One of my girls has been having an uphill battle with her acne for about a year and a half now. She had a few, mild, zits at 14, but in the month before she was due to start ulpana, the term for boarding school for religious girls in Israel, her spots suddenly and aggressively transformed into full-blown acne.
I knew it was related to her stress and worry about going to the new school – and sadly, her first year there was so stressful, and the food they serve in the ulpana is so very bad, that the acne became a permanent feature of her life.
It’s really, really hard to have disfiguring spots when you’re a 14 year old girl.
So, we tried this cream, that gel, this wash. I paid for all sorts of people to squeeze blackheads out of her face.
I even spent an afternoon concocting all sorts of ‘natural’ treatments for her, from my essential oils collection. After a day or two, four days max, she’d get discouraged and just stop whatever the new thing was we were trying to do for her face.
So then, I agreed with my husband that we’d spend whatever it took to take her to a professional aesthetician, to get the acne reduced. It took around 5,000 shekels (no, that’s not a typo…) and we’re still paying it off every month.
Sadly, the debt is outliving the positive effects of the treatment.
For six months, the acne did reduce a little, and did seem to be dying down. But as soon as we stopped – it came back again.
Which is when my daughter started talking about Acutane / Roacutane, or ‘Roktan’, as they call it in Israel, and my heart sank.
Because that stuff is poisonous, and a whole bunch of people launched lawsuits against its maker, Hoffman LaRoche, claiming that Acutane had caused them to develop serious Irritable Bowel issues – one guy even had to have his colon removed.
And let’s not even talk about all the terrible birth defects associated with its use, which was another serious concern for me, as the mother of a teenager girl.
And let’s not even talk about all the other, awful side effects, that so many people like to claim are not so bad, or not so widespread. This comes from Wikipedia:
“Isotretinoin is the only non-psychiatric drug on the FDA's top 10 list of drugs associated with depression and is also within the top 10 for suicide attempts. A black box warning for suicide, depression and psychosis has been present on isotretinoin's packaging in the United States since 2005.”
(Isotretinoin is the generic name of the compound previously branded as Acutane, or ‘Roktan’.)
I sat down with my daughter, and explained to her: Roktan has a terrifyingly large number of awful side-effects. Let’s go through them in detail, and then if you still feel you want to explore it, we’ll take it from there.
Acne is really, really hard to live with, so I didn’t want to take my daughter’s free choice away when it came to deciding how to deal with it, but I also really, really didn’t want her to go the drug route.
Which is when God really helped me out.
My daughter had a friend dorming with her with bad acne who’d first been put on long-term doses of oral antibiotics, which had worked for a while.
And then, the zits came back.
(As a side note, my hairdresser was also put on oral antibiotics for acne, and stayed on them for a year and a half. This stopped when her legs started to puff up and swell, when her skin turned a yucky yellow and she started to feel really, really ill – at the age of 22. The antibiotics almost caused her liver to fail, and the Dr who’d prescribed them for acne never once thought to mention that it could be potentially fatal to continue them long term. But I digress.)
So then, the doctors put this roommate on ‘Roktan’ – which is where my daughter had first heard about it. “Her skin is like a baby’s! All her spots have gone!” my daughter told me, two months into the girl’s treatment.
So, we sat down and went through all the horrifying side-effects of Roktan – and by the end my daughter told me: “My friend has got most of those.” The friend’s eyes were puffy and blurry; her skin had started to spontaneously bleed when she waded into the Dead Sea whilst on a school trip. She was hyper-sensitive to sun (a big deal, when you live somewhere like Israel); her back and stomach hurt really badly, all of the time.
But her zits had gone!
So at least that.
But thankfully for my daughter, it was enough of a wake-up call to convince her that ‘Roktan’ was not the answer to the acne. So in the meantime, she started trying to eat a little bit healthier. She started trying to make the links herself, between suppressed feelings of worry and anxiety and massive flare-ups in her face.
And slowly, slowly, the zits are starting to come around.
In the meantime, the poor girl who’d been ‘cured’ by Roktan found that her zits returned as soon as she stopped treatment. The latest I heard is that she’s still having a number of bad side effects even though she stopped taking the drug two months ago, and has been off school now for a week, while the doctors are trying to figure things out.
One thing they are sure of, and have already clearly told the girls’ parents: It’s not related to the acne drug!!!
In the meantime, what can we learn from all this?
Let’s try to sum it up:
And that last one holds true even if the Roktan works, because the zits are just signposts to some deeper issue, or deeper work, that’s required for the person to really feel happy and spiritually-fulfilled in life.
So in the meantime, I’m continuing to buy my kid any cream she wants for her face, and to splash out on any treatment she wants to try (that isn’t potentially extremely dangerous).
