Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Is Change Possible?

1986, Hua mountain in China. It is
one of the most dangerous places
in the world. I wish I could that now. 

Change is not an easy task, especially when we talk about the changes of our life styles. And if the lifestyles are directly related to our personalities, changing them would take a life time to accomplish, or, it's simply a mission impossible.

The reason I bring this topic is because it seems like I need to do some serious change in my life, otherwise I may forever live with my chronic illness.

Just a while ago, I discovered some Chinese herbs that made some tangibly positive effects on me. I am very certain about the effects and very happy about the discovery. However, my progress has not been a straight up line, but up and down. This, I realized, was caused by my personality: I always "overestimate" my condition, overdo what I am actual capable of, so at the end my actions overdraw my energy, lead to "crashing" down, for days, some time weeks. Unfortunately, this would happen even more often when my condition was improved.

Had I not taken all these risks would my condition be different? I simply don't know, because my condition is so weak that the "risks" I am talking about here were literally nothing by normal standards, such as walking 10 minutes more, or shopping one more store, etc. Also, the line between "able" and "not able" is extremely blurry during recent years of my illness. However, I do remember many time, when I reached a point that I hesitated about doing or not doing, continuing or not continuing, I usually choose former, and then suffered consequence later, almost without exceptions. So the question is, why couldn't I choose the latter?

There is a Chinese old saying: "changing the world is easier than changing a personality"(江山易改本性难移). I now have full understanding of this adage. I guess for all my first half of life I have accustomed to this "toughness", fearlessness or even recklessness, and fully identified myself with such character: this, is who I am and without being like this, I am nothing but a living dead. But now everything seems just opposite: I am half dead by being "myself". I even realized how lucky those people who do not need to change their personality are, because adventurous spirit is a quality so enjoyable to possess. Yes, I like to be adventurous, and I also had fun for 30 some years in my life when I was able to be like that, but now, the reality I am facing is, being myself, or suffering consequence. The truth is, I had already changed in a great deal, people who knew me 20 years ago (even 10 years ago) would hardly believe who I am now (of course, the "change" still is just physical wise, inside I am exactly the same person). But it seems not enough. My physical condition requires me to act like a complete reserved and "timid" person who must always choose not risking, always tell people and myself "no, I can't", instead of "yes I can!" (NO MATTER HOW TERRIBLE IT SOUNDS TO SOME "POSITIVE" PEOPLE).

Can I do that? I am not sure, but I like to try (guess I already made progress here :-), because this is by far the last hope I've got, if I wanted to live healthily, if I wanted to be that "original self".
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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Herbs Worked This Time!

Astragalus membranaceus--黃耆/北耆
Astragalus membranaceus--黃耆/北耆 (Photo credit: jennyhsu47)
Auguest 2nd, 2013, Friday, was the day I like to remember. On that day, I started taking some herbs that I had hitherto not "believed": astragalus root (黄芪), Chinese dry red dates (红枣). Before that day, for years, I often suffer serious shortness of breath. Even overall condition improved during recent years, but I never found a way to get rid of them completely. During the past several months, ever time after I walked about 30 minutes, sometime even only 25 minutes, I crashed with breath and heart problem. I also had talking issue, feeling extremely difficult to speak, almost each class was a (more or less) struggle. But on the second of last month, after I made tea with these two herbs, I felt these symptoms were immediate relieved (I was be able to talk on the phone all the afternoon). And that weekend (Sat and Sun) I finished all my classes without much difficulty. The following week I had a serious crashes but the fault was mine: I overestimated my condition and went out with a friend. After that I learned to be careful and since then, I felt better and better each day, no crashes, all my daily routine works were handled with ease. And most importantly, I could walk at least 30 minutes without any crash!

