“I just want to be…myself…again,” Ruth blurted out. There it was, the essence of her greatest loss, what chronic illness had taken from her, echoing what all my clients say in a variety of ways. While she wanted my help to figure out why she was sick and to guide her on a path of recovery, what she wanted most was to reclaim who she truly was.
From academic, to CEO, to Iowa pig farmer — my people, my clients — all say some version of the same thing when I ask about their goals for healing: “I want my life back.” “I want my daughter to know the real me.” “I just want the energy to enjoy my family.” These are their deepest desires — to reclaim their energy, vitality, their essential selves — all that makes life worth living — and all that is easily lost in the suffering.
Healing for my clients can be distilled down to a few simple truths: It’s about energy recovery and vitality. It’s about the truth of who they are. It’s about their hopes, dreams, and relationships. Ultimately, it’s about those essential things in life that give it meaning, that supports their purpose and potential. That’s all.
My clients’ aspirations are what’s at the heart of how we must serve — and what needs to change. We’re not diseases — we’re people.
The Real Problem With Healthcare
I don’t have to tell you that we’re experiencing a healthcare crisis in our country. You’ve heard the stats. And the million-and-one experts and pundits offer us conflicting, over-simplified solutions, with no guarantees for success. People suffering come to believe there is a single cure and if they don’t find it, or worse — if it doesn’t work for them — they’re out of luck. Who do they believe? Who’s the expert?
The voices of those many experts drown out our own — our own inner wisdom and innate ability to know what we need and to know how to heal. The primary urge of all nature is to heal and yet we have become disempowered and disenfranchised from our own inner wisdom and guidance about what we most need.
The deeper problem with healthcare in our country isn’t with access, it’s with agency — stepping up for ourselves to claim our power — the power to heal ourselves. The majority of our illnesses are chronic, engendered by the choices we make about how we live our lives. We don’t need access to sophisticated twenty-first century medical care to address that.
What we need more urgently is a roadmap for how best to take care of ourselves — and encouragement — not empty promises. We need our power back. As both patient and healer — with thousands of clients in my care over the course of my twenty-five year career as a physician, I’ve come to know that healing is far more simple and accessible to each and every one of us than we’ve been led to believe — or what I was taught in my medical training.
We Can Do Better
In the face of so much suffering the promises of twenty-first century conventional medicine fall short:
· By focusing on acute relief of acute symptoms, when most modern illness is chronic;
· By offering one-size-fits-all treatment protocols that fail to understand us as unique individuals;
· By over-simplifying our problems, losing the rich context and complexity of our life stories;
· By treating just our symptoms, often with toxic drugs that beget their own problems, leading to unsatisfying results, or worse — greater suffering;
· By missing the chance to help us on a deeper level to create more sustainable, root-cause-level solutions;
· By parceling us out on the basis of where we hurt or which organ is in trouble, losing the integration that is the true wisdom of our bodies;
· By failing to give us the time that we need for true understanding — limiting us to a single problem, missing the larger truth of what causes our suffering.
Make no mistake, for emergency problems, like appendicitis, a heart attack, or a broken leg, this is the ideal medical model, leading to rapid assessment and essential, often life-saving, treatment. But in our modern, developed world the majority of our health problems are not acute, they’re chronic. The most common causes of early death in the United States today are heart disease and cancer — chronic diseases that develop over years and are largely brought about by the mismatch between what our bodies need to thrive and the ways in which we live. The majority of our chronic conditions are completely preventable and reversible. The conventional acute care strategy simply does not work for most of our health problems.
A New (and Old) Roadmap to Healing
The solutions we seek transcend the conventional norms of how medicine is conceived and practiced today by going back to our roots — the basic values of healers from a bygone day who understood that with the right conditions, tools, and support we not only live, we can thrive. And when we break, we can heal.
We must teach people that the bones of healing are in what they can do for themselves — how they eat, sleep, move, relate, let go, and live.
My life’s work as a physician is to empower people to reach their highest potential and to become the instruments of their own healing. I believe it is our responsibility as physicians to give the power of healing back where it belongs — in the hands, hearts, and minds of our patients. We do this by walking the journey with them, getting to know their whole stories, and investing the time, love, and commitment to teach them the roadmap they need for the path that leads to recovery of their precious energy and vitality — to getting their lives back.
The solutions each and every one of my patients asks for are not about treating their disease — reversing their high blood pressure, lowering blood sugar, or taking their pain away. Yes, they know we must treat these and yes, they want to feel better. But most importantly, they want the freedom and ease to be their true whole selves, discover their potential, and live their best lives. And they are hungry for the information and resources they need to claim that freedom for themselves.
We must treat our patients, not their diseases. And to empower them with the tools and knowledge they need to care for themselves — to heal themselves — not to depend on a broken healthcare system that was not meant for the chronic problems that are at the root of their suffering.
Empowerment — agency — in the hands of the people is the healthcare reform we need today. To teach us to care for ourselves, keeping us out of the great institutions of medicine. Then to care for the sick with the deepest of knowledge and state of the art tools we have. To demystify the costs of healthcare, keeping it affordable, and placing the power to leverage insurance contracts into each of our own hands — not the hands of our providers and institutions. When we claim personal responsibility for our own health and our payment system, there will be a revolution like none we’ve ever seen.
The Promise of Healthcare That Focuses on Self-Care
With their roadmap to self-care in hand, the seeker’s birds-eye view of the healing terrain becomes familiar, it guides, and it reassures. They learn to trust their own way, their own vision, and their own body’s wisdom. They work through the fundamentals of self-care, with trusted guides to support them, entering their journey at their own personal hot spots — whether it be food, sleep, movement, toxicity, relationships, stress, or the meaning and purpose of their lives. Expanding their care with the best of what twenty-first century medicine has to offer to support their journey, to care more deeply in the face of illness. Stepping into their power as we help them understand that their healing is in their own hands.
And they will feel better, they will heal, they will renew their energy and vitality.
And as people’s lives improve, their need for state of the art medicine declines — costs go down, access improves. Their renewed power and agency demands quality, demands cost-effectiveness, demands relevancy to their real lives, demands the change that serves us all better.
We must trust our inner wisdom and guidance. We must trust our innate ability to heal. We must trust that the only sustainable healing relevant to our real lives is born from the strength and wisdom of those we serve.
Originally published at medium.com