I’m praying on her, I’m encouraging her, I’m buying her nice clothes.
In short, whatever I can do to ease her burden, and ease her test, I’m trying to do that, and in the meantime, her state of mind is really good, considering how hard the test actually is.
But “Roktan” is off the table, and so is long-term oral antibiotics. Because even if they do work, the long-term risks to my kid’s health are just too great to be worth the gamble.
And thank God, now she actually saw what happened to her friend, and learned about the scope of the side-effects involved, she thinks so, too.
Around eight months ago, I started having some serious pain in a tooth. Before I got more into holistic health, and before I learnt more about energy medicine, and before I discovered that at least in some circumstances, teeth can actually heal all by themselves (!) – I would have immediately run off to the dentist, and bought whatever they told me was wrong.
But, things being different these days, I decided to adopt a wait-and-see approach. I waited two weeks – and the pain got worse. So, I bit the bullet and scheduled an appointment with the dentist next to the house I just moved to, in Jerusalem.
My old dentist in Israel was really good, but didn’t live anywhere near Jerusalem, which meant going to the dentist would take me half a day. So, when I moved house again, I decided it was time to find a new dentist a little closer.
I actually found a really good dentist more into ‘safer’ and less frequent x-rays, and booked the first appointment I could get – which happened to be in three months’ time. In the meantime, the tooth started to hurt.
At the end of the second week, I decided to try the dentist next door to my house, to see if things were really as bad as I’d come to believe. He could see me the next day – which is nearly always a bad sign. People don’t come to bad dentists, so bad dentists always have plenty of available appointments at short notice.
But I was desperate. So, I played it very cool; I didn’t tell the dentist I’d been experiencing any pain, just said I’d come in for a routine check-up. He x-rayed, poked around, made some noises, then asked me if there was anything specific I’d actually come in for. When I said no, he poked around again – then came out with the shocking news that I needed a root canal.
And get this – that was on the side of my mouth that wasn’t giving me any trouble at all.
At that point, I decided to wait another month, to when the ‘good’ dentist appointment was happening, to get a second opinion.
In the meantime, a very odd thing started to happen with my teeth: The pain I’d been feeling in one place, in the upper teeth, transferred down into the lower teeth. And that’s when I started to realise that the pain was actually something to do with emotions and energy, and almost nothing at all to do with my teeth themselves.
The main meridian that governs teeth is the kidney meridian – the wellsprings of life, the deepest meridian in the body. I’d just been through a few months of absolutely crushing stress, so no wonder that meridian was feeling the strain.
But then, when I went to look up which meridian was associated with the particular teeth that were hurting, I found that both the upper and aching teeth were related to the small intestine meridian – the one that governs decisions.
Again, that was so on point, it was astounding.
At that period of time, I was wracked with indecision about what to do about the house purchase we’d tried to make that had just gone so badly wrong. I didn’t know whether to sue in court, or sue for peace, to come out fighting, or to come out waving a white flag. Plus,
I was also up in the air about where to actually live in the next couple of months, now my house purchase had fallen through.
As I said, it was extremely stressful.
So, I get to the second dentist, I get my teeth cleaned, I get my teeth x-rayed, I get the dentist poking around in his professional poking way – and then he sat up straight and announced: “Your teeth are gorgeous! Let’s see you in another six months for a cleaning.”
Ah, so no root canal, like the other (bent…) dentist told me I needed, thank God?
Nope. Not even a filling.
There are many lessons to draw out from this, but I think the main one is to always, always get a second opinion, if you’re being told to take any course of action for your health that is remotely invasive, expensive, or unpleasant.
All of us can relate to that advice, however ‘holistic’ or otherwise your healthcare habits might be.
But if you are inclined to look more at the whole person, and to put the spiritual and emotional dimensions more in the picture when it comes to your health, then there is a deeper lesson here too, about what might really be behind our various aches and pains.
Often, it’s a spiritual pain, and emotional ache, and not a physical one.
And if we figure out what’s really hurting, then the pain really can go away all by itself. With not a drill bit or dentist’s chair in sight.
If you boil down most people’s problems, and certainly most people’s relationship issues, and almost just as certainly most people’s chronic health problems, at their root you’ll find one thing: avoiding reality.
Now, people aren’t doing this on purpose, anything but.
What happens is that most of us kind of get born into circumstances that are less than ideal, or find ourselves in a situation that really isn’t what we expected or wanted, and at that point, we are given a choice:
Either, we can take a deep breath, and face up to what’s really going on in our lives, and our relationships, and our own minds and hearts, OR, we can try to duck reality.
Here’s the thing: most of the modern world is built on that second option. Most of the stock market gains, and house price inflations is built on ducking reality. Most of Western healthcare – which tells you to just take the meds, just have the surgery, and that will solve all the problems – are built on the second option.
