Grace & Grounding: The Gospel of Healing
Having the Last Word
By Shereá Denise
I've seen too many victories
to let defeat
have the last word.
Song - Count It Victory by The Williams Brothers
In an effort to continue to implement the personal lessons mentioned in my last post and in order to embrace all that this journey has to teach me, I have sought out guidance from a few practitioners. Some of them I have worked with before, some were highly recommended, and others I found with the help of various specialists and community members.
Pause. I have to stop here to note that - a year or so ago - I began incorporating different quotes into my self-talks (or, as I call them, my crown adjustment sessions). The following three stand out in this particular season in my life:
Receiving is in the asking. –Chani Nicholas
No need goes unmet. –Nona
Let my helpers find me. Let me be able to receive their help. –Luvvie Ajayi Jones
The third quote has proven to be especially beneficial during my health tribulations because - each time I have had some question or needed some guidance regarding my healing – a helper has appeared and I have been in a space to acknowledge them as a helper, be transparent/vulnerable, and receive their help. I am extremely thankful for the people who have crossed my path on this journey and for those who have assisted me in increasing my knowledge, calling in what I need most, and with adjusting my outlook.
The third quote also led me to change the path that I was traveling with regards to health and healing, resting with the idea that my helpers would show up when and as I needed them to… and that some of those helpers may steer me away from the doctor’s office and into alternative spaces.
At some point in late June or early July, I decided to take a break from medical appointments (other than Gastroenterology) to give my body the opportunity to rest without being poked and prodded. I decided to forego any appointments in July and to seek out services with holistic practitioners in August. While this may not be a route that works for everyone, this was me practicing doing what I felt would work for me.
July 2023: In July 2023 I began communicating with a few Herbalists. As a result of these conversations, I did some preliminary research around herbs, specifically the herbs used to address SIBO recovery and the ongoing issues with circulation and inflammation that I continued to have. I learned about various herbs and their uses, but did not feel comfortable taking next steps (such as purchasing specific herbs or creating a treatment plan) without having a follow-up conversation with my Gastroenterologist to determine the status of the bacteria in my small intestine and without speaking with someone with greater knowledge of herbs, their uses, and their side effects.
I also had some revelations about my expectations of health providers. I realized that - unintentionally - I had put a lot of my trust in other people, in the “professionals” who I had been taught could or would provide the physical healing that I longed for. To clarify: We are not wrong for going to medical appointments and/or expecting answers from physicians, but we also have to take some responsibility for ourselves and stop (possibly subconsciously) deciding/believing that we are powerless in our own healing. We play a very important role in our treatment and recovery, but we often overlook that, seeing the professionals as the ultimate healers, seeing healing as something that happens externally. I had to adjust my thoughts regarding providers and the concept of healing. I can no longer look at providers and practitioners (medical, holistic, or otherwise) as experts or people that should have all of the answers. I think it is more helpful - for them and for me - if I see any provider or practitioner as a guide. A guide is someone that helps us navigate unfamiliar territory. Our expectations of a guide may be that they walk beside us versus our expectation of a healer being that we follow them, sometimes blindly and/or desperately. A guide may answer some questions, but may also refer you to others (or back to yourself) for answers. We accept this from guides, but not always from the people we have declared as experts. Changing my perspective not only made my appointments feel less gut-wrenching and disappointing, but it removed (to a degree) some of the anxiety and weight that I put on what I would be told by the providers. I still came prepared with questions, but I tried hard not to come with unrealistic expectations of instant solutions.
Lord, if you're healing
healing in the season,
please don't do it without me.
Don't do it without me.
Song - “Don’t Do It Without Me” by Bishop Paul S. Morton
August 2023: In August 2023 I had my second Reiki Session, a follow-up appointment with my Gastroenterologist, a Divination Reading, a holistic healing/acupuncture session, and some unexpected diagnostic procedures.
I attended my Reiki Session on my birthday. My first Reiki Session had been about one year prior and - during that session - I physically felt the changes within my body and the energy that had shifted. This time around? Not so much. At the end of the session I was advised that much of the energetic work that was done during the session was emotional/heart chakra-related.
For those who are unaware (or who have not read my prior posts), this is where I let it be known that I am not the most fluent in emotion. I tend to think, process, and act before I feel anything. I do not know that I consciously suppress feelings, but I have learned during this particular leg of my journey that there are a lot of things that I have still yet to fully feel and - at some point - I must feel them. This aligns well with the overarching message of my Reiki Session, which was that I have to practice love, care, and patience for my body rather than existing in a space of frustration. The practitioner reminded me that inflammation is tension and fear within the body and that this is normal when the body has been through a lot of changes that it may not have been prepared for.
