Yep, I am touching on this one again, because although I've written about heart health and integrative medicine, even shared some about heart scans as a wellness screening, and written a plethora about elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure, I've also spent a bit of time talking to my clients about the intelligence of the heart, our instinctive heart knowledge, and even heart break but we fail to really appreciate this until it hits us closer to home. Takatsubo has even been part of my writing because I don't think we really appreciate the impact of our relationships, our environment, or our emotions on our health and wellness.
Here's the thing, my best friend, only 49 years old and really, I'd consider pretty darn healthy. She prioritizes clean eating. She works out. She's at her ideal weight. She gets sun on her face daily. She takes appropriate supplements. But, the day prior to Jeremy and I getting married, she was admitted to the hospital with a heart attack. Her ejection fraction was less than 20 percent. Their diagnosis after all their testing, heart break.
My best friend is also a #midwife. She was the victim of a vengeful law suit, one initiated by a client of her's who lost her child. Autopsy reports which are available publicly demonstrate the child had been exposed to some sort of pathogen weeks or months prior to birth resulting in enlarged organs, but when baby presented breech and transfer was coordinated to the local hospital, they were unprepared and failed to effectively coordinate resuscitation. Maybe the child wouldn't have survived anyway. Grief is tough though and really taints your reality. It hurts your ego and how we process that pain is different for all of us, each and every time we experience it. My friend was tried in two courts, both civil and by the nursing board. She was found innocent on all accounts. No reprimands. No need for continuing education. No fines whatsoever. She had done a damn good job but as every midwife is aware, sometimes babies die anyway.
This trial though, as most do, lasted many months. The family pursuing her connected with journalists who made this national news, identifying my bestie as her child's murderer. She also contacted our professional organization, who in any other case would never intervene as they allow the states to investigate first, but the AMCB restricted her professional certification without asking her for any information whatsoever. Once the trial ended and no fault was found, the board shared in writing, Oops, "sorry for our error. I am sure this made little impact on your life and career."
She lost her practice, her career, her life's work, her reputation, her credibility, and ultimately her home and marriage. As her best friend, suffering no direct attack myself, the trauma I experienced in observation of this barrage upon the best midwife I had ever known caused me to close my own practice and freeze up within my own home for many months because it truly felt like the world was against us no matter what we did. This was dehumanizing and our professional organization, one I was very proud to work among, had gaslit us both. If practicing excellent midwifery could result in total destruction, and I wasn't confident I would have performed as perfectly as my bestie had in the same scenario, then my doom was inevitable. I was already feeling overwhelming burn out.
My marriage was already falling apart; hers followed suit. Having poured our cups into our children, our spouses, and our clients for more than a decade, we were both empty. No one had truly invested in us. We lived states away from each other and while that friendship was everything, it didn't fill the void for either of us. We each sought refuge in relationships that seemingly really noticed us for the first time in a long time. Our partners seemed to meet needs we didn't even recognize we had anymore, and wow, did they fill our cups to overflow. That is until, they started taking back.
My toxic relationship ended just after a year. He was nurturing another victim on the side who he eventually discarded me for, thank goodness, because even though I was well aware of just how awful he was treating me, my #trauma bond wouldn't allow me to walk away voluntarily. Although I really do identify as a strong, independent woman, pretty unshakable - all of this compounded within the same period of time really crushed me. Admittedly I have some guilt about it all because I fear the universe created the pandemic so I'd have time to heal, time when there were no expectations upon us; I could just cower in the fetal position and rest.
My bestie though, a far better woman than me, is not as easily replaced. She has fight in her that I couldn't muster and she shows up for her man, her predator, in ways I could never do. She is truly irreplaceable. The irony here though is that she is unlikely to be discarded, and her trauma bond seeps into every cell of her being, deep within her soul, so she remains attached and tightly entangled to her own worst nightmare. There is nothing she won't tolerate. Her reality is warped. Her brain has been changed by this #abuse. Her cup is parched yet rejects nourishment from any other source. As I shared, her heart, her constant, her steady succumbed to the pressure. We aren't meant to remain in toxic environments. It's pathologic to think you can fix everything. It isn't a Wonder Woman complex to do it all, fix it for everyone, and have no needs yourself; it's insanity.