Nearly all the divorces in the world happen because people are ducking reality. There are literally whole industries – worth trillions of dollars – built on false science, and fake principles and certainties, that only gained traction because they gave people the option of being able to pretend that something other than reality was causing their problems.
What, people have emotional and mental issues because they were ignored, mistreated or traumatized as a child?!
That can’t be right.
What, women leave their husbands because the husband has bad character traits (all the time believing that he’s really perfect…) and the woman just can’t do it anymore?
What an absurd proposition!
And of course, the idea that our teens starting to smoke, or getting depressed, or dropping out of school, or going off the derecho, or struggling emotionally, might have something to do with how we are treating them also makes people feel very uncomfortable.
The whole world is a mirror.
Right now, there’s a bunch of people in California who are pretending that the only reason massive fires are going on in their state is because of man-made climate change.
And there’s a whole bunch of other people who think the world got here completely by random, when some primordial soup got hit by a lightning bolt 4.6 billion years ago (sic).
Can you prove that?
And what about God? Where does God fit into this picture, and all the other pictures painted above, because the most ‘real’ part of reality is that nothing is random, and everything is tailor-made to bring us back to God, and to get us to live the lives we are meant to be living.
For as long as we’re ignoring God, or pretending He doesn’t exist, or telling ourselves fibs about what we’re down here to do, or imagining that every action we perform (or don’t perform…) doesn’t have some very real consequences attached it – well.
We’ll remain stuck in the problem.
Whatever it is.
As long as we’re ducking reality, as long as we’re hiding the truth, we simply won’t be able to heal, improve, change and move forward in life.
We’ll stay blaming other things and other people; we’ll waste so much time tilting at imaginary windmills; we’ll stay shut up in our make-believe, often miserable ‘bubble’.
And that’s such a shame.
Sure, it’s scary to open our eyes and look truth in the face. Especially if we haven’t acted so nicely to others. Especially if we’ve made a lot of mistakes. Especially if the truth hurts.
But you know what?
We’re all in this together.
All of us have issues, none of us are perfect. And when we finally stand up, turn around, and face reality down – that’s when the good things in our life will really start to happen.
So, don’t be scared sweet reader. God is there to help us do all this stuff!
Facing reality can be so, so hard, I know.
But it’s the door to healing, health, hope, happiness and holiness.
A nice man from a woodworking company got in touch to see if I’d be interested in hearing about how woodworking has been helping people mitigate their C-PTSD symptoms. (I wrote a whole bunch of stuff about C-PTSD a little while ago, including this: C-PTSD 101: I've got c-ptsd! Now what do I do to get rid of it?)
While I don’t usually do guest posts on spiritualselfhelp.org, I’m very happy to share more real information about what might be helping people to get happier and healthier, so I told the nice man, ‘sure, send me some stuff about how woodworking is helping people deal with their C-PTSD and I’ll post it up’.
So he did – and it makes some pretty interesting reading. I have a friend who swears by her crafting and knitting, for helping her get calmer, and more grounded and centred. I myself love my painting, when I get a chance to do it.
So, I can see that woodworking could also fit the bill – and if you read on, you’ll find a few different stories of people who believe that working with wood is really helping them to heal.
HEALING & VALIDATION
Mierop Mann considers his woodworking journey as a part of his healing process. I asked him what woodworking changed in his life. “It is wonderful to bring calm and balance into once chaotic existence. Inner turmoil with creative expression is a very good emotional feeling,” he answered.
Mierop’s C-PTSD was a result of an abusive family. “I am a 52 year old guy that chose to walk alone through life, as the memories of my childhood abuse became more recurring through triggers and abuse from my family up to the age of 40.”
When he finally walked away from that situation and struggled with C-PTSD, he found a liberating passion: woodworking. Woodworking helped Mierop to properly deal with a life filled with confusion and anger. It also gave him the joy of feeling validated because of his works.
“When people ask me about what I do, the only way I can explain to them is that I am an artist without a brush but with tools. I believe in my work, and even if only one person is fascinated by it, I feel validated and I feel alive,” he proudly told me.
FOCUS & SATISFACTION
For a 50-yr old woman with medical and mental health conditions like Laura B Paskavitz, woodworking can help with self-esteem issues. At least, that was what she experienced from it.
Laura shared her story—“I don't work and have been living with disability for 25 years due to medical & mental health reasons. I have CPTSD as well as a dissociative disorder from being raised in a cult and around not-well people.”
She started woodworking when she was around 20 yrs old. Her friend introduced woodworking to her to help her refocus her anxiety. It became her main distraction from stress and later on experience its therapeutic benefits.
Keeping oneself busy can be a great way to overcome C-PTSD symptoms. Laura herself mentioned, “By doing something hands-on and creative, I've noticed my focus & sense of satisfaction increase.”
