The dentist

My parents took me to a dentist when I was very young and the experience traumatized me. The effects of that are still with me today.

I believe that he didn’t knowingly traumatize me. He thought he was a very good dentist. It turns out he wasn’t as good as he thought and in many ways he wasn’t a very good person. If he’d really thought about what he was doing then none of this would have happened.

He caused me immeasurable pain and terror because he didn’t use anesthesia when he worked on my teeth. He thought he could be very gentle and delicate and that he didn’t have to give me anything. He also thought that simply seeing the needle (needles for dentists are very large) would frighten me.

Ideally, he would have given me a shot anyway and explained the benefits of it. Ignorance leads to fear which leads to pain. Seeing the needle could be frightening sure, but that is when you explain why it is long (to reach inside your mouth) and how it will help (to make sure you don’t feel any pain).

Without a shot, I was in fact in pain. But also, I was in terror, because I knew that if I moved I could be very hurt. One wrong slip with that drill and he’d be drilling my cheek and not my tooth.

Strangely, he didn’t even have an assistant. So there was no one else in the room to look in my eyes and see the terror and suffering, both physical and mental.

Because my parents took me to him, I thought this was normal. I thought this was part of going to the dentist. I thought surely they wouldn’t make me go through this terror and pain for no reason.

People don’t really understand how traumatizing this is, that this authority figure caused me pain and my parents, other authority figures, took me to him. This means that what he’s doing to me is accepted and okay and normal and in fact, they’re paying him to do it.

No one warned me what was going to happen. That just adds to the pain. Any time something new is going to happen to anyone – but especially a child, explaining it beforehand is a kindness. It is all about thinking about the other person and their emotional needs. They don’t know what is going to happen. They don’t even know what to ask. It is the medical professional’s duty to remember that even though s/he has performed that procedure a thousand times, this is the first time for this patient. Not only is “informed consent” important, it is also simply kind and humane and compassionate to make sure they know what to expect.

I’m so grateful that I’m realizing all of this. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t have the strength at the time to stand up and say “No you can’t do this to me.” or “You have to tell me what you are going to do to me before you do it.” But at least now I’ve noticed it and I can start to make changes. If I didn’t notice it then it would mean that I would continue to suffer and say nothing.

Hopefully by my writing about this, you will gain strength too and learn to ask for what is going to happen before it does if your doctor doesn’t think to tell you. Hopefully you might start to understand the root of some of your distress as well. Uncovering this root has really helped me in understanding some of my behavior and attitudes. This early experience badly affected how I related to and experienced the world. Now that I’ve uncovered it, I can heal myself from that point onwards.

Death is not a failure.

We need to turn around our view of death in the society. Death isn’t a failure. Death is a person transitioning from one level of existence to another. They are graduating. They have completed their mission here on earth and are now moving on to their next assignment.

In the same way that we gather together when someone is being born, we should gather together with the same joy and excitement when someone is passing on. When someone is being born we don’t even know who is being born. But when someone is dying we know who it is. We get to celebrate all that we have done with her or him together and that we were blessed with the opportunity to know her or him and share a little bit of our lives together.

I find it disturbing that the dying process is not taught in nursing school. I find it odd that a separate organization generally known as “hospice” had to come into existence to assist people and their families with death. Death is a fact of life. If you are alive then you will die. But we’ve isolated ourselves from this knowledge to the point that death seems to be something that happens to someone else. The medical institution treats death as a sign that their efforts have failed – they have not cured the disease.

The Cold. (an ephemera story)

The cold story

We went to the hospital near Greenbrier this time. We went, bolstered up only by prayer.

They never suspected. They never saw it coming, the total breakdown of their system. We looked healthy, as healthy as anyone can look in the fall. Runny noses were rampant then, the beautiful colors came to the trees and the allergies came with him. We looked healthy in comparison. We’d prepared.

They don’t check passports at this hospital, and they don’t check immunization records. Just a quick look at your face and you were in, sticker pressed to your shirt over your heart, the same place every time. No sticker, no admittance, so it had to be prominent.

We’d been to Madagascar, we’d been to Belize. Cameroon? Sure. We did so many little forgotten countries that we filled our passport books 3 times over.

And immunizations? Homeschooled. Our ultra-religious parents didn’t want us being infected by the world by thoughts or antibodies. They prayed our colds away. Even a broken arm wasn’t too much for their prayers. Healed up overnight, it did, with nary a twinge. They weren’t around anymore, but their lessons held true. We’d learned the way of prayer.

We were carriers now, infected with every virus and germ, known and unknown. We were carriers, but not sick. We carried our gifts of sickness and disease and death to any and sundry, throughout the city and then the state.

