A hero’s journey: lessons in reversing diabetes

Note: This is a summary of Phyllis’ return to health after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. To read her four-part story, start with Part 1.

“The adventure of the hero is the adventure of being alive.” ~ Joseph Campbell

The path to healing autoimmune disease is not a well-worn path, but it can be done. If it’s possible for Phyllis to reverse her Type 2 diabetes, it’s possible for others. Many people still treat autoimmune diseases as intractable — believing they can only cause a steady prolonged decline, and there’s nothing you can do about it except take the prescribed medications and wait for disability and death.

Even doctors, as Phyllis learned, don’t always offer counsel that lifestyle changes can improve health.

I wanted to look at Phyllis’ sojourn as steps she took on her life path where she learned to choose those forks in the road that led her in the direction of better health. When she started on her healing path, Phyllis just wanted to stay out of the hospital. She didn’t know it would be possible for her to get off insulin and pharmaceuticals or to lose over 100 pounds.

It took nine years of making intelligent, healthy choices for her to reach that point — and others, reading and learning from this, might be able to do it more quickly.

Phyllis herself had no role model to follow, but she received encouragement from others who had learned and were continuing to learn about healing, and she is willing to serve as a role model to encourage others.

I extrapolated the major forks in her path toward health to make reducing the impact of an autoimmune disease understandable and reproducible for others.

First off, Phyllis’ health got so bad that something had to change. The threat of hospitalization and learning that she was at high risk for serious complications of diabetes (loss of limb, blindness, etc.) motivated her. She wanted to move away from that.

She asked herself what needed to happen first to avoid hospitalization. She addressed her stress levels by quitting her demanding job, which had amplified her habit of overeating unhealthy convenience food to try to find stress relief, as well as having her no time for recreational movement.

Even though she says her thinking was impaired then, some part of her was able to recognize the one difference she could make now that could make the biggest difference in the long run.

She could also have chosen to take medical leave, to take a less stressful job in the same company, to move to a less stressful job in a different company, to do something entirely different, or to go back to school and learn a different skill.

So, she rested and allowed quiet, nature, and time do some of the healing for her. Her ability to think came back online. She recovered enough from stress that she had more resources to face her health issues.

She then went out into her small community and found support from others who were also working on getting and staying healthy. They encouraged each other and worked out together. That helped her gain the perspective that she wasn’t alone or helpless, and that at least she could have company on the path.

With her new friends, she started practicing forms of movement that were available and enjoyable for her, and she began to learn about eating a healthier diet and to experiment with making changes.

She found one activity that was physically, emotionally, and spiritually healing for her. Trance dance made such a difference in how she felt and in how she perceived herself and her life (“anything is possible” — who doesn’t want to believe that?) that she moved toward it strongly. She made a commitment to dance every day for 100 days, and later, to obtain the training to teach it, thus ensuring trance dance would become a regular part of her life.

If trance dance isn’t your cup of tea or isn’t available where you live, you might enjoy other forms of dance (even if just in your living room), walking, martial arts, strength training, and/or yoga — the point is to find something that you can commit to doing regularly that literally moves you in the direction of health.

She began to discern which information was helpful and which choices were effective. Her internal signals of “yes” and “no” became stronger in light of her desire to be healthier. She started hearing an inner wise voice that gave her guidance on food choices. She followed this voice’s advice, and she got healthier as a result. She began to question those doctors who failed to include lifestyle as a component in treating Type 2 diabetes.

One piece of information was revelatory. She learned that taking insulin causes weight gain. Type 2 diabetics can either continue to eat processed foods, give themselves more insulin, and gain weight…or they can lower their need for insulin by controlling their diets and lose weight.

That piece of information made the healthier choice clear for Phyllis. The payoff from eating a low glycemic diet was higher: from changing what she ate, she needed to take less insulin. Then the extra pounds began to come off. She could then move more easily, which accelerated the weight loss.

She made dietary changes and eliminations one at a time at first. After meeting with success, she was able to make changes more quickly. She learned to change her mindset from having frequent struggles with food (feeling deprived) to forgoing certain foods that disagreed with her body (making a clear, joyful commitment to feel good). Plus, she found ways to be creative in the kitchen to satisfy her taste buds and maintain her increasing health.

She became aware of things within herself that were holding her back from being the healthy person she wanted to be, such as learning to be more trusting of others and moving past entrenched family patterns/beliefs that were no longer working for her. She changed her perspective and behaviors, getting help from others when she needed to, so that these issues were no longer holding her back.

She was open to using Western medicine, alternative health practitioners, eastern/western/shamanic movement practices, and her own intuition on this healing journey. There was no one right way. What worked, worked. She focused on what got results. If it didn’t work, she moved on.

When she no longer needed a medication, she went off it. This is a big taboo in many people’s minds, people who believe once you’ve been prescribed a medication, you need to be on it for life, “doctor’s orders”. That isn’t always the case. Phyllis was able to get off her meds working closely with her doctor. This post provides more details.

When she had gotten off all medications, taking no insulin (and had lost over 100 pounds in the process), she felt ready and able to give something back, teaching movement in her hometown and supporting others on their journeys to health.

All in all, Phyllis’ path was a true hero’s journey, an adventure with obstacles and dangers, stepping across thresholds into new territory, finding guides and mentors and facing down demons, encountering challenges and temptations, receiving revelations that initiated turning points, continued transformation, and finally, returning home with gifts from the Goddess to share with all.

If this inspires you, or if you have a similar story to tell, please comment!

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