In Defence Of Traditional Chinese Medicine

This week I spent some quality time slowing down. I knew it was necessary when my edginess got the better of me and I managed to scold a few bus drivers and glare at people in the grocery store line, you know, for just existing. On top of that I couldn’t seem to stay still. I was anxious and fluttering about, not really getting anything done but delving into too many different things without producing any quality. I haven’t always associated these signs with needing to take a load off, but over the past few years I’ve gotten to know myself a bit better then I did in the past. At the risk of sounding like an ailing 80 year old woman, or a tad preachy, I can’t not get into some of the issues of balanced living which now help me function on a daily basis. Almost two winters ago now, I got super run down. I spent the majority of the winter, from mid-January until late March battling a number of bacterial infections, and during this 15 week period I literally was taking antibiotics 60% of the time. Because I don’t have a family doctor this meant a lot of long-painstaking visits to the walk-in clinic, waiting no less than 3 hours, only to be seen by someone who spent a total of 3 minutes with me, asked nothing of my history (recent present or beyond) and most of the time managed to miraculously figure out what was wrong with me by asking only (What’s wrong with you?) one question. Because I was experiencing repetitive infections of the same nature (sinus, UTI) I was able to give the doctor a sufficient answer (I think I have an X, Y infection) to which his response was to write me out a prescription. Mission accomplished. Except not really, because within the following days of finishing medication I was back again. On the second and then third round I told the doctor, listen, this isn’t the first one of the winter... I’ve been in this position about 3 times now since January. He didn’t really seem perturbed by this information, and wrote out another prescription. I can’t just lay blame on the doctor; the average walk-in clinic would be seeing close to 5 -10 patients an hour for this sort of routine thing... and I wasn’t doing enough to push for quality health-care. But I will lament the fact that patients deserve to be treated in isolation of one another. We aren’t text books, and I’m not a trained doctor, so a) don't let me tell you what the prescription should be, and b) if I do happen to tell you that the previous treatments haven’t been working, something’s not adding up. Finally the whole thing escalated into the grand finale of a wrenching kidney infection (because of course nothing was getting better with the dosage or duration or type of antibiotics I was being prescribed). As a result I was wiped out and on my arse and it took a few weeks before I even felt like some sort of resemblance of myself again.

I had been reluctant to take time off work, or take a pause from the other full time effort I had left which I was putting into my MA paper. The first reason being I needed to be paid to live, the second reason being I was dealing with deadlines. But, isn’t it true, that life does sometimes make you slow down?

When I felt like reading again, I picked up this book that had been on myself since I bought it about 6 years beforehand. I was intrigued by the title "Chinese Medicine for Maximum Immunity" because it was clear to me that I wasn't healthy. In Canada we grow up with a comparatively (I’ve been told) good health care system... and that's true for the most part I suppose. It gets the job done... most of the time. I will however mention that antibiotics wipe your body of all bacteria (good and bad) leaving you defenseless to other bugs so if you have been taking round after round, you might be quite susceptible to repetitive infections. In addition to this, for whatever reason, (for which I have yet to find a scientific backing) antibiotics tend to make me susceptible to blue moods following a dosage, and so for these reasons I'm inclined to find anyway possible to use them only as a last resort. And that being said, I’m certainly not counter antibiotics or Western health-care, but this whole ordeal with the kidneys left me asking if there wasn’t something that I was doing wrong? Is there some way that I can treat the root of the problem, as opposed to the symptoms?

This was the beginning of learning more about myself, and I mean really looking at what made me function, what personality traits I possessed which made me who I am, and learning that some of these traits, if excessive, could drain me of energy and vitality, hence leading to common colds, flu, sinusitis, and UTI's. To many people I've described it to for the first time, Traditional Chinese Medicine seems hokey and a bit like witch craft or horoscopes, but it is important to remember that what is different, isn't necessarily wrong. I would recommend, (highly) to anyone who gets run down, sick often, is constantly struggling to find energy, positive attitude or feels blue, to take a closer look. In my experience just becoming more aware of these principles and knowing how to relate them to my health has changed my perspective on how to stay healthy. For instance, if I'm anxious and testy, it's certain that if I don't slow myself down, my body will find a way to do it for me. And if this sounds simple that's because it is, and that's why Traditional Chinese Medicine is less witchcraft, more brilliant common sense.... which for some reason "western medicine" has overlooked. (Case and point, common sense says, 9 weeks of antibiotics and a kidney infection don't add up.)

For instance I know now that if I'm restless, agitated, or have explosive energy, sudden irrational outbursts and rapid speech, this is a sign that I'm burning out... there's lots of stuff (both environmental and physiological) that can make things go out of whack, but the point is, if I can recognize it in advance, the less likely I am to end up, for weeks on end at the walk-in-clinic.