As all doctors will recall, the WHO definition of health is
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Like health, there is more to “healing” than just medicines or surgery or therapies. You can be deeply unhappy, and therefore unhealthy, even when you have good money, a good job, a good family and good physical health.
After suffering a complete breakdown that forced me to quit my job, I lived through some years of mind numbing pain, depression, isolation, loneliness and losses (loss of identity, loss of friends, loss of financial stability, loss of career, loss of purpose, loss of inner peace, loss of independence, loss of mobility, and so on). Sorrow and physical pain form such a vicious cycle, each enhancing the other that one may find it impossible to get out of the loop.
My ordeal continues to provide me new insights into how healing is promoted and inhibited, how the mere body language of the physician can affect our healing, how the little imbalances in these little stones can upset our health and we must not lose focus of the complete picture.
You can read about Dr. Lissa Rankin’s “whole health” approach to the person’s well being in these books by her. Below is her interesting talk on how the mind can heal the body. I do not mean that medicines do not heal. But healing is a a process where both the healer has to deeply want to heal and the recipient has to believe they are being healed. The mind has to be in a receptive mode to allow the body to heal. And what makes our mind and body receptive to healing is a multifold approach to health and healing. And when the mind is in unrest, it does not let the body heal totally.
The holistic and comprehensive primary health care are core concepts of Dr. J.E. Park’s books of Preventive and Social Medicine, taught in M.B.B.S. in India. The holistic approach and the importance of providing patient-centered comprehensive primary health care including referral, continuing care and follow-up have been stressed in the Indian Medical Education curriculum.
Holistic medicine becomes even more important to me when I think in the context of H-EDS/JHS. The spine doctor does not look at your knees- how you stand; the foot doctor does not see the elbows that you overextend; the cough doctor does not ask you what other problems you have; the gastro doctor does not know that your knees, wrists and shoulders ache; and so on. As a patient of what is called “a largely benign disease”, I know what it means when you see a benign, non life threatening disease causing “some pain issues” and fail to see what it does to the person, his life and the other people in his life.
When we start treating just symptoms and fail to see the human being who is more than the sum of the “presenting symptoms” – then we fail as healers. Sometime the highly professionalized or highly specialized system can also become a dehumanized system. And to allow patients’ minds to heal, physicians and healers have to give them time, attention and hope, and see them as the whole persons they are.
Here are some more interesting talks by Dr. Rankin: