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November 19, 2013 / Karen R Adams

‘cure’ vs ‘heal’

It’s been a year since my lower back went nuts, making walking anyplace but in the treatment room (and isn’t that interesting) a challenge. Since then, I’ve been living the exploration of the difference between ‘curing’ and ‘healing’. ‘Curing’ doesn’t seem to be an option for this sort of thing, if my patients are any indication, especially if ‘curing’ means a return to pre-injury status.

First of all, a return to that state presupposes I have an accurate memory, rather than a fantasy, of how strong/resilient/flexible my back was 10 years ago. Sure, I could go try throwing a 40 pound bale of hay around right now, that might be a marker, although my memory is I didn’t just walk into a barn one day back then, pick up a bale and toss it down the aisle. A faulty memory as a gauge of recovery is probably unrealistic.

Second, how can I possibly think I could – or should – ‘return’ to anything?  That’s going backward, which I kinda think is impossible.  I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago, or even one minute ago.  Nor would I want to be, really.

It’s just… I have this picture in my head of a time when I was strong, could really cover ground when I walked, when my back felt loose and limber.  And now I’m taking what feels like little short steps, and not walking as much because it hurts, and…  whoa, girl.  Stop right there.  That’s a set-up for my worst fears: that I will gradually be less and less able to move until I shrivel up and spend the next 30 years bound to a chair, staring out my window watching the world go by and waiting to die.

Now it’s a delicate thing to find the balance between denial of a problem and resistance to it.  I’m a big believer that what I believe in will come to me (and I keep getting opportunities to practice that, oh boy).   Denial and resistance are both going to keep me stuck where I don’t want to be, and I’ll gradually get worse because denial means I’m scared, and resistance means I’m scared, and both will keep me obsessing on the object of my fear.

But if I accept what is right now, while knowing that it will change, that’s the beginning of healing.  Healing is a journey, a series of opportunities and forks in the road and new avenues to explore.  I’ve used acupuncture and chiropractic and Zero Balancing and tai chi and minute attention to and adjustment of how I move and bringing light to my hip when I go to sleep (which worked pretty well, and I should remember to keep doing that).

Now I could look at all that as ‘oh woe, look at all these things I’ve tried, and still my back hurts’.  Or I could look at all that as ‘wow, look at all the things I’ve gotten to explore and learn about, each one helps my back feel a little bit better AND I learn something new’.  One view scares the crap out of me, one view makes this whole thing an adventure.  That’s the difference between seeking a cure and finding healing.

The truth is I vacillate between the two polarities.  It’s frustrating and frightening, and I have to constantly adjust.  The truth also is that my back is about 70% better than it was a year ago.  ‘Cure’ would mean I stop right here, because ‘cure’ implies a beginning and an end to a symptom.  ‘Heal’ means I get to continue to explore, and my health becomes another vehicle for personal cultivation.  Am I always going to be happy with my progress?  Probably not, but then if I was always happy, that would be a flat line.  I’m really not ready for that.

PS I came across a really interesting article on the power of the mind to influence health.  If you’re interested in exploring that a bit further, check out this article: Scientific Proof that Negative Beliefs Harm Your Health, by Dr. Lissa Rankin.

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