We started small, but had big plans. Soon we would wipe out, shut down, cripple Western medicine, bring it to its knees. Soon they would beg for the knowledge that would save them.

For too long they had trusted in their own knowledge and not in the LORD. For too long they’d trusted in their Science and not the Spirit. Those days were soon to be over.

“Thank you, Paul!” Margery said, pausing just long enough to read his name badge.

The watch-nurse’s name read in 20pt. type “Paul Roberts” but she called him by his first name, his Christian name. More friendly that way. More disarming too. Amazing what a smile and calling a stranger by his name would do to open doors, visible and not.

“You’re most welcome, Ma’am!” he sang out.

Good manners, too. A shame he’d be dead in a week. That’s part of the price of throwing in with the devil. His choice. His loss.

She pressed a “The LORD is coming soon!” pamphlet into his hand. Maybe he’d read it and get saved. It was his only chance, to read it. Just touching it he was doomed to an early death. He’d die, sure, but being saved meant he’d not go straight to hell.

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If being around Margery and John wasn’t enough, the pamphlets did the rest. Even thrown in the trash, the damage was done. Bare skin to the paper, or better yet the ink, and a thousand viruses were passed. It took just a moment.

They were specially prepared. No one would ever suspect.

The couple had a hundred of them. It was enough.

They made their way to the cancer ward, then the neonatal unit, then ICU. The weakest first, and then the rest. Never too long in one area, and always friendly, and always apparently lost. The nurses would redirect them, and they’d be on their way.

It was all in a day’s work.

Is art right for you?

11 x 14 canvas.

Acrylic paint, gold oil pastel pencil, under-words from a prescription insert for a nose spray, warning labels from prescription bottles, magazine clippings, label from a box of multi-vitamins stamps, silver and black Sharpies, decoupage glue, rubber stamps, ink, watercolor.

Please message me if you are interested in purchasing this one of a kind artwork.

About how art is better for you than prescriptions.

Full image –
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Details –

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Healer vs. Doctor

I once saw a medical program on TV where a woman had tendonitis in her thumb. She had a young child and every time she picked him up she used her hand in a certain way that caused her thumb to repeatedly experience stress. On the show, the doctor gave her a steroid shot in her thumb to fix the problem.

The real issue though is that he was simply being a doctor. Doctors fix the symptom. Healers fix the problem.

If he wanted to be a true healer, he would have shown her different ways of using her hand so that she would never ever have that problem again. By being a doctor, and addressing only the symptom, he ensures that in the future she will experience the same problem again and thus need to seek him for help again. She will again get a shot and again not be any better in the big picture.

Real medicine

I knew a lady who was cold. It was early in the morning and she was shivering. She asked her daughter to get her a hot cup of coffee. She hadn’t slept well all night. We have been in a camping event so there wasn’t any central heat. She hadn’t brought enough blankets either. I looked at how she was sitting – all hunched over, hugging her arms to herself. This was a physical coldness and it didn’t need to be fixed by putting something into her, especially a stimulant. That would make her feel worse with her lack of sleep.

Her hair was thinning a little so I offered her a knit cap. We lose most of our heat through our heads. She put the cap on and within 10 minutes she was visibly warmer. She relaxed her shoulders and rested her arms on the table instead of hugging herself. She was a lot more comfortable. It was a simple fix that didn’t require coffee.

I had a coworker who had a headache one day and he asked for a Tylenol. I gave him one. Two days later he said he had another headache. He asked for another Tylenol. I didn’t give him one this time. He was young and needed to learn how to take care of himself. By that I mean more than just buying his own supplies instead of expecting other people to supply his needs.

More importantly, he needed to learn how to take care of himself by fixing the cause and not the symptom. The symptom just points to the cause. I told him to go drink water. If he didn’t feel better after 20 minutes (which is about the same time that a Tylenol would take) then I would give him a Tylenol. He went over to the water fountain had a sip. I said “No, keep drinking until I tell you to stop.” He needed to have 16 ounces of water, not a sip. I watched him drink and counted off the time and then told him to stop.

I forgot about keeping time on purpose. An hour later I pointed out to him that he hadn’t asked for a Tylenol again. His headache was gone.

Likewise, we have a guy who is studying to be a doctor who is there every day at the library. He’s a doctor in another country, but America won’t take his credentials. He has to take the exam here to be licensed here. He’s been studying every day and he’s not been taking care of himself. It is starting to show.

His hair isn’t brushed, his clothes are rumpled, and he now is saying that he can’t sleep and he has a headache. He asked me for a Tylenol. Rather than give him that kind of medicine, I gave him real medicine. Whether he takes it or not is up to him.

Real medicine is to suggest he take time off, go eat healthy food (all he eats is meat and rice), go exercise, and spend time with his wife. He says that he can’t leave his studies. He doesn’t get that if he doesn’t take care of himself, then it doesn’t matter what he studies – it won’t go in.

