Amy B. Scher
You’re gonna have to take care of yourself (and also live a little)
Amy Scher came into my life when I was deep in the aftermath of head and brain injury and each day was unfathomably hard. I was living an isolated life with myriad seemingly intractable symptoms and surviving on grit, wobbly hope, and the love of three kitty cats who lived with me.
Amy practiced energy medicine, things like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, which addresses stress and trauma in the body) and other mind-body protocols. Trust me when I say I was skeptical. But when you’ve been profoundly, terrifyingly ill for years and conventional avenues just aren’t helping that much, your mind cautiously opens. Or at least mine did. And I’m so grateful. Working with Amy, my mental and physical health began to improve.
Amy herself went on a radical healing journey, the gist of which she shares in her essay below. She was the first person to receive Stem Cell therapy for Lyme disease, which helped tremendously…until it didn’t. And she had to figure out how best to support her own healing. If you want to know more, you can click here. Or read her harrowing yet incredibly uplifting memoir, This Is How I Save My Life. She’s also published four bestselling books and numerous essays focused on how to heal yourself—and everyone from Elizabeth Gilbert to Bernie Siegel, MD have sung her praises.
I really needed to read Amy’s essay. Having struggled with my health for decades now, I’ve accumulated some fears. My mind is constantly calculating the risks of pretty much anything I do. I understand how I landed here. But recently I’ve been allowing more pleasure back into my life, just for the sake of the pleasure. I’ve always admired this about Amy’s approach to healing. It's a wonderful combination of practical, smart, and fun. This essay was perfectly timed for me. I hope you benefit from it, as well!
What are some of the pleasures that help you stay sane and healthy? Please share in the comments below.
You’re gonna have to take care of yourself (and also live a little)
What does healed really mean? Recently, I’ve realized how important it is for all of us to look at this question. For me, after struggling with chronic Lyme disease and autoimmune conditions for almost a decade, healed turns out to be: living in a healthy body while also sometimes losing complete Zen-like perspective, bingeing on gluten, and temporarily forgetting all the important life lessons I’ve learned. Except for this: being human is so much healthier than being perfect.
But beyond this, being healed for me has meant, continually, learning to give up the idea of perfection, even in the sense of a healed physical body. Especially in our current era where “getting sick” feels terrifying, we need to look at ourselves, and our beliefs, even closer. This journey of true and lasting healing is not one that cuts you off from the world and reality. It’s one that integrates the best parts of you right into it all. You can’t do nothing to support your body and you also can’t make your whole life about attaining constant perfect health, either.
There is a middle ground. There has to be a middle ground.
First, you’re gonna have to take care of yourself:
Do it in whatever way feels good to you. I believe in natural healing. I also believe in never feeling ashamed of embracing medicine in whatever form feels right to you. I believe that any practitioner who makes you feel bad about exploring all the possibilities you align with—whether a western doctor, a chiropractor, or an integrative physician—is one you should run from. For myself, I choose the path of least resistance. What feels best and easiest to me? This is self-care.
But more importantly, you’re gonna have to live a little:
This is what I learned when I was trying to micro-manage every itty bit of my life in order to heal. And to give myself credit, I was in my 20s and dying, so I don’t blame me one bit. But it just doesn’t work. I spent most of my life in California eating organic food, holding my breath when I walked by a smoker, and being afraid that every misstep would kill me. I lived in a bubble of fear.
In order to heal, I had to let go of being so rigid.
Everything changed for me in 2007 when I was in an Indian hospital receiving an experimental treatment and serendipitously discovered the healing properties of chocolate cake.
Here’s an excerpt from my memoir, This Is How I Save My Life (Simon and Schuster, 2018)
“At the request of one of the sisters (nurses), I had given the staff at Nutech a list of foods I could and could not eat. On the could list: protein and veggies. On the could not list: everything else. Over the past years, my brain has been programmed with messages like dairy is bad because it causes inflammation, sugar feeds the Lyme bacteria, and carbs are evil. And while maybe some of that has truth to it, being ridiculously strict about my diet only causes me more intense stress. And now, unstoppable hunger.
When Dr. Shroff saw the list, she came to my room with it and asked, “But what about your healthy cells? They need some sugar. Dairy is not bad for them. Carbs are okay in moderation! Each night, you can have a small amount of red wine and chocolate. You need some pleasure too.” All I could think was, Are you trying to kill me?
It isn’t until I am squatting on the mud-smudged grocery store floor that what she said begins to sink in. My whole existence for years now has been dedicated to “killing” Lyme. I have built my entire life around Lyme disease, the one thing that I don’t want. What about the rest of me?
“Mom! Look!” I scream as I hold up a box of Kraft mac and cheese that was wedged between a bag of lentils and a box of basmati rice.
“Oh my Gaaaaawd, babe!” She runs over in disbelief. I keep digging and soon find a packaged chocolate lava cake, the kind where you add hot water to the plastic tray full of batter and it magically puffs up into dessert. It’s inflatable chocolate cake, and it’s a frickin’ miracle! Where is the genie granting me these wishes? There is nothing GMO-free, organic, or natural about this food jackpot, but I am thrilled!
Clutching these boxes as if they are solid gold, I rush them to the register and pay a total of 200 rupees, or three American dollars. I have only a tiny bit of guilt about the quality of this food, but even that will be obsolete soon. The perspective I am about to gain is priceless.
What if, in my furious effort to find the cure, I have been missing something critically important all along? There is no question that I need these stem cells to work for me. There is no debate that I need my legs and my health back. And no one would argue that I also need to stop bursting into tears and get my act together. But until that happens, what if I also need something that has been completely within my reach all along? My own permission to save myself any way I can. What if I loosen the death grip I have on my own life? What if true faith means grabbing on to whatever you can in each moment, and letting that be enough to carry you on? What if there are a hundred opportunities to save your life every single day? And none of them look like the cure, but actually are essential fragments of it. What if everything that came before now did not seem like healing, but was a tiny step toward it? And what if today, when I can’t change any of my circumstances, I can save a little piece of myself WITH THIS INFLATABLE CHOCOLATE CAKE?”
Fast forward to now. I live in NYC where they have a bowl of Halloween candy where I buy my grass-fed organic bone broth, which by the way is a delicious combo. It’s a small thing but it’s this that reminds me how living a little goes a long way with wellbeing.
I consider myself fully healed now. It’s been 13 years since I’ve dealt with Lyme disease. I don’t expect or wait for relapses or head warnings from well-meaning people that they might be looming. Sometimes, I get sick: a cold or flu or whatever. Sometimes, I get some weird symptoms show up in my body and then go away. Sometimes, I still have to deal with unruly emotions of mine. I am infinitely better than I ever have been. But I’m not always perfect. And into my 40s now, I’ve finally come to this: What’s the fun in perfection anyway? So I eat the cake. And it’s always worth it.
I have a saying, Jane: Sometimes you feed your body, sometimes you feed your soul. What feeds my soul is chardonnay in moderate amounts and occasional Reese's peanut butter cups in seasonal shapes--Christmas trees, eggs, pumpkins. A chocolate lava cake would work, too!