Recently, I blogged about my sister Allison and her campaign to raise awareness about HPV and cervical cancer. The motto of The Hicks Foundation is "Survival starts with knowing". Our dad raised us to be fierce and as self reliant as possible. He didn't know too much, but he knew enough to insist that we be prepared in the face of possibility, instead of caught empty handed or ignorant.
One of the great mental changes that takes place in med school is the transubstantiation of knowledge (facts, data) into wisdom (synthesis). We learn many different things, overwhelming details, and have to put them together into a composite mental holograph and then ignite them to become useful. The parts become a robot, a switch gets it going. Except humans are not robots. Spirit is so often left out of the equation.
I had an excellent education... many times over, at different schools, that prepared me well for developing a doctor mind. Physician, I am not a surgeon. It is not enough to know the signs and symptoms, one must physically look at the whole patient, and take in more than just the dissected parts of the story. I treat the person, not the disease.
This "attitude" of inquiry and investigation has improved my critical thinking skills in other areas of life wisdom. The SOAP note (when still taken by hand, and directed by me- not just a flow sheet) is the basis of all empirical investigation. Subjective- what you feel, what you perceive, what is happening to you from your perspective, what happened that brought you here; Objective- what I observe that correlates and corroborates or refutes your perception. What I can measure, without bias, what is present or absent or different. Assessment. Diagnosis is just a term and number, there is more to assessment than a code. It is an impression, an understanding of the whole. There may be many things, they all come together in one package, you. Plan. What we are going to do about it all. This includes things we need to get done (labs, imaging), what I am going to do (prescribe or treat), what you are going to do (in order to make yourself well and take some power back).
The life of a naturopath is constant behavior modification. You cannot do this job if you can't meet human nature every day with a laugh and a couple of ideas in hand. You can't do it if you cannot be flexible in your approach, and you cannot do it if people disappoint you a lot. It starts with an attitude, shored up by knowledge, shaped by acquired wisdom, and softened with patience, compassion and humility. You will learn something new every day, every week, if you are humble enough to listen.
Yet, you have to be fierce, committed, passionate despite the resistance and rebellions you face. Few people want to change, but they want their circumstance to be different. None of us got to where we are without making choices. If you didn't think you did, you need to step back and look again, with fresh eyes. Choice does not equal fault, and awareness of choice does not make blame. I use my spiritual practice to learn how to teach responsibility and awareness without pointing fingers and making accusation. They are often irrelevant, and almost entirely useless in making progress. You are not a child or a criminal, I am not your mom or the sheriff.
This is fundamental to making changes in life. You are not powerless. You are not helpless. You don't lack choices. You just may not be aware of what they are, or why to change the ones you do. That is my job. Lamp lighter, Inn Keeper, Story Teller, Mentor and Hand holder. Survival starts with knowing, and now that you know, it's time to change your approach.
Depending on the nature of the visit, all my patients get homework. Whether or not it is their "fault" that they have chronic *something*, it is their responsibility to change what they can in their own lives and habits to reduce their own symptoms and susceptibility. This is the point and purpose of preventative and alternative medicine. It is the most sustainable attitude, because it engages the patient in a campaign of self knowledge, bringing them to awareness. They need not be a scientist, they need to know they are not powerless. I am not the director of their life, I am not "doing" medicine to them. I am showing them the path to wellness. I will be their guide but not their sherpa, they must carry their own load. I tell them, if I left town forever, you would already know most of what it takes to stay healthy through food, exercise, sleep and supplementation for general wellness. You will have the tools in your hand to manage the problems you are seeing me for.
I know people "fall off the wagon" all the time. There are always reasons, some good, some bad, and some plain horrible luck. I am not there to pity, or enable, or berate. My job is to reassess, get new info, synthesize, and redirect. Sometimes the plan remains the same, sometimes it changes. You will only do what you will do, and I can only show you what you are willing to see. We are both only capable of what we believe we can know, or see, or do. Hopefully, I will get you to believe in yourself far more than you ever thought possible.