This morning I woke up to a text from a dear from. “And wow. Did you see this?” she asked, then linked me to this video. I cried and cried, my whole body shook. And now as I write this my eyes are swollen and puffy. I was thisclose to getting into my car and driving it into the abyss. I wanted to scream (but loved one slept peacefully). My blood boiled, my heart sank deeply into my belly and I wanted to give it all up, everything.
But then my rational mind took over. Another sweet text from same friend helped lift me, I took a few deep breaths, wiped my tears and sat to write. This song hits home. I’m a ‘doctor’ in the sense of the word in this song. I was never a big writer of controlled substances like oxycotin or hydrocodone. In fact, I didn’t even have my DEA license until five years into practice. But I did offer a quick fix and I did ‘neglect the truth’ and give my patients a promise in a pill and hurried them on their way to get to my next patient. My 20th patient of 40 of the day. And though I think some of the problem is on us and our inability to slow down and get the whole picture, we’re human too, you have to remember that when you clump all medical professionals into this category. We’re suffering and searching as well. We often wonder how we got so deep into the pharmaceutical trenches. When you go into medicine or at least when I went into medicine, it was to help others heal. To listen to their stories, ailments, symptoms, problems and help guide them into a place where they don’t suffer as much. My goal was to go into primary care and see my patients from cradle to grave, to get invited to graduations and weddings because we’re not only patient and provider, but friends. My vision, which is still vivid today, was to see patients in their homes, to walk with them around the neighborhood park, to know their families and create a community. And actually for the first five years of my practice, this was pretty close to my reality. And I loved it.
But then something happens, the dream dies and reality sets in. Administrators start to hound you about your numbers and revenue. You have meeting after meeting to try to get the right template for your day and you start cutting admin hours. Your practice starts becoming a factory job and less of an art. Then you lose your admin hours and you start working for free, spending your nights and weekends finishing charts, filling out paperwork, calling back patients at all hours of the night. Then maybe you give up and become complacent. You start eating poorly and drinking nightly. Maybe it creates drama in your relationships or separates you from your tribe. Or you stop exercising because sitting in front of the tv or the computer is better for mind numbing. Then your healing heart goes cold and you lose your light and your passion and it becomes a lot easier to give the quick fix and the pill for every ill because at least it means you get to keep your job. But then something tells you there something more, something different. So you quit to search for a job that allows you the freedom to practice the kind of care you think is right, but quickly realize every other clinic and hospital is the same.
Like the illnesses and ailments we’re trying to ‘fix’, we never target the root cause. We don’t go into medical schools and learn how to approach the whole body, mind, spirit in the real world. We fail to teach students how to use food, herbs, meditation or essential oils as medicine. Before 20th century allopathic medicine took over, our system consisted of naturopaths, homeopaths, herbalists and chiropractors, who helped the body heal from a whole health approach. Adjusting structure for optimal function, using herbs and natural healing techniques to assist the body in fighting disease and help it stay in homeostasis. Then big money and oil, aka American royalty, came into medicine and began to sleep with the medical world. The oil companies found that they could use petrochemicals, coal tar, to make pharmaceutical drugs. Carnegie then hired Abraham Flexnor to submit a report to Congress stating that all existing natural healing modalities lacked sound science and demanded that medicine be standardized. This started the American Medical Association, allopathy takeover and our fast decent into a world led by pharmaceuticals. Carnegie and Rockefeller’s people then infiltrated our medical education and sat on the boards of many medical schools and now from day one, pharmacology is intertwined into our every thought. Whether you’re in school with a systems based program or a whole health program (which was my experience), we’re still in bed with big pharma.
We’re educated to prescribe certain drugs to treat particular symptoms and diseases. Yes, we learn to approach the whole body, mind, and spirit in school. But in the real world, our hands our forced and our fixes have to be quick. If we want to keep a job, insurance and stability, we have to flow by the rules of the higher-ups, the ones who see the bottom line and nothing else, because their lives and livelihood depend on it too. We’re not evil people trying to kill you with our prescriptions, we’re just doing what we were taught to do, sometimes because its easier and faster. But sometimes it is because we don’t know what else to do. We feel like we owe you a solution, something in exchange for your trust, time and loyalty to us. When in reality, we can’t fix anyone when it comes to chronic disease like diabetes, hypertension, anxiety, fibromyalgia, cancer. And sometimes that makes us feel like failures and so we go back to writing prescriptions because at least that is something we can provide for you. Though you look at doctors, PAs, NPs like they fix everything, the healing actually starts from you. It starts from within. And if you can’t find it within, it is our responsibility as fellow human beings without a medical license to try to help you find ways to heal, through kindness, through compassion and connection and love.
SO what is the solution? How do we target the root cause? Same thing I’ve told my colleagues from the beginning, be the change you wish to see in the clinic. Take your time, slow down, listen to your patients, create a space where they feel safe and cared for so you can navigate ways to help them. The higher-ups will eventually get it, especially when all of their revenue-producing providers are exploring different ways of doing things. Be bold enough to change the system from the inside out.
We also have to stop leading patients to believe we’re experts in individual health, because we’re not. We have to partner with them, help them navigate their health, guide them to healing. Teach them to heal themselves, provide the tools, give them the resources.
But again, it starts with you. If you’re broken and splintered and your spirit for healing has died, then work to fix yourself. Find time to self-care and nourish yourself. Seek therapy or start a gratitude practice. Look into dancing or playing as medicine. Research plant-based diets and the microbiome to understand the gut-brain connection. Hug your loves and your patients. Pray. Meditate. Move. Walk in nature. Find your community. Laugh. Cry. Open your mind to modalities, traditions and techniques outside of the world of conventional allopathic medicine that have been around centuries longer than what we’re taught.
People are hungry for this, patients are ready for it. As Arundhati Roy says “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”