Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Absolute and Isolated - No Black and White in Medicine, Law, or Life

Reminder: There is no such thing as absolutes or isolated incidences in real life. I'm not talking about math or Newtonian Physics here - I'm talking about REAL LIFE.  Still some people think there are.  It's for this reason, I have less and less trust in institutions and authority figures the more time I spend on this earth.  Let's take doctors for example, to take a break from politicians. :-)

My mother hates doctors.  She hates them for a number of reasons which we won't go into here, but let's just say, it is completely understandable. I am sure her feelings didn't help their case with me.  Still, doctors didn't prove themselves with me.

I remember getting my regular sinus infections and not one person thought to test for allergies or even discuss what might cause me to come in for a Z pack every month for 6 months every year.  Seems strange they would ignore this glaring physical sign that something was amiss. When I was older and going through the lovely hormonal changes that occur during adolescence, I was a little depressed.  My mother thought I would get over it, but my dad suggested maybe seeing a therapist.  Well, I went once to the therapist and was totally convinced he was full of bullshit and couldn't help me.  The next week I started to feel better without ever seeing the guy again. 

There have been other experiences with a variety of specialists - physical therapists, internists, and OB/GYNs - who didn't know what they were talking about.  Personally, I have a theory.  Critical thinking is no longer taught in schools, but testing is.  So, rather than looking at the whole patient, the doctor says, "well, let's do a test" as if all tests are absolute and all symptoms are isolated from one another.

Recently I was talking with a friend of a friend who wanted to isolate colloquial word usage from the "true" meaning of words.  He spent probably twenty minutes talking about how people make assumptions and everyone thinks they know what they're saying, but they're all talking in their own languages.  He is right in that they are speaking with their own meanings, but that doesn't mean we can't communicate.  Because of course, he is missing a crucial piece - context.

Every single person on this planet is different.  There is no such thing as one way of being or one way of addressing an issue.  It just doesn't work.  That is why the law is so problematic, why medicine is constantly having to back-track, and why miscommunication happens so often.  Yes, we can do everything possible to try to break things down to the lowest common denominator, but in the end, there is still the difference of perspective.  It is just impossible to have something be completely objective.  There is no black and white.  But we do have context.  We can look at an entire situation and see that in fact, with all these bits and pieces of information, there is a logical conclusion we can draw.

Knowing this, we go into our doctor's offices, try to convince them what we know our bodies are trying to say, and still we end up leaving more frustrated than we were when we arrived.

So what's the moral of the story? We have to trust we know what the hell we're talking about when it comes to our bodies.  We also have to look at the entire situation before drawing any conclusions.  This is elementary, my dear doctors, elementary. 

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