“People need to know they have an option. You can focus living in the present moment, or you can get wrapped up in the horrors of the future and let those burden you.” Bernie S. Siegal, M.D.
Back in the olden days of 1998, Love, Medicine & Miracles came out and became an instant classic. The author has also become a classic!
His name is Bernie S. Siegel, M.D. Don’t call him Dr. Siegel. Call him Bernie. <<< A little insight into the man. 🙂
I first wrote about him in a blog post about one of his more recent books, How to Live Between Office Visits. In that post, I shared his bio page from this website. Today, when I plugged the website name (berniesiegelmd.com) into Google, I got (what appears to be) a spam website for prescription meds. Viagra, in particular. Some of the pages appear to be his original pages and others, not so much. So, all I’m saying is to be careful. And, the link I added on his name is from Wikipedia, which I generally avoid. But it makes more sense than a Viagra ad. I’m sure you’ll agree.
This book is SO FAMOUS that you might rightly ask why it took so long for me to talk about it?
It was hard. I mean, for me to read.
It’s not because of the writing, which is kind, clear and engaging. No, it was because of my old foe (or friend?) Health Anxiety.
Digression: I ask the question about health anxiety being a friend because I’ve been thinking about how it affects my life. Most people are afraid of new or strange health tests and machines. Some people are afraid of health tests in general. Some others may be afraid of hospitals. It doesn’t mean that any of them have health anxiety.
Back in the day, before we labeled everything, I knew I had white coat syndrome.
What is white coat syndrome? Some people find that their blood pressure is normal at home, but rises slightly when they’re at the doctor. This is known as white coat syndrome, or the white coat effect. The syndrome gets its name from doctors and medical staff who sometimes wear white coats in a professional setting.
White Coat Syndrome: Causes, Treatment, Diagnosis and More
It wasn’t all the time, nor did it stop me from doing anything.
When exactly did it begin? When did it change?
I know I’ve talked quite a bit about it here… and to be honest … this post is the perfect place to touch on it again.
Here’s what I’m thinking about. I wasn’t always afraid of doctors. Having a grandfather who was a doctor was helpful in that regard. I don’t remember EVER being afraid of going to a doctor or dentist when I was a kid. I maybe *should* have been, given my asthma and hyperactivity. I even had an EEG, which mostly seemed exciting to me. (My mother’s memories might differ!) Nope, they said it was “just me” being spazzy on asthma meds.
I also don’t remember being afraid of medical appointments as a young woman.
But then, my sweet OB/GYN retired or for some reason wasn’t available when I had my first child and the doctor who took over was a dick-and-a-half. He yelled at me in the delivery room and said if I didn’t push her out NOW, he was gonna get the forceps and pull her out without anaesthetic. Was this the way of beautiful birth experiences I’d heard about? Sure didn’t feel like it!
During my second pregnancy, I had to wear a heart monitor because my heart was “fluttering”. I remember calling them and saying, “Look at the monitor NOW, it’s happening NOW,” to which they responded, “There’s nothing going on!” Hmmm… can I even trust my body to tell me what’s wrong?
After my second daughter was born, we didn’t have insurance coverage and I went to a free clinic for birth control pills. During my pelvic exam, the doctor asked why I hadn’t mentioned my hysterectomy. The problem was, I hadn’t had one. She couldn’t find my uterus. Yeah, for real. She said some other concerning things… but I couldn’t remember them. She found it, by the way. My uterus, I mean. By the time I left, with birth control pills in hand, I didn’t know which way was up.
Yes, those years were the beginning of a lifetime of not trusting my body, not feeling heard, and having no idea what a good doctor/ patient relationship looked like.
I have a much better idea now but only because of books like this one. In reality, with my own doctor, the relationship could be better. I wish it were.
Geez, I got way off the path there. Kinda. Sorry! But you know what? Another of Siegel’s quotes fits nicely here:
“Long-term survivors had poor relationships with their physicians—as judged by the physicians. They asked a lot of questions and expressed their emotions freely.”
OMG, I LOVE that! Maybe all my questioning is NOT a bad thing? I mean, all the examples I mentioned above were about bad DOCTORS, not bad ME!
But it’s also more than that…
I MUST take responsibility for my own health!
Actually, a paragraph on page 176 also fits here:
We want to be exempt from the responsibility for our own happiness. We often find it easier to resent and suffer in the role of victim than to love, forgive, accept, and find inner peace.
Okay, I think I’m ready to move on now. That was enlightening, wasn’t it?
This was a difficult book to read because of the stories, which surround many very sick people. Obviously, reading about healing is wonderful. It’s the diseases-part(s) that are difficult for me. Lots of cancer. Terminal cancer, especially. So scary for me.
However, the thrust of the book is not about DISease. It is about HEALTH.
It’s about the HEALING lessons Siegel learned in his practice.
And therein lies the dilemma. And the cure!
This book is packed-to-the-gills with mind, body, spirit, love, medicine & miracles (See what I did there?). The sub-title says it’s about “Self-Healing” and it ultimately IS about that. With a little help from your friends and family, good doctors, companions on the path, and God.
There are several wonderful things about this book! I loved the section on art and disease. It has literal drawings and makes SO MUCH SENSE. Art therapy is one of my FAVE subjects! If everyone just sat down (when we’re upset) and drew what came to mind, in color, I bet we could change the world.
My other fave thing about the book is summarized in the following…
Siegel shares his own insights of course (throughout the book) but he also has a short list gleaned in a study by Dr. Kenneth Pelletier –
What do patients who recovered despite great odds share?
- Profound instrapsychic change through meditation, prayer, or other spiritual practice.
- Profound interpersonal changes, as a result: Their relations with other people had been placed on a more solid footing.
- Alterations in diet: These people no longer took their food for granted. They chose their food carefully for optimum nutrition.
- A deep sense of the spiritual as well as material aspects of life.
- A feeling that their recovery was not a gift nor spontaneous remission, but rather a long, hard struggle that they had won for themselves.
Finally, here’s a relatively recent conversation with Siegel. It also fits nicely here. Enjoy!