Friday, November 11, 2011
The interconnectedness of all things
You don’t want to hear about my aches and pains, naturally, and I don’t want to tell you. Suffice to say he’s referred me elsewhere for a test and consultation on some future date to be notified. In the meantime my condition has got better by itself. One of the glories of the National Health Service is its waiting lists. They offer a respite during which you are free from intervention (drugs or surgery), and also from your own anxieties, which at worst can sap your will to live. For you have placed your wellbeing in the hands of others. And that is the essence of Placebo, the most successful remedy in history.
In Jamaica they have the Obeah man. Nobody speaks well of these quacks. But if you are fearful, desperate, poor or ignorant, in any combination, you’ll scrape a few dollars to see him, and get some herbs, incantations and smeared chicken-blood for your pains. You’ll be grateful if you get better, even if it takes a while. If you get worse and die, it won’t be due to the treatment. You don’t blame the man. He did his best. Your destiny remains your own.
The National Health Service is a step up from the obeah man. I’d be the first person to say that. I nearly was the first person. When it was newly-founded in 1948, it saved my leg with a new-fangled drug called penicillin. So my leg says “thank you”. But when I went to the doctor the other day and he’d finished arranging me an appointment elsewhere, he checked his computer screen to remind himself of my last visit, a year ago. He’d prescribed me three types of medication which I was to continue taking daily for the rest of my life. Would I like to say why I hadn’t requested any repeat prescription? I wanted to say “Because I got better”, but it wouldn’t go down well with him. These pills, he told me, cannot cure your condition. They can only control it. The conditions in question are quite invisible to the patient. Only the medical profession—only Science—can tell that you have these conditions. But—here’s the catch—it is determined statistically that they shorten your life. Warming to his theme, he put my details into a computer program, which told him that my life would be at least ten years shorter if I didn’t take the pills. So I said, “OK, you have convinced me.” He handed me a prescription. I’ve put it in my sock drawer.
So I went back home, discovered I have in my sock drawer the unused medications from a year ago, still within their expiry date. I really didn’t want my body to deteriorate in the manner he had warned. So I followed the instructions for nearly a week, by which time the various trivial symptoms which had been plaguing me for weeks, mental and physical, intensified. To the point where I didn’t care about the next ten years. Life was burden enough now. I checked the leaflets which tell you about “possible side effects”. Yes, one of them described everything I was going through. But it was the other one which really bothered me. Each of the various diseases it can cause is worse than anything I’ve had in my life, or expect to have. I’ll merely quote this: Contact your doctor immediately if you experience muscle aches and pains, tenderness, weakness or cramps. This is because on rare occasions, muscle damage can be serious. So, I have been prescribed something which can cause the very problem I came about in the first place. Not just that but insomnia, nightmares, memory loss, sexual difficulties, depression, breathing difficulties, fever, liver disease, hair loss, dizziness, bone disorders and loss of sensation in the arms and legs. Give me the obeah man!
Needless to say, I stopped taking the medications. After a few days, the symptoms have subsided, as well as symptoms I never noticed I had, till they stopped. I started feeling better than I have for a long time. But here’s the thing. All my symptoms work together. I promised at the beginning that I would share a great truth with you. I shall but here is a warning. It may not be true for you. I cannot say it is The Truth, because I don’t believe in The Truth, just your truth and mine. For me, if one thing is wrong with my body, other things generally are too. My consciousness goes sick as well. Things are interconnected, but the doctor wants to treat me as if I’d brought my car to the workshop and he were a mechanic. If the tyres are worn, it doesn’t mean I should change the light bulbs too. The brakes work independently of the oil pressure—or at least I think so. But if I saw the doctor for depression he’d give me something to lighten my mood, as if replacing a fuse. He should know that a blown fuse may indicate another problem. He does, actually, but the National Health Service cannot offer everyone psychotherapy. So he cures the blown fuse with a stronger fuse.
I can tell you what has made me feel so well—not in detail, only the vaguest terms. Something was hanging over my head, something I was dreading: not for itself but for the way it stirred up old wounds, as it were: things from my past. I didn’t want to face them—kept them hidden. One immediate result was a specific form of writer’s block, one which prevented me publishing anything here. (Normally this block strikes on only six days of the week. I can live with that.) The remedy, so I read it in hindsight, is (1) to take time out, face the past and wallow in self-pity for a bit. Then complete the session with (2) the good old tried and tested “pull yourself together, man!” The magic bullet is (1) followed when you’re good and ready by (2).
This then is my truth. Evidence-based science parades its nostrums before me, but I know that when I’m sick I have to fix the whole, and never mind propping up the parts. (Life has already enough side-effects.)
It may be different for you. Your destiny remains your own.
Posted by Vincent at 2:20 pm