A few days ago I learned my aunt, who until recently was a doctor in a clinic at the UM medical school, has made plans to start a wellness center with a few of her friends.
My mother just returned from her brother’s 60th birthday party in Holland and we had a long conversation about how everyone in the family was doing and what was going on, as I was unable to attend. Turns out one of the ladies that my uncle used to date (who is 29 and married, apparently) is a massage therapist and the three of them, my aunt my mother and this woman my uncle was involved with, all bonded over their involvement with non-western forms of medicine.
I’ve had my fair share of experience with this stuff. My father took some reiki classes once upon a time. My mother is 100% sure she meditated her MS away. I have had a homeopath tell me never to consume milk again. I’ve done meditation classes and all kinds of breathing exercises. But, I have never before faced my family’s role in all of that from my perspective or even really asked myself how I deeply, truly feel about it. I’ve chewed on the whole thing for a few days and I think I’ve come to some conclusions. I think they may also be slightly unpopular opinions.
Allow me to preface:
I will never discredit that there are people who do genuine harm by ignoring proven medicine to get their woo on. I know a few personally who are irreparably confused about modern medicine. I do not condone that. At all. It makes me sick and I feel very weird that I’m about to kind of side with them.
However, as my mother quoted my aunt, we do not know everything there is to know about the way the body works. The words people use for these things do tend to make me want to run in the opposite direction. I can’t get my head around crystal healing ever being a thing people take seriously. But apparently my father is not opposed.* I know the placebo effect is absolutely nuts in what it can do. I was never denied vaccines, in fact I was the first person in my county to get gardasil when it came out when I was 14. I was always taken to my pediatrician or at least the doc-in-a-box, as my mom calls it. I had my bones set when they broke, I had physical therapy when I pulled ligaments. No western measures were ignored. I do not think much alternative medicine is for me, though I do enjoy meditation simply as a way to slow down at the end of a hard day. I mean, meditating is hardly any different than putting on a favorite song and chilling out to it. It’s just got a silly name. I also do not think my family are idiots or even that they haven’t thought this through. These are the people who taught me never to close my mind to something, to ask all the questions I possibly could, to never ever ever stop learning. They are some of the smartest people I know. And they happen to think the placebo effect of some woo is enough to make it work well along side western medicine. I don’t think I disagree. I think I gave my mother an are you fucking nuts look when she told me to put a bar of soap under my sheets because I was getting leg cramps. But I wasn’t open to it. I didn’t think it could work and so it didn’t work. That’s the whole point. If you think it will help, it will probably help. I dont think altmed should be an alternative, but a complement to all the proven wonderful things we have currently. In a perfect world, no one would abuse the practices that help people (for whatever reason they do help some).
I’m just really not sure I can actually stand in the middle here. Is that acceptable? Can I have both? Can I ask for both from the world? I’m a baby skeptic and I’m not entirely sure what the lines are. I don’t want to encourage the harm that is done and I don’t want to stand staunchly against…honestly, pretty much anything.
So tell me, blogosphere, Internet, wide tuby wonder, tell me if I can have both. If not, if this is only a two sided issue, I’m going to have to stay on the side of assurance. If I can’t have both, why the hell not? Explain to me why it’s black and white, if you think it is.
I am not trying to say that any of this actually works(this depends on your definition of works). It has results for some people. It doesn’t work on its own. I think this may be a lot greyer than skeptics would like to believe. I’m just really sure that it’s not all bad. Am I wrong?
*Fun fact, I used to think things like, “At least he doesn’t use crystals.” when he would do something off the wall. Can’t do that anymore.