In the last month and a half I've seen the dentist three times, my therapist four times, had blood work done, engaged with a new general practitioner, and been to a PT guy who does craniosacral work. I'm trying to heal myself, work toward better health, and move forward. I'm in the process of working out of a job that is crippling me, but in the meantime I'm trying to attend to much of the healthcare I've neglected for years. Thus the three trips to the dentist for cleaning, fillings, and fillings, blood work to figure out my chemistry, and a new doctor after years without one.
The doctor is the trickiest piece of this puzzle. My wife knew and recommended the dental practice. I'm grateful. They are gentle and professional. They don't hound me about flossing. They listen and haven't try to sell me a whole bunch of nonsense like a dentist I went to years ago and who turned me off to dentistry. She likes her doctor too, but I was in that practice and didn't like it because they handed out prescriptions like cereal-box toys — Collect them all!. I went in with a hurt ankle and was given a prescription for heavy-duty pain killers. I don't want this, I told them. But you said it hurt? Ugh.
I want a doctor like my craniosacral guy, Chris. I went to him to see what can be done about me clench my jaw at night. I wear a mouth guard but lately am waking myself up by clenching so hard, wearing myself out. I'm getting tired while I sleep. And the dentist is worried about my teeth. As Chris got set up, we talked about our families and he told me about thoughts and remarks he composed about his brothers after his dad died. He knows my dad died four years ago. We share that bond.
Ready to go, Chris asked me to describe what was happening. As I spoke, he sat looking up at me and he listened like there was no one else in the world. He nodded some, waited, asked questions, waited and listened to my answers, and there was suck a look of intensity in his quiet, calm eyes, that I began to feel better just being observed and heard so well. When I was done, he clapped his hands lightly together and said, this is great. He typed things into the computer and set up the bed. It's not great that you're having problems, he explained, but I'm excited about what we were going to do.
He talked about what he was going to do, explained what was happening as we began, but then we let silence fall around us as he — I can't explain this any better — cradled me and made the tiniest movements. I felt my eyes close, my breathing steady. He moved around me, asking me to relax my head into his hands, and it was a simple matter to do so. I couldn't have felt more cared for.
At the end of the session he told me about what he had felt and done, what he thought we might do next, and asked if I would like to come back again and when. We set up an appointment at the front desk. I paid and said goodbye to this man who provides me with health care, is a friend, and knows me. I've recommended half a dozen people to him and every one came away with the same two feelings I have: whatever he does works and it is such a blessing to be cared for so deeply and completely.
I don't have that feeling yet with my general practitioner. Granted, I've only been to one visit. I'll go back soon to talk about blood work, to again be pressed to have a colonoscopy, and probably be plied with pills. My doctor does not often make eye contact and doesn't hold it. Maybe we will get to know one another, but if not, I'll seek out another caregiver. I've got an example of what I want.
Years ago when my wife was pregnant with our first child, we moved from back to Syracuse and changed from midwifes to doctors for her prenatal care. lt felt very different. During one of the exams, I asked the doctor to describe the difference between the two types of practice. "Midwifes," he said, "make a list of everything that can go right and work to ensure as much of that happen as possible. Doctors make a list of everything that can go wrong and work to prevent as much of that as possible."
Maybe I need a midwife. I quit going to the doctor years ago when my doctor moved into administration and I was told to choose another doctor in that practice. I was tired of care that dealt only with what was wrong. I wanted and still want someone who will work with me to sharpen my health rather than just blunting my illnesses.
Years ago I read a Mark Bittman story in which he went to the doctor hypertensive, overweight, and pre-diabetic. He knew the prescriptions were coming. Instead, his doctor said, "become a vegan." Bittman, a food writer, said he couldn't possibly. The doctor said, "you're a smart guy. Figure it out." Bittman did figure it out. He lost weight, reduced his hypertension, and eliminated his risk of diabetes with the help of a doctor who helped him become healthy instead of just treating his sickness.
I know some of what I need do to become healthy: quit my job, walk and run, eat less sugar and more vegetables, sleep well, and savor my life. I need to see my therapist regularly. I need to write. I also need a good doctor, someone to care about all of me and not just the sick parts.