Today’s post is my first in what I hope to be a monthly tradition of either reviewing a book or chatting with the author in the form of an interview. Reading helped me cope. On my worst days, I could bury myself deep into a book and travel with the characters through the story as I turned the pages. Reading took me away from “me” and my illness. As I got a little better, I also began reading books relating to illness and learned the journey of others dealing with chronic illness. Today I will be chatting with Jennie Sherwin, author of Intentional Healing: One Woman’s Path to Higher Consciousness and Freedom from Environmental and Other Chronic Illnesses. So let’s begin.
Jennie, I became aware of your illness through our friendship and talks when we met in Dallas in 2003. Reading your book, Intentional Healing: One Woman’s Path to Higher Consciousness and Freedom from Environmental and Other Chronic Illnesses, has given me a much greater insight to the various diagnosed illnesses and your journey to becoming well.
Can you tell me what prompted you to share your journey with us? I remembered how confused I felt when I started experiencing so many disparate symptoms that my doctors could not link under a single syndrome. I had so many doctors to consult because my symptoms seemed disconnected and in need of different treatments. Not until I consulted Dr. William J. Rea, founder of the Environmental Health Center-Dallas, did I meet someone who linked all of my symptoms to one illness, that is, environmental illness—also called multiple chemical sensitivity. I thought that by sharing my story I could help others avoid a long journey from doctor to doctor and get to the root of their symptoms more quickly. And, as you’ve shared several times about your own experience in writing your story, it was therapeutic for me to write about my journey, which helped me let it go.
We both sought treatment at the Environmental Health Center-Dallas. Mold was the trigger that pushed my body over the edge. What environmental trigger pushed your body to the breaking point? What were some of the different illnesses you were diagnosed with? The breaking point came after a pesticide accident in our home, which I describe in detail in my book. My exposure to toxic chemicals, however, goes all the way back to my childhood when I was exposed to the pesticide that was sprayed in our town during the summers to keep the mosquito populations down. I grew up in small town that was a peninsula; that is, it was surrounded by water on three sides. I suppose the authorities decided to spray after surveying the mosquito breeding grounds, which are generally numerous near water. As I came to understand through education in Dallas, I was exposed throughout my life, where I lived and where I worked—to outgassing chemicals in a new addition to our family home as well as in the new apartment I occupied when I got married or houses I lived in and the various office buildings I worked in throughout my career as a teacher, writer, and editor. The pesticide accident put me over the edge; that is, once my tolerance levels had been breached, I became a “universal reactor” and was sensitive to many substances—foods, trees, grasses, weeds, molds, prescription drugs, vitamins and minerals, various chemicals and inhalants, and so on. So throughout my life, I had been diagnosed with several chronic illnesses, which cleared or receded after treatment at Dr. Rea’s clinic. Fibromyalgia cleared and has never returned. Reactive hypoglycemia and continual yeast infections seem to be a thing of the past. GERD and reactive asthma receded for ten years and only recently returned under the stress of a number of life events my husband and I experienced in 2012. Both are now under good control through a combination of Western medicine and energy healing.
While in Dallas we both sought the help of Deborah Singleton, founder of the Arasini Foundation, and her healing team. You talk a great deal in your book about receiving Deborah’s amazing energy healing and your internship of studying and learning the art of energy balancing. Can you describe briefly how energy healing works? Walt Whitman titled one of his poems in Leaves of Grass “I Sing the Body Electric,” and although he was using “electric” to describe the excitements, passion, beauty, and possibilities within each body, which he linked to soul, his use of the word “electric” was a throwback to what Eastern cultures have known about the body for thousands of years, that is, that the body, besides being a flesh and blood organic life form, harbors an electrical energy system that runs many of the processes in the body. Think of the heart. What keeps it beating? An electrical system that regulates heart rate and initiates processes at the cell level. In energy medicine, the body’s electrical system is thought of as its energy system, complete with receiving and transmitting stations and ebbs and flows. Through hands-on manipulation of acupressure points along those flow pathways, called “meridians,” practitioners invite those flows into balance, thus the term “energy balancing” to describe what happens in a session. The practitioner holds her or his own energy in such a way, distinguishing it from the client’s system, so as to invite the client’s energy system into balance. In effect, the client’s energy system and inner resources right the flows, releasing “blockages” or energies that do not serve the individual. A balanced system supports the natural healing processes in the bodymindspirit. Energy medicine does not treat illness directly but works in concert with Western medicine, often helping clients to tolerate prescription drugs or recover from surgical procedures more quickly.
What steps did you take in your healing journey? (therapies, living space, reading) At the Environmental Health Center-Dallas (EHC-D), the treatment program included: testing for sensitivities, followed by the use of antigens for those sensitivities; sauna detoxification; IV infusions; massage therapy; and psychological counseling. While in Dallas I lived at Regina Coeli, an apartment complex, renovated with safer, non-toxic products. The furnishings were equally non-toxic, and the premises were free of pesticides and fragrance. Dr. Rea referred me to Deborah Singleton and her healing team for energy balancing, and I incorporated that therapy into my treatment and, in effect, to my life. Many of the books I read were recommended to me by Dr. Rea, founder of the EHC-D, or by Deborah, founder of A Healing Place. They include Detoxify or Die and the E.I. Syndrome Revised: An Rx for Environmental Illness by Dr. Sherry Rogers; Energy Medicine by Donna Eden; Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing through the Human Energy Field and Light Emerging: The Journey of Personal Healing by Barbara Brennan; and The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle.
