Alternative medicine. I’ve never been a big fan. I think part of it has to do with the fact that my parents are big proponents of it, and it became an issue we split over. Part of it has to do with the fact that it’s not quite as regulated and so every practitioner does something a little different. Part of me is honestly fearful of participating in black magic and becoming cursed.
I’ve tried a lot of different kinds of alternative medicine. I have had a few small miracles. I have met some very interesting people. But once I took my medical care into my own hands, I only retained one alternative practitioner. This is the story that explains why.
I’ve been a patient of a chiropractor since May 2009. I was not a believer in chiropractic medicine. I went for another reason entirely. That chiropractor was one of the first people who really listened to me, heard my fears, asked me tough questions, told me about hard things in her own past, and celebrated with me as I made forward progress. I kept going to see her because she was a practitioner that cared about me. The chiropractic adjustments helped with some of the pain, but mostly I went because her office was a safe place. It was a place for Abigail to be Abigail. No strings attached. No facade needed.
Fast forward more than two years later and I was in a new state, starting a new graduate program. As I tried to make sense of everything, I knew that chiropractic care could at least give me some temporary relief from my pain. (Why did it take me months to transfer my medical care here? I don’t know. It also took me months to find the post office. And that’s not even deliberately hidden.)
That’s when I started seeing Dr. Harold. He looks nothing like Harold from Harold and the Purple Crayon; it would be awesome if he did. But he’s definitely very creative even if he has only one primary treatment — the purple crayon.
Chiropractic adjustments and manipulations have helped me a lot. With Ehler’s-Danlos syndrome, it’s easy for things to slip into weird positions. Therefore, my muscles get really tense in order to keep things in their proper place. That can lead to pain. Chiropractors can help with that. Plus, fibromyalgia means that your nerves have amazing memory, i.e. you feel pain much longer than other people do. So chiropractors can help with that if they don’t overdo things and make them worse!
I’d be the first to admit that I’ve been skeptical of chiropractic medicine for a long time. I’m still not 100% sure how to explain it to people. But I do know that part of my illness is related to the muscoskeletal system and/or connective tissue. In the mess known as absence-of-a-real-diagnosis-or-treatment, it’s nice to have something that can at least help temporarily and help prevent things from getting even worse. Even more, I see Dr. Harold pretty frequently — anywhere from 2-4 times a month. So he has a pretty good idea of where I stand emotionally and physically even if he can’t do anything about it himself.
As a chronic patient, I highly recommend having a team of medical practitioners. Every specialty has different things to offer you as the patient, but different practitioners also pay attention to different things. Dr. Harold can tell you when he comes into the exam room and finds Abigail napping on his exam table. (Yes, it’s happened multiple times.) He can also tell you when I’m really excited about something like a visit to see Tabitha or a presentation I’m giving later that week. Plus, he can wax poetical (or maybe draw with his purple crayon?) how my body internalizes stress and finds bizarre ways to lopsidedly absorb it. Those are things that Dr. Leo (for example) doesn’t have the resources to note in my medical record. Most of my conversations with Dr. Leo are over the phone or via email. I see him once every 3-4 months!! As a patient of both doctors, I have a wider range of treatments and perspectives. Plus, once they communicate and share information, they have better insight into my case, insight that I don’t even have.
Alternative medicine can be a huge drain on limited finances and lead to disappointed hopes. But alternative medicine can also offer a new perspective on disease. I’ve become open to forms of alternative medicine that help you as a patient develop self-confidence and empower you to become a better advocate for yourself. If it can give you even temporary relief of one form or another, all the better. Even if it’s all a figment of Harold’s purple crayon, if it makes you feel better about yourself and makes your body happier, then does it really matter how you reached that state? Isn’t that the desired outcome?
Just some thoughts,