I love the detective work of being a doctor.
It is a privilege that people come and share their deepest secrets, fears and concerns with me.
I have also learnt that the detective process is really important- If we only focus on surface things we will be in trouble in the long run-a bit like with weeds in the garden. If you don’t dig out the root the weed pops up again in no time.
Patients and doctors are often deceived into thinking that by eliminating the symptoms we have succeeded-but if the root remains, issues will surface elsewhere. The paracetamol for tension headaches will “work” in the short term but then the tension pops out in something else. Effective gardening takes time and effort.
A really interesting area is the group of autoimmune diseases where part of the body turns against itself. The immune system is the body’s defence system -so we can fight off bacteria and viruses. In auto-immune diseases the body seems to get confused and attempts to fight itself. For example, in colitis the body turns against the bowel; in thyroiditis the body turns against the thyroid. Medical treatments can keep people alive and reduce symptoms but why does the body do this to itself?
There is some interesting research in America suggesting that in some cases there is a link with not loving yourself. I found it fascinating to think that if we don’t love ourselves as a person, then our physical body can follow suit and turn against itself in some way.
I decided to ask my patients different questions.
As well as asking about physical symptoms and emotional things, I asked about what happened when the symptoms started. How did the person feel about themselves?
One patient with colitis quickly talked about her deep seated hate for herself, which tied in with some things that happened in childhood.
To cut a long story short she had some counselling to address this and her colitis improved immensely.
Now this is just one patient and we can’t apply the same for all-but it made me think about care of people as a whole-body, soul and spirit and how much more health we could have if we looked in different places. We can get so focussed on the plant we forget about the roots.
The hard work of gardening is worth it!