In the last couple of decades, the United States has gone through the “me” decade into the “I can do it myself” decade. We’re now a country that thinks everyone ought to be able to do everything themselves. I should grow my own food, cook my own food, raise my own kids, educate them, doctor them, doctor my pets and doctor myself. In fact, there are place where this independence gets to a point where if I need help (any help–you know, like a tow for my car or something) I might be looked down upon because I didn’t have the ability to do it myself.
I live this role. My father was one of the original independents. He put a new roof on his house at age 65 alone, by rigging pulleys to get the really heavy stuff where he needed it. I am shamed that I have a woman come into clean my house, never mind that I wouldn’t do much of it anyway. I’d just be shamed to live in a dirty house. I am shamed that I realized that after making my own kombucha for months, I realized I quickly drank my own only to get it over with so I could go and by the stuff I liked. If I were really good I would make my own and LIKE it.
I was thinking about this because I was talking to a college of mine who is also a teacher. She reports that one of her mentors is the attitude here in the states for patients to think they are the doctor, not the doctor. As acupuncturists, there are patients who like to come in and tell us what to do for them. They will read a book and tell us their diagnosis, rather than giving us the information we need to make a diagnosis (based on years of schooling and experience rather than one book). They try and tell us what points they want us to needle.
It is rather as if I were merely the extra pair of hands than someone with education beyond their own. It is as if I spent my time training to be an extra pair of hands, rather than a specialist in a field. Being a specialist in this field ought to offer me some respite from the fact that I do not make very good kombucha even after six months. Alas, being an extra pair of hands confers less of this slight shame.
I recommend my patients read. I’ll make sure they have a ton of knowledge. I do think knowledge is power. Their knowledge allows them to communicate their concerns to me and we can discuss the best options. They can tell me those things that worry them about their health so that I use the education I have to choose points that will help their body find relief as quickly as possible. The points they may think they need may not always be appropriate or necessary. Being informed also means trusting that your information and knowledge led you to someone whose knowledge you can trust.
I think being informed is about being a partner in your health, not like treating your healthcare practitioner as if they were a servant or underling who would just do as you asked. Many of the issues with the healthcare system are because people treat all sorts of practitioners in this manner. I think it’s horrible that so many of us stand for it.
Basically healthcare providers do study for long periods of time. They know medicine. You know your body. When you inform yourself so that you can ask questions and have a discussion knowing each of you has a different area of expertise, you meet as equals. Healing comes because each is advocating that which they know best. When, as a patient, you come in trying to tell your doctor what to do, that limits what they can do. Suddenly, you are saying you are an expert on something you are not. You are no longer advocating for your body, no longer speaking about that which you know but are trying to speak about that which you don’t know so well.
Remember, there are reasons you went to the doctor or the acupuncturist or the energy healer or the nutritionist in the first place. It wasn’t because you needed a pill or a needle placed some place you can’t reach. It was because you needed help. That’s okay. We all need help. After six months I can’t even make a kombucha flavor I like, but I sure as heck don’t need a chart to help me find your Lao Gong (and I promise to use the little needles if I choose it).