I’ve been struggling lately. The weather has gone back to its windy, cold and moody self, after playing mind games with us for a week or so. I’m back to taking my vitamin D, since the sun isn’t offering it up for free anymore. Maybe that’s why I feel cheated. It could very well be that we’re presented with so many flow charts it’s like I’ve died and gone to Flow Chart Hell – a special kind of hell where things break down into a series of isolated steps that are easier to understand, for some.
Spending long hours in the Lecture Theatre (or what my classmate fondly refers to as “The Learning Dungeon”) can also wreck havoc on the harmonious mind-body connection. Maybe it’s the fact that being unable to deal with the psychological stressors of recent challenges at home that has taught me that the road to being a healer is a rocky one. Whatever the reason, the Big Picture is fading from surrealist to abstract expressionist.
Lately I’ve been wondering if it’s all worth it. Philosophies of the world often offer up the idea that we need to make sacrifices to obtain the things we love. But, is sacrificing your own health in order to be a healer a fair exchange? I never got the whole sacrificial rite thing. The fire doesn’t care what it burns, so why do I have to offer up the things I love most; my health, family, time and mental sanity?
At CCNM we are fortunate, as I’ve mentioned before, to be part of a community. We form support groups, theme weeks, people are active, global and focused on community health and social issues. Once a month a group of like-minded philosophers meet at Dr. Gilbert’s office to discuss relevant issues of the Naturopathic Journey. However, there is still an inherent loneliness in the struggle.
There is something about the Big Brother-esque scene in which we are all seated in the Learning Dungeon, laptops illuminating our faces with their eery glows. Our eyes are focused on a large screen displaying a large version of a document containing factoid-like information, which a hippy-looking person (the teacher?) reads to us. We all have copies on our personal laptop screens. We can choose to look at the big screen or on our little screens. If the person speaking says words that do not already appear on the screen, we type them. It’ll all be on a test in a few weeks. The whole thing is like some futuristic, robotic learning machine and we are its moving parts. I don’t relate to it. This Learning Dungeon scene creates an underslept, overwhelmed and disassociated mentality. Every 50 minutes we are momentarily released from the hold of the Lecture Gods and can leave, blinking as our eyes adjust to the light of day, to get water and wander around the courtyard. Time to socialize is limited and, therefore, hurried and it’s hard to delve into real philosophical conversations during the school day. It creates, at least in me, the feeling of isolation in a crowd of many.
It’s probably not as bad as it seems, but shoving a right-brained person into a left-brained institution is like wearing a shoe on the wrong foot; I guess you can still walk in it, or even run, but it just doesn’t fit right. After a while you start to develop blisters, calluses and maybe a bunion or two. I’m currently massaging my sore foot and wondering whether this painful race will be worth it in the end.
Jiddu Krishamurti famously said “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Can a flawed institution, which in and of itself lacks compassion and balance, produce compassionate and balanced healers? How can we focus on the “Doctor Heal Thyself” notion that we see sprinkled through naturopathic writings like Christmas tinsel? Simply put: how can I teach you about stress management when I can only succeed in becoming a healer if I paradoxically manage to push myself to the point where I become comfortable with a life of stress and severe imbalance?
The other day, I escaped in a minor panic attack from a microbiology lecture and went to buy paint canvasses. I had the intention of holing myself up in my 3rd floor room and painting something abstract, like a black hole. However, things changed when I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We talked about what we’re up to (he commented on the bags under my eyes). He was with a friend who, after learning what I was studying, remarked excitedly that naturopathic medicine was “the only thing keeping him alive”. Wow.
Here, in front of me, was a person who, like many, first tried to heal his Crohn’s disease using the conventional method. When that failed, he turned to naturopathy and experienced great success. This person was (his words) kept alive, all because of someone who had gone through the academic hell I was going through and come out the other side. There is an other side. And, not only that, on the other side there’s not just “practice management”, “ICD-10 Codes”, flow charts and OSCE skills There’s real people. People who need our help. People who we can help.
So, while the shoe may not be comfortable at times, it still fits.
So, I guess I’ll wear it.