Joy, age 61, came to see me for asthma attacks, dry eyes and mouth, cysts in her liver, insomnia, chronic fatigue, dizziness, heartburn and burning urination.These symptoms began after her mother had a stroke and Joy took responsibility for her. Soon,Joy was diagnosed with Sjogren’s disease, an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation of the lungs, kidney and liver, leading to diseases like hepatitis.
Joy’s siblings had appointed her the sole caregiver of their incapacitated mother since they had children and she didn’t. Joy loves her mother deeply and agreed that she had fewer obligations than her brothers and sisters, so she worked tirelessly–but with silent resentment. She grieved the loss both of her mother’s cognitive function and of her own autonomy, telling me privately, “I don’t have a life anymore. All I do is take care of my mom.”
Evidence of her trauma showed in her weak distal pulse, the purple color on the sides of her tongue and the thin crack behind the tip of her tongue. My diagnosis was Liver Blood Stagnation and Lung Yin Deficiency. The liver in Chinese medicine is connected with the emotion, anger, while the lung relates to grief.
According to this tradition, physical or emotional trauma may cause physical illness shown through an Italian study done in August of 2014. It found happiness to be the strongest predictor of health. So how did I help Joy help herself? Firstly, I asked her to begin joyful activities to heal her anger and grief. “Yoga!” she said with an instant smile. We began with that. Secondly, we discussed Karol Kuhn Truman’s reminder, “Feelings buried alive never die.”
Suppressing emotions pumps up levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which over time contributes to inflammation and compromises our organs. Learning how ‘suffering in silence’ was damaging her body spurred Joy to acknowledge her own anger and pain and make life changes.
Two weeks later, she had her first conversation with her siblings where she opened up about the toll that 24/7 help for their mom had taken on her health, explaining that she needed to take one day off each week for self-care.
Of course, this was not convenient for them. One sister now goes to their mother on Joy’s day off, but not with a good grace. However, Joy is no longer so pliant and can resist negative responses from her sisters, defending the boundaries that allow her to experience greater joy in life.
Her radical transformation also included acupuncture, herbs, homeopathy, and diet. Within just three months, Joy’s tongue changed to a pinkish color, her liver less “angry”, and the crack behind her tongue tip faded, indicating a healing of the lung“grief”
Today, Joy has NO symptoms and enjoys yoga several times weekly.“My eyes feel refreshed. Idon’t have the dryness that I used to have,” she says. She is a perfect example of true healing–giving yourself the opportunity to enjoy a life filled with self expression.
Dr. Carina Lopez