It was about 3 years ago that I gave up Chinese herbs. I found they weren't helpful. I tried all kinds of Chinese herbs include these two (astragalus and red dates), together with many others, some by my own researches, some by Chinese doctors' suggestion, but never felt any discernible effects. What made this time so different? I have been wondering. Honestly I do not know for sure, but these are what I could think of right now: first, my condition back then was extremely bad, herbs alone might not be enough. I was probably right by focusing on diet and rest, because those are so essential to all our physical function. Secondly, I believe how I took those herbs back then was not "right". What I did mostly was putting them in soup, so basically I only had them when I ate my meals, thus the amount might not enough. Also herbs could be over cooked with soup. In case I was prescribed Chinese doctors, there were always many different kinds, and I drank only two or three times a day. I never really focused on these two herbs alone.

The way I take these herbs this time is super simple: just put them in a big thermo bottle, pour in boiling water and wait for about 10 minutes, then pour half the tea out of thermo into a cup (ready to drink), and refill thermo with hot water (This is how Chinese people drink tea). During morning I would drink about 3 cups of it, afternoon, another 2 or 3 cups. As I keep refilling water, the herb tea gets thinner and thinner toward the end of day, so I pretty much finish my "ritual" around dinner time.

I also put some other type of herbs in the tea, such as lycium (枸杞) and ginseng. For red dates, I like to eat them separately more than with tea because they really taste good. All these additions, I did it based on some researches and my "hunch". Not sure if they worked the way they should, but I was sure astragalus root and red dates worked.

My taking action on Chinese herbs this time, caused by a conversation I had with a Chinese friend who knows Chinese medicine in good deal. I told her how I gave up with herbs and only believed in diet. She disagreed and insisted that herbs were nutrition, not "medicine". And she insisted astragalus root should be good for me. After thinking of my condition, reckoning about the fact that I had been focusing on diet for almost 2 years, still nothing fundamental occurred, so I decided to open my mind again, trying something I didn't believe. And I am glad I did!

What astragalus (or together with red dates) does to me is enhancing my immune system. At least this how I feel like. It this sounds abstract, let me put it this way: astragalus obviously stopped my hunger problem. For all these years, if I didn't eat right or enough, I would feel extremely weak. And when I felt hungry, I felt I was dying (heart function would be messed up, shortness of breathe would occur, and dizziness), instead of just hungry. Now, after drink this herb tea, I do not feel I need eat much. As matter of fact, I started eating very little, and still feeling energetic. This change was so drastic and so "concrete" that I could not deny the fact by assuming it was my mental illusion (needless to mention that I did not believe it before I tried). Astragalus also "accidentally" cured my UTI - the symptom that brought me to ER, because two or three days after I took herb tea my UTI symptom was gone completely (antibiotics worsened my heart and breath problems so I had to quit it). By the English documents I read online, astragalus can be poisoning and has some side effects, but some Chinese documents suggest the side effects of astragalus are very little (probably it has the least side effects among all known herbs, or not any more poisoning than some foods or daily drinks, such as coffee and tea!). For these 30 days, my experience told me that I did not feel any  side effects (I take ~30 g each day).

Red dates, by Chinese medcine, is good for people who have anemia. Though I was never diagnosed of anemia by modern medicine, I was always "diagnosed" of anemia by Chinese medicine. Regardless the conflicted interpretation about anemia, eating lots of red dates indeed made me feel different. Overall, these two herbs together seems to be the best for women who have general energy problems, as traditional Chinese medicine believes.

I really feel my energy rushed back to me during the past month. I have reason to believe, had I tried these herbs by this way (tea) 2 years ago, my past 2 years would be different. Of course, other than taking herb tea, I believe lots of other things I did also worked: low carb diet, getting rid of coffee, tea, and spicy foods, lots of water (of course I had to reduce water intake after I started drinking herb tea). However, the drastic energy change took place precisely on the day I started this herb tea!

I would not say I am recovered totally. No, far away from it. But good thing is I can exercise daily now, and I know by doing this, my heart condition - the root problem of all problems - would eventually be solved! I will reduce the amount of astragalus root (from ~ 30g to ~20g each day) for this month, and see what would happen this month.

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