What Else Is There? Balancing Alternative Therapies with Acute Care Medicine

by | Jul 30, 2019 | Alternative Medicine, Blog | 0 comments

This article is based on episode #34 of A Bridge To Wholeness podcast. You can listen to the episode on iTunes, Stitcher, and on our website.

Jennifer Crisp: Constance and I have known each other for quite a few years now. We have a lot of things in common. Constance is of one those people who has, again, so much under her belt and has so much experience with health and wellness and healing. The way she approaches it, her philosophy about health and healing, is really very open. I just can’t say enough about her.

Actually, you’ve taught me quite a lot over the years. She is an Usui reiki master teacher, and has been one for how many years now? I know it’s over 20.

Constance Kerrigan: About 30 years.

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah, it’s been a long time, and you’re really, really amazing. You’re also a sound healer, and that is through a certification program with Tom Kenyon who is a sound healer and psychotherapist. You also had an integrative nursing practice in Hong Kong in the 1990s when you were living there with your family.

Constance Kerrigan: Yes, we moved from California to Hong Kong shortly after I became a reiki master teacher. I realized that I really couldn’t work as a nurse there. The licensing is different. I started talking to people about alternative care and teaching reiki, and it just took off.

Jennifer Crisp: So in fact, your business is called Crossroads Whole Health.

Constance Kerrigan: Yes.

Jennifer Crisp: You opened that up in 2014 after you became a certified whole health educator, and I know how that program is because I went through it too. It’s quite extensive.

Constance Kerrigan: Yes, you brought me into that.

Jennifer Crisp: Yes. Yes, I did, but it’s really, really an amazing program. We have Georgianna Donadio of National Institutes of Whole Health to thank for that.

I want to give a little bit of just your background, when you were growing up. You grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, in a home full of Greek tradition and music, and are very attracted to people and medicine. You’ve combined them to become a nurse.

But while you were recovering from an illness, you discovered that you really were not healing well through traditional Western medicine. A friend gave you a reiki treatment, and you immediately felt better than you had in months. Then you began to wonder what other alternative or holistic therapies were available.

So you began that lifelong quest to discover ways to help yourself and other clients to heal. You are committed to helping your clients balance traditional and alternative therapies, and you found your life path with reiki, sound healing, and whole health education. Of course, you’ve been a nurse, as we said, for more than 30 years, and a reiki master teacher and sound healer for more than 20 years.

Actually, our topic today is balancing traditional and alternative therapies. So obviously, you are very good at this, but tell us your story about the illness that you were trying to overcome because that’s really what happens, I think, with a lot of people who come into health and wellness and want to help other people.

Constance Kerrigan: I had gallbladder surgery. At the time, it was the 80s, and the laparoscopies were just being started. I had two very good doctors in Boston at a well-known hospital, and they accidentally cut my common bile duct.

After they did that, they had to open me and rebuild my ducts. So about two or three years later, I had moved to California, and I had a horrible fever and pain. I was living on a mountain with my two children. My husband was away in Hong Kong. I had to be taken to the hospital, and I stayed there for five days. I was septic because one of my ducts was inflamed and consequently closed.

So this happened. I had to have my IV antibiotics. When I went back to the doctor a week or two later, after I was discharged, he said to me, “In the olden days, we would be speaking of you in the past tense.” I was shocked.

So I was at home. I had to stop working. I was working as a home health nurse at the time, so I had to stop working because I could hardly walk down my 200 foot driveway.

A friend gave me the reiki treatment, and I just figured, well, I had nothing to lose. I thought all those people were quacks, but she gave me this treatment and I was shocked at how much better I felt. It was like all my energy had come back to me. So I thought, “Well, if this is there, what else is out there? What else is out there that could help me?”

I found a women’s holistic practitioner health group in Nevada City, and started attending that, and started meeting people and learning about all different types of alternatives. I just kept trying them until I just tried everything I could come in contact with and would learn as much as I could about each one.

Then I found myself moving to Hong Kong and wondered what I was going to do. When I realized I couldn’t work as a nurse, I started talking to people about reiki. In Asia, holistic care is much more open.

You’ll find a Chinese practitioner on almost every corner. Reiki was well-known because it came from Japan, and people were enthusiastic. There was an alternative health store, a new age store.

She had crystals and books and gave classes, and she was fabulous. That’s where I met Simon Treselyan, who I studied seven different types of reiki with in Uluru, Australia, which was an amazing experience, and then helped him teach classes when he came to Hong Kong.

