East Meets West
If you already know a bit about my personal journey and want to skip to the "meat" of this article, scroll down until you see, "start here!".
For five years I have been devoted to keeping my body as healthy as possible. However for the first 22 years of my life I did not think much about my health. I grew up in New York in an upper-middle class suburb of Manhattan. I ate a fairly traditional American diet yet always enjoyed home-cooked meals over take-out. A typical day consisted of fruity pebbles for breakfast (with 2% cows milk), tuna-fish and tomato on an everything bagel, string cheese or goldfish as a snack, and for dinner I was most likely eating spaghetti and meatballs or grilled chicken with vegetables. I was athletic and pretty healthy besides the occasional cold or flu, for which I took antibiotics and matzoh ball soup.
After years of distorted self image and body issues I watched a documentary about factory farming that forever changed the way I viewed animals, my body, and our planet. I had no idea how impactful that one day would become.
My wellness journey is constantly evolving which is why I love it so much. When I first transitioned to Veganism I felt deprived, judgmental, and filled with anger. Through documentaries, certifications and life experiences I have educated myself and fallen in love with living holistically. I am constantly learning new things about my body and using nature to support my health. I converted self-hate into self-love and have discovered my true purpose. I wish everyone could feel this way! I have accepted that I can only control my own choices and lead by example, so here I am :) .
In 2011 I quit coffee, tylenol, antibiotics, and switched to an all organic diet which includes the products I use on my skin and hair. All of these changes happened gradually over the course of five years, not overnight. The most difficult thing is interacting with people who are critical because they do not understand, however I have learned not to take it personally. This is my unique lifestyle after-all. I crave acai bowls, soak my grains and beans, and I excessively indulge in dark chocolate. And I absolutely love it.
I tackle cravings and obstacles one by one until they are managed and then I move on to the next. The key word is managed; dietary restrictions do not need to be all or nothing. I decide I am ready to change a habit, not necessarily eliminate a food altogether yet sometimes I do that as well. First was dairy, next was coffee (I read Skinny Bitch and was inspired to kick my caffeine addiction), and more recently I have been limiting my intake of bread and other processed carbohydrates. Normally the dietary shift sticks for good and becomes much more natural once I feel the benefits.
My most recent experiment has been dissecting my relationship with sugar and monitoring how it affects me, although my sweet tooth seems to be winning this round but not the battle! I am not down on myself; each endeavor is crucial to the process.
Now that you know a little about my background, I would like to share something that recently happened to me which inspired this particular post. For a while I have been struggling with the American healthcare system and the overuse of Western medication. One of my favorite things about living a holistic lifestyle is using natural remedies for common ailments that most people turn to chemical medication for. I used to always carry Tylenol in my purse but now my essentials are apple cider vinegar, garlic capsules, coconut oil, and Tea Tree, to name a few. For the past five years, I have refused to turn to Western medicine because I have always found the solution with natural medicine first.
Unfortunately, nine weeks ago I learned the very, very hard way the brilliance of Western medicine and its necessity.
I was in a severe car accident; the car crashed into a telephone pole and crushed me in my seat. I broke my pelvis and my spine, tore a few organs, bled internally and externally, ripped up my hand, got a concussion, had pneumonia and endured many other frightful and painful complications. I was bedridden in the hospital for six weeks with no choice but to accept Western medicine to save me, and it did.
What I have realized through this experience is that there is a vital place for Western medicine. It truly saved my life. I endured excessive radiation exposure from countless x-rays and cat-scans however they were necessary in order to understand and treat my life-threatening injuries. I was rushed into surgery at 1am to drain an infection which almost killed me. I underwent two blood transfusions and many other miraculous procedures. The doctors told me that I am lucky to be alive; lucky that my body responded so well to the medications; lucky that I have little nerve damage / can feel my legs; and lucky that although broken, my body remained in alignment and I should make a full recovery in six to twelve months.
Yes, I am extremely grateful, however I do not give luck credit for my body surviving this trauma. I know that the past five years have prepared me to withstand the worst struggles imaginable. It was not luck that used visualization techniques to support my heart and organs while in the hospital. Luck did not do yoga and pilates three times a week for five years. Luck did not get a massage instead of taking pain-killers. Luck did not eat an abundance of organic vegetables and superfoods daily. The choices I have made saved my life, together with medication and the unbelievable team of doctors and nurses that cared for me around the clock. It is the combination of Eastern and Western medicine (and a seatbelt!) that I have to thank.
I cannot neglect to thank my amazing boyfriend, parents, family and friends for their overwhelming support! For that I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
I am so happy to be alive and healing but my bones are still broken and I am in terrible pain. I have tried to stop taking narcotics but my body is not ready yet. It is difficult for me to accept dependence on Western medicine because I have fought so hard against it. Yet I understand now, that in many circumstances, it is 100% necessary and an absolute blessing.
What I cannot accept is how easy it is to fill a prescription of powerfully dangerous narcotics yet it costs NOTHING. I literally paid $0 at the pharmacy. What incentive is there to try an alternative, preventative approach when medication (which can have many disruptive side effects) costs little to nothing?
Why should I choose a health provider who is caring for my body based on what insurance approves? It is not fair nor right. I have a $25 co-pay for my current MD care, yet I pay $120 per treatment for a session of acupuncture. My therapist is my hero! She is an amazing healer who I plan to write about soon. She deserves the same respect, recognition, and support that the rest of my medical professionals have.
I have also recently seen a primary care physician, an orthopedist, a physical therapist and a psychotherapist. The two doctors who are ready and willing to provide me with the prescriptions I may need barely interact with my body. They are extremely knowledgable and I appreciate their care and what I learn from them, however neither ask me about my diet nor lifestyle and how it may effect my broken bones. On the other hand, my healer cannot wait to physically connect with my muscles, bones, and learn what is going on in my life and mind. My point is not that one is better than the other, but that the combination is the key to ideal health. We deserve and need equal access to both!
My goal in sharing this is to pour a little knowledge into your mind and shake it up a bit. Are you stuck? Do you have a chronic ailment you cannot shake? Maybe it is consistent headaches, dry skin, congestion.. maybe it is time to try a new solution? I have experienced and overcome these obstacles and ones much worse. We never think terrible things will happen to us, but the reality is that accidents and illnesses happen; is your body prepared for trauma?
My favorite person Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Eastern medicine is powerful and unless there is a demand for it, the insurance companies will never subsidize it. I encourage you to try something different. Next time you experience an achy muscle, acid reflux, or any other uncomfortable bodily symptom, I urge you to google "natural remedy for ______" and I guarantee the results will satisfy you!
(or check out this amazing site!)
I am a New Yorker at heart; fast paced, passionate, and impatient at times. I now live in California and have gradually slowed down and become more aware and accepting of my surroundings. I love both places as each has contributed to my growth in different, monumental ways. Combining Eastern and Western modalities has been a solution to physical and emotional traumas I have experienced and I believe the separation between the two could be the root of our worlds greatest struggles. We are too often placed into a box, labeled, and constricted. By remaining open to others' ideas and ways of life there is opportunity for growth, healing and peace. We do not have to choose sides; we can harness a world of knowledge from both East and West and find balance in-between. All it takes is accepting something new and different and being open to the outcome. Thanks for reading and healthy wishes to all! Xoxo
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