If someone would have come to me, say, 20-30 years ago and said, “you’re going to be a doctor”, I probably would have laughed.
“You’ve got me mixed up with somebody else,” I would’ve replied, before turning away to get back to writing my music or cramming for that next Econ exam or whatever.
Medicine did not appeal to me in any way. My only impressions of medicine consisted of conducting weird procedures in slime-green rooms under horrible fluorescent lighting, engulfed in an unpleasant aromatic ocean of harsh chemical disinfectants. I didn’t care to wear a lab coat all day or a stethoscope around my neck, nor was instructing people to “open up and say ‘ahhh'” so I could examine their disgusting mouth and throat exactly a high-ranking item on my almighty Bucket List.
Because smells. Because “Ew” Factor.
Dealing with various body fluids and coughs and sniffles just wasn’t as appealing to me as daydreaming about a career as a behavioral scientist in the FBI, writing soundtracks to movies, or any of the other university majors and career paths I once considered.
And I thought that acute care was really the only realistic way to go (for me, anyway), because the training required to specialize in anything else would have taken eons, and since I wanted no part of acute care, I abandoned the idea of medicine altogether. Besides, I told myself, I’d never get in to med school; I don’t have the grades, the extracurriculars, the volunteer work history, or the Most Significant Moment essay material.
I didn’t give medicine a second thought. Hell, I’d barely given it a first one.
I didn’t even care all that much about health myself. I ate every Happy Meal, Value Combo, and processed/packaged food I wanted, without much of a glance at the ingredients.
My personal approach to my own healthcare back then? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Wait until there’s actually a problem, and when one develops, don’t “pussyfoot around” with the lighter, more conservative methods; go for the gusto, the harshest and most drastic route possible because chances are, it’s going to take that extreme a remedy to really nip that problem in the bud once and for all, so why not go straight to that approach? And if we’re taking care of the problem, then who cares about side effects? Side effects be damned for the time being; we’re taking care of an issue here!
Yeah, that was the Old Me.
My mom was (and still is) a saint with endless patience and just as much knowledge. She would feed me little tidbits of information here and there, like “oh, you have a cold? This really forward-thinking doctor on TV says that elderberry is really awesome for colds”, or “garlic is really great for This” and “peppermint is effective for That”.
Bless her heart; she tried. Little did I know that all that time, she was quietly, patiently planting seeds in my head. It would take a while for them to germinate. (My early-20s head wasn’t exactly the most fertile place for seeds to sprout.)
I went about my merry, invincible life, until two things happened:
1 – Our beloved kitty of 17 years passed away, the lab work citing kidney failure, liver failure, and diabetes, despite our best efforts to care for her very well. I began to research and found out about the atrocities that “pass” for pet food ingredients, chocked her death up to our own ignorance, and swore up and down that although it was too late for Katie, we would do things differently with our next generation. We would be more informed, and seek a more wholesome, natural approach.
2 – My intense interests in economics, history, and political science led me to explore various events from alternative angles that some might regard to be conspiracy theory, which led me to a fantastic book called “You Are Being Lied To” (which I highly recommend!) (link to listing on Amazon and link to PDF file of entire book), a collection of essays on various events compiled by Russ Kick (I have a blog post or several brewing on the sidelines along this very theme), and I came across one particular game-changer essay…
This essay (which starts on page 245 per the table of contents, which is page 247 of the PDF), detailed an event (a true story), in which an elderly lady was shit-stormed by the FBI or the DEA or some such agency, for the unforgivable crime of growing poppy flowers. Since poppy seeds can be used to produce opium, which can be further distilled into heroin, she was accused of aiding in the drug trade.
The essay closed (on table of contents page 253, PDF page 255) with the postulate that the human nervous system is wired for two things: to seek pleasure and to avoid pain, and the instinct to accomplish the latter is much stronger than that of the former. When the human body senses pain, pain relief–a survival mechanism–becomes priority Numero Uno. This is no secret to anyone, and a government, should it become tyrannical, could, in theory, begin to withhold methods of pain relief in the interest of–and as an effective means to–holding a subject population hostage, or population control. The essay concluded with the urging of the reader not to become so complacent and ignorant as to think that it cannot happen in areas that are currently known as free republics (such as, oh, the good ol’ US of A).
Obviously I took those last few paragraphs especially to heart.
And I got to thinking (always a risky endeavor) (grin)…
I was in my mid-20s back then. I was no stranger to pain, having been plagued by frequent headaches and also diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my hips several years prior.
I was also on antidepressants for what we all believed at the time to be long-standing clinical depression.
I connected another dot: the medications I use for these, the antidepressant being prescription and the pain relievers being available over-the-counter, were accessible to me because they were allowed to be. Put another way, the government allowed them to be.
Should our own government go through some kind of regime change someday, however, these methods of physical and psychological pain relief could easily be pulled from the shelves.
And there was indeed nothing saying that our politicians couldn’t cite some threat to national security or claim some catastrophic event (any of which could be real or contrived–ever see the movie “Wag The Dog”?).
Wow–our access to pain relief was much more fragile than anyone imagined.
It’s not like our country was headed in that direction yet, but it’s not like it couldn’t at some point. I knew a thing or two about executive orders and the fact that martial law could be declared for some reason, whatever reason, which would suspend the Constitution. It hadn’t happened yet, at least not in my lifetime, but then, there’s no history of anything until it happens. If there’s one thing life had taught me thus far, it was “never say never”.
