Back in the Spring, Jane featured a guest post from Patrick McBriarty called “Exit Chicago,” in which he described his experience battling Long COVID. The following update is excerpted from an October 4, 2023 post on Patrick’s blog, The Trunnion. You can read the post in full at “How’s Your Health?—Part 1.”
Reconnecting these days, friends will inevitably ask, “So, how’s your health?” In short, my transformation has been amazing given my serious health struggle—shared in earlier blog posts. My recovery meant embracing what some might call “crazy” holistic practices. With the perspective of time and feeling good, I now think of this journey as a radical new commitment to deep “positive health.”
Coming out of the weeds of the ongoing efforts to recover, a new friend and fellow author Jane Doyle recently re-framed my health journey. She has a love for all things holy and spiritual, the movie Braveheart, Scottish faeries, yoga, belly laughs, and even greater love for angels. Her perspective and admiration for my journey re-framed and elevated my struggle to that of a “health warrior.” Wow, I like the sound of that, but what does it mean?
Jane remarkably dealt with 30 years of chronic headaches and fatigue to forge her own path back to health. In her book You Heal You and author blog she shares her philosophy and reverence for willful individuals, who like us, have fought through the health care (not) system, which is all too often unable to address, let alone understand, chronic non-lethal health problems. As her website stated a couple months ago, the current system leaves individuals little option but to somehow find the strength within, “to fight societal pressures and refuse to accept a chronic condition or poor health for lack of a scientific or standard medical solution.” This leaves significant segments of the population adrift. Only significant additional efforts and strong will to seek out alternative remedies and treatments (often trial and error) will one then learn what works for them and potentially recapture their good health.
The key question she asked me over lunch a few weeks ago kicked off the re-framing when she asked, “how did you develop the ability to find a path to good health on your own?" Essentially asking, “how I became a health warrior.” Prior to our conversation I saw my approach as stacking up “positive health” efforts and potential butterfly effects. Predicting the human body’s reaction to treatments given the collection of interdependent complex systems—cardiovascular, lymphatic, digestive, nervous, endocrine, skeletal, reproductive, and so on—let alone the subtle interactions across these systems seems to me incomprehensible. Yet the overall logic to do as many “positive health” practices each, day, week, and month and eliminate as many negative health behaviors as possible made perfect sense. Guided by Back to Natural Health taking a holistic approach beyond stacking up positive health I envisioned additional subtle improvements beyond my comprehension as butterfly effects. My hope was these unimagined multipliers (butterfly effects) might further enhance the expected benefits of my positive health efforts and discarding of bad habits.
The past 21 months of sustained effort and investment in time, better behaviors, and money (low five-figures) has brought back my good health. It was not just a worthwhile investment, but also brought about a transformation of my thinking and understanding of wellness, our environment, and how to better take care of ourselves and the world we live in—on both a micro and macro-level. Minor unexpected improvements I experienced besides better mood, health, and resilience include dramatic decrease in sensitivity to cold, better balance, healthier skin (less prone to sunburn), fewer gray hairs, eating less without hunger pains, and gradual weight loss without consistent exercise. Amazingly each of these additional changes exceed my experience pre-COVID.
As I explained it to Jane, this seemingly abrupt plunge into holistic medicine was overdue. I had been kidding myself about the resilience of my health and had decades of mildly destructive habits (drinking too much or too frequently, overeating, poor food choices, unreasonable self-expectations, and unreasonable self-judgment) that sorely needed changing. My December 2021 emergency hospital stay fueled a sudden fear of death, shattered my confidence in my health, and ramped up my anxiety (a life-long blind spot) to spur a new and deeper commitment to whatever it takes to feel better. Similar to Jane’s experience my visits to primary care and physician specialists also offered no clear map back to full health . . .
. . . In hindsight, catching COVID in late March 2020, Long-COVID, and the subsequent health crisis in December 2021 has been a blessing in disguise. The lesson of visiting doctors, research, networking, and changing my daily habits, diet, and routines I have found a new health protocol, which I believe will allow me to age gracefully and to stay active much longer than most of my peers. Thanks to science and mainstream medicine offering no real cure I have upped my commitment and exploration and graduated into a full-blown health warrior.
Just how I accomplished this will be detailed in the forthcoming part two of “How is Your Health?”
Patrick McBriarty is a former businessperson turned bridge historian, writer, and author of nonfiction books for adults and children. His first book, the award-winning Chicago River Bridges, is now considered an authoritative guide to the topic. McBriarty lives on Chicago’s north side and continues to collect, write, and create Chicago history, develop new children’s books, and the occasional travel article.