There seems to be a growing divide in the world of health and healing. In one camp you have the “conventional medical” approach which has consistently eschewed the other side, those in the “alternative treatment” camp. The disdain, however, goes both ways. These days, as a patient, you are constantly made to feel like you have to choose sides.  Both sides are adamant in their belief that their approach is the correct one, and will do everything, including playing dirty, to get you on their “side.”

This means that, as someone who lives with the pain of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis every day, I have been subject to shaming by people who are convinced that switching to a paleo diet will cure me. I have been told that the only alternative treatment that has any validity is acupuncture. I have been called gullible, and looked at with pity, by doctors, friends and family who have absolutely no idea how to live with extreme pain. I have also been treated with derision, and horror by people who are convinced that I am poisoning myself with “toxic” drugs. I long for the days when I was a kid and I had no idea that I was supposed to be afraid of my medications.

The two biggest things that have been offered to me lately in my search for healing have been fear and division, both aspects of society at large, but also a black and white approach to life that I don’t relate to in any way. With all of the fear, strong opinion, and division being batted around we have forgotten that we are supposed to be healing ourselves and each other. Living well with disease is not a game; it is a matter of life and death and there is no place for big egos or competitive attitudes. The ONLY win is when someone begins to get his life back and starts to feel better.

The bottom line is this: if our current approach to healing worked, a lot more people would be getting better. In my opinion, as a patient, this is not a time to limit your options, and I, for one, will not turn away from ANYTHING that I feel may help complete the puzzle that makes up my picture of health. I have taken many, many medications over the years that work in mysterious ways. I couldn’t tell you why they helped to decrease my inflammation. But, then again, neither could my doctors, as the juvenile rheumatoid arthritis I live with is an enigma to medical science. Neither do I understand completely how energy medicine works. What I do know is this: results matter, especially when you live with severe pain 24/7.

Over the course of my 44 years of living with this disease I have tried hundreds of treatments, both conventional and alternative, and I have gotten mixed results from both camps. Both are extremely valuable to me, and work in different ways. The medical approach is anything but subtle and can offer quick, dramatic results. It can also do a lot of damage from side effects. Alternative medicine is less about symptom management and more about building a strong foundation in the body and trusting it to know how to move back toward health, since health is our natural state. Delving into alternative treatments is partly what keeps me sane, giving me a deeper understanding about myself and my life path. Conventional medicine has helped me to ease my suffering and pain.

So, when I am confronted with the choice of medication or meditation, I say wholeheartedly, “BOTH!!”

I urge you to do the same.

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