Today I was inspired to share a bit of my journey because of a new law that was just passed in West Virginia to limit opioid prescriptions. I’m so lucky that I managed to avoid the path of opioid addiction. Sadly, one reason I may have escaped such a fate, was that I left this state when I was a young adult.
After decades of travel, studying education and the healing arts, teaching, business ventures, and finally medical school, I have returned to my roots in West Virginia part-time to practice the ‘alternative’ medicines I have spent my life receiving and giving since I left this state as a young adult.
I grew up in chronic pain. By the time I was an adolescent I had been diagnosed with the following list of ‘diseases’:
Severe Anemia (still a bit of a mystery)
One I wasn’t diagnosed with, but struggled with for 25 years was chronic candida imbalance.
And over time, my reproductive system was affected and debilitating fibroids became part of the picture.
I lived every day and night of my life from about 12 until my mid-30s in pain and discomfort.
Let me say now that I’m healthier than ever, and almost always pain free! My healing journey was a long and very winding road. Over time, I’ll share different stories from that journey. I had to leave this state to get healthy. And now I’m back here helping other people get healthy. It has been a long and winding road for this state to get to this place too. I’m excited to be here now. We still have a long way to go.
The long and winding road for me and for WV
Conventional doctors (MDs) were the only options that were really available and presented for diagnosis and treatment when I was growing up. My parents had insurance and took me to the best doctors in the area. Other than Physical Therapy, the only recommendations were pharmaceuticals and surgeries. Flexeril, high doses of NSAIDs, Lithium, and they wanted to put metal rods in my spine. And they just called my yeast infections a ‘heavy discharge’ and dismissed them all together. No one ever suggested a change in my diet. Heck, no one ever even asked what I was eating. I was only eating fast food, junk food, and highly processed food by the way. I literally did not eat almost any fresh vegetables until I was in my 20s.
At 23 I got my first chiropractic treatments in New Mexico while I was working on a master’s degree in education. That doctor (Louis E Hubbard) changed my life. He cried for me. He said if he’d known me as a child, I would have never ended up in a back brace and chronic pain. Of course by this time I’d literally grown out of alignment and everything I ate and did exacerbated the systemic inflammation plaguing nearly every system in my body. This doctor is also the first person who suggested I study yoga. That was the turning point. From there I began my journey into ‘alternative’ medicines. This included food as medicine.
As much as I loved my family, I knew I needed to live in places where I could be exposed to healers and communities that were focused on the things I felt literally I’d been starved of my whole life. Every first experience with holistic healthy lifestyle practices was revolutionary for me. Sometimes we don’t know what we are missing when we literally don’t KNOW what we are missing! Well, now I knew, and there was no going back. Or so I thought. But here I am at 46 years old, back in West Virginia.
Of course I visited regularly over the years. For some time, there was literally no place I could find food that I would eat when I’d come home to visit. Nothing in the grocery stores or restaurants at least. One small co-op was my lifeline. The Mountain People’s Coop. It still exists and I’m once again a proud member. And now there are CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture programs like Round Right Farm). There are organic/health sections in the grocery stores. And there are a few restaurants that are doing there best to use fresh, local ingredients.
And although ‘conventional’, ‘western’ medicine still rules, there are some alternative options available. To be fair, there were chiropractors in WV when I was growing up, but my parents were discouraged from sending me to them. They were more akin to witch doctors than medical professionals.
As for Ayurveda or Chinese Medicines, West Virginia has fewer practitioners in these fields than almost any other state. But, we are here now. And as of this summer, it looks like both the MDs and their patients might start paying attention to some of these other options, at least for treating pain. It is a start. And it is long past due. The diets and lifestyles that have perpetuated in this state (and many places in this country) have created the diseases and levels of pain so many of us are living with. Without access to alternatives, combined with education and encouragement to embrace these alternatives, there is little hope for change.
I hope West Virginians are ready to embrace the imperative and desperate need for change here.
West Virginians are proud to be West Virginians. Rightfully so. In the Autumn, this is truly one of the most gorgeous places on earth. Sadly, it is a place that has had many challenges which have led to it also being a leader in some of the worst kind of statistics.
- 2nd highest rates for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) in the nation.
- 2nd highest rates for Diabetes (1 in 7 WV adults)
- Highest rate of Arthritis (1 in 3 West Virginians)
Every year an estimated 13,000 people in West Virginia are diagnosed with diabetes. (diabetes.org)
Over $2,5 billion is spent annually just on this disease. Not to mention the associated complications like heart disease, stroke, amputation, renal failure, etc. Much less death due to diseases which are totally preventable with regular use of ‘alternative’ medicine practices like eating healthy and exercising.
Another well known epidemic where WV tops the charts is the opioid addiction crisis.
Among the statistics we could note that relate to this issues is that West Virginia leads the nation by far in the rate of drug overdose deaths. West Virginia had 872 fatal overdoses last year and a state-record 887 — a rate of 52 per 100,000 residents — in 2016.
Well, as of June 2018… WV doctors are going to have to give ‘alternative’ medicines a chance!
Maybe in a few more years the MDs and big-pharma (aka Mylan) will acknowledge that the alternatives are more effective than the conventional/pharmaceutical methods in the majority of situations. I’m not optimistic about this, since the alternatives put a big dent in the profit driven systems, and don’t cost the patients nearly as much.
Classical/natural medicine systems were conventional first… for thousands of years all over the world.
West Virginia will join about two-dozen states that have set limits on opioid prescriptions for acute pain.
This is a start.
Congratulations West Virginians.
People will hopefully start finding their ways to the ‘alternative’ medicines without having to leave the state. This will be the turning point. Just like it was for me. I just had to leave West Virginia to get there. I’m honored to be here at the time of this turning point for some. I’m not currently taking insurance, because it is an insane system that I feel limits both practitioner and patient. But, I offer a sliding scale and welcome anyone who feels ready to make this time a turning point in your lives. When I’m not seeing patients in-person, I am available for online consultations and support. This system is working well for my patient-students. And it allows me to both practice part-time in West Virginia and continue to nurture my connections abroad with the best teachers, doctors, and colleagues in the fields of classical/natural/alternative medicines. We have to practice what we preach, right?!