Yesterday a leading doctor, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, said that patients should think three times before going to see a doctor. Whilst I don’t wholly agree with this, I can see what she means. In the UK, doctors’ surgeries are often full of lonely people looking for tender loving care, whilst in the Asian countries that I live in, parents take their children to the doctor (and get prescribed useless medications) for minor and usual childhood ailments that just need vigilance, support, inherent wisdom and tender loving care.
This is a post about healing.
I am trained in medicine, but the best training I had was when I became a mother. The training took many years, the syllabus far more complicated than textbooks, but it was my most important learning in medicine. For I became a healer then, rather than a dispenser of medication / a practitioner of learned (sometimes outdated) knowledge.
Sure, we need X-rays, MRIs, blood tests, stools analysis. Just as very occasionally, we need antibiotics and other medications (the most common ones are analgesics and decongestants, which don’t really do much to ‘cure’ the symptoms – most of the time, we rely on the body to heal itself, with medication merely to provide support). And increasingly, antidepressants are being prescribed – doesn’t that say something?
Most of all, during illness, we need someone who loves us, or at the very least, a carer who loves humanity and believes in healing beyond the physical body. Increasingly, medical science is beginning to accept that the human body is more than just the sum of its systemic parts.
Even if the patient is under allopathic medical care, the love of a loved one makes all the difference to the illness.
When my partner was so very ill with amoeboid dysentery, I slept skin to skin with him, without a shred of clothing between us. Sometimes, I got as feverish or as cold as he, but often, I was his ballast, his insulator whilst he battled to right his dysfunctioning body. I fed him water via my mouth. I spent hours listening to his body, with my ear against his abdomen (OK, the Western doctor in me was checking for peritonitis). I told him to let go.
When he was delirious, he spoke the deepest truth (this is quite a common feature in patients) and said things that he – the big macho guy – would never say when he had perfect control of his faculties. He cried tears of loss that he had held in for decades in his delirium. He told me about the moments, the patchwork and montages, that suddenly made sense to me after all these years. Often, at the height of his illness, he talked himself into an exhausted sleep, depleted and emptied.
And in the silence of his heart, I told him that I love him. And that I always will.
After two long weeks, he got began to recover and crawled out of the pit of his illness.
“I remember yakking a lot, though I can’t remember what I said. What did I say?” He asked.
What needs to be said, dear.
I saw this lovely clip from Sustainable Human – please click on this link to view.
It’s about an African village where almost no one falls sick, because each time someone does, everyone asks him/her, “What is it you’re not telling us?” The story is uncorroborated, but I think it’s lovely. Maybe all we need to do is listen, really listen, and care, to heal someone of his/her illness.