Monday, February 23, 2015

I'm Breaking Up With Traditional Medicine

Dear Traditional Western Medicine,

Our relationship is no longer working for me. I think it's time we see other people. We have evolved in different directions, and I find that our relationship is becoming unhealthy for everyone.

And honestly?  I think it's you, not me.

I know that I have to thank you for the many things you brought into my life. I've been on thyroid replacement for more than 30 years now, and that's allowed me to function.  The fact that you never explored why I might be hypothyroid when it doesn't run in my family and I was only 19 years old registered, but since we were managing the symptom, I never thought much about it. I am grateful for the two c-sections I had which allowed me to produce these spectacular and stubborn teenagers of mine instead of, you know, dying during childbirth. I appreciate the fact that you're so good with broken bones. If my appendix ruptured, I'd be knocking on your door.

But remember the reconstructive foot surgery in 2007? I'm pretty sure this is about the time we started to go off track, although it might have been in my 20's when I had hammer-toe surgery and the doctor never noticed the abnormalities in the REST of my foot. Or it might have been the exercise physiologist I went to in my mid-30's when I couldn't run anymore who never even x-rayed my foot before pronouncing that I had something called "lateral impingement." The treatment for that did nothing to actually restore my ability to run, but the orthotics meant I could walk pretty fast and I did that instead.

Then, at the age of 42, I couldn't even walk. My deformed foot was not your fault and I honestly think you did everything you could to try to help me, reconstructing the bones that had eroded, and attempting to fuse them. But something went wrong during that surgery, something you couldn't explain through your Western Tradition.

The chronic daily pain I was in was so excruciating, it deserves its own paragraph. I was in that pain for three years.

Three years is a long time when you are living fifteen minutes at a time. I kept trying to find answers. I had a wonderful podiatrist who was really trying to help me. I had second opinions. I worked with an internist. I saw another doctor, who prescribed anti-depressants that had an effect not unlike a lobotomy. When I tried to describe how disconnected I felt and how my life was unraveling due to the effects on my body of the constant stress of pain and that drug, he brushed me off, discounting my symptoms. (I did note the proclamation posted on his door that he received money from the Big Pharmaceutical company who made the drug.)

But see, that's my whole issue with Cartesian medicine--with YOU: why is it that if you can't figure out what is wrong with me and how to treat it, then you assume that I must not actually have those symptoms?

Maybe I could have forgiven all that. Because I know you're only taught so much in medical school. But what is unforgivable is that you never once suggested I look outside of your tiny paradigm for true healing. You were treating some of my symptoms, barely, but you never made the leap to suggestions that might lead to actual healing.

Dude, didn't you take an oath about that?

So I blundered my way into yoga and acupuncture and I found miraculous healing. And as I began to make other changes in my lifestyle, I found radiant health.


And now, I have to admit, I met someone else.

Someone named Functional Medicine. As I began to do more and more research into the effects of diet on the body, I kept coming across Dr. Mark Hyman, whose work really resonated with me. Dr. Hyman is a pioneer in the world of Functional Medicine and wow, it's just sexy as all heck. It just makes so much sense that we start to look at our bodies as entire systems, not disparate parts! Granted, I haven't actually MET Functional Medicine yet. I have a blind date--er -- appointment on March 11 with a local FM doctor. We'll see how it goes.

But this isn't really about the new guy, anyway. This is about the way you're not meeting my needs, nor the needs of the people I love. You can't seem to hear me, Traditional Western Medicine, and you you sure as heck can't seem to SEE me.


I believe it's our birthright, every one of us, to find radiant health.  And unfortunately, as long as I am in an exclusive relationship with you, I'm pretty sure that can't happen.


I hope we can still be friends,

Barb

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ushering In a New Half Century

So, I turned 50 on February 19th.

That's a pretty big birthday, and I celebrated in a pretty big way.
Vegan carrot cake--my favorite.  (I didn't have a "5 "candle, so that's 48 plus 2!)

I'd been thinking for a long time that I wanted to thank people for sticking by me during what I think of in my mind as the Great Transformation. After the pain years, as I made my way back into the world, I found a new way of being in it that is more closely aligned with my fundamental self. The (probably) alcoholic Party Barb has given way to a teetotaling, vegan yogi who would rather talk to you about things spiritual than go to happy hour. Who would rather talk about composting than go shoe shopping. (Well, okay, that's not new.) Who isn't going to sit down and eat wings and watch football --not that there is anything wrong with that, it's just not for me. I'm just different now.

Change is hard, not only for the person working to change, but for the people who have to find a way to adjust to the changes. I really wanted a way to say thank you to those people who understood that this was less of a choice and more of a calling, and who showed up so big in supporting me.  Part of the cognitive dissonance of moving back to Austin was coming back to our old life as a different person. It's had its moments of discomfort and loss, and it's had moments of discovering new, meaningful friendships with familiar faces. I am just so grateful for the willingness of most of the people in my life to see this new me and accept me with wide, open hearts. I am really blessed.

So, we had a big party at the house on February 19th, the actual day. It's hard to describe how much it meant to me. It was...

I just...

I will live for a long time on the joy of that night.

I wanted a way to honor some people and entities who played a role in my journey. We collected donations for the Capital Area Food Bank, which was the first place I worked in the non-profit world after college, which I think was a precursor to living a life of service, although I didn't know it then. And we had Whole Foods do the catering because Whole Foods has been instrumental in the enormous dietary changes I've made. I'm not sure how you can be a gluten-free, sugar free, caffeine-free vegan if you lived in a town without a Whole Foods. (Well, I know it can be done. Maybe I would have risen to the occasion and actually, you know, COOKED SOMETHING or something really outlandish like that.)
Photo by Ian Nadas

We were lucky enough to have Darden Smith play a house concert. If you don't know Darden's work, he is an amazingly talented singer/songwriter, and a fantastic storyteller. Also, a genuinely nice guy. He created a program called "Songwriting With Soldiers" that speaks right to my heart, as you might assume given the story of my dad. Anyway, having Darden play seemed like a great idea to this introvert because I could get a lot of the people I like best in one room, but not actually have to figure out what to say to anyone! Win/Win.

Darden himself has been instrumental on my path because about four months after we moved back to Austin, we were lucky enough to see him at a house concert (which is where I got the idea) and he said something that I've carried with me ever since. He was talking about how at some point he realized that the life he was living didn't look anything like the life he THOUGHT he'd be living, but that it was exactly the life he was SUPPOSED to be living.

Um.

WOW.

I could relate.

So I saved the yoga money and was able to have him come play. His concert and the whole evening were everything I could have imagined and more. It was just magical. I wish you all could have been there.

And then, my lovely Ziggy (the artist formerly known as Ana and then Katherine) worked up The Adventure Song on guitar as my present. Years ago, the girls and I dubbed the Indigo Girls' song "Get Out the Map" our Adventure Song. We played it for every single trip that could have remotely been considered a possible adventure--from going to the grocery store to driving across the country. I have heard this song, conservatively, about 64 million times and each time, when it gets to the line about, "I'm going to love you good and strong while our love is good and young," I smile. Every. Single. Time. Because my loves are good and young.

Here's the moment as Coop caught it on video.  A little messy, a little raw (for a song I've heard that many times, you'd think I would know the words,) but a moment that will be forever etched right into my heart.