When writing this, I wanted to make sure it was perfect, untarnished of any inaccurate depictions of my life. My words would be eloquent to the ear, scientifically sound and professional to the standards of a physician.
No. Not this time. Actually, it would be refreshing if that was never the case again, and even that would be unrealistic. This approach doesn’t define me in my present life.
There is an inherent dichotomy in being a physician because I am expected to be a role model of health and yet there is a distinct aura of “do as I say, not as I do”. As a physician I should serve as an example of healthy living but my point is, I am human, I’m fallible, I’m imperfect and I’m beginning to be ok with that.
Even now, as a perfectionist, I’m working twice as hard to achieve some sort of inner peace. As if it needs to be earned, when it can simply be given, freely of my own will. At the core, we are all human beings doing the best we can with what we are given and what we choose to manifest in our lives. If there is one thing I learned the most, it really is all about balance...and I know that sound cliché, but it really becomes more about the relationships in your life, and that goes for anything, whether personally or materialistically.
That said I want to share with you my journey on how I have become a Naturopathic Doctor. Growing up in Germany, my entire family sat down together for a home cooked meal. We ate well, even though none of us had an actual understanding of nutrition or personal health. As a child, my health problems never worried me; perhaps it was just my age that gave me a disillusioned sense of safety. When I was ill, I would stand the test of time, and all would be well.
I still vividly remember the first time that impenetrable shell of mine was broken at the age of 20. My doctor diagnosed me with Eczema on my face and I was prescribed a steroid cream. Before I left the office, I asked her when this would subside. She snickered at my comment and said, it’s your skin, and you will have it for the rest of your life. The harsh reality of life had its grip on me, I was vulnerable.
The problem was that I was unhealthy. In college I dragged through life on a cycle of very little sleep, too much Red Bull and late night fast food. I worked hard and I partied harder. Cigarettes became a way of coping with my emotions and the gym was my attempt to maintain an attractable appearance on the outside, not necessarily on the inside.
I noticed habits that didn’t serve me creep their way into my life and leave a mark on my health. It’s interesting to note that we as humans don’t learn from our habits and mistakes unless it really hurts. Whatever I was going through had a drastic enough impact on my life for me to make a conscious change. I took my health for granted and I realized now what sort of health choices I would be making had an effect on me now and my future wellbeing.
And so I made a change. Now, if you’re like most people you know what change you want to make. The challenge is discovering the means to do it and staying on course. One word of advice, do it with grace, you are human after all.
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
No longer were my parents accountable for my actions. It was time I started paying dues to myself. Well, let me ask you, who’s in charge now? Me. That’s right, I’m in charge of my life and that will always be the case.
The experience prepared me to empower many people who struggle with health problems; I have learned to offer other’s much compassion for this, but what about myself?
When I graduated from McGill University, I wasn’t interested in words or numbers. I wanted to know people on a personal level, empower them and impact their lives. So I set my sight on becoming a Medical Doctor. However, after several interviews regarding my intentions and expectations in the conventional medical field, I became frustrated and disenchanted. I wanted to build a foundation of well-being, I wanted people to feel great and not simply be accustomed to whatever their state of health may be.
Enter naturopathic medicine; based on the belief that we all have an inherent “vital force” that guides our body’s healing capacity. The body-mind relationship became crystal clear to me as I began to witness how my own thoughts and feelings affected my behaviors and physical well-being.
A significant time in my personal health journey took place during naturopathic college. Physically, I was breaking apart due to the continuous wear and tear of mental and emotional stress. I have always prided myself on my efficiency at getting the job done, even if it was at cost of my own health. Time was important, time was money and time better be well spent, but whatever happened to fellow that said to stop and smell the roses” every once in a while?
“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.”
Mitch Albom, The Time Keeper
I was running on modern day “cruise control”, I was so anxious about the future or persistently worrying of the past, that I couldn’t enjoy the present; result being that my life was passing me by and that I wasn’t actually an active participant in it.
“Life is short, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
I walk fast, I talk fast, I eat fast, I type fast and ironically as a result of that, I have difficulties sleeping. Boy oh boy life moves quick. Ever noticed how time goes faster as we get older? You know why? Because we get boring, not because we have more fun necessarily. It's as a result of us remaining in the recluse of our shell, what is safe, what is predictable, what is day in and day out...no wonder the days start all blending. When we are kids, we had new experiences everyday. I think parenthood will teach us a lot about being a child once again. I digress.
Reflecting on my health, it dawned on me that my overall struggle was with myself. I was and always have been my own worst enemy and if given the chance I would also become my own best friend. I embraced that living healthy had its many parts. It was made up of challenges and solutions, patience and action. For the moments of obstacles added sweetness to triumphs and difficulties added zest to my accomplishments.
Nothing could have better prepared me to be a physician than my own personal letdowns. This has broadened my insight into my own health and has made me a different naturopath than I would have been had I not experienced it. My personal model of care merges who I am, what I believe, and what I have learned. This has prepared me to empower my patients so that they become aware of the control they have in determining the state of their health, today, tomorrow and for the rest of their life.
I realized that living healthy required a commitment, and not just for one week. No, living healthy is a lifetime of work that would prove to be the most gratifying yet humbling experience I would ever face. My personal journey to health came from within and I doubt it will ever stop.