Stephen Thompson LAc CNT
6 months ago, a female patient came to me suffering with an idiopathic autoimmune disorder that not only affected her connective tissues but the joints of her hips and lumbar spine. I will call her Lacy. She complained that she had been to 5 different specialist along with her general practitioner, but none were able to give her any insight to her pain and discomfort. Lacy had been put on a cocktail of drugs including Lyrica, Neurontin, Prednisone, and Effexor. Despite several tests, no specific agents of pathology presented, and none of the drugs seemed to touch her problems. Not surprisingly, she was also diagnosed with depression. When asked when all of these issues started, she stated they had been going on since her early to mid teen years.
Lacy had been given several different diagnosis's from the different specialist she had previously seen. One doctor negated the last and re-diagnosed her. She went from having rheumatoid arthritis to lupus to chronic arthritis with possible lyme’s disease to finally idiopathic autoimmune disease and possible fibromyalgia. In other words, they had no clue what was going on. The worst part was that this young lady was a 24 year old athlete.
This isn’t the first time I had seen this type of presentation. So, before getting into the initial intake and after establishing some rapport, I asked Lacy two simple questions. The first question I asked was if she had regular menstruation. As the menstruation deals with the Liver, Spleen, and Chong, I wanted to establish if there was any involvement with blood (deficiency, reckless movement, or stagnation). Her expression changed and I knew my answer. She asked me how I could know that she had menstrual issues and that her gynecologist had suggested that she might have endometriosis. She commented that her PMS was severe and she had migraines and extreme cramps for two days before she started to bleed. As her mother sat beside her, I could see tears welling in her mother’s eyes. Hearing this I knew the second question had to be asked.
I gingerly, yet matter-of-factly, asked Lacy if she had any history of physical or sexual abuse as a young child between the ages of seven and fourteen. She gave me a startled look which turned to introspection as she confirmed that yes she had been sexually assaulted several times during her youth by a family member. Her mother immediately piped in asking what that could possibly have to do with anything, and why no other doctor had asked either of those two questions. I asked for patience while I conducted the rest of the intake and assessment.
I completed the examination and found nothing else out of the ordinary of what I was expecting. Her pulses were overall weak (frail), choppy, fine, and very deep in the guan and cun positions. Her tongue was pale, small, dusky towards the root, and hesitant (shaky). The back pain she experienced was dull, achy, and continuous. She had difficulty sleeping (falling asleep). Her mother interjected that once her daughter falls asleep, she jerks and occasionally whimpers. Lacy was also chronically fatigued and plagued with constant cold extremities. What surprised both the patient and her mother was that I predicted almost all of the symptoms she was experiencing before she told me how they manifested.
I explained to Lacy that her condition was a reaction to her body’s inability to cope the psyco-physio-spiritual trauma she had sustained. From a superficial symptomatic standpoint, the back pain was due to deficient kidneys from adrenal exhaustion both from being a constant state of fight or flight, and a serious lack of restful sleep. The dream disturbed sleep was a subconscious reliving of the unresolved panic from the abuse accounting for the tics, jerking, and whimpering. For the ‘autoimmune’ issue and menstrual issues, I explained that the body can only deal with a certain amount of trauma at any given time. Though the trauma can be physical, psychological, emotional, or environmental, the body interprets containment of that trauma in similar ways.
I believe that when the body becomes overwhelmed by a phenomena it has two choices. The first choice is to deal with the phenomena there and then. The other choice, whether the phenomena is too intense or the vessel is too weak, creates a fractioning and containment mechanism which isolates the phenomena until a more suitable time to address the issue. The fractioning and/or isolation can occur in the psyche, tissue, or organs. This fractionated, isolated phenomena may no longer be recognizable from the rest of the surrounding tissue. I likened this experience to trauma being locked away in a closet. The lock on the closet is low grade inflammation. Because the body knows there is something foreign inside the closet, it seeks to attack the hidden entity by initiating a sustained immune response. So you have an inflammatory response on one side protecting the body from the damage of the latent trauma by keeping the trauma ‘hidden,’ and the immune response on the other side protecting the body by attacking the altered tissue housing the trauma. Thus the ‘autoimmune’ response perpetuates and flares when she over stimulates her systems and weakens its ability moderate the inflammatory response.
As to the menstrual problems, I further explained to Lacy that this trauma, and its containment/isolation in the connective tissue, disrupts the flow of both qi and blood in the local area. The stagnation of the blood and qi explains the temporal migraines profuse dark clotted blood she experiences before and during her menstruation. The erratic and deficient volume and movement of blood also helps to explain her poor circulation and cold limbs.
Lacy and her mother were astonished. Her mother commented that she had never heard anything like what I explained in all of the years the two had been looking for answers. Lacy admonished her previous diagnosis’s and doctors exclaiming that she had learned more about her body in the twenty minutes we had spoken together than the countless doctors, tests, and drugs. I finished the intake by explaining that the body’s number one priority is to protect the integral function of its essential organ systems. Sometimes in the body’s quest to protect itself, inherent self-harm may result.
The two thanked me for my time and illuminations. They scheduled to start treatment several days later, then ended up canceling the appointments with no reason given. I believe that sometimes the pain of deep realization and the prospect of reliving old wounds, despite their cathartic effects, may be to too intense to break the hold of latency. If nothing else, I hope Lacy realized, despite what several doctors told her, that her pathologies were not “all in her head.”
"Everything has life and deserves great respect."