And not just that. As I’ve mentioned, woodworking helped with her self-esteem issues, too.
“My self-confidence has improved and I'm inspired to live more in the moment and enjoy the process,” Laura told me.
SHARING & SELF-EXPRESSION
For Rolando Corral Sr., an Army Veteran who has tried all types of therapy to cope with C-PTSD, woodworking offered something else other than the “traditional therapy sessions”.
He said, “Woodworking helped me open up to the idea of allowing some people to come into my personal space and share it with them just for a brief moment.”
Such opportunity to share oneself to others is a huge step towards healing, especially for veterans who have been scarred by the battles they’ve seen and been in. For Rolando, that trauma started to show its symptoms after he was medically retired from the military.
“Around 2008 I was diagnosed with PTSD. I was already attending college and something just didn’t feel right,” he said.
Naturally, Rolando started seeking professional help through therapies. “I tried out VA counseling and tried talking to a person behind the desk with a fancy degree on their walls. But I still was having dreams and nightmares and I felt the guilt for not being able to deploy the second time with my Army unit to Iraq,” he recalled.
Just by chance, Rolando met a Korean War veteran who was into woodworking. That started his own woodworking journey, which started from simple projects for his kids and bloomed into a mission-driven business of handcrafted wooden flags. But on woodworking’s effect on a personal level, he said,
“You see, it helped me open up… and encouraged me to not allow my military career define me for the rest of my life. I want woodworking to define who I am for the rest of my life.”
Over the years, I’ve noticed a pronounced correlation with the amount of ‘news’ a person feels compelled to consume, and a marked deterioration in their mental health. Even back in the old days, before everyone was addicted to internet and iPhones and endless, poisonous ‘look at me’ tweets and Instagram notifications, news could still have a serious impact on a person’s outlook and mood.
Stocks are falling through the floor!!! (Cue to jump off a bridge, if you own stocks, or at the very least develop a very bad attack of peptic ulcers.)
Russia is going to nuke us!!! (Cue to lose all your joie de vivre, and to spend endless hours worrying about being vaporized by a Commie bomb.)
Butter is bad for your heart!!! (Cue to feel all guilty every time you put a pat of that creamy yellow stuff anywhere near your bread, or frying pan. And guess what they were pushing on the unsuspecting public instead of that ‘dangerous’ butter? Yup, you got it: margarine.)
It could be that once upon a time, the mainstream news was actually useful, contained some real facts, and wasn’t just a soap-box for big business and corrupt politicians to brainwash everyone into believing their own version of reality.
It could be.
But these days, that’s almost definitely not the case.
Most of the mainstream news is so devoid of anything that you could actually call useful, or factual, or even true, and so full of pessimism, manipulation, brain-washing and opinionated craziness, that the best way to deal with it is just to stay far, far away.
Because when you log on to a news site every five minutes, when you listen to those news announcers droning on about whatever it is they are trying to brainwash you into believing and thinking, when you buy into the idea that the only ‘news’ worth reporting and sharing is bad news, and angry news, and hateful news – that has a seriously negative impact on your mental health.
It can easily bring you down. It can easily make you angry. It can easily get your paranoid. It can easily make you feel like the sky is crashing down, and send your anxiety shooting through the roof.
Go cold turkey on the news
Yes, it’s true that there are many bad things happening in the world, including fatal car crashes, civil wars, and even (shock!) Roseanne getting dumped from her own TV show.
But so what?
Do you know how many good things are happening in the world? How many nice people there are out there? I’m guessing you probably don’t, if your only source of information is the news.
So, if you’re dealing with anxiety, worry, hatred, anger, paranoid, apathy, jealousy – basically, all those negative character traits that we all have in spades, especially if we consume a lot of information – then here’s the single best thing you can do for your mental health:
Go cold turkey on the news.
If it’s really important and really relevant to your life, I guarantee you’ll find out about it anyway. And if it isn’t – who needs it?
Who needs to waste all that energy and headspace being ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ Trump? Who needs to read more scare stories about humans causing global warming, and Russians being behind ever dark and despicable deed ever known to man? (Really? They are only behind half.)
And if I can add another piece of advice here, it’s this: also go cold turkey on bloggers who are obsessed with the news.
Because most of those folks are certifiably crazy. If someone has nothing better to do with their time than give second-hand opinions about third-rate news – why are you wasting the precious moments of your life by reading what they have to say?!
Go for a walk instead, go paint a picture, call a friend, play a game with your kid, read a good book, practice the lost art of thinking for yourself.
Do something, anything, instead of imbibing the deranged viewpoints of internet crazy people.
I promise you, you’ll feel so, so much better if you do.
Because really, the only good news is no news.