The Power of Words… and Pain

March 9, 2009 at 8:04 AM 9 comments

It’s way past bedtime for me but I have such a buzz that I can’t get to sleep.

No, not that kind of buzz!

The best kind – a natural high. I spoke in front of 500 people (and had a great time doing it!) but that wasn’t even the best part. (I actually asked for some red wine tonight but just realized I didn’t even take a sip… I don’t drink anymore… my body doesn’t like it.)

Andy and I just returned from the Celebrating Science & Soul event, which “generates donations to support the Institute for Health & Healing’s work of healing people and transforming the practice of medicine. Last year the Institute touched the lives of more than 50,000 people, many through our scholarship fund and free programs at the bedside and in the Bay Area community.” Amazing, really.

Each year, this event honors pioneers in integrative medicine. This year’s honoree was Dr. Michael Harner – an incredible visionary – as well as Dr. William Goodson, breast cancer surgeon extraordinaire, who received a Compassionate Caring award. Beautiful people. Past honorees include Drs. Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, Mehmet Oz (pre-Oprah!), and Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. Wow.

I had the honor of speaking as a patient testimonial. Here’s the video if you’re interested in watching. It runs about 7 minutes.

I haven’t shared much of my personal story yet in this blog. I’ve had a bit of a block. I am a super private person; I get the heebie-jeebies when I share too much personal info. But SO MANY people thanked me for doing so tonight at the event, that I see now I must. The story of my past 2.5 years is much bigger than just me. It’s part of my contribution and part of what I can give back. Because, you see, it’s been a long journey for me, but not as long as for others who are still suffering in silence and who, like some of the attendees tonight, may read / watch / hear about / listen to my story and have that be their nudge of hope that gets them to start healing and return to claim their life.

So, here, I will start to break my personal barrier and I begin offering to you my medical story and the story of my return (braver! bolder! brighter! than ever before) to owning my life.

I’ll start by giving you the video above as well as my speech transribed below. Pass it on.


Simla’s Speech

They say the memory of pain is one we cannot retain, probably for reasons of survival. I beg to differ.




It takes over your life until it’s all you can see, feel, taste, or think about.


It clouds your world so you don’t know who you are or whether you’ll ever have a good day again. When a good day means you can breathe without your ribs throbbing or your lungs burning, when you can tie your sneakers and take a step without your feet screaming, brush your teeth without getting exhausted, and remember the sentence you just read for the fifth time.


That’s the state I was in when I arrived at the Institute for Health & Healing Clinic in November 2006. I had already seen close to ten physicians to no avail. I had severe nerve, muscle, and bone pain along with short-term memory loss, debilitating fatigue, and a host of other symptoms. My standing diagnoses are fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, undifferentiated connective tissue disorder, multiple chemical sensitivity, and immunotoxicity. Along the way, I had been misdiagnosed and developed medication-induced hepatitis and pancreatitis. Not to mention gallstones. Add to that a lifelong battle with IBS, asthma, chronic bronchitis, a bout with Legionnaire’s Disease and pneumonia, and you get the picture. I was a mess. I was desperate, and desperately lost.


As a management consultant, I had thought I could use my intellect and methodical thinking to figure it all out. I was wrong. I had to go much, much deeper.


Using guided imagery, the incomparable Dr. Michael Cantwell helped reintroduce me to my Self – the Self that was not defined by pain. He helped me strengthen and redefine my connection to something bigger that had been lost. I was able to hear my inner voice again and let it take charge. Slowly, I began improving.


I recall one particular guided imagery session with Leslie Davenport, Integrative Psychotherapist, when my itching from jaundice stopped for good after I asked my body to give me a break, even though my skin was still very much the color of a ripe banana. Leslie’s kind and soothing presence created a haven where the noise in my body could sort itself out.


With the radiant Jodi Fishkin Manning, my stagnant insides found movement again, through her gentle touch as an exceptional massage therapist and powerful ability to really, deeply listen to what I had to say, without judgment or pity.


I still see Helen, the warm-hearted sage, every two weeks for acupuncture to keep my body balanced and my symptoms under control. But I see her just as much for her ability to help me get and stay grounded. She is always patient with my stream of questions, teaches me about myself and promotes guilt-free self-care.


