(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.
Thanks for stopping by.
This blog will summarize what I've learned in 46 years of walking this earth. It will serve as a record of the changes I've seen in myself and the world. It is also an experiment. More on that later.
I have to start somewhere so I'll start at the beginning and keep it brief.
Born: Ridgewood, New Jersey on March 17, 1973 at 9:42 AM.
Race: Caucasian – Dutch American Ancestry
Religion: Raised in the Protestant Christian tradition
Upbringing: Suburban middle-class in Western Michigan and Chicago
Education: Bachelor of Science from Calvin College
MD from MCP Hahnemann School of Medicine (cum Laude)
Residency in Emergency Medicine – Chief Resident in 2004
Family: Divorced Once after 20 years of marriage, 3 Daughters,
Remarried with 1 Step-daughter, 2 step-sons
Profession: Physician (MD) specializing in Regenerative Medicine, board certified in emergency medicine with a focus in emergency medical services, operational medicine, and critical care transport
Hobbies: Aviation, Multi-sport, Exercise and Nutrition, Creative Writing
My bio looks professional and smart. I’ve done the work, earned the degrees and had the cool jobs. It looks like I’ve lived a life of breakthrough after breakthrough.
But it doesn’t tell the whole story. It leaves out the breakdowns.
It leaves out the extra decade of schooling. It leaves out the 100-hour work weeks and the endless nights on call. It leaves out the blood and the vomit and the shit and the death. It leaves out the part about the time I got meningitis and how that led to a two-year opiate addiction that nearly killed me. It leaves out the 70 days of hospitalization or the medical board suspension and 5 years of pissing in cups to return to practice. It also leaves out the devastation of divorce and the financial hardship that comes when those things happen within the span of 5 years.
And here’s the truth - I had to go through the breakdowns before I could breakthrough. I had to do the work. I had to make the tough choices. I had put in the effort. I had to fail and get back up, and in doing so I’ve learned a lot about myself and a lot about life.
Quantum physicists speculate that we exist in an infinite field of unlimited potential. They say the infinite field exists beyond time and space, which means the past, the present, and the future all occur simultaneously. They also say the infinite field responds to every thought, feeling and belief we have. So, if that’s the case, then I should be able to send good vibrations out into the quantum field and send past myself some love. He’s gonna need it.
And if I can connect to my past self, maybe I can share some of the wisdom he’ll need to make it through. Maybe I can help him understand himself better. Maybe he’ll read it and learn something. Maybe he’ll find it and know he’s not alone. Or maybe not. Who knows? I just know I’m going to put this stuff out there and see what happens.
Matthew H. Evenhouse, MD is a board-certified Emergency Physician, published author, private pilot and international educator.