Hippocratic Oath – the famous and widely known Oath of Greek Medical Texts. Each new Physician was required to swear upon a number of healing Gods that he/she would uphold numerous professional & ethical standards. As the centuries have passed, this sacred Oath has been re-written to suit the needs of different cultures and the changing times. Although it is no longer a standard of practice in modern medical schools, some still have adopted a more modern version of the Oath that is more relevant to the 21st Century.
“First, do no harm.” Is a well know phrase that is commonly attributed to it; although it is explicitly missing from the newer versions. I do not believe that the intentions of Hippocrates was to have Physicians enter into a practice as intimate and integral as providing potential life altering advice and/or recommendations – without the expressed agreement to “do no harm”. Common sense says that regardless of whether the words are spoken out loud, in a graduation ceremony or an unspoken expectation – it is exactly what we expect. Often it is not what we receive; whether intentional or unintentional.
Don’t get me wrong, my doctor uses treatments to help the sick according to her own ability and judgement, never with intent to do wrong or injure. She helps the sick, she councils the unwell and she administers medications and advise as she deems necessary for what ails you. Quite truthfully, my doctor has been an integral part of the journey I am taking towards recovery from my Mental Health issues. Never once has she, made assumptions, jumped to conclusions or belittled me with judgement. She is the first to admit that she is navigating uncharted waters, Eating Disorders are more an after thought in medical training, therefore we learn as we go together. I can not express enough gratitude or caring for the woman with whom I have come to rely on for the medical side of this roller coaster ride. The same can be said of my Psychiatrist; she has an alphabet soup of letters, and titles after her name on the door – none of which are protector; but that is the title that has the most relevance in our relationship. My immediate care team is why I continue to trudge on, with reluctance, animosity and sometimes down right defiance; but they accept that from me as they have just enough hope to make me believe there is an after to where I am now.
Such compassionate and supportive roles, are not always filled by those tasked at assisting the populace facing Mental Illnesses. I have been witness to the tears and defeat that overwhelm the mind and body of members of my Eating Disorder Community. I have held hearts, hands and spoke the words of reassurance to my sweet Soul Sisters & Brothers; as they have left an appointment with the drowning emotions of failure, discouragement, and the label they’ve given themselves of a down right F^&* Up.
There are no mysteries as to the impact that mental illness, in my case, specifically an Eating Disorder, can have on us; from the occasional dizzy spell to death – we know. We feel the weight of disappointment of our spouses, as we continue to engage in behaviours; spending hundreds on food only to purge it all away and being too “fat” or “unattractive” to engage or enjoy intimacy. We live with a veil of guilt surrounding us for the impact that our absence, lack of engagement and behaviours may have on our children. We know. Knowing isn’t an effective treatment option. Knowing cigarettes cause Cancer does not deter smokers from engaging in a butt as the urge hits; nor has it prevented the government from selling them. Yet the judgement is undeniable… the expectations are unquestionable…we know the consequences therefore our actions are characterized as unacceptable.
The key to Health is connection, community and love. As we enter an office to bare our burdened souls – come to us with compassion and not judgement. It is not necessary to explain the outcome of our actions week after week. Stating facts and figures, statistics and aftermath. In the history of Guilt, never has it been a motivator. A stern warning of where we are headed… does not stop the trajectory of our path. For me I found this road less travelled through the withholding of love, praise and acknowledgement from my parents. Unintentionally, they pointed me towards this spot. And it is the place I have build my life around. My parents loved me, and gave me more than they ever received from their own parents – there is a degree of accountability that can be placed on them but responsibility does not equal blame.
Walking into the intimate and safe environment of your Physician, whether it be medical or mental – is to be placed in a space of opportunity. A room to air your actions, fears and truths. It is your Physician’s responsibility to “do no harm” – this includes the harm that comes with the type of council that leaves the heart more sure of our unworthiness, and the judgement that confirms our most abusive conversations in our head. Reciting our flaws and downfalls breeds the perfect place for our disorders to thrive.
We are all just doing the best that we can. Us with our desires to understand our illnesses, to make sense of our chaos and to accept the pace with which our recovery comes to us. And the Medical Staff with their ongoing treatment in a world of the unknown, undiscovered and unexplainable.
I will be your patient – and you will be patient with me.