That’s “my Team.” Together, along with my naturopath, chiropractor, rheumatologist, my husband Andy and my family, the IHH Clinic Team gave me hope, validated my pain but also my ability to heal, and encouraged me to pursue my newfound passion for holistic nutrition. In the past two and a half years, I left corporate America, went back to school (again!) to become certified as a health and nutrition counselor, and have opened the doors of a thriving holistic practice of my own.


Today, on most days, my pain is a memory – one that I respect, for it taught me much. Though my body can still be temperamental, I am always mending, healing, moving forward.  I can wear heels, haven’t needed surgery and my memory is better than ever, although my husband may beg to differ.


Consider yourself fortunate if you get to meet or spend some time with these exceptional practitioners tonight, as you are in the presence of true healers. They embody the spirit of medicine in all the ways medicine can and should manifest.


Thank you for giving me this opportunity to express in a small way my immeasurable gratitude to Dr. Cantwell, Jodi, Leslie, and Helen.


How do you say thank you to someone who has helped you rebuild your body, mend your spirit, redefine your way of being, and incidentally, discover your life’s work?


But I can tell you that everything they’ve taught me is embedded in how I now live. I hope to pass it on. Thank you.

Entry filed under: delicious health, delicious health news, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, health, holistic nutrition, living, nutrition, random thoughts. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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9 Comments Add your own

  • […] more information, click here to visit Simla’s blog entry about this beautiful […]

  • 2. Liberty  |  March 27, 2009 at 9:09 AM

    hi Simla,

    thank you for sharing this! I’d love to hear about your improvements with MCS. Was there anything that helped you other than avoidance?
    I know we are all different but I love hearing of other’s improvements 🙂

    I am so glad to hear how much better you are.

    take care

  • 3. Simla  |  March 31, 2009 at 1:26 PM

    Hi Liberty!

    Definitely. I’ll plan on a new post to talk specifically about healing from MCS. Stay tuned! Once I’m back from vacation, I would love to check out your blog too. I’m looking forward to compiling links to blogs like yours as a resource for my clients / readers…

    Happy healing,

  • […] Why am I doing this program? Because I’ve been there and this is my passion. Check it out: or read about it here: […]

  • 5. HELEN JUMP  |  May 5, 2009 at 7:03 PM

    Hi Simla:

    Thanks for posting your speech on your website. It is a true inspiration and hope for people who also are living with pain and dealing with a chronic disease, like you did once.

    God bless you and help you guide others to find themselves again.

  • 6. Simla  |  May 6, 2009 at 11:14 AM

    Hi Helen,

    I’m so glad it was inspirational for you. Your message made my day! I’m so glad we’ve met and I hope we continue learning from each other.

    Always in health,

  • 7. Sandra  |  May 7, 2009 at 9:40 PM

    Simla, Wow! What a tremendous speech and most importantly what an amazing journey. I feel just utter delight in seeing you succeed.

  • 8. Suzy Sikora  |  May 19, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    Simla, What a beautiful and powerful story! I’m so glad you shared it, and it has inspired me to share mine as well.

    I, like you, also am very private and most of my time has been spent learning and compiling information that I thought would be helpful (because it has helped me) to dole out to others if they wanted it. Like you, I suffered a great many autoimmune illnesses (MCS was but one) and went through a long string of medical doctors and treatments, accumulating more illness along the way. Until I found a naturopath.

    I was so inspired by my naturopath’s plan for treating me as a whole person, rather than simply a collection of symptoms and body parts, and so amazed at the gradual recovery I made, that I too have returned to school to become a naturopathic doctor and help others!

    I was thrilled to hear your story, and amazed at how closely it resembled my own.

    You have inspired me to share my own story, though I could never do it with the grace and eloquence that you did in your amazing speech.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  • 9. Simla  |  May 19, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    Thanks, Suzy! I appreciate your sharing your account as well. The more we share our stories, the more others may hear and realize they’re not alone and they don’t have to be stuck in the quicksand of autoimmune / MCS, and more…

    I, too, owe a lot to my naturopathic doctor. Congrats on your path!!

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