I often wonder about words. And so many in our daily parlance seem to be diluted or washed of the weight of their meaning. Like authenticity, holistic or integrated. Integrated hits especially close as it’s often used to describe health care practitioners who don’t hold the conventional party line.
But, what does it mean to be truly integrated as a human being? And what aspiration is this reflecting back to us? If any? And, then, what is integrative medicine?
I imagine integrative as wrapping our arms around the complexity and entirety of the human experience. That everything gets a seat at the table--the good stuff, the gnarly, the constipation, the funky rashes, the dreams and the fears. It all gets a welcome mat or, at least, an acknowledgement of being part of the whole.
In practice, I see this as having a wide view when it comes to health. Being curious about how a certain symptom, for example, may need to be looked at from all different angles.
I used to get anxious when I would fly. Queasy stomach, jumpy heart rate and nervousness. Then, I realized I always treated myself to coffee those days. I stopped the coffee and about 85% of the fear went away. (I doubt I’ll ever rid myself of the last 15% considering this mode of travel involves propelling ourselves in heavy metal machines through the sky).
On the flip side, though, in my early 20s I started experiencing a crazy flavor of anxiety which I have come to call “sweat attacks.” Phone calls, meeting new people, asking for feedback from a professor, public speaking all caused me to look seemingly calm while I was sweating gallons through my clothes. Oh the joys of our humanity!
Working with my own ND, we looked at hormones, rebuilt my adrenals, calmed my nervous system with herbs and homeopathy. The thing that brought the whole plan together and calmed the sweat attacks? Learning about shame from Brené Brown and repeating the mantra “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Stand your sacred ground.”
The mind informs the body. And the body informs the mind. Integrative medicine allows space for this to exist. To know that we are all multi faceted and sometimes we may just need to ditch the latte or need magnesium in the evening and other times we may need also to quiet the mind and tend to our mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing as well. It’s in this alchemy that we breathe easier and begin to embrace our whole selves.