An Open Letter To Western Medicine
I know you thought you were helping me when you taught me that the needs of my patients were more important than my own self care. I know you thought you were training me to be an exceptional doctor when you forced me to scrub into surgery when I had the flu, wearing a diaper and an IV so I wouldn’t throw up, pass out, or have to scrub out because of my diarrhea. I know you allowed me to be the victim of years of sexual harassment at the hands of my physician professors, not because you’re evil, but because you’re just asleep, and you mistakenly think “boys will be boys.”
I know you didn’t mean to make me sick. And when I was taking 7 pills by the time I was 33 just so I could keep selling out my body in order to practice medicine, you didn’t realize you were hexing me when you labeled me “chronically ill,” suggesting that I would die in my fifties from a heart attack.
I know that when you expected me to work 72-hour call shifts, you thought it was because someone had to deliver those babies. And when you insisted I see 40 patients a day, limiting me to 7 ½ minutes with my patients, you thought you had no choice because of how managed care insurance executives have bastardized you.
I know you’re blind to how you’re being manipulated by Big Pharma, and you think you’re doing us favors by hosting “drug dinners” funded by Merck and Pfizer. I know you feel manipulated by patients who come in asking for prescription drugs by name because they’ve been duped into asking by ads aimed directly at patients, funded by Big Pharma (a practice which is only legal in two countries in the whole world- the US and New Zealand).
I know you’re scared of getting sued because of vicious ambulance-chasing medical malpractice attorneys who have left you feeling like you have to be perfect, when medicine is an imperfect science. I know you order too many tests to try to protect yourself from those lawyers, and your greatest fear is that someone will die on your watch, and someone will blame you. But death is an inevitability for all patients, when their times come, and I hate to break it to you, medicine. But you’re not in control of when people die. God is.
I know this is hard for you to accept because people have quit talking about God in the hospital. So I know it’s not your fault that you try too hard with life support when it’s time to let someone die. Nobody taught you how to handle death, how to make peace with death, to even welcome death. I know nobody let you grieve when you lost patients you loved. I know nobody held you when you made a mistake and someone suffered at your hands. I know you feel guilty when death happens because it means you failed. But you didn’t, medicine. Death is a natural part of life.
I’m also not mad at you for how much you’ve discriminated against people who can’t afford you. I know that in your heart, you believe health care is a right, not a privilege reserved only for the rich. I know you want to treat every patient who walks into the office or hospital with equal love and tenderness, because you, like me, believe that every human has within a little spark of Divinity that makes us equally worthy and valuable and deserving of great health care.
I also know you don’t mean to hurt patients as much as you do, to disrespect them, to violate them, to disregard them, to withhold the love and tenderness and the time they need in order to heal. I know you have the best intentions. Yes, preventable medical error is the #3 cause of death. And yes, sometimes when you’re trying to save us, you’re also killing us.
Yes, you may be harming us by covering up our stress-related symptoms with the Band-aids of pharmaceuticals that may actually reduce our life expectancy. But I know this is born out of ignorance, not malice. You want to help, not harm. I get it, medicine. I know you mean well.
I know you are like an abused child who goes on to abuse. You have PTSD and nobody has helped you heal from the traumas that turned you into such a broken system. I have compassion for you. I even still love you.
I have always loved you, you know, ever since I was called to you at the tender age of seven. I know I have turned my back on you from time to time, because you hurt me. You broke my heart. And I got angry with you for betraying me. But I never stopped loving you.
I don’t love the way you forced me to deny the feminine within me, but I love that, at your purest core, you are divinely feminine. You are nurturing. You are care-giving. You give birth. You usher in death with light and love and compassion. You are there at the bedside, holding scared hands, hugging scared bodies, warming scared hearts. You are the Goddess, the best part of the divine feminine, even though you have been co-opted by the profane masculine. I’m sorry they did that to you. I know it’s not who you are. Instead, you are the wounded healer alchemizing the wound into an opportunity to touch the sacred. At your best, you are holy, and those who are treated with you are blessed. I know the real you.
Yes, it took me years to release the trauma, to let go of the anger, to bond with other doctors in the loving home and under the tender care of Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen and to remember how much I love you. But now I can say, with a pure and honest heart, that I forgive you, medicine. I’m not mad at you anymore. I know you’re doing the best you can, and I am holding you in my heart as you try to reclaim what is good and noble and true.
I am here, in humble service to you. I bow at your feet and ask God to help me help you. I am trying to heal you- with my book Mind Over Medicine, with my public television special Heal Yourself: Mind Over Medicine, with my latest TEDx talk, with the documentary I just filmed, with my blog, and by facilitating community conversations when I speak to conscious doctors, nurses, and alternative medicine providers, as well as empowered patients around the country. I am doing what I can. But medicine, I need your help.
I need you to remember who you are, to stop overusing technology, to stop overdiagnosis and overtreatment, to stop reducing everything down to DNA and biochemistry. I need you to keep doing what you do well—trauma care, surgery, acute interventions that save lives. Yes, we need technology. Thank God for science. But don’t forget that you’re not just about science. You are science, but you are also soul medicine, not just for patients, but for yourself.
Medicine, stop sacrificing your own self care in service to the people you’re trying to serve. It doesn’t work. It only traumatizes you more when you’re exhausted, eating poorly, skipping exercise, damaging your relationships, and disconnecting from Source. You need to doctor yourself. Fill yourself first so you can heal the world. Deal?
I know it’s hard. I know there are so many barriers keeping you broken. I know you feel helpless and victimized by forces that feel out of your control. But no one else can rescue you. No politician has your best interests at heart. Medicine, you MUST heal yourself.
Know that I am here for you, that I believe in you, that I will never, ever give up hope…