We’ve talked about preventative medicine before and he blows me off. He’ll make a fine western doctor if he passes. They treat the symptoms and not the cause too.

I tell him about friends of mine who are now off their diabetes medicine because they eat healthy food, exercise, and have lost weight. He thinks I’m lying. He says it isn’t possible.

He even brings his food to the library. Somehow they have an understanding in the department he studies in. He’s got a little crock-pot that he plugs in to heat up his food. He doesn’t even have to cook it. He gets it from his in-laws. When I say he needs to take time away from his studies and go outside the library for lunch, he says he can’t eat anywhere else because he has to eat food that is halal because he’s Muslim. I point out that you can eat vegetarian food and be perfectly safe. He wrinkles his nose at me.

It is hard to watch people drown.

Sure, I could give him a Tylenol. But that is aiding and abetting.

I’d be like the doctor who gave my Dad a prescription for cough medicine, knowing that he smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. Of course he coughed. Cough medicine isn’t the right medicine. Real medicine would be to refuse to treat him until he stopped smoking. Real medicine would be to direct him to smoking-cessation programs. Real medicine would be to help him learn better ways to deal with stress than smoking.

Real medicine involves hard work, not a pill. Real medicine involves being mindful and disciplined. It features daily exercise, no stimulants, no refined sugar, and lots of vegetables. It includes focusing on breathing. It includes learning to speak up for yourself. It includes being creative. It includes making time to rest. It includes working towards your dreams. It isn’t easy.

Becoming conscious is a lot like becoming sober.

Heart Exorcise

While waiting for my cardiologist, I heard his comments with the patient in the room next to mine. The walls are very thin and so I was able to hear almost all of the conversation. Things weren’t going well for the patient. I could tell it was also very awkward for the doctor. He is fairly young, this doctor, in a field where he sees very sick people all day long.

I had seen the patient before in the waiting room. I suspected he had cancer by the color of his skin. It also looked like he had gone bald from chemotherapy. He was also being pushed around in a wheelchair and had oxygen. So there was far more than just heart problems going on here.

The doctor started off by saying “Sorry to hear about the diagnosis and stuff.” And then he asked the patient if he wanted to continue treatment he was on, assessing what was valuable and what wasn’t. With a stage four cancer diagnosis, you have to reassess everything. Some treatments are just more hassle than they are worth. Some are worthless. They had to make some hard decisions. Cure wasn’t an option. Just easing symptoms. Palliative care.

I thought how hard it has to be to be a doctor and go from patient to patient, from hard thing to hard thing. Of course he’s a cardiologist and people get sick and die. They’re not here because they’re well. I am one of the few patients who is well and is doing well. In part I go to a cardiologist because I want to stay well. But I am unusual. I believe in prevention, rather than cure.

The doctor came to visit me next. He was in a rush and wanted to get right into the exam. I asked the doctor when we had a pause how he goes from one patient to another when it’s a hard thing. He looked at me briefly and he said “You just get used to it.” That really wasn’t what I was expecting. I was hoping he would say something useful like “I pray” or “I do yoga”. But he just said “You get used to it.”

I could see later that he was shaking. You don’t get used to it. You don’t get used to carrying heavy burdens. And when you know that someone you know, even if it’s just a patient and not someone you love, is going to die soon and in a ugly way then it’s a heavy thing to have to carry.

The only way of getting rid of these feelings that are hard is processing them. It’s not about ignoring them or about running away from them. That it is not dealing with them.

Hard feelings are just like having to go to the bathroom. We have to know what to do when we have that feeling in our body. Stress is the accumulation of a lot of hard feelings that have not been processed. Stress is like poop. If you don’t get rid of poop it will build up and you will become very sick. If you don’t get rid of the anger and the sadness and the fear it will back up and you will also become very sick. There are ways to process it at the time, but the best thing is to learn how to not store it at all.

I do that by my practice. Part of that is exercising and by eating well daily. I get enough sleep. I make sure that I am strong enough to be able to handle these feelings when they come to me. Praying and reading the Word daily helps too. When something does surprise or overwhelm me, I remember to return to my routine and my practice. I remember to pray. I remember to do yoga. I remember to do art. I remember to write.

When something extra difficult happens, not the everyday sort of stress, I make sure to set aside a little extra time to do all of those things. I may paint a painting specifically for that purpose. I may write a poem just on that issue. I’ll write more, even though I may not publish it. I have to process it or it will process me.

Think of a food processor – something is going to get ground up into little bits. I’d rather have some say as to what gets ground up. You don’t just “get used to it”. If you don’t process something hard, it will use you up and wear you out. It will wash you away until you are nothing.