Eastern Medicine Kicked My Western A**
By Deborah Blackwell
After nearly three years battling a debilitating disorder called POTS, that derails my daily existence and optimism, I braved up and went to Chinatown to see a bona fide traditional Chinese medicine doctor.
It took some convincing for Sir Husband, who with loving support, has watched me try everything to fix this fiasco brought on by a few delicious, salmonella-ridden peaches. There’s no cure for POTS, it’s trial and error, and I’ve tried it all. Traditional, nontraditional, integrative, Eastern, Western medicine, you name it. Nothing works. So, he’s a little protective.
It was actually my integrative medicine practitioner, also Chinese, who, after two long years of her hands-on osteopathic treatments, decided I needed to see this healer in Chinatown. She was sure his help would be life-changing.
And it was. But not for me. Let me share an ancient Chinese secret: Irony reveals truth.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, when Sir Husband was finally convinced I had nothing more to lose, we ventured into the gridlocked, buzzing, chaotic, aromatic, filthy, fascinating little city within our city. Parking was next to impossible, and if it wasn’t for my pursuit of a cure-all and the aroma of simmering pork, soy sauce, ginger, and onion, we would have given up.
The shop where our hope resided was crammed floor-to-ceiling with boxes; barrels; and bags of herbs, spices, and teas; tinctures; balms; pills; creams; bones; fungi; beauty supplies; beads; jade; jewelry; statues; tea sets; bells; porcelain; and one middle-age, dark-haired Chinese woman sitting on a stool, reading a Chinese newspaper, behind a glass counter filled with disorganized, interesting stuff that probably had been there for a thousand years. She sort-of looked up.
In too many words, I told her I’d been referred for a consultation, needed help with my illness, etc. When I noticed her blank stare, I stopped talking.
“He’s not here,” she said.
Sir Husband looked deflated. They don’t make appointments. You go when it’s open, you wait if it’s crowded, you see the doctor, you leave with miracle medicine. But the doctor wasn’t there. Oh no.
“Wait a minute,” she said, picked up her cell phone, and made a call. She was speaking Chinese, so I didn’t understand a word, but when she hung up, she waved me to a nearby chair. I was in luck. “Fifteen minutes,” she said.
I sat down and Sir Husband poked around the store. People came in and out, spoke to the woman in Chinese, and went about their business. A tall, slender, dark-haired, middle-aged man came in, made eye contact, and directed me to a large table in the back. I knew he was my man. Then he saw Sir Husband.
“Hello! How are you?” he said with cheerful broken English. “You have been in here before, I know you.”
“Hello!” Sir Husband replied as he followed us both to the large table.
“You know him?” I whispered.
“I don’t think so?” he whispered back.
We sat side-by-side looking at the doctor, who seemed awfully laid back. He didn’t say a word, but proceeded with my exam. He looked at my eyes, my tongue, inspected my hands, and felt my pulse for what seemed like forever. And then, low-key, but matter-of-factly, he said it.
He told me my health age was 10 years older than my real age.
I was crushed. I know I’m not well. But my body is 10 years older than me? Now what? I held back tears while he went to get something from a shelf in the corner. Two small boxes of tiny pills. I was to take eight, three times a day, and no, there were no side effects. In two months I would be transformed, and not just back to my actual age, the POTS would be much better.
But it wasn’t me he was interested in. He seemed fixated on Sir Husband. “You want me to see you too?” he said.
“Sure!” my now-very-comfortable-with-this-whole-experience husband responded.
I expected he would tell Sir Husband that he ate too many potato chips, didn’t exercise enough, and was filled with stress from both from a busy job and a debilitated wife. That he would need to buckle down and take better care of himself. That we needed a vacation to the Cinque Terre. So, I sat there, watched, and waited as he performed the same exam.
“You’re very strong, healthy, and calm,” the doctor said. He went on and on about Sir Husband’s robust essence. His well-being, his vitality. No broken-English confusion here. I couldn’t believe the compassion and warmth between these two strangers, who clearly knew each other from a previous lifetime.
It was like watching a movie that you’re in, but as an extra, wondering what’s going on. I am the one into Eastern medicine, not Sir Husband. I embrace the mind-body, spiritual, metaphysical, thoughts-become-things-healing-comes-from-within concept about how the body seeks balance in conjunction with the universe itself. About how I can shift my life-force energy, or qi, and I will heal. I just needed a little help from a real Chinese medicine doctor.
But thanks to POTS, my yin is so off from my yang that even after years of trying – and two short days of those tiny Chinese pills – I failed. And, in an ironic plot twist, Sir Husband, who is low-key about his health, is the rockstar.
We learned a lot from that experience in Chinatown. There’s a lot more to life than meets the eye. Behind the scenes the body has all sorts of things going on. Confusing, commanding, life-altering things. Why it pushes my heart into overdrive, throws off my blood flow, circulation, vision, balance, breathing, and body temperature, derails my digestion, sleep, and apparently even my age, I don’t know. Why it shared some things with a stranger, I’m not sure.
But the harder I try to fix it, the harder it gets to fix. So, there’s only one thing I can do. Nothing. Stop trying to fix it. Or push it, prompt it, prod it, and control it, in desperate attempts to heal it. The body’s got a plan of its own. While surrender isn’t easy, and acceptance feels tough, one thing remains clear. Life always seems to resolve itself in the process of life itself. Irony and all.
I loved this story, Deb, but wish someday You’ll Find relief from your POTS! Somehow, somewhere, someone will someday surface , under your radar and find some effective answers to heal your chronically ill body. And it will just happen; just like that! Hoping for better, healthier tomorrows for you always!!♥️
Life is such a conundrum. Your Husband must have known this man in another life. Go back and see him but ditch sir husband. Did he at least recommend some good noodle soup?
Wishing you lots of strength. Someone once sent me a card that said, “heal at your own Pace. ‘Get Well Soon’ seemed too bossy for someone as competent as you!”
I forgot to say your descriptions are powerful. I felt like i was in Chinatown, trying to find parking, smelling all the wonderful smells and viewing all the magic.
Thank you Blue, we are similar in our determination for whatever we are tackling! xo
Haha I will ask for a noodle soup recommendation next time!
Thanks so much Chris! Healthier days for both of us! ❤️
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