In April of 1997, when I was a junior in college, I woke up one morning, went to the bathroom, tried to sit down on the toilet, and instead fell on the floor. Later that afternoon, the doctor at the Student Health Center told me I had Vertigo, a viral infection of the inner ear. What I didn’t know then was that I was experiencing the first in more than a decade of symptomatic episodes caused by Multiple Sclerosis. The Vertigo – which gave me the spins as if I were on my third bottle of wine and a dizziness that was nearly unbearable – lasted about two weeks. But even when the spins had subsided, I was still spun. My life, without asking my permission, had just taken an unexpected turn. That morning – though I certainly didn’t know it then – was the beginning of a decade-plug healing journey that has brought me to this sentence, on this blog, today.
I wasn’t diagnosed with MS until July of 2007, exactly a decade later. During that time I would be sick for a while, and then okay for a while, then sick again, then okay, then sick. It was a maddening and mysterious roller coaster for me – perplexing and frustrating for those around me. During those ten years I lost faith in the dogma of doctors and sought healing from places like diet, acupuncture, books, chiropractors, and more. When I was finally diagnosed, though I was in some ways relieved and comforted to have “solved” the mystery, I quickly realized that suddenly belonging to a club called multiple sclerosis didn’t mean I would be healing any faster. In fact, I discovered that the culture of MS wasn’t about healing at all, it was about “managing.” This is not exclusive to multiple sclerosis, of course – it characterizes most of the Western medicine paradigm. Symptoms are managed with drugs, but the root cause of the imbalance is never addressed.
In my visits with various neurologists, not one even mentioned the possibility of healing from this illness. The MS brochure published by my doctor’s office had photos of people smiling in wheelchairs. I was told there were many drugs from which to choose, though none, it seemed, could reliably prevent the progress or even stop flare-ups. At no point was diet discussed with me, except when I brought it up and was told patronizingly that “I could try that for a little while.” The link between stress and symptoms was mentioned as a one-sentence afterthought. Acupuncture wasn’t completely dismissed, but it wasn’t endorsed either, and at best it was seen as complementary to the standard drug regimen. When I suggested to one particular neurologist recently that I was likely going to continue treating my illness with the diet and supplement regimen I had been on, he drew me a picture. It contained three lines, all sloping downward at different trajectories, representing my three potential futures (according to him) depending on at what point I decided to take the medication. On my way home, I marveled at how many patients those three downward-sloping lines had taken hope away from. I wondered how many patients couldn’t even consider the possibility that healing was possible with a picture like that drawn for them by a man of such authority.
I learned that the culture of MS had amazingly low standards and expectations for what was possible, and I would have to travel outside that paradigm if I had any hope of healing.
Fortunately, and poignantly, when I got the call confirming my MS diagnosis in 2007 I was sitting in front of a master reality creator, Dr. Joseph Riggio. Joseph is a cognitive scientist with deep expertise in transformational communication, decision-making and non-ordinary cognition. He is the architect and designer of the Mythogenic Self™ Process and an international figure in the professional NLP™ and hypnosis communities. I had been studying with Joseph for several years, achieving many of my own breakthroughs as well as learning the skills to facilitate others in beginning from how they are when they’re at their best. I had gone for my first MRI several days prior to leaving for the training in California with Joseph.
When the call came, I was extremely distraught, and Joseph brought me outside to speak to me privately. We were sitting on lounge chairs next to the pool in the courtyard of the hotel where the training was being held. I remember watching the small blue ripples in the pool and feeling the warm sun on my shoulders and wondering how the nightmare I was living could be taking place on such a beautiful California afternoon. It was then that Joseph said something that would become the guiding arc for how I dealt with my illness from that moment forward. He said, “You have a crucial choice to make and you need to make it now. You’re either going to be a victim or you’re going to take control. Most people make this choice upon their diagnosis and don’t ever remake it, and the path they’ve chosen will be obvious to anyone who knows them. It will influence how sick you get, and it will determine the quality of the life you lead. So, which is it going to be?”
I will never forget that moment, because it was my own call to adventure. And I did heed the call. I chose to take control, even though, in that moment, I had no idea what that meant. Today, I have a clearer idea, and I’ve made it my life’s work to be a conduit for the wisdom of healers everywhere and anywhere, from various disciplines, with various backgrounds and interests and methodologies. Additionally, I’ve chosen to use my training with Dr. Riggio to work exclusively with those who have Multiple Sclerosis or other chronic illnesses. I feel blessed to bring to my clients a rather unusual and valuable coupling – I have both the first-hand experience of living with a chronic illness AND the skills to consistently operate from a position in which I am at my best and ANYTHING is possible, and the skills necessary to teach others to do the same.
This blog/website is my effort to learn and discover all that I can about what it means to not just be symptom-free, but to be robustly, vibrantly healthy. This site will be a source of content – both audio, video, and written – to support you and give you the resources to take control of your illness and your life, and to learn to operate from a place of possibility…all the time.
Karen Gordon is the founder of www.theselfhealingcoach.com. She is also the founder and President of Karenscape Photography, an award-winning wedding photojournalism studio based in New York and Austin, TX. and The Bump Studio, a newborn, birth, and maternity photography studio.