One of the highlights of the session for me was receiving the upside-down Hope card with regards to my Sacral Chakra, confirming my interest in pursuing alternative medicine and highlighting that there is a strong need for me to re-write my limiting beliefs, to untie myself, for my healing. The Hope card also reiterated that healing is possible, but that I would have to stop struggling and learn to ask for help because I was perceiving challenges as being bigger than what they actually are. The practitioner encouraged me to converse with my body for guidance about herbs/supplements, to work on comforting, soothing, and reassuring my body, and to rest and nurture myself more so that I could digest and process what was taking place. I found great comfort in this particular part of the session because - in some ways - I think that I had lost (or maybe just misplaced) my hopefulness.
I kept the messages from the Reiki Session, as well as my thoughts about guides in mind as I went to my follow-up appointment with Gastroenterology. Despite trying to be open-minded and leading with minimal expectations, the visit did not go quite as I expected. My thought had been that I may be ordered another SIBO breath test to figure out what phase of the kill/heal/stabilize process I was in, but the outcome was much different. I found myself having to self-advocate early-on with the nurse, who seemed adamant that anything that was not happening in my stomach could not be a gastrointestinal symptom. By the time the practitioner came in, I was frustrated and teary-eyed. She immediately identified my feeling as being worried and asked for my patience as she tried to figure out what was happening in my body. I left with orders for lab work, a urine specimen, a stool specimen, a CT scan of my abdomen and pelvis, an upper endoscopy, and a lower endoscopy/colonoscopy. On one hand, I consider myself fortunate that I did not have to jump through too many hoops to get the tests ordered. On the other hand, I was extremely nervous about the outcomes of said testing and the costs that my health insurance may not cover. (There is something to be said for how people are forced to choose between being healthy/feeling their best and “making ends meet” because of health insurance and the costs of medical care and treatment, but that is a whole other conversation.)
During my gastroenterology appointment, I also had to come to terms with the fact that it is unfair of me to expect instant relief or answers after one or two visits with a practitioner. Though I have been dealing with these challenges for several years, most of them have not been providing care to me for that entire time. In the same way that I am learning to give myself grace, I had to re-evaluate the grace that I was not extending to my medical practitioners/medical guides.
In the days following my appointment I had a Divination Reading. In the weeks prior to the session, I heard Tatianna Tarot say, “Always give thanks to your body, for all the work it does for you, and [for] all the magic it provides for you that often goes unnoticed.” Similarly – during my Divination Reading – Donnecia reminded me to “give praise for what my body has carried me through.” She encouraged me to give my body time to tell me what it needs and to make sure that I was advocating for myself (especially in work environments) because accommodations and flexibility would prove vital in ensuring that my work was sustainable. They advised me that they were feeling a lot of things pertaining to heat (read: inflammation) within my body. There were also some mighty words offered about change, a reminder that worrying does not change the outcome of our circumstances, and (ironically) references made to various gospel songs. Many of these songs had similar messages - ones of encouragement and assurance. In light of the work I was doing in writing this blog series, it seemed like a form of not-so-subtle confirmation that I should be using my words to process my experience and to (hopefully) help someone else.
A song that I have always loved, but had forgotten about was also mentioned during the session:
You just stand when there's nothing left to do.
You just stand, watch the Lord see you through.
Yes, after you've done all you can,
you just stand.
Song – Stand by Donnie McClurkin
Remember when I said that I wanted to speak with someone with greater knowledge of herbs, their uses, and their side effects? Surprisingly, the divination reading was also filled with a plethora of information from my ancestors and spirit guides regarding herbs, their uses, and what issues they could help to address. (Hint: “Receiving is in the asking.”)
After the Divination Reading, I had the CT scan and endoscopies. The procedures themselves were not that bad, but the preparation, planning, overthinking, and recovery that preceded and followed them wore me out. I found myself back in a space of reevaluating my habits around and relationship with rest, self-advocacy, and flexibility. I realized just how much hesitation I was harboring. I was hesitant to request time off from work (having just returned to the office from my honeymoon), hesitant to ask my support system to show up for me on days when I could not drive or prepare my own meals, and hesitant to meet with more medical providers to discuss my medical concerns. Luckily, my support system is a mighty one that is fully aware of my hyper independent nature, that understands that I never want to be a burden, and that shows up anyway and in every way possible. Before I could think to ask, assistance was offered and arrangements were made. Again, I am thankful.
In addition to sitting with my hesitations and my concern about being judged by my “weakest” moments, I also had to sit with my fear. Going for a month or so without medical appointments had soothed some of the fear and frustration that I had regarding the medical profession. Though seeing the providers as guides helped with how much weight I put on my medical appointments, being under anesthesia and answering questions about advance directives stirred something in me that I still cannot quite articulate.
