How did I get here

How Did I Get Here?

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As many of you may know, I have been working on a few books as of late. This has limited my ability to write for Hormones Matter with any consistency. Absent new content, numbers drop. (For all of you who have been contemplating writing for us, now is the time.) In the meantime, I decided that I would share excerpts from the books. This is an excerpt from the first chapter of the book that I have tentatively titled: How to Heal from Almost Anything.

How Did I Get Here?

“And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack

And you may find yourself in another part of the world

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife

And you may ask yourself, ‘Well… how did I get here?’”

–Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime

Ask anyone who suffers from a chronic and debilitating illness about when they became ill and they will often pinpoint an event or time frame before which they considered themselves healthy but after which they were ill. Sometimes the event is another illness, perhaps something seemingly benign like a cold or flu, or maybe, a particularly stressful period of life, like loss of job, divorce, or death of a loved one. For girls and women, reproductive changes like the onset of menstruation, pregnancy/postpartum, or even menopause often precipitate chronic illness. In many cases, chronic health issues can be linked to medication or vaccine reactions, sometimes acute and other times accumulative. Surgical procedures too might herald the onset of illness, even when the surgery is considered a success. Whatever the cause, however, when speaking with people about their illness, they will inevitably proclaim: “I was healthy before ‘X’ and now I am not.” In contrast, when speaking with people who have recovered from chronic illness, they will often express how they have never been healthier, that they look and feel younger, and that they are doing things that they never imagined possible. This begs the question, do we really know what health is? Probably not. We think we do, but how modern, Western culture portrays health, has very little to do with actual health.

So, how did we get here, or more specifically, how did you get here? How did you get to the point where your health has declined so much that no physician yet has been able to help you heal or even offer hope of healing? How is it that after seeing dozens of physicians, after being given multiple diagnoses, sometimes simultaneously, and each with its own complement of medications, you are no closer to health than you were before illness became your life? In large part, the answer rests in how we conceptualize health versus illness. Think back to when you considered yourself healthy. What did that look like? What was your diet? What was your level of activity? Did you already take medications for minor ailments? Did you drink? Did you smoke? Answers to these questions define whether what you considered ‘health’ was actual health or just an illness waiting to happen.

If we deconstruct what most of us consider healthy, we find that it has nothing to do with actual health. For example, in our work on Hormones Matter, we see case after case of women who develop serious illnesses after a medication or vaccine. More often than not, they considered themselves ‘healthy’ prior to the medication or vaccine reaction, but when we dig in, we find they were not healthy per se, just relatively symptom free. That is, their diets were typical Western diets, full of processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, and chemically laden, conventionally grown produce, if fruits and vegetables were consumed at all. Frequently, alcohol was used regularly, perhaps not in great quantities, but regularly nevertheless, as were various medications, like ibuprofen and other pain killers, sleeping aides, maybe allergy pills or anti-depressants, and often hormonal birth control. All of this, of course, is in addition to, an increasing number of antibiotic, vaccine, and other chemical exposures common in Western countries. Nevertheless, even with this constant onslaught of chemicals, most of the folks we speak with were quite active, some were athletes, scholars, or successful professionals before their current illnesses struck. That is, with the help of medication, they functioned and functioned quite well. The question is, can we call that being healthy?

Certainly, if we define health by one’s ability to function, no matter how many medications it takes to achieve that level of functioning, then yes, this can be considered health. And for most of Western medicine and Western culture, functionality and outward appearances define health. So long as one functions, is able to perform whatever tasks deemed necessary to living, and so long as one ‘looks’ healthy e.g. is of an appropriate body weight, neither the quality of one’s diet nor the environmental exposures, the alcohol, tobacco or medication use, or any number of other obviously unhealthy behaviors matter.

Seriously, does anyone really believe that a diet of chicken nuggets washed down by soda and tempered by a regular cocktail of metformin and statins is healthy?

Until, of course, it does matter and that is where the problems with Western medicine become fully apparent. When there are no more medications or surgical interventions that let us approximate health, when indeed, each new medication only worsens health, and when functioning becomes utterly impossible, that is when we wake up and begin asking some very difficult questions, not the least of which is ‘how did I get here?” In so doing, we often find that how we defined health until this point, was anything but healthy. It was a useful facade, to be sure. It allowed us to ignore what deep in our gut we knew were not healthy behaviors and continue on as if they were. It allowed us to ignore all of the early signs of impending demise, and most importantly, it allowed us to function in an otherwise chaotic environment rather than change the environment.

Admittedly, there are many positive aspects of this approach. Life requires survival, and adapting to a chaotic environment by whatever means possible is the pinnacle of survival. Where we run into problems, however, is when this approach becomes the dominant model of not only everyday life, but also, of medical practice and we forget entirely what health even looks like. That is where we find ourselves now, so enmeshed in this model of medicine, we have forgotten what health even looks like, much less how to achieve it.

That is all for now.

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Chandler Marrs MS, MA, PhD spent the last dozen years in women’s health research with a focus on steroid neuroendocrinology and mental health. She has published and presented several articles on her findings. As a graduate student, she founded and directed the UNLV Maternal Health Lab, mentoring dozens of students while directing clinical and Internet-based research. Post graduate, she continued at UNLV as an adjunct faculty member, teaching advanced undergraduate psychopharmacology and health psychology (stress endocrinology). Dr. Marrs received her BA in philosophy from the University of Redlands; MS in Clinical Psychology from California Lutheran University; and, MA and PhD in Experimental Psychology/ Neuroendocrinology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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