The Pain Stops After We Learn What It Is Here To Teach UsJul 30, 2023
I read this post from the New York Times today https://buff.ly/3YkDg0A with some celebration and concern. My celebration is that, yes, patients, especially women, need to learn to advocate for themselves. This is where the Red Essence that I wrote about in my last blog https://www.karanancemd.com/blog/enneagram-point-8 needs to be cultivated in many of us, especially women.
This story took me back to the birth of my first child at the University of Pennsylvania where I showed up at the hospital five centimeters dilated, water broken, already entering the transition phase of labor. For those of you that are unaware, that phase brings on intense panic because it feels like your body is LITERALLY going to split in half. We know labor hurts, and like most things, you don’t REALLY know until you are experiencing it.
As an Enneagram Point three with a strong seven fix that prefers to avoid pain at all cost, I was very set on receiving my epidural. Unfortunately, I had shown up at the hospital during board sign out, which is where the night shift passes on their patients to the day shift, often with some laughter and coffee shared along the way. I knew this because I was originally going to specialize in OB/Gyn and I had spent many weeks in that same room, enjoying a bit of connection before going to my next grueling shift or collapsing into bed.
As the contractions gripped my body, I laid there waiting for my epidural. After about 30 minutes, I had reached capacity. I KNEW there was someone out there to give me my epidural and that I was being ignored like the women in the New York Times article were. As an assertive type, I did what we are programmed to do when our needs aren’t being met. I screamed. And when no one came I screamed louder. And when no one came I added cursing and threatened to get out of my hospital bed, tear out my IV, and go get one of the residents myself. I’ve been told in these moments that I have “crazy eyes”. What I’ve taken that to mean is that people know I’m about to do EXACTLY what I just said I was going to do, and I get listened to.
I’m actually not proud of this. My growth journey has taught me how to be with pain and suffering more gracefully and to advocate for my needs more elegantly. Not that elegantly – I’m still a work in progress and I so value women being able to advocate for themselves because in our society women are often not heard or considered because we don’t raise our voices or express our rage as dutiful “good girls”. We’ve learned “not to cause a fuss” after generations of oppression and violence. Women, nontraditional men, people of color, and the LGBTQ and transgender communities are very aware of this often unspoken, sometimes violently expressed, request from our patriarchal society and many of us are now conscious enough and safe enough to allow our anger to surface. This is why I celebrate this article. There are perfectly good reasons to be angry with the healthcare system and your doctors, and I would love to help anyone that wants to channel this rage into productive ways that are not “Karen-like” to do so.
The mourning comes from the fact that doctors often face pain from their patients that they have no idea what to do with. I was trained during an era where the pharmaceutical companies convinced us we were undertreating pain, anxiety and depression and offered us a variety of opiates, benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, mood stabilizing agents, and anti-psychotics encouraging us to prescribe them liberally because they were “safe”. What I’ve seen over the past 25 years is an epidemic of addiction and loneliness that these drugs have often made worse.
This is a reason why I’m so focused on typology, trauma healing, and the use of psychedelics as medicine. I’m in Naropa University’s psychedelic medicine training program right now and will be offering ketamine assisted therapy (KAT) in early 2024. At this point I’ve invested as much time in training to heal the head, heart, and trauma in the body as I did training to be a Western medical doctor, at a similar personal cost. Most physicians are not going to do this and we don’t get any of this training in our medical schools. This is why I’m scared. Patients are going to go to their doctors expecting their pain to be managed in ways only a very small (I’ll guess 6-8%) have trained themselves to do.
So what is my call to action??? If you are suffering with rage, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, or any other wide variety of chronic medical conditions, consider scheduling a consultation with me so that I can hear about your journey and help you to find the right doctors, or direct you towards a more helpful psychospiritual approach. You may be carrying generations of trauma in your nervous system and we need to heal that in a very different way. And if you are being mistreated by the medical system I can also train you to advocate for yourself more effectively. And if that still doesn’t work, I’ll call your doctor for you and/or find a doctor for you that will be more receptive. Am I promising relief of suffering for all? Definitely not. And I do deeply believe that the suffering lessens and often stops once we learn what it is here to teach us. Eventually, in the words of Pema Chodron “you become willing not just to endure it but also to let it awaken your heart and soften you. You learn to embrace it.”
My second call to action is that if you are a doctor or medical professional, please also engage in my offerings to learn how to heal your own suffering caused by a dysfunctional healthcare system. Of course you have shut down your heart and turned into an efficiency machine or turned to dysfunctional ways to take care of your own pain. We often get platitudes from administration about their appreciation for how hard we work and get the occasional gift, and the system doesn’t change. We’re given a token “atta girl/boy” and then thrown back into the same toxic environment. This is why nearly 334,000 physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other clinicians left the workforce in 2021 due to retirement, burnout and pandemic-related stressors, according to a new report. https://www.bizjournals.com/bizwomen/news/latest-news/2023/02/health-care-workers-continue-to-leave-workforce.html?page=all
We all need support and healing so that people don’t continue to needlessly suffer. Please schedule a free 30 minute consultation at KaraNanceMD.com to discuss how I can help you personally or your organization.
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