The real reason I got into medicine was because I liked the way hospitals smelled. It was that sharp, clinical scent of antiseptics I encountered on the few occasions one of us was rushed to the casualty department because of broken bones or bleeding wounds that needed stitches.
It was completely visceral. I sniffed it and was hooked. This is where I wanted to be and I never gave it another thought. Later, the time of going to medical school was one of the happiest in my life. I just loved everything about it and I was very motivated and driven to learn all about the mystery and functioning of this wonderful organism. However, when I graduated it occurred to me that now I knew a lot about how the body worked and how to fit symptoms into their respective disease category, but I still knew nothing about why we go sick to begin with.
At the time I started my residency I began to have intuitive hits about causal relationships and the true nature of what was behind all the symptoms, but I could not integrate it with what I knew on a physical level. I often had a hunch but that was in general not supported by what the lab-tests or x-rays would show.
“I just know” is not a readily accepted rationale for a young doctor and it both, confused and frustrated me to no end.
That was the time I started to look in parallel into holistic medicine and I took up studying Ayurvedic medicine at first, but later found my true interest and talent in energy medicine, in particular acupuncture. What I found there helped me to complete what I already knew and determined my further path. It laid the groundwork for how I still practice medicine to this very day and to me there are three principles:
Firstly, diagnosis is the most important step in the process and it has to take into consideration all levels of being. That includes the physical, mental, emotional energetic and spiritual dimensions.
Secondly, there is never just only one reason for a disease, but a multitude of factors culminating and leading to symptoms to manifest on the physical level. The cause however may be hidden deep under what in medicine is called etiology, giving you the reasons, which in general are valuable pointers to what may be obfuscated.
Thirdly, the role of the physician is to be a guide. It is certainly not an active and superior role in terms of “I know better and I will tell you what to do”. The role of the physician is to build a relation, a connection, to the sufferer of a disease and help them understand why a disease manifested and work with them on a pathway to recreating health.
I had all those principles internalised in my late twenties but grew more and more frustrated that I could not apply them in a way I felt I should. I once complained to one of my teachers and he laughed and said to me “ You have to learn to help yourself first before you can help others”. Of course I thought he was nuts and soon thereafter I was so fed up with all of it, that I left medicine and started to work for the pharmaceutical industry.
This move turned out to be great. I loved it, I was good at it and I embarked on a career that led me to go abroad and live in foreign countries and continents. I did not miss being a doctor and the only thing that stayed with me all those years was energy medicine. And one fine day I had enough of the corporate world and I knew now finally I was ready to go back and start practicing again.
The hiatus of fifteen years did one thing – it helped me to de-identify from being a doctor. I forgot what I did not need and I strengthened what was of importance. Like riding a bicycle, one does not unlearn to practice medicine. Practicing medicine is inherently a sensory skill and it is as much about – or even more of – the unseen as it is about what you can look at. Medicine is about feeling, touching, listening and using all senses. I often think about one of my teachers who told me that in Japan, where the art of acupuncture has been kept very pure, only blind people were allowed to practice it. And I think there is a lot of truth in it. Medicine has to be practiced “blindly” – in terms of casting away all preconceived notions and all knowledge.
When I opened my little practice three years ago, I embarked on a journey of developing my own blend of practicing medicine, based on my three principles of emphasis on diagnosis on all levels, uncovering reasons and the underlying cause and motivate, support and empower the patient to embark on their own journey of healing. When I started I did not know much about the spiritual dimension, but this has entered my life now in a quite sustained manner and I notice myself integrating it more and more.
My specialty is integrative holistic medicine and I am focusing on stress medicine. It means dealing with all the manifestations of chronic stress in terms of disturbances, symptoms or diseases and it is a highly interactive and individual approach, based on the need and how far someone is ready to go.
As I have more and more patients now who I recognise to be in different stages of awakening, I am also discovering the relation between spirituality and medicine, an incredibly rich field that requires all my attention and intuition, as not much is published or written about it.
The interface of medicine and spirituality is more and more becoming my calling. It appears that everything I have learned in my life was leading up to this point and I feel that over 30 years of being in and around medicine, I have finally found a starting point that just feels right for the rest of my life.
I think I have just become a doctor.