I call this program Walking with Tigers for a few reasons…

First, living with an autoimmune disorder is like walking through life on the same path as a tiger. There’s something nearby that is potentially ferocious at all times, and you learn to walk intelligently, and still get to where you’re going. Ever-aware and in the present: with one ear cocked.

The name is also a big nod to the Dr. Peter Levine, who is a trauma expert and wrote in 1997 the book Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma. Dr. Levine invented somatic experiencing and has helped many overcome post-traumatic stress through this body-centered “alternative” healing method. It is my belief that (sometimes buried) trauma and auto-immune conditions go hand-in-hand. Peter’s groundbreaking patient Nancy, the one with whom he first imagined a tiger and encouraged her to run, stopped experiencing her fibromyalgia symptoms soon after she “ran” from the tiger. Her panic attacks also subsided.

(Perhaps if we explore our tigers via bodily methods of healing, we can all successfully run from the tigers—get the trauma out of the body—and we are finlly free of the tiger.)

Tigers are independent creatures, they don’t normally travel in tribes. And that’s what it’s like to have a physical health condition that is draining but not obvious to others. Someone with an autoimmune disorder may be a sometimes-solitary creature, too different, private, and maybe awkward, to easily join others.

We have stripes, sometimes invisible stripes, those of us who live with disease. We are not always victims—in fact we are sometimes like soldiers. You can’t see the stripes—the accomplishments and badges of honor—but we know they are there. Some days we might walk proudly with stripes, knowing the level of self-care we live with, and we naturally become as ferocious — or as ferociously-willed — as the tiger. 

Other times, the stripes are heavy.  Some of us search high and low for answers, pathways, and healing. Some of us go the route of conventional medicine, and others of us embrace more natural means: explore the yoga mat, visit an acupuncturist, eat carefully, and so on– tracing back to the origins of humankind.  And another group of us walk the line between the two worlds of conventional medicine and natural healing, hand-selecting what suits us and exploring even-further worlds of healing– the ones being invented, or rediscovered, as we speak.

I’m in that third group, with a “both/and” attitude, walking as intelligently and intuitively as possible amongst all the lines… proud of my stripes. My body may be challenged on occasion, sometimes very challenged, but my will and faith are ferocious.