Right before I left the States, I met Tom Kenyon, and went back several times during my stay in Hong Kong to attend classes with him in Washington state and California, wherever he was. If I was back in the States, then I just went wherever he was. He taught about toning, and he taught about intuitive toning and using your intuition in order to use your voice to balance the energy. Then I learned to use that with my reiki.

But in the meantime, about every two years, I kept having this infection. It just never subsided until a few years ago, when I finally had to have liver surgery. My practice of supplements and reiki and sound healing all came into play. Homeopathics, the oils, Bach flower remedies, everything I had came into play to help me through that experience and help me heal faster.

Jennifer Crisp: You did heal very beautifully because, of course, I was there when all that was going on. You really did come through with very little pain and just a great sense of peace and calm as you went through it. Even though it had been several years since you had had the original surgery and consequent treatment for the infection, once your bile duct is nicked, it’s always going to be an issue until you really get it straightened out, but the surgeons you had were wonderful, weren’t they?

Constance Kerrigan: Yes, the doctor I had at George Washington was fabulous. Actually, it was Georgetown in DC. He was the head of the transplant unit. He kept wondering why I wasn’t there earlier.

The doctor that I had at the beach one year, when I ended up in the hospital there, he happened to be a Japanese man and he was an acupuncturist, but he couldn’t treat me in the hospital. He actually said to me, “Western medicine is for acute conditions, and Eastern medicine is for maintenance.”

That really made me think about how our society thinks about medicine. So many people still think, and I’m always surprised at this, but still think of alternative and holistic care in the way that I did back in the 80s, that these people were all quacks. They’re not all quacks. There are doctors who are quacks. So it’s like there are amazing clinicians and practitioners everywhere we look. We need to trust our intuition when we look for a practitioner. If someone doesn’t resonate with you, don’t go to see them.

Jennifer Crisp: Yes, absolutely. I like the fact that we’re talking about this, the fact that the Japanese who was a Western medicine physician… Am I correct?

Constance Kerrigan: Yes.

Jennifer Crisp: Yes, who also was an acupuncturist. In Chinese medicine, the acupuncturist is really the primary care physician.

So here he was, from both worlds and being able to say that Western medicine is really for acute care and Eastern medicine is for our health maintenance. I think that that’s what we really what we want to delve into today because I keep running into people who say to me, “Well, Jennifer, I know you’re a nurse. What do you suggest?” My first answer is not always, “Go see your doctor.”

Because sometimes, I know through all of the experiences that I’ve had with alternative practitioners that I can get relief from back pain or tension or anxiety or whatever it is by going to see an alternative practitioner. I personally would rather do that than go the route of, okay, I have to go see the doctor and I’m going to get a pill for pain. I’m not about that. That’s not how my brain works. I always want to go the other route first. But on the other side, if I know I have an infection and I need to see my MD, I am forever grateful that they are there.

So I think it’s really trying to figure out sometimes, maybe, who do we need to go see? Maybe we should really look at that because I think people get very confused. Okay, what I do? Who should I go to see?

Constance Kerrigan: For everyday discomforts, things like our knees aching or we picked up something wrong and now our shoulders ache, we can use homeopathics. We can use some of the homeopathic creams and gels. There are a lot of different things out there that we can use. We now have CBD oils in both the hemp and the marijuana that are very effective, but that’s another whole talk.

The homeopathics I’ve found are very, very effective for day to day personal use. When people start to use things, the first thing I usually recommend to them is things like arnica montana. It’s for shock and trauma to muscles and joints. It comes in a cream and it comes in tabs in varied doses.

Jennifer Crisp: Actually, athletes use that all the time.

Constance Kerrigan: Yes, and it doesn’t interact with other medications.

When we have a temperature, that’s when I become concerned. When we have frequent dizzy spells, when we find that we’re having heart palpitations and pain down our right arm, those are the times you need to go to the hospital or go to see your doctor.

But for the everyday aches and pains, we shouldn’t be running to the doctor. First of all, most of the time, he really doesn’t know how to deal with it. But the acupuncturists, the chiropractors, the naturopaths, the craniosacral therapists, they are very adept at manipulating the body and utilizing different types of energy. Sometimes, all you need is to say a grounding meditation to get yourself less anxious. So these are things that we can all utilize that are pretty simple.

Jennifer Crisp: Right. So we even know … One of the most simple things, obviously, is the breath, right?

Constance Kerrigan: Yes.

Jennifer Crisp: Here’s a perfect example of this. We know in Western medicine that when you take three or four deep breaths, it begins to lower your blood pressure.

