Dear Pulse readers,
I spent most of my boyhood with a scab on one knee or the other. There were two reasons: First, I must have fallen down a lot; and second, it was hard to resist picking the scab that formed over a bad scrape.
Picking at or pulling off the scab meant fresh bleeding, a brand-new scab and delayed healing. But it was hard to leave well enough alone and have the patience to let nature do its required work at its own pace.
The body has an amazing capacity for healing. “The art of medicine,” said Voltaire, “consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.”
Of course, many illnesses have no cure. And as a physician I must often regretfully inform patients that I have no cure–there is no permanent healing–for their high blood pressure, their asthma, their forgetfulness or their aching back.
When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I quickly learned that no healing would cure me of this illness. But there was another kind of healing to be done: addressing the psychic wound that came with the diagnosis. My body had betrayed me, and I felt vulnerable and frightened, bumping up against my own mortality.
How does one begin to heal those wounds?
With honesty, perhaps? A shared truth is a territory that we can explore together. Learning the truth about my illness, while not entirely pleasant, brought me closer to others and gave me concrete tasks to work on.
With kindness? The truth, of course, is not enough. When I was bluntly delivered my diagnosis, it felt like a slap in the face. It took the compassion of others to soothe that particular wound–and to help me accept my new status in life.
There are, of course, many other qualities called for in healing. It helps if the sufferer can acknowledge vulnerability. It helps if those offering aid bring commitment and skill.
And what about humility? Sometimes the hurt is so profound, the wound so deep, that it resists intervention. Probing injuries and holding them up to the light makes them throb more.
I once had a patient whose mother had died giving birth to her. Hearing her story took my breath away. What healing could I possibly offer? What could she accept?
I wouldn’t be a doctor if I didn’t believe that healing is almost always possible, even under the most dire circumstances–even when a life cannot be saved.
And the healing goes both ways. As my patient or friend experiences healing, then so do I.
But healing is not always possible. And when healing is beyond our grasp, then that sad realization itself requires some healing.
What about you? When has healing taken hold for you, and when has it not?
February’s More Voices theme is Healing. Send us your lived experience of healing or of being healed. And while you’re at it, take a look at last month’s theme, The Vaccine.
For more details, visit More Voices FAQs–or go directly to the More Voices Submission Form. Remember, your healthcare-related story should be 40-400 words. And no poetry, please.
Stay safe, and stay warm.
With my best regards,