The long, frustrating road to healing chronic disease


“Am I ever going to feel better?”

If you’ve struggled with a long-term illness, you may have asked yourself this question.

Maybe you’ve suffered with chronic pain, or a challenging digestive disorder, or a recurrent skin problem or some other ailment for so long, you’ve forgotten what it feels like to be well. To be ‘normal.' Maybe somebody has told you your condition is permanent. Perhaps you’ve been given a diagnosis and told it will be with you for life. Maybe you’ve even stopped asking yourself the question if you can be well again.

There is a lot I could say about Chinese Medicine’s perspective on chronic illness. I could tell stories of miraculous cures I’ve heard from my teachers and mentors, or discuss my own successes as an acupuncturist and herbalist in treating complex diseases.

I could even talk about my own experiences as a patient, suffering from disorders that were never supposed to get better, but which did with regular treatment. But I’m not going to do any of that here.

Instead, I would like to let the tradition of this medicine speak for itself.

I am going to quote a passage from one of the world’s oldest medical texts1, a work that has guided the practice of Chinese Medicine for over two thousand years.

Here is what it says on the subject of chronic illness:

“Now, when any of the five major organ systems has an illness, it’s as if one was pierced by a thorn, or soiled by dirt, as if there were a knot, or something closed. A thorn may have pierced one for long, and yet it can be pulled out. A stain may have existed for long, ad yet it can be cleansed. A knot may have been tied for long, and yet it can be untied. A closure may have lasted for long, and yet it can be opened. If someone says an illness with a long duration cannot be removed, then that is an erroneous statement.

“Now, those who are experts in the use of acupuncture needles, when they remove an illness, that is as if they pulled out a thorn, as if they cleansed a stain, as if they untied a knot, as if they opened a closure. The illness may have lasted for long, and still it can be brought to an end. Those who state that it cannot be cured, they simply have not acquired the necessary skill.” 2

If you’re feeling hopeless about your health problems, I want you to take a minute and read those paragraphs again. Really let them sink in.

If you are suffering from a chronic illness, I want you to save that passage, and take it out and read it whenever you feel like things will never get better. Health is a journey, and sometimes, it is a long and winding one. The terrain can be rough. It may seem you are moving backwards. There may be moments when you feel lost. But progress is always possible.

As a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, I am here to walk that journey with you, every step of the way. I am completely committed to restoring your well-being, and I invite you to commit to the possibility of your own recovery yourself.

1 This text is called the Ling Shu (靈樞). It’s the second half of a medical treatise called the Huang Di Nei Jing (黃帝內經 ), or the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine.

2  This is a paraphrased version of Paul Unschuld’s translation of the Ling Shu. The original text in Classical Chinese is:

今夫五藏之有疾也,譬猶刺也,猶污也,猶結也,猶閉也。刺雖久猶可拔也,污雖久猶可雪也,結雖久猶可解也,閉雖久猶可決也。或言久疾之不可取者,非其說也. 夫善用鍼者,取其疾也,猶拔刺也,猶雪污也,猶解結也,猶決閉也。疾雖久,猶可畢也。言不可治者,未得其術也。

Written by Eric Grey

Eric is co-founder of Watershed Wellness and a Classical Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist. He specializes in the treatment of chronic, recalcitrant and difficult-to-treat diseases including auto-immune disorders, Lyme disease, migraines and digestive disorders.