Lupus Novice: Toward Self-Healing

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Lupus Novice: Toward Self-Healing

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by Laura Chester

Station Hill Press, Inc., Barrytown, New York 12507 USA

Hardback, 1987 $16.95 180 pp.

The dictionary defines novice as "beginner" or "amateur," an appropriate word to describe the author's journey of self-discovery after being diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE. This auto-immune disease, considered fatal by many allopathic doctors, is literally the body attacking itself as in the well-known phrase "letting something eat you up."

Laura Chester is no beginner as a writer, however, and she unfolds her story with skill and poetic images, adding much depth and sensitivity to her outer search for treatment and her inner search for meaning. What that "something" is that was eating her up, the author makes clear, has to do with feelings, spiritual health, inner conflicts.

After some initial encounters with allopathic physicians, the author turns to anthroposophical medicine, a variation of homeopathy developed by Rudolph Steiner. She also uses bodywork, Bach's flower remedies, a spiritual healer, and psychotherapy. She makes no claims for these modalities, simply presenting her search for answers to her body's "illness."

At times the book reads like a detective novel, weaving her personal problems and conflicts with her mother, her unmet needs as a writer, her inability to accept herself, as the warp and her physician's prescriptions as the woof in the fabric of her story. Mostly, it is the deeply-felt human experience that enriches the reader. Much of the beauty and value of this book is in the author's exploration of herself, and the other levels of "health" besides the purely physical. I particularly liked her definition of health as "...a balanced rhythm, a balance between the life and death forces always in progress."

Books like Lupus Novice provide us with the missing link in the etiology of illnesses like SLE -- the personal meaning for the individual. Author Laura Chester seems to be saying that we all carry our history/herstory with us, at a cellular level, and that until we acknowledge any inner "dis-ease," physical illness will remind us that we are ultimately, responsible for our lives. It does seem apparent that "how" one lives, loves, eats and feels, does produce manifestations in the body of health or illness. As this author reveals her all-too-human weaknesses and needs, and shares this intimate knowledge with the reader, she also shows us the shape of her healing.

This book adds enormously to our understanding of self-healing and what "health" really is. Among the prescribed treatments in the book, including Iscador (Mistletoe), Gerson's Diet, and prednisone, I found these "simple" suggestions given to the author by her spiritual healer:

Take your time. This does not mean that everything must come to a total standstill while you wait for self-renewal. But it does mean that your commitments, either to the old situation that you haven't yet left, or the new situation that you haven't yet invested yourself in, are going to be somewhat provisional. And it means that you cannot rush the inner process whereby this state of affairs will change.

Arrange temporary structures. Years ago when we were doing over our home, we tolerated for some time a living space in a small area that scaled-down our functions to a minimum. The walls were in stages of disrepair and were quite ugly, but it provided us with the protection we needed to go on living in a space that was being transformed. So it is with transitional situations in love and work; you will need to work out ways of going on while the inner work is being done. This may involve very limited engagements socially, agreements to do some work on a provisional basis, or it may simply involve an inner resolve to accept a given situation as temporary and to transfer your energy to what will be replacing your former connections.

Don't act for the sake of action. The temporary situation is frustrating, often frightening, and there is the temptation to "do something -- anything." This reaction is understandable, but it usually leads to more difficulty. The transition process requires that we discover whatever we need to learn for the next step we are going to take. We need to stay in transition long enough to complete this important process, not to abort it through premature action.
Recognize why you are uncomfortable. Distress is not a sign that something has gone wrong, but that something is changing. Understanding the transition process, expecting times of anxiety, expecting others to be threatened, expecting old fears to be awakened -- all of these things are important.

Surrender to emptiness. Stop struggling to escape it. This is not easy. An understanding of its purposes may help: a) The process of transformation is essentially a death and rebirth process rather than one of mechanical modification. While our own culture knows a great deal about mechanics, it has a great deal to learn about death and rebirth. In keeping with our mechanistic bias, we have tried to make do with recharging and repair, imagining that renewal comes through fixing something defective or supplying something that is missing. In fact it is only by returning for a time to the formlessness of the primal energy that renewal can take place. This empty place is the only source of the self-renewal that we all seek. b) The process of disintegration and reintegration is indispensable to any new creation. This chaos is not a mess, but rather it is the primal state of pure energy to which one returns for every true new beginning. c) The emptiness provides a perspective on the stages themselves. Viewed from that emptiness, the realities of the everyday world look transparent and insubstantial, and we can see what is meant by the statement that everything is "illusion." Few of us can live in the harsh light of this knowledge for long, but even when we return to ordinary "reality," we carry with us an appreciation of the unknowable ground beyond every image. This experience provides access to an angle of vision on life that one can get nowhere else.

Take care of yourself in little ways. This is not a time to be living up to your highest self-image. But it is a time to keep an agreement with yourself; namely, to be sensitive to your real and immediate needs. Find little continuities that are important when everything else seems to be going out of your life. Doing unexpected and unplanned things. Avoid expeditions and enterprises! Do not do things that fit into a value system.

Lupus Novice is a book full of wisdom for all of us -- sick or well, doctor or patient, not the least of which reminds us that the practice of medicine must be as much art as it is science.

Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients.

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By Irene Alleger

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