Heal Me – Julia Buckley

Published by: Macmillan
Pages: 512
Date released: 14/01/2021
Date read: 16/01/2021

Jessie Buckley needs a miracle. Like a third of the UK population, she has a chronic pain condition. According to her doctors, it can’t be cured. She doesn’t believe them. She does believe in miracles, though. It’s just a question of tracking one down.

Julia’s search for a cure takes her on a global quest, exploring the boundaries between science, psychology and faith with practitioners on the fringes of conventional, traditional and alternative medicine. From neuroplastic brain rewiring in San Francisco to medical marijuana in Colorado, Haitian vodou rituals to Brazilian ‘spiritual surgery’, she’s willing to try anything. Can miracles happen? And more importantly, what happens next if they do?

Raising vital questions about the modern medical system, this is also a story about identity in a system historically skewed against ‘hysterical’ female patients, and the struggle to retain a sense of self under the medical gaze. Heal Me explains why modern medicine’s current approach to chronic pain is failing patients. It explores the important of faith, hope and cynicism, and examines our relationships with our doctors, our beliefs and ourselves.

My latest non-fiction read follows Julia’s 4-year journey to get to the bottom of her chronic pain. She combines traditional Western medicine with homeopathic and alternative remedies. Anything to stop the pain coursing through her body every single second of the day.

As someone who has been experiencing chronic pain for the last 3 years, I hear her. I heard everyone who is suffering. I have seen A&E Doctors, GPS, neurologists, gastroenterologists, ophthalmologists – a whole range of -ologists. I’ve had tests and scans and alternative therapies and am still no closer to a diagnosis.

There were moments in this book where I felt Julia Buckley was writing from my own brain. When you are experiencing pain day in, day out, sometimes it’s difficult to explain to someone who isn’t experiencing it, how it feels. How much it can dominate your life. But Julia just got it. It was like she had crawled into my brain, experienced what I was going through, and then wrote it down, exactly as I think it.

I did find this book got a bit airy-fairy wishy-washy at times, but I suppose that’s potentially the nature of some of the treatments Julia sought out.

There is one thing I will take from this book which is, “if you have pain, know that your pain is real and it’s not your fault. You are not to blame for your illness. Sometimes people will say you are because they can’t explain it, because they feel powerless, or because it makes them feel safer and more in control. You didn’t choose pain. And if someone says that you did, it reveals more about them than about you. If someone doesn’t  cure you, it’s not your fault. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.”

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