So when you lower your blood pressure, you’re already starting to feel better. In a more Eastern approach or alternative modality for taking the breath, what does that do for us? It centers us. We think of that in alternative medicine as really centering down, going inside, being quiet, but lowering your blood pressure does that for you anyway.

So that’s a perfect example of how that traditional and alternative … those worlds come together. Is there any other examples that we could think of?

Constance Kerrigan: We live in a stressful time where we usually have way too much on our plates. So one thing that I have found over the years is that sometimes, people are rushing to the psychiatrists or the psychologists or their doctor for some kind of medicine to make them calm down when a simple grounding meditation and some Bach flower remedies would be enough to take the edge off of whatever they’re dealing with and help them to be able to look at whatever they’re dealing with in a new perspective.

I want to point out that one thing I was thinking about was that nursing has always been centered on caring for people. It’s not a diagnostic form. It’s actually taking care of somebody. So for me, when I was working as a home health nurse, I always tried to see what else does this person need? That’s something we don’t ask often enough.

I think when we’re not feeling well and we ask ourselves, “Okay, what is actually going on? Do I have a temperature? No. Am I anxious about this thing that’s going to happen to me? Yes. Okay, but I have 20 other things I have to do before I can deal with that,” we have to be able to have resources. This is not something that happens immediately. This is something that happens over time, so we have to continually add to our daily routine something that helps us deal with our day to day stuff.

Jennifer Crisp: Well, yeah, and I think that it’s funny because I just put out a newsletter to my list. One of the things that I talked about was actually having a ritual, a routine ritual, that we can do maybe every morning, but even if you don’t have a chance to do it in the morning, to have something you can tap into any time during the day to help you go inside again and refocus and rebalance because we are under so much … I think it’s just information overload with everything that goes on, from the computers to the TVs and the phones and the typical things.

But I think learning to actually stop and recognize and say, “Whoa, I need to take a breath …” But it’s not even just taking one breath. It’s literally stopping and slowing yourself down. Yeah, exactly, and to be able to maintain that consistent practice I think is very integral to using an alternative therapy like breath work to help you with chronic conditions.

Constance Kerrigan: It becomes easier when we start to do it at a regular time, and then it’s there for us whenever we need it, whether we’re standing in line at the bank and people are being nasty, or if we’re sitting in traffic, or if the kids are running around and we’ve had quite enough. It’s a lot of different things. It’s not just our health issues. It’s our day to day life and what we’re dealing with.

One thing that I learned early on was I studied with a medium, a psychic healer, and she taught me how to meditate. I had never meditated before. I was in my 30s before I learned to meditate, and she taught me a grounding meditation, which I teach to just about everybody I meet.

It takes about a minute, and I find that it makes a huge difference in my day. I can do it anytime I want during the day. I try to do it first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and breathing, of course. I always try to do some kind of yoga stretches. Those are part of my ritual. I think as we do these things, it does become easier. It’s like any new thing that we’re trying to learn. We have to practice it.

Jennifer Crisp: Well, and I think also, when I interviewed Richard Bredeson on this program a while back … You know Richard. He’s a qi gong master. Honestly, Richard gets down on his fists and does, I don’t know, 200 pushups a day. It’s absurd, and he just flies through it. But he actually ended up having a heart attack a couple years ago, not due to the qi gong but just a defect in his heart muscle.

He ended up having bypass surgery, but before he went into surgery, he actually prepared himself by doing qi gong in the hospital. In fact, he said … If you haven’t listened to this episode, you should go listen to it because it’s so fascinating. He said that, “I even had the nurses coming up to me, saying, ‘Oh, I wish you would teach us this. This would be so great for stress release.'”

When he had his surgery, the doctor said to him, “You have the heart of a 20 year old. You just have a little defect here, and we’re going to fix that.” But they couldn’t get over how prepared he was. Not only physically was he prepared, but he was very prepared mentally and emotionally.

Richard made a comment, and I’ve always remembered this, where he said, “Even if you get into trouble where you need acute care at the hospital, when you have this tool chest of alternative practices that you can pull from, it will help you in an acute care situation.” I think that that’s really the beauty of using alternative and traditional Western medicine practice together when you can build that toolbox up and reach for those things when you need them and know, you know what? I feel like I need to be realigned. It’s time to see the chiropractor, or it’s time to see my holistic physical therapist, because we have holistic, integrative physical therapists running around all over the place.

Or maybe I need to see the acupuncturist. Maybe I’m feeling like I’m not balanced energetically, and a therapy session on the table with acupuncture needles is what I need.