As I prepared for the procedures and paid closer attention to my feelings and thoughts, I had to purposefully decide to become vigilant about keeping myself grounded, not increasing my own anxiety, and listening to my body. I had to take myself out of my head and figure out how to put myself in my body. That is not always the most pleasant experience, but it was a necessary one. I kept Smoky Quartz and Black Tourmaline close, used breathing exercises on an almost daily basis, and actively sought out encouragement from different places. In doing so, I found a few encouraging videos and quotes that helped to keep things in perspective and to keep my anxiety at bay:
Tabitha Brown video: “Give yourself grace and remember that you are human.”
Keke Palmer video: “You can rest and everything that’s going to happen for you is still going to happen for you.”
“Health is built on balance. Balance is built on health. We need to tend carefully and sometimes vigilantly to our mental health. Your mind is constantly and imperfectly working the levers, trying to keep you steady as you figure out what to do with your passion, ambition, and big dreams, as well as your hurts, imitations, and fears. It may tap the brakes and try to slow you down a little sometimes. It may throw up distress signals when it senses a problem - if you're trying to move too fast or working in a way that's unsustainable, or if you're getting caught up in disordered thinking or harmful patterns of behavior. Pay attention to how you're feeling. Notice what's being signaled by both your body and your mind. And don't be afraid to reach out for help if you or someone you know is struggling… It's okay to pace yourself, get a little rest, and speak of your struggles out loud. It's okay to prioritize your wellness, to make a habit of rest and repair… None of this is defeat. What becomes defeating is when great becomes the enemy of good--when we get so caught up in the hugeness of everything that we stall out before we've even started, when the problems appear so big that we give up on taking the smaller steps, managing what is actually in our control. Don't forget to prioritize the things you can do, even just to sustain your energy and broaden your possibilities.” –Michelle Obama, The Light We Carry
I also spent some time reviewing the various resources and information that Donnecia shared with me following the Divination Reading. I have not ordered from/engaged with these practitioners as of yet, but I am providing websites/information about them below in the event that anyone else may be interested in learning more:
Uncrossing by XOLANI: https://youtu.be/CSw5JTYTX8M
Empress Karen M. Rose (spiritual herbalism): https://instagram.com/empresskarenmrose?igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==
Sacred Vibes Apothecary: https://sacredvibeshealing.squarespace.com/
As the results began to come in from the scans and procedures, I - again - felt conflicted. I was not as wholeheartedly invested or devastated as I had been when this journey began in 2021, but I still had some level of disappointment and uncertainty. There were answers, but vague ones. There were possible treatment plans, but they were costly. The results of the CT scans indicated possible inflammation-based or infection-based colitis. After doing some surface level research about colitis, that diagnosis did not seem far-fetched based on my symptoms and what was seen during the scans. The results of the endoscopies indicated that the colitis diagnosis might have been “an overreach” and that I possibly needed to go through a second round of antibiotic treatment due to indications of gastritis and/or some other possible infection. This time the physician recommended that I take Xifaxan. My insurance was initially unwilling to cover Xifaxan when I received my SIBO diagnosis earlier in the summer, but my provider thought that my insurance may cover it since I had tried a different antibiotic earlier in the summer for the same issue. I had seen posts in the SIBO Facebook groups about how expensive Xifaxan could be, but it was not until I saw a potential cost of $2,689.19 that I really understood why people were so hesitant to use the medication. I co-sign the concerns expressed by others in the Facebook groups, which boils down to paying such a large sum of money for a medication that is not guaranteed to rectify the health issue(s) being experienced. Not only was I not in the position to pay that much for medication, I was not truly certain that I should. With the rate that SIBO can return and/or without an actual statement or test indicating what the infection was and how it was caused, I could not trust that Xifaxan was the answer.
Prior to the procedures I was already feeling more drawn to the holistic/herbal/natural route that I had been intermittently researching. While I recognized that the herbal option could take longer (6 weeks versus 14 days), it also seemed to have its benefits, like being a more targeted and individualized approach. My past experience, the messages received during my Reiki and Divination sessions, my body, and my spirit were telling me that Western Medicine may not be able to provide the answers that I needed and that the holistic route felt like an option that resonated more with me. To me, it seemed that I could use Western Medicine to identify what was happening inside my body and a more natural route to address what had been identified...
The conclusion to this post is forthcoming.
Please continue to check back for updates to the Grace & Grounding Series.
Read Part One: We've Come This Far By Faith
Read Part Two: The Weight We Carry
Read Part Three: Learning How to Breathe
Find additional posts and resources here.