Archive for May, 2006

Do Not Hurt Me

One of the attractions for me to become a doctor is the vulnerability of my patients.  Because I feel so vulnerable in this world, interacting with patients will provide me with a sense of connection and compassion that has been difficult for me to find on a regular basis.

I have been reading "Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil" by Stephen Batchelor.   The first half of the book discussed shutting down your mind, attempting to feel comfortable with uncertainty and understanding that all barriers in your life are the "devil's" attempt of veering you from your true path in life.  Although this is not a completely new insight for me, I found the discussion about compulsions to be rather enlightening.  A compulsion is defined as an uncontrollable impulse to perform an act, often repetitively, as an unconscious mechanism to avoid unacceptable ideas and desires which, by themselves, arouse anxiety.  In other words compulsions are patterns we develop for ourselves to avoid something we view as negative or threatening.  I have often been terrified of social situations, which is why I find myself at home alone with my cat, reading books about the devil 😀 !!  Seriously, I love people, but there is something about socializing that has always troubled me. 

I've learned a great deal from my dear friends in the Swing Club (Barb and Jon) and I'm learning even more from friends and classmates here at UNECOM about being social and comfortable.  As with anything else, what needs to be addressed is the fear that lies at the heart of the anxiety.  Some healthy fear is good for self-preservation, but pathological fear causes paralysis and allows the devil to win!!  When we have compulsions, the first step to overcoming them is to recognize them, understand the pathological nature (it is not helping and is detrimental to my health and happiness).  What is interesting to me is that my fear of uncertainty is directly linked to my fear of social interactions: they are almost completely uncertain and any one individual person cannot control a social situation, each individual can only control the emotions they feel about it.

Up until now I have been a very critical person, of myself and other people, therefore I believe I expect the same criticism in return.  So, let me tell you that I have been absolutely floored on numerous occassions to find absolute acceptance when I figuratively fall on my face!!!  My criticism is completely uncalled for.  There is no reason for me to judge myself harshly. (Although, gentle discipline is healthy, otherwise laziness sets in and the devil is found there as well!!).  There is also no reason for me to judge others harshly.  Of course I will connect to some people better than others, but I should not judge someone to be "bad" if they do something I do not approve of.  There is always something to be learned from other people. 

What really struck me from the "Devil" book was the reiteration that if you look into every person's face, you will see the phrase "Do not hurt me".  Regardless of how arrogant, strong or hurtful someone may seem, nobody wants to get hurt.  This is so true.  I try to remember this every day.  When I judge someone, I am hurting them in a subtle way, manifesting as a decreased connection with them.  However, if I understand that we are all sensitive souls, I can see through the fasade that people put on and know that there is a part of them that weeps when alone or has moments of shear distress that no one will ever know or understand.  When taking this approach to other people I have to realize that I may still get hurt, albeit (hopefully) unintentionally.  Vulnerability and uncertainty can make a person go weak in the knees, but the courage it takes to be vulnerable and uncertain is paradoxically strong and steady.  It is reassuring to know that most of the time social interactions ARE pleasant, unhurtful and enriching.  So why all this worry about being hurt?  Who knows?!!  I just know the fear and worry are there.

People deserve the respect of not being hurt and I deserve the self-respect to not allowing others to hurt me. 

Letting go of Science

Fear is the primary obstruction in life.  Fear of dying, fear of intimacy, fear of being hurt, fear of being alone, fear of poverty, fear of embarassment, fear of failure and fear of success.  Fear leads to worry and worry can lead to obsessions and compulsions when not alleviated. 

I'm in Osteopathic medical school because when I first learned about it I KNEW this was my path in life.  It felt so wonderful to have a goal and to pursue it.  I had no fear of being rejected.  In fact, I was asked at my interview what I would do if I did not get accepted and I replied calmly, "I would ask why I wasn't accepted, what I could do to improve my chances and apply a second time.  If I still wasn't accepted, I would conclude that Osteopathic Medical School was not meant for me."  I was accepted and now I have to deal with the self doubts and fears that occassional engulf me.

I have been blessed with an ability to understand science swiftly, critically analyze and memorize large amounts of information, which has allowed me to thrive in academia.  When my heart begins to feel the overwhelming tradegy of modern science, I still manage to survive my classes although I no longer feel as though it is an honor for me to achieve decent grades.  The tradegy of modern science is the fact that "they" believe they can answer all the questions about life if only they could find the gene responsible for the disease process, either through direct mutation or the effect that the environment (nutrition) has on the expression of the gene.  Although there is merit in all science endeavors for the discipline and analytical thinking that it requires, I still don't think science has all the answers as it exists today.