So I wish that we could teach people that that’s okay, and not only that. A lot of these things are becoming much more mainstream now. There are quite a few reiki teachers out there. And reiki practitioners. Reiki used to be considered very, very woo. But it’s not nearly as woo as it used to be.

Constance Kerrigan: Yes, that’s true. I will teaching reiki again this fall. I haven’t taught for several years. Several people have approached me, and I felt that it was the right time to begin again, where I’m starting to become even … I’m starting to really see more and more of the need of people balancing and having an understanding of, as we talk about in whole health education, the five aspects of health. It’s really about that whole balance, the physical, emotional, environmental, nutritional, and spiritual. It really is about balancing all of that, and I really feel like people are looking for … “Okay, you’re talking about this, but how do I do that?” I think that’s where I’m moving towards at this point is helping people to understand where their choices are and what kinds of choices suit them because your choices are not the same as mine. The choices for my mother, who’s 89, is different from my nephew, who’s 21.

But having an understanding of what the choices might be for them and- I learned this from home health- what might suit them … I was shocked when I broke my ankle and my left foot at the same time. I was shocked that nobody at the hospital asked me if I had any stairs at my home, and how was I going to get back up into the house? It was like, “Really? This doesn’t make sense.”

Jennifer Crisp: No, that was quite a year for you.

Constance Kerrigan: But I’m beginning to see that there are aspects as a whole health educator that can help people understand where the balance needs to occur in their life. Also, some of them will require traditional medicine, and some of them will require alternative care. Some of them will require personal care on their own part where they will have to do a little more work. They may have to rearrange their life a little bit. But helping people how to do that, I think, is something that we are going to need more and more, especially as the health care system in our country and other countries changes.

Jennifer Crisp: Yes. Yeah, and it’s getting more challenging, I think, to even get in to see a regular MD. The doctors themselves, they’re just so overwhelmed.

Their patient load is so amazingly high. The number of patients they have to see in a day and the amount of time they get to spend with them … We need to remember that our doctors, our MDs, are people first. Sometimes we forget that. Our nurses too.

Actually, everybody in the allied health field, they’re usually really, really overwhelmed with patients. I haven’t worked in a hospital in a number of years, but I know it was bad when I was there, and I think it’s even worse there now.

But I have to tell this story about a reiki treatment that you gave me. I have to say this because it happened. I don’t know how to explain it, but Constance and I were at the Integrative Health Care Symposium back in-

Constance Kerrigan: New York.

Jennifer Crisp: It had to be 2010, I think.

Constance Kerrigan: That’s about right.

Jennifer Crisp: 2009 or 2010. I had a lot of things going on back then. A lot. My mother had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and it was just very, very stressful. I was in the middle of getting the certification to be a whole health educator, and it was just a lot of life going on.

I knew that I had a suspicion that my gallbladder was not particularly happy. I also have chronic Lyme, for those of you who know that, and that affects quite a few organ systems in your body. I’m also a pretty healthy eater. I ate well, and I exercised.

But anyway, we were at the Health Care Symposium, and we went out to dinner. I had noticed that my stomach was just not happy. At … I think it was 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. Here we are in a hotel in New York City, and I woke up literally sweating. I was in so much agony, and I knew laying there that I probably should be in the emergency room, but I wasn’t at home. I’m like, “I’m not going to an emergency room in New York City.”

Of course, whenever you’re in the health field, you’re a nurse or a doctor, you’re the worst patient ever. So I woke you up.

I said, “Look, you have to do a reiki treatment, or you have to take me to the ER. I’m literally at my wits’ end. It was so bad. Remember, I was learning over the chest of drawers holding on, trying to get my breath.

So you took one hand and placed it on my front torso, below the breast bone, and the other one in the back, and you started that reiki treatment. I just remember relaxing into it. I don’t know how long it took.

Constance Kerrigan: Not long.

Jennifer Crisp: Time stood still at that point. But I remember turning to you, and just looking at you and saying, “What just happened? What did you do? I don’t have any more pain.” You just looked at me, and you just said, “I just gave you a reiki treatment. What’s the big deal?”

I had had reiki treatments before, more for stress and anxiety, but I had not ever had a reiki treatment for pain. It allowed me to go through the next couple of days without having to hit the emergency room. But you said to me … This is what you said to me. “I think you might need to have your gallbladder checked.”

Of course, it was another six or eight months before I bothered with that, and then I ended up calling you again anyway and saying, “Hey, can you meet me in the ER before my husband has to show up?” I finally had the gallbladder out, and of course everything turned out okay, but I just want to say that is my story about having a reiki treatment that really allowed me to not hit the ER in New York City. But I still had to go back and have that acute care done at a later time and have my surgery.