I found the Navajo healing ceremonies you participated in extremely fascinating. What prompted your participation and how did you learn of this? In my book I describe some intuitive “knowings” I had when my perceptive abilities changed. If you are a fan of The Mists of Avalon and Marion Zimmer Bradley, then you are familiar with intuitive “knowings” or “sendings” that the head priestess Valerie and the women in her family receive from time to time. I had “knowings” about a Navajo headman, who had been a peace leader as well as a reluctant war leader. I became interested in learning about him and started to read about the Navajo experience in the early Southwest. At the same time I began meeting people who had connections with Navajo medicine men and women. Not surprising, since we were living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was invited to experience healing through a Navajo ceremony, and I accepted.
Everyone wants a quick fix. I’ve learned that there is no quick fix and taking a pill alleviates the symptoms and does not address the problem. How long has your recovery taken? You are so right about the quick fix. I was generally well enough to return to the “normal” world about five years after I began treatment in Dallas. However, recovery can take a lifetime. Layers of the emotional underpinnings of illness, as I’ve come to understand through energy medicine training, come forward over time. That is why, in retrospect, I would have chosen a different subtitle for my book. Instead of “freedom” from illness I think “a new way of thinking” about illness would better convey my understanding of illness as an opportunity for growth. Illness is just the vehicle; how you drive it is what is most important.
Where has this healing journey led you? Definitely to a place of wonder about our experience on the earth and our abilities to help ourselves heal. I’ve come to a new understanding of illness, not as something negative but as an opportunity for growth. And growth is not easy! My journey has also brought me to a place of gratitude for the wonderful medical and complementary therapy practitioners who helped me along the way. It has brought me new friends who’ve shared my journey with me. It has gifted me with your friendship, something that would never have happened had we not met at Dr. Rea’s clinic in Dallas. As in all experience, however, the process continues, and new paths open all the time.
Many of my readers are chronically ill or have some invisible illness. What message would you like to share with them? Look into your heart. Are there any areas in your life where you feel blocked or have experienced disappointments or trauma? If I’ve learned anything along my journey, it is that illness always has an emotional component. And I’m not talking about the misinformed attitudes of “it’s all in your head” or “grow up, you’ll get over it”! These insensitive and ill-informed attitudes made my life miserable while I was searching for answers that would explain my symptoms. Because I had what seemed like an “invisible illness” to those who didn’t know where to look for root causes, I was seen as untreatable or in need of psychiatric care. On the contrary, why I refer to underlying emotional components is that as an energy practitioner I encountered emotional energetic layers in symptoms reported by clients. Those emotional components needed to be acknowledged in order for energy balance to be restored. Examining our lives can lead to clarity that helps us to heal on many levels.
As a new author with a book just released and for my followers who are writers, do you have any tips on writing or marketing? Write, write, write! Learning comes through doing. Then review from the reader’s point of view and ask questions of your writing. Is this easy for someone without knowledge of the technical terms to understand? Is there earlier information for this reference, or will the reader be scratching his head wondering how I got to this point? Is this clearly stated, or do I need to reorganize the sequence of events? Ask people to read your manuscript for feedback. If necessary, hire an editor or at least a proofreader to review your work. You want to make sure that the basics of grammar and punctuation are adequate so that readers aren’t turned off by your communication skills. As for marketing, take advantage of what social media has to offer. Sign up for Goodreads and all of the book marketing sites. Put up profiles on Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, and the many newer sites that are out there and people follow. Get involved with the new author sites, where authors exchange tips. Meet people through their blogs, comment on their posts, and organize a book blog tour. Kathy, you just completed a very successful book blog tour, and others can use that as an example of the power and reach of social marketing.
How can my readers follow you and where can they find your book? I have a website at www.jenniesherwin.com with information about my book. On the author page, if you click on the “about the author” tab, a drop-down menu provides links to an excerpt as well as to resources for environmentally friendly living. I invite your readers to explore my website, especially if they are interested in energy medicine or treatment at Dr. Rea’s clinic in Dallas or Deborah Singleton’s A Healing Place. I post blogs occasionally, but I post more regularly on Conscious Life News at http://consciouslifenews.com/. I write about healing and consciousness, emphasizing the bodymindspirit approach to balance in the body and its effects on health. My book can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, Library Thing, and I have a profile on Linked In. On Twitter I am @JennieSherwin and post every day—usually meditations or links to articles on the environment and health, consciousness, writing, books, and authors.
Kathy, thank you so much for the opportunity to speak to your readers. Even more so, thank you for your enduring friendship. Despite, or maybe because of, all you’ve been through, you’ve been a great support to me from our first meeting at Dr. Rea’s clinic to the present. I wish you the best of luck in marketing your book and in getting the word out about the realities of living with environmental illness. Blessings to you and to all of your readers.