From this perspective, I knew that the course material at medical school would not be difficult for me and perhaps the material would be somewhat interesting since it covers everything broadly and nothing too deeply.  It is when we try to probe too deeply into the molecular basis of disease that I get so despondent.  For the most part I have done fine with learning the material, doing well on exams and not losing too much heart.  I am here for the broad base knowledge to put me on par with all the other doctors in the world.  However, I want more.  I want to understand the energy in the molecules that constitute our organismal beings. 

Quantum mechanics has enlightened us on some of the astounding complexities of life at the subatomic level.  The movie "What the Bleep Do We Know Anyway?" brings up these complexities and uses them as a basis exploring the philosophical understanding of who we are as emotional beings.  The fascinating thing about the quatum world is that we cannot really study it.  Heisenberg's uncertainty principle: we can only know the precise location OR the precise velocity of a particle at any given time because the simple act of measuring these elements causes the other element to be changed.  Some physicists may shake their heads when people try to make the leap from quantum mechanics to any macromolocule, let alone a biological organism because the quantum effect only occurs at the subatomic level.  However, one could counter that argument by saying that we are made up of particles, albeit 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or more particles and it is not just the particles I'm interested in, it is the energy of the particles.  String Theory is another "Far out" theory in the field of abstract mathematics and particle physics, claiming that particles are nothing more than vibrating one-dimensional strings.  If I take that just one step further, it would be to say that there are no particles at all, only energy!!!  Duh!  Einstein figured this out YEARS ago when he proclaimed E=MC(squared).

Why all this mumbo jumbo of particles?  I'm supposed to be writing about fear.  Well here it is.  I am secure in the realm of academia.  I know it and I can succeed in it.  I should be happy and pursuing high academic goals, but, as I've already expressed, I have grave doubts about academia and science in particular.  Academia is not the end-all answer and will never be because academia requires "proof" with reproducible experiments and evidence-based medicine.  I have always felt that medicine needs a soul, but souls are not scientific because you can't experiment on a soul. 

So, I am dissatisfied with science and want to give it some soul, but what I didn't realize was that in order for me to fully embrace the soul of medicine, I had to overcome my fear of letting go of my highly trained analytical mind.  (I won't let go of my mind comepletely  otherwise they'll think I've lost my mind and come to take me away he he ho ho, they're coming to take me away to the funny farm where life is beautiful all day long!!)  Part of the reason I embrace Quantum Mechanics and String Theory is because they are semi-structured/academic ways of approaching energy medicine.  I will continue to pursue my understanding of these theories to hopefully give me some validity when I try to bridge the gap between alternative and allopathic medicine.  However, my fear is not in being able to understand these theories.  My fear is about letting go of my mind and simply experiencing the beauty and energy of life.

Hello world!

Welcome. 

   I never intended to go to medical, yet here I am finishing up my first year at UNECOM, the Maine Osteopathic medical school.  There is a natural tendency to rebel in all of us and my chosen authority to rebel against was the medical community.  Different people told me stories about the horror they had to deal with in regards to medical treatment, drug side-effects and surgeons removing wrong limbs (I don't actually know anyone who had this happen to them!).  I was also spurred on by a type of underground community that claimed to heal people through means unaccepted in mainstream medicine such as reiki, acupuncture, homeopathy.  These folks fed my fire of rebellion by claiming the medical community has been trying to snuff them out BECAUSE they heal people with no benefit to drug or insurance companies!!

    So, how did I come to end up in medical school?  The lure of becoming a prestigeous and knowledgable doctor who commands respect, my own skepticism of "alternative" medicine, probably a bit of fear about leaving academia (if I stay in school forever, I'll never have to pay off my loans!!), but my ultimate reason for coming to medical school was because of Osteopathic Medicine.  There is an inherent spiritual nature about osteopathic medicine that is lacking in allopathic medicine.  The soul of Osteopathy lies in the humbling understanding that we (physicians) do not cure a patient, we simply facilitate the patient's body's ability to heal itself.

    I was EXTREMELY distressed 2 weeks ago when we were required to watch the movie "Wit" with Leah Thompson, which followed a woman from her diagnosis of ovarian cancer through to her death.  Cancer and Death were the least distressing events in this movie.  What nearly killed me was the young oncologist who cared nothing for the patient or her wishes, only that she remain alive despite the horrendous effects the experimental chemotherapeutic drug was having on her body.  This is precisely why I did not want to go to medical school!  My consolling factors included reminding myself that I am at an Osteopathic school and knowing my classmates, many doctors as well as myself all have caring hearts.

My next question is how does one maintain a gentle caring heart in the midst of ten thousand exams, furiously frustrating FOD lectures (inside joke!), worries about malpractice suits and HUGE loan debts, not to mention eventual diagnosis and treatment of future patients (can you say SOAP note?)? 

 The answer to this question is the purpose of my blog: how I am dealing with it and hopefully comments and insights from others who are feeling the same distress.  At this point I have to (you guessed it!) go study, but I hope to post my recent thoughts soon and continue to add new revelations as they appear before me in my quest for inner peace.