I think that’s a perfect example, again, of something that helped me right then and there, but I had to follow up. I’ll just say this: I waited too long to follow up. The average person should not do that. I was just being really stubborn.

Constance Kerrigan: Yes. The wonderful thing about reiki is … You did take Reiki One after that. I think it was right after that.

Jennifer Crisp: I think it was after. Yeah.

Constance Kerrigan: But the wonderful thing about reiki is that when you take Reiki One, the first level of reiki, you learn self-healing treatments. You learn how to give a treatment, but for me, Reiki One is about learning how to give yourself a reiki session so that you understand how the energy flows through you because it’s not the practitioner’s energy coming to you. It’s the energy of the universe coming through the practitioner.

When the new practitioner is initiated, is attuned, as we say, to the reiki energy, all they need to do is ask for it. It is an energy that’s out there for everyone to use. This is one of those tools in the toolbox that everyone can have access to and utilize.

I’ve had people say to me, “Well, I didn’t feel anything.” I said, “It doesn’t matter. All you need to do is make the intention that you want the energy to flow, and it’s going to flow.” I’ve had people say somebody came to them and said, “Oh, I don’t feel well,” and they put their arm on them and they felt the energy flow through, and they were shocked.

But it’s that idea of healing energy is unconditional love, and we all need that. So when we use the reiki energy, it can heal quite miraculously sometimes. There’s no guarantees, just like there are no guarantees with anything else. There’s no guarantee when you have surgery that it’s going to work.

So I think it’s a balancing of understanding, asking the questions, finding a practitioner that you’re comfortable with and trust, and that’s true for any practice, whether it’s traditional or alternative. I’ve had many people come to me and say, “What doctor do you recommend?” Well, I do have people I recommend because they’re my doctors.

But I also tell people, “Keep looking. Ask the questions. Stand in front of the door until they answer your questions.” You have to ask the questions. If you don’t ask the questions you need to ask, you won’t know, and you won’t get answers, and you won’t be able to make a good decision.

One thing that I keep looking at is that when we empower ourselves with healing information, we can create a sense of harmony and balance that will flow into our lives for years to come, and that’s very, very true.

Jennifer Crisp: It is very true. I do want to say that Constance is a member of my community, A Bridge to Wholeness, which is bridging the gap between alternative and traditional Western health practitioners. We’re in the 21st Century now, and we need to start looking at both sides and really bridging that gap so that patient outcomes and patients, the goals that they have for their health and wellness, can be expanded.

We welcome the Western medical community into this conversation because they themselves can also benefit from a lot of these alternative modalities that will help to relieve the stress that they’re under just caring for their own patients.

We really do appreciate the members inside A Bridge to Wholeness community. If you want to check that out at some point, just go to abridgetowholeness.com and check it out. If you’re a health care person, we are always looking for guests to be on one of our episodes because we’re all about education and information and doing that in a way that is nonjudgmental and puts this out there to give you something to think about, to expand that vision of what health and wellness is about.

Jennifer Crisp: Constance, we’re going to have to wrap this up. You and I could chat all day about this, but how do we reach you if somebody is interested in having a reiki session with you, which I understand does not have to be done in person, and how do we find out if you’re going to be offering any classes, where we can go for that? How do we reach out to you?

Constance Kerrigan: I don’t actually have a website anymore. I do have a Facebook page. It’s Crossroads Whole Health. The email that people can reach me at is crossroadswholehealth@gmail.com. I believe my phone number is actually on the Facebook page. If you have a group of friends that want to come together and learn reiki, I’m happy to go interesting places to teach reiki, or if need be, I can find somewhere to teach. I’m very fussy about where I teach.

Jennifer Crisp: I know that you have your grounding meditation that you want to offer to people.

Constance Kerrigan: Yes, I do. I really feel the grounding meditation is very, very important. If people want to contact me at crossroadswholehealth@gmail.com, I will be happy to send them the grounding meditation. The first five people that actually contact me would also get a $20 discount on a Discovering Choices session with me, which would be a combination whole health education, reiki, sound session. It would be a little of each to give them a taste, and those are generally about 40, 45 minutes.

Jennifer Crisp: That’s really great because when you’re dealing with a whole health educator … and yes, we are a little partial to them … you’re really getting a lot of education and wisdom because we really do know how to work with people who are looking for more sustainable health and wellness in their lives. Thank you.

To listen to this episode on the podcast, find us on iTunes or Stitcher. You can also listen to it on our website by clicking here.

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