyroid peroxidase antibodies (anti-TPO) — same as above
There are a few manifestations of thyroid diseases and various levels of the markers above that indicate which one you have, but I won’t go into the details here. The point is, you could have totally normal TSH and T4 results but test positive for either anti-TG, anti-TPO, or both, and the standard lab would have missed that! That means you have Hashimoto’s and could be doing something about it but are left clueless. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve diagnosed my girlfriends on the fly or been able to suss out that someone had a thyroid issue just by talking to them about their symptoms. IYKYK ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
So what does Hashimoto’s have to do with the mindbody connection? Let me preface what I’m about to share with a bit of a disclaimer: thyroid diseases are very real and they can wreak havoc on you. Untreated hypothyroid can lead to severe issues like goiter, heart problems, neuropathy, infertility, birth defects, and coma. So, YES see a doctor if you’re not feeling well or suspect something might be off, AND…
Consider that there are many cases, both anecdotal and in the medical literature, of spontaneous resolution of diseases as insidious as late-stage cancer and as chronic and debilitating as lower back pain (BTW roughly 2.5% of US GDP is spent annually on non-cancer chronic pain alone!). There are many books that chronicle these seemingly miraculous cases. Here are a few that I’ve read, plus one documentary:
The Clarity Cleanse: 12 Steps to Finding Renewed Energy, Spiritual Fulfillment, and Emotional Healing by Dr. Habib Sadeghi DO
Healing Back Pain: The MindBody Connection by Dr. John E. Sarno MD (people have healed their chronic back pain simply by reading this book, so I highly recommend it if you’re suffering from this!)
The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders by Dr. John E. Sarno MD
The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture by Dr. Gabor Maté MD and Daniel Maté
All the Rage: Saved by Sarno starring Dr. John E. Sarno, Larry David, Howard Stern
The common thread among these stories of healing is that patients end up turning their attention to their repressed emotions — they accept the sadness, anger, guilt, shame, or whatever might be dogging them, they embrace it, and they work through it. On the other side of that, they find healing not just for their emotional and mental health, but their physical health. The difficulty with accessing repressed emotions is that they live in our subconscious, and our egoic self does a really good job of keeping those stuffed way down and our awareness way low, lest our awareness of them cause us even more intolerable pain.
Something that really shocked me as I was reading through these books was that time and time again I came across stories of female patients who had suffered sexual abuse and trauma in their childhood who went on to develop scleroderma over their entire bodies and/or their vaginal tissue. Scleroderma is an autoimmune condition that causes an abnormal buildup of thick fibrous tissue in the skin that can cause it to tighten and harden; it is treatable but incurable according to modern medicine. For women who have scleroderma affecting their vaginal tissue, it makes it nearly impossible for them to have sex because it is much too painful. I believe there were at least 2 of these cases highlighted in Dr. Sadeghi’s The Clarity Cleanse. Both women healed their scleroderma after working with him and working through their traumatic memories of abuse and repressed emotions.
Feeling inspired, I wondered if there were ways to heal my Hashimoto’s through particular methods as outlined in The Clarity Cleanse (and perhaps elsewhere?). I was even more curious if there was someone out there who had already done this. So I turned to the Internet (see: Reddit’s sub /Hypothyroid) to posit my theory and get some feedback. WOE IS ME, DEAR READER.
The theory that I presented was that I can heal the physical manifestation of Hashimoto’s by healing repressed emotions and self-limiting beliefs/patterns. I then explained the things that led me to connect these dots:
And here are some of the responses I received:
“It’s a pretty ableist take to say that positive thinking will get rid of your disease. It’s along the lines of thinking prayer will make your cancer go away. It is essentially saying that people who acknowledge that action is required and sometimes actions do nothing have deserved to die or suffer from their illness. ‘They didn’t believe enough’ ‘they didn’t work hard enough’ ‘too bad they were so negative’ etc. Toxic positivity is a real thing and does real harm to people who are already marginalized, oppressed, or medically ignored.”
“Piss off with this garbage. It's a real disease with a real cause.”
“Simply put, your hypothesis is cruel for a lot of us, and dangerous for most of us.”
“I like your overall attitude of not being a victim (as many people with autoimmune disease can have this attitude) and taking this head on.”
“Full disclosure, I 100% hope your approach works. It would be awesome to be healed from this, or even a small improvement by changing other parts of our life, especially with free and easily obtained methods!”
I was quite shocked at the negativity that I encountered, and then I had to remind myself that it’s Reddit. Regardless, I was furious. The feedback stirred up a lot of anger in me — how can you not see the connection? ME, ABLEIST?! I didn’t say people deserve to die! What the actual F?!
Eventually, I realized that the exact pattern that I so transparently and vulnerably shared in my original post was manifesting live. The responses I received were simultaneously a mirror and a lesson. Instead of just saying, oh look someone disagrees with me, that’s interesting, I was incredulous, and that’s because their disagreement threatened my “competency”. I started thinking of a retort that would just make them see my point. I wanted to dismantle the victimhood mentality, to point out the mental gymnastics it takes to come to those conclusions, to defend myself against my attackers. Hmm, defend myself…kind of like how my thyroid is constantly defending itself against antibodies that my own body creates…?💡
But a retort is a misguided reaction. What I owed to myself at the time was to sit with the anger — the rage — that was bubbling up. Allow it to move through me. Eventually I sat with it, and I felt the energy of the anger move down my throat, into my chest, down my leg, and finally through my right foot and toes. My toes felt like they were vibrating for a minute, and then the shaking finally stopped. I felt more at peace.
There’s a lot more work to do to heal this pattern, and frankly the hardest part is recognizing when everyday triggers give you the opportunity to work on it. I can’t stress this enough: the most important thing is not what you think or say in response to a trigger, it’s accepting the emotion and letting it run through your body. Essentially, pay very close attention to what’s happening inside and focus on that, because what’s happening outside of you is just a mirror for your healing.
Despite the Reddit naysayers, I’m still a big believer that you can heal yourself, it just takes effort and time to unravel 30+ years of patterns and conditioning, along with the repressed emotions that go along with them (which are inexorably tied to the physical body). That’s why mindbody is one word and not hyphenated, because they are not two separate things. Once we start believing that and get over that hurdle, our healing can begin.