It was then that my mother’s dutifully-planted seeds began to sprout, and when they did, they did so with gusto.
I heard her voice echoing in my head: “elderberry is good for colds…garlic is good for infections…white willow bark…peppermint…ginger…ginkgo…Vitamin E…echinacea…cayenne…”, and so on.
Another dot connection snapped into place.
What if We The People could grow our own herbs and use them ourselves? If I obtained some seeds now, I could plant my own garden, and it would be fairly robust by the time any tyrannical martial law was declared during which time the US Constitution would be suspended. And the American public could very well find itself SOL.
I thought, oh hell no. I’m not going to end up a subject in some megalomaniac’s kingdom. I’m not going to be at anyone’s mercy. I’m not going to beg. I’m not going to be a somebody’s subject. I’m going to learn how to treat myself.
A final dot clinked into a secure position, and that did it.
A new special interest was born.
I researched everything I could, while I still could. I was suffering no delusions; I knew that for now, we were relatively safe (or so I thought at the time; it turns out, I realized later, that we weren’t, but that’s a topic for a different post). I was not concerned that someone was out to get me. I simply figured that someday, they could be. And if and when that day arrived, I was not going to take it lying down.
Fast forward a few months…
My partner had a book sitting on his shelf for years, called “Prescriptions For Nutritional Healing”, which I devoured. It remains an excellent reference manual, listing various health conditions from A to Z and giving loads of natural-minded advice for each. Being relatively experienced in the condition of clinical depression, I looked up that condition first. I wanted to see what they had to say.
I was not disappointed. The section was detailed, enlightening, and practical. My eyes excitedly scanned the pages of information and eventually settled on a single piece of advice: salmon and turkey contain large amounts of protein and especially Tryptophan. The Tryptophan is eventually assimilated into Serotonin, which helps depression, and the rest of the protein goes to make other neurotransmitters essential for balancing mood and boosting brain function.
I suddenly remembered that I had not taken my antidepressant in a number of weeks, and I realized that I hadn’t needed to take it the whole time that I’d been eating…salmon.
My jaw hit the couch. Light bulbs, multiple, were visible above my head.
My thoughts came rapidly and out loud.
“You mean to tell me that just by eating salmon and taking a Vitamin B-Complex formula, that I’ve been effectively treating my depression??”
“You mean to tell me that this bleak, depressing prognosis (outlook) for depression is not actually lifelong? That antidepressant medications are not, in fact, the only answer??”
I was shocked, excited, and also angry. I had been snowed, all these years. And although I had just seen a ray of enlightenment, so many others had not, and they were all still stuck in invisible shackles.
My next thought was the point at which I rounded the corner.
“I have got to share this with the world.”
I went on a crusade, buying out the health food stores’ supplies of various herbs, creating my own little home-based apothecary. I packed various capsules in little snack-size bags to take with me to work.
I was an Economics major at the time, and the professor for one of my morning Econ classes was really sick one day, coming down with a nasty bug.
After class, I approached her podium and waited for the other students with questions to get their questions answered and clear out.
She turned to me, and pleasantly asked, “can I help you?”
I smiled and said, “no, I don’t have any questions, but I was wondering if maybe I could help you.”
I went on to explain, briefly, that I had just stepped into the field of natural health and although I was by no means a professional of any kind, I had gone through more than my share of upper respiratory symptoms lately and I had devised a plan for helping myself feel better and recover more quickly. I asked her if she’d be interested in my putting together a baggy of different things I had relied on to get me through.
To my surprise, she enthusiastically replied, “sure!”
I grinned. “Cool! I notice you coming out of (room number) at the same time we’re going into that room for our night class. I can meet you there with the stuff?”
She heartily agreed, and thanked me profusely.
I had helped myself plenty by then, but this was my first foray into helping someone else. Regardless, I was happy to share.
I met up with her in the doorway of the night class room, baggy of goodies in hand, as promised. I had an assortment of herbal capsules and individually-wrapped tea bags. I explained to her what each was for, and how/when to take it.
She expressed her deep appreciation and wondered out loud how she could ever repay me, and I said, “don’t worry about that. Just tell me how it worked when we see each other on Friday”. It was Wednesday, late afternoon, so that gave us a day and a half or so.
On Friday morning, she looked and sounded much better, and after class, she came over to me and genuinely gushed about how well it worked, how quickly she felt better, and how good she felt not two days later.
That clinched it. I felt the warm fuzzy feeling I had always wanted to feel. I had finally found what I was looking for: true fulfillment. And I wanted more. I realized that this was what I wanted to devote my life to.
I finished out that term as an Econ-History double major. And started the next term majoring in pre-med/Biology. I wasn’t sure which specialty I was going to choose–maybe I would ultimately end up being a Master Herbalist; I couldn’t see any further ahead. But I knew I was going to be doing this.
Fast forward 14 years.
I am now indeed a doctor, who specializes in chronic conditions and mysterious symptoms. It’s about as far away from acute care as you get. My office is carpeted and ambiently-lit, with only a desk, bookcases, and a consultation table with a couple chairs. I do usually wear a white coat, but no stethoscope.
As the McDonald’s that I abandoned long ago would say, “I’m lovin’ it”. 🙂