As a conventionally trained M.D., Carolyn Ross helped patients better their health every day. But when hit with a health crisis of her own, nothing in her medical bag of tricks – or those of her fellow physicians – could turn it around.
In her late 40s, Dr. Ross juggled a full schedule of patients at a large women’s practice in Southern California. At home, she was a single mother to her youngest child.
Then, after getting an upper respiratory infection, she simply didn’t fully recover. Her temperature would spike to 105, and come with severe headaches, exhaustion, pain, insomnia and brain fog. Pain and tightness gripped her back at all times, like a “meat hook.”
“Until then, I was very healthy and active,” she says. “I was the mom of a six-year-old, doing a lot of stuff with him and doing really well. Then I went to being in bed, unable to get up. I was just exhausted every day, all day.”
Doctors ultimately labeled her illness as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia. Their recommendations, rest and over-the-counter pain medications, didn’t touch the fatigue or pain.
Answers Outside Mainstream Medicine
Dr. Ross dug deep as she tried to keep up with her life, but severe brain fog forced her to quit working.
The stress of trying to cover the bills only compounded her illness. Despite paying on a disability policy for years, the provider didn’t recognize chronic fatigue as a real condition – and wouldn’t agree to disability benefits.
Dr. Ross’s search for relief soon took her beyond mainstream medicine. As she encountered eye-opening success stories of healing with alternative modalities, it widened her view of what was possible.
“As a western-trained physician, I was like, ‘Whoa, what is going on here?’” she recalls.
She came across so many stories of healing that she chose to document them in a book, Miracles Beyond Medicine.
“Those miracles really, really helped me because I was down and out,” she says. “Western medicine gave me zero hope.”
Releasing Emotional Blocks
Out of all the modalities she learned of, Dr. Ross’s intuition first pointed her toward acupuncture. Seeing an acupuncturist, who also provided energy healing, soon brought relief.
“It works on the emotional components of where your energy gets stuck and how to release that using acupuncture and the energy component,” she says. “So that was extremely helpful for me. That was the first time I saw a light at the end of the tunnel.”
She also followed a recommendation to see a doctor for chronic pain, who additionally offered a unique form of yoga. Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy required that she hold poses – sometimes very painfully – which again worked to release emotional blocks to healing.
“He would hold these positions until it was almost intolerable,” she says. “And then I would have kind of an emotional release.”
Together, these two types of therapies also helped Dr. Ross release some adverse childhood and adult trauma, plus negative emotions. At times, these releases felt spiritual, giving her a sense of being with a higher power.
Acupuncture, energy healing and the yoga therapy thankfully brought her about halfway back to where she had been before her health crash.
Health Crisis #2: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Dr. Ross’s profound progress with holistic health led her to seek and land a fellowship at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, founded by Dr. Andrew Weil. She and her son moved to Tucson for the program and remained there for a few years following it.
What she learned in Tucson brought her to about 80 percent of her former self. That included continued acupuncture, chiropractic, energy healing, taking supplements and even seeing a shaman.
After the fellowship, she decided to specialize in eating disorders and addiction – inspired by years of seeing her patients struggle with these. She combined her western and integrative medicine training to offer what she calls complementary alternative medicine modalities.
An attractive career opportunity next took her to Denver. But the reality was far from the dream as she, again, found herself in a hyper-stressful environment.
In the midst of the new job, joint pain and swelling began anew, leading to a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. But something about it didn’t feel right for Dr. Ross.
“When she [the doctor] said the diagnosis, I had the thought, ‘That’s not true,’” she recalls. “And it wasn’t like an ego thought of, ‘I know better than you.’ It was just an intuition again saying that’s not what’s going on here.”
However, she began taking prescribed medication for RA anyway. At the same time, she turned to meditation as a way to manage her stress.
Clearing Infections, Allergies STOPS the Pain
Meanwhile, her experience and training taught her to look for root causes of her illness. Not long before the pain had started, a recent root canal had left her with intermittent throbbing.
A return to the dentist turned up a lingering infection. With antibiotics, her RA pain was cut by about half.
Dr. Ross also ran a food sensitivity test and found an allergy or high sensitivity to casein and whey, the proteins in milk. By cutting out milk, her arthritis pain subsided 100 percent. Thus she dropped the RA medication.
When she suggested to her doctor that perhaps inflammation had been the cause, her doctor disagreed.
“We know that diets can cause inflammation. We know that stress can cause inflammation. And we also know that emotions can cause inflammation,” Dr. Ross says.
Healed – and Healing Others
These days, Dr. Ross has regained her energy, erased her brain fog and stopped her pain.
She now specializes in helping individuals with eating disorders and addiction in her private practice. And she’s also the CEO of The Anchor Program which is an online program for people with binge eating disorder, emotional eating and food addiction.
For others going through illness, she offers her wizened been-there advice:
- Work through emotional trauma – Dr. Ross found she needed to process trauma in order to heal fully. “You cannot separate out emotions from what happens in the body,” she says. “There’s physiological proof of that. We know that, for example, gut health affects emotions, and vice versa, emotions affect gut health.”
For more on her thoughts on trauma, check out her Tedx Talk: How to Maximize the Gifts of Intergenerational Trauma.
- Manage stress – Dr. Ross’s health crises cropped up during unusually high levels of stress. She left stressful situations, as possible, and turned to practices such as meditation.
- Follow your intuition – All along, she followed her intuition on which modalities might work the best for her.
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