By Monica Walsh (from her column “Healing Hands” at The Hibernia Times online)
Sometimes the simplest keys to solving a problem are right under our noses, but when we are in the midst of difficulties we just can’t see them. For me, the key was a book that had been on my shelves for some time, read when bought but never since.
It had been a bad winter and spring. After years of debilitating illness which, having gone undiagnosed for a long time had become chronic — I’d had my umpteenth brucellosis relapse followed almost immediately by glandular fever.
In the midst of that, utter despair had driven me to decide to leave my secure job in television programme-making the following summer and go freelance with my various skills, to be more in charge of my time and have some chance of healing myself.
Still in the throes of glandular fever, I had just called my GP’s attention to something strange on my skin while telling him that I wanted to go swimming as soon as possible to regain some strength and fitness after the many bed-ridden months.
“I am sorry to tell you that you won’t be going swimming anytime soon,” the doctor announced. “That is the herald spot of a rare condition called pityriasis rosea. Within two weeks your torso will be covered in livid, itchy lesions and within a further two weeks it will spread to cover everywhere except your face, hands and feet. No one will believe it’s not contagious, so you will have to stay covered up from neck to wrist and ankle. Though we don’t know how it is transmitted and it is not easily passed to others, it IS viral so there’s nothing I can give you to help except anti-histamines for the itch. It just has to run its course, which is a minimum of two months.”
I stared at him in horror. “Two months?” It was May. The sun was shining. Since the previous August I felt I hadn’t been out in daylight. I had been working 70-hour weeks on a TV arts show till my brucellosis relapse in November. Because of that illness I had been totally socially isolated for the festive season, not for the first time. I had resumed work in January, though still exhausted, had collapsed with glandular fever in March in the middle of recording a studio show, had spent the last five weeks totally bed-bound, had just put my home on the market in order to fund my freelance start-up with capital from the profit margin while “buying down” to a property outside Dublin, and was hoping to be able to start living somewhat normally by mid-summer. Now I was being told swimming was off-limits and the next two months — at least — were virtually a write-off, too.
Leaving the surgery in turmoil, I wept in despair on returning home. Over the next two weeks the prognosis proved correct. By my next appointment the lesions had broken out all over my torso and had begun to show at the top of my legs. And despite the acute discomfort and the incredible fatigue and weakness I was still feeling, my GP thought I should go back to work, regardless of the pressurised and demanding nature of my job. My conclusion that the only way I could possibly recover my health and have some quality of life was to completely change my circumstances was confirmed yet again. I felt fury rising within me when I returned home. “I am just NOT going to live like this anymore!”
I knew I had to relax if I was to think clearly. I started to do a relaxation exercise I had learned in a yoga class. As I slid into stillness, memories floated into my mind of things I had heard or read in recent times. Deepak Chopra on RTE-TV’s Late Late Show had explained the connection between prolonged stress and the development of illness. A book I had bought called The Power of Your Subconscious Mind suggested that even the most serious physical illnesses could be reversed by harnessing your subconscious to work in specific ways while you slept. The image of that book floated before my eyes, and I leapt from my bed to search my shelves.
That night just before sleep I began an exercise aimed at eliminating the pityriasis rosea. The results were staggering. Within three days the lesions were no longer livid red, but beginning to fade to purple scar tissue. The advancing spread of lesions into my legs stopped short. Each night I continued the exercise, and each day I saw the disease dying off a little more. When I saw my GP for the 10-day check-up I was completely clear of lesions. This was when my entire body except for face, hands and feet, should have been covered with them.
My GP’s first questions were about the glandular fever and as he scribbled I added, “Oh, by the way, the rash is gone,” Without raising his head he said “Oh! That’s great.” Then my words penetrated fully and he threw down his pen and turned to me.
“It can’t be,” he said with a puzzled frown. “I know I diagnosed correctly.”
“I know you diagnosed correctly too!” I responded, smiling calmly. “I just decided I wasn’t having it.” I was so pleased with the results, I was enjoying the effect upon him of the news.
He stared at me and I could see the thought going through his head: “Has this one gone doo-lally on me now?” I raised my sweater to display my perfect, unblemished torso. “There are just a couple of patches of scar tissue from the biggest lesions; all the rest have disappeared completely.”
“But this is not possible!” he exploded. “This is unknown. This condition has a particular course and it doesn’t just stop and disappear half-way through.”
I couldn’t let his puzzlement continue. “Will I tell you what I did?”
He sighed. “Yes, please do.” He listened intently, his expression gradually changing, as I explained the story as I have written it here.
I knew there had been times he thought I was a hopeless case. He had developed that “Oh dear; her again!” look even behind the welcoming smile. “What has she got now?” There was a transformation in the doctor-patient relationship that day, as I demonstrated incontrovertibly that I truly wanted to be well and that if conventional medicine could not help me I was going to find my own solutions. This was just the beginning.
“That’s fantastic, Monica. Well done,” he beamed, when I had finished.
Little did either of us know that only about six months would pass before I would be telling him that not only was I on a self-healing journey, but parallel to it I had unexpectedly become a conduit of healing for others. He was remarkably open-minded and encouraging. We just never know, do we, what lies in store? But if a key is lying in front of us, we must put it in the door and turn it. Is there one lying in front of you? It can be in something we read, in something someone says, or in some opportunity on offer to us.
That book was one of my first keys – The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr Joseph Murphy. The exercise which eliminated the pityriasis rosea was simple, and if you have a persistent skin condition perhaps you might like to try it. Other visualisations would apply for different illnesses, and the holistic healing shelves of your local book-store will have at least a few books containing appropriate suggestions.
Firstly, do some relaxation or meditation exercise to bring yourself into a state of stillness. Slow, deep breathing may be all you need. Thinking on the in-breath, “Breathe in peace” and on the out-breath “Let go of all tension.” Play some relaxing music while you do, to create a barrier against outside noise. You might like also to work through your body methodically, first tensing and then relaxing each muscle group individually. Doing this correctly, you should find yourself sighing or yawning as your body releases tension.
Do this at bedtime, when you are sure you will not be disturbed and that you will fall asleep directly afterwards. The visualisation you employ, in this case of your skin being perfect, is intended to programme your subconscious mind to work while you are asleep towards your desired outcome, according to the pictures you present to it.
In my case, once I was deeply relaxed I simply envisaged my torso, which at that moment was on fire with red lesions, as perfectly smooth and blemish-free. I imagined the pleasure of feeling good again, and of running my fingers over my skin, unable to find the smallest bump. I imagined myself sunbathing with my blemish-free skin glowing with health. I did this every night until the condition had disappeared completely.
If you have difficulty becoming relaxed enough to do this kind of exercise effectively, I would highly recommend learning some relaxation or meditation method, as managing to achieve a state of stillness – even just long enough for your specific purpose, if life is otherwise hectic – is a prerequisite to harnessing your own self-healing powers and working successfully with the magnificent repair-oriented intelligence contained within our own bodies. You may be amazed, as I was, at what you can then achieve.
This article was first published in Monica’s occasional column “Healing Hands” for www.thehiberniatimes.online