The Dark Side of Holistic Healing

As natural and holistic approaches to health grow, so does the involvement of younger generations in the "alternative medicine" scene. Being a vegan, I am intrinsically interested in the ways of natural healing and healing through health, and I have found so many benefits to approaching illness and disease with this mindset. After all, you can't be fully healthy if you aren't taking care of your diet and physical wellbeing. But there is a dark side to the holistic health community that I have discovered the hard way; the shaming that is placed on those who choose more conventional methods of treatment, such as taking medication. 

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism at the age of 13, after years of not gaining weight or entering into puberty. Once I was put on synthetic hormones, I gained 10 (much needed) pounds in two months and was on my way to being a healthy teenager. Fast forward to January 2017, my junior year of college. After switching around my medications for a few months with unwanted side effects and no difference in my not-quite-right thyroid levels, I began the search for a holistic medical practitioner and stumbled upon a chiropractor in town who is known for holistic healing. During my time there, the doctor was able to take me off of my thyroid medication and onto a natural supplement that for the first six months, worked like a charm and left me feeling great. But soon enough, the pressure to also go off of my other medication, an antidepressant for depression and anxiety that I had been on for over five years, began to take hold of me. I believed I could heal myself without the dependency on these meds I had been living with for a good chunk of my young adult life. The more I talked to others with the natural health mindset, the more convinced I was it would be fine. And for the first few months off of escitalopram, it was fine. I felt good, I didn't feel anxious, and after the initial first two months of random mood swings, I was pretty much back to my "normal" self.

But then I went on a vacation abroad over winter break which included lots and lots of flights within a short amount of time... and flying is and has always been a huge anxiety trigger for me. Coming back from this vacation I was left exhausted and agitated, with bouts of vertigo coming and going for weeks, all as a result of an acute stress response. I soon found myself on the verge of panic attacks while sitting in class (one of the main manifestations of anxiety I first had back in high school) and found myself crying and unable to get out of bed in the week before my periods. It seemed as if I had failed, because one bout of stress due to my trip had caused this delayed-anxiety reaction that was just getting worse. I went back on my medications. In less than a month, my panic attacks had settled down and I was able to function normally before my periods and during class. I was glad to be back to feeling well, but ashamed that I couldn't heal myself naturally, and this left me feeling a little broken because I viewed being on medication as a failure. 

The whole point of this story is to show the negative side to natural healing, and that sometimes it just isn't possible at this point in your life. It was more dangerous for me to go off of my medications than to stay on them, especially since I was stable on them and there was no real reason to get off of them in the first place. Getting off of any medication is a full-time job, and you have to actively dedicate your time to making yourself feel better and healing-- whether this be through weekly therapy sessions or weekly doctors visits, and practicing what you have learned every single day. Healing doesn't mean taking some natural supplements instead and suddenly you are healed. It's a long, hard process, and for some people, it just isn't possible. I'm thankful for what I learned about my own health and wellbeing through my natural healing journey, but I'm also glad to be able to function normally throughout my everyday life without having to battle my mental illnesses in order to live a life free of medication. 

Being on medication isn't a failure, it's an act of bravery. Taking pills should never be shamed. They aren't poisoning me, they are helping me live. I don't need to stop taking something that makes my life better, at least not right now. Mental health can't be cured through healthy dieting and supplements, but it can be managed that way, if you really dedicate all your time and effort into doing so. For most people however, it just isn't worth it to spend so much time and money managing mental health the "healthy way" when medication is a valid and healthy option, too. I would be much less healthy mentally (and eventually physically because of it) if I hadn't gone back on my medications. I'm thankful for my dependency on these pills because they give me a chance to live life without having to fight against myself every single day. And I still enjoy living a majorly holistic and natural lifestyle through diet, exercise, meditation, yoga, and so on. But I also take medication, and that's okay, too. If you are struggling with a mental illness like anxiety or depression and it is negatively impacting your daily life, I urge you to seek help from your doctor and consider the option of medication. There's no reason to continue suffering when natural options aren't cutting it. 

[Photos courtesy of Pxhere]