(A short note to my past self - You'll spend 45,000 hours in the hospital before you turn 40. You might want to balance that out)
THE SECOND POST
- Or -
"The difference between mainstream and alternative medicine."
Writing a blog post is like having an awkward one-sided conversation with someone you’ve never met. And if this one-sided conversation goes like other friendly social conversations, there comes a point where people find out I'm a doctor. And when they do, the conversation invariably shifts from a friendly conversation to a discussion about medicine.
It goes something like this:
“Oh, you’re a doctor?” they ask with a slight hesitation. This is often accompanied by a shift in body language, a slight blading of their stance, as if they’re afraid I might diagnose them with something. And unless they’re the kind of person who immediately hits me up for free medical advice, it continues.
“Yes, I am,” I reply.
“What kind?” they ask.
“Emergency Medicine”, I say.
A flood of relief washes over them. They quickly gather themselves and reply, “Oh, that’s cool, you must see all kinds of wild stuff.”
The tension has dropped. They're much more comfortable now. Sometimes there's an audible release of breath. They’re relieved because I didn’t say brain surgeon or interventional radiologist. And I get it, it's hard to chat about cranial bones and brain stems, or doing surgery through a wire. And besides, we don't get much practice at it because those guys are always at work. The likelihood of ever running into a brain surgeon at a social event hovers just north of never. And ER docs are approachable, we’re like blue collar doctors, if that’s possible. Nearly everyone has either been to the ER, or knows someone who has, and given my cool-headed approachable-ness most people eventually ask me one of two things. They either ask me, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen in the ER?” or “What is your stance on alternative medicine?”
I skip the ‘craziest thing’ question because crazy to me means something very different from what it means to them. Said another way, people who function in society can't comprehend those who do not. It’s like when people ask me what’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen. That one's not even fair. They’d faint for sure. And I don’t need people fainting in public. It wrecks their evening and usually requires me to do some kind of medical thing, which then initiates a cycle of awkwardness amongst the other guests.
So, I stick to the alternative medicine question because I like that one. It’s much more fun because the question offers a set of conditions which limit the options for a response. It's what I like to call a 'false choice'. I like false choices because of they are always based on false assumptions. I'm given the option to declare whether I am ‘for’ alternative medicine or ‘against’ it. All I need to do is pick one. I never do. Instead, I point out the false assumption and let them know there's no such thing as alternative medicine.
The way I see it, everything we believe, think, feel, eat, drink, and do is our medicine. If we live in fear, that's bad medicine. If we hold onto angry, hateful thoughts, that’s bad medicine and will eventually make us sick. If we smoke too much tobacco, that's bad medicine. Falling down the stairs? Bad medicine. Hugging our kids? Good Medicine. If we eat nutritious whole foods grown in natural conditions without excess processing or chemicals, that’s good medicine. See where this is going? The distinction between what happens in a doctor’s office or hospital and whatever remedies, supplements and diets people choose is a false choice. Everything is medicine. And not everything that happens in the doctor's office or hospital is good medicine. Trust me. I've seen it.
There are two other reasons I like the alternative medicine debate. Number one, I often learn something new. And, number two, the conversation usually evolves into a discussion about the current state of our healthcare system. And that leads me to my next post. See you there.
1/9/2023 02:13:06 pm
Thanks for this bblog post
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Matthew H. Evenhouse, MD is a board-certified Emergency Physician, published author, private pilot and international educator.