Conventional medicine blames poor diets and laziness on poor heart health. Functional medicine blames toxic chemicals and epigenetics. What we really fail to appreciate is the great amount of stress and trauma we all endure in our lives, not recognizing the great impact this has on our organs, our cells, and most especially our hearts, our brains and our livers. Here I am with liver disease, although most teenagers have drank more than I have in my lifetime and my bestie now endures recovery, at the age of 49 years, from a myocardial infarction in spite of absolutely no blockages or restrictions in her heart. She is just utterly heart broken and to my great despair, completely incapable of saving herself. Like me, she is a Wounded Healer.
Looking at Symptoms and Not the Root Cause
Here is where allopathic medicine fails us. Symptoms of #anxiety, panic, depression, maybe even a bit of #hypertension or thyroid disease may be identified but they are essentially always treated with medication. If a fish is in boiling water, adding fish food to the tank won't save it. You have to remove the fish from its toxic environment.
These handicaps we sometimes provide - certainly very necessary at times, particularly in triage scenarios - often allow us to remain in the toxic scenarios even longer because they mask the root cause. Functional medicine does well in this way. We dig further below the surface, into nutritional needs and toxic exposures. Some of us even evaluate epigenetic variants and can identify whole person uniqueness within our detoxification pathways that profoundly alters health and wellness, but again, even functional medicine fails to get into the energies that lie within the cell or recognize the health of one's soul. I don't know what we call this, if maybe that's part of psychotherapy or even #shamanism, but beyond science, this is the art of healing we must also be familiar to be effective healers.
Like the fish, we can't just remove it from the boiling water and hold it in space, we have to offer an alternative water source, a safe space. I have found that I have to provide this for clients within our consultations. They need a safe space so they can take that necessary look into themselves, to really see themselves and evaluate their realities without feeling judged. I have to allow them this safe space so they can start to truly heal. Yoga and mindfulness, as easy as they may seem, also offer this safe space, as does walking in nature.
Stepping Out of the Race
Most people though are living in a state of anxiety, a sympathetic state - fight-or-flight. We run. We fight. We freeze. It is hard to step out of the race and take a seat. It's hard to stop running when you've spent so long mustering all you have so you can just take that next step. Our brain tells us that if we step away we will be trampled, so we just keep going hoping we will catch enough speed to get ahead or maybe just around this next corner we will find respite.
Mindfulness and meditation are truly laughable when we are running from the sabor tooth tiger, but I promise you, that is the way out. Becoming mindful, getting back into your body and paying attention is how we see our true reality and how to escape it. Most of us have an excellent ability to rewrite our narrative so it is tolerable, so it protects our ego. We create a story we can live within; we gaslight ourselves.
While maybe the majority of clinicians tell their clients that they need to reduce their stress, particularly when clients are dealing with hypertension or heart disease, this accompanies a pat on the back as they walk out the door. They aren't really unpacking this stress with the client, helping them create healthy boundaries, challenging their perception of reality, maybe because they feel this approaches therapy which is a different specialty entirely, but to some degree we have to enter this space. Sadly, half of Americans feel talk therapy is weak and unnecessary so they aren't going to take this recommendation often.
Integrative Therapies and Heart Health
Gut health, probiotics, addressing SIBO, evaluating wellness labs such as homocysteine and cRP are all important aspects of evaluating heart health or correcting heart dis-ease as well. Potentially gluten may even be contributing to heart disease. A genetic test can identify this (HLA-DQ). Having this variant doesn't mean you have Celiac disease, but if you do have this variant, it certainly may identify sensitivity. Gluten can trigger your immune system and increase inflammation, so understanding these characteristics can be exceedingly helpful in improving your health beyond what conventional medicine typically works to identify and manage.
My post about Heart Health and Integrative Medicine (available for our active clients in our Wellness program) dives into many of these points, most especially management of our cholesterol and the post shares supplements that help nudge your body into optimal balance. Keep in mind though, that aging in itself isn't harmful or dis-ease prone. It is the accumulation of stress and toxins and inflammation that is harmful. Decrease inflammation from both internal and external threats and we can enjoy a very long life full of great vitality.
If you want to talk with us about your heart health and better understand your options, connect with us. If you want to try yoga, safely and privately, in your own home, connect; we have virtual options. Check out our forums for a multitude of educational offerings. See what resonates with you. Invest in yourself.