I made the comment in a recent post that I would be heading out on a road trip to see my doctor for an adjustment/check-up/whatever you choose to call it. Because of that comment, I was asked the question, “Does going to see your doctor really count as a vacation or a road trip?”
I don’t think I ever really answered that question when it was posed to me. I have thought about it several times since and wondered. Here is what I have concluded…
Road Trip: journey, getaway, vacation by car
Vacation: time off, holiday, getaway
Using the above definitions, one could conclude a road trip / vacation to be a journey, a specified (or unspecified) amount of time taken to ‘get away’ to go on a vacation / a holiday – a time to enjoy, have fun, let ‘loose’ and let go.
Doctor: healer, physician, therapist.
Healer: person who cures, heals.
Therapist: healer, physician
Physician: healer, therapist
Using the above definitions, one could conclude a doctor to be a healer – one who cures. A doctor can be a therapist – one who again, heals – either physically, mentally, or emotionally. The great Physician heals in the way of our spirituality. A doctor of medicine is also known as a ‘physician’,one who heals physically.
So, say I go on this ‘vacation’ or road trip, to see my doctor. The jaunt, or journey south from where my starting point is most definitely constitutes a road trip. First, we travel by car / take a trip down a long, mostly straight roadway. Hence, road trip. Second, it constitutes a vacation for several reasons, of which I shall now explain.
When I think of a vacation, I take time off to ‘get away’. You don’t have to have a 9-5 job, sit at a desk all day, or be the CEO of a large company to take time off in order to take a vacation. You can be disabled, a homemaker, a retired railroad worker and still have to take ‘time off’ in order to ‘get away’. You have to get things in order at home, with caregivers, etc., line people up to take care of things while you are gone, the same as if you were getting paid at a ‘normal’ job. The point is – you’re ‘getting away’. Away from the routine, (. the things that perhaps are getting you down), getting away to get renewed. You’re taking a… ‘vacation’.
It really doesn’t matter where I go, I have found that just a two hour car ride renews me to some degree, especially if I am listening to my favorite recording artists, using the time to pray, or just mulling over ideas I want to develop for a storyline, a new garden design in the backyard, or whatever. However, if I am taking a trip to see my doctor, this is what happens:
I end up going on a vacation. My last visit a week ago was the best vacation I’ve had to my doctor in a long while.
It was the old routine. Sort of.
The regular ‘tests’ were a bit shorter, mainly because he didn’t have all day to do them, not that he takes all day any other time, but he had an intern he was mentoring and explanations for this or that take up a good deal of time. However, not once has he ever made me feel rushed or feel as though he wouldn’t sit and listen to my questions all day if I needed him to and – I know for a fact that his other patients feel the same way.
But, what does he take time for?
Time to heal. Time to cure. Time for therapy.
Time to heal? Well, that’s understandable. Sort of. That’s a doctor’s job, right? To heal and cure? Isn’t that why doctors go to school for so long? So that they can learn to heal people? Aren’t they like – gods?
I don’t think so.
A doctor administers their best expert guess on what is wrong with their patient. A guess on what is needed, based on knowledge from their education and training, and the wisdom they have collected based on experience. They use this knowledge and training, wisdom and experience to aid in, to help and assist with, and also to improve and help with the process of healing. They themselves cannot heal the patient in the sense that whatever their patient’s ailment may be, they can make it disappear.
When a person – whether the doctor himself or the patient he is treating – begins to believe that the doctor can heal/cure said patient, a god has been created and it is an ugly mess for on when that ‘god’ fails.
My doctor does not heal or cure. He knows he is not a god and I think I know him well enough to say that the last thing he would want is for a patient to ever think he has the power to ‘heal’ them. And, as far as a cure goes? I think it is safe to say that almost all of the diseases he treats – movement disorders – are incurable and both he and the patient understand that upfront. He helps to accurately and correctly manage their disease so that while they continue to live with it, they are getting the proper care they need. That may sound sensible, but it is often not what happens to many patients. Spend some time in a support group and you will quickly learn that there are many doctors who just don’t know what they’re treating and still continue to treat ‘it’ (go figure that one out). Some struggle with a pride issue in terms of their caregiving, and there are some who really don’t care about their patients as people but instead view them as numbers.
What my doctor does, however, is administer therapy. And therapy can heal.
No, I am not contradicting myself. My doctor has said on numerous occasions that the diseases he treats involve treating the whole person. What that means is, the patient needs to be treated not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. Why? Because diseases such as Parkinson’s disease doesn’t affect a person just physically. Or mentally. Or emotionally. Neither does diabetes. Or cancer. Or any other disease. A person with any disease often struggles with depression. They can have negative thoughts. Due to their disease, they can now feel like less of a person. They can now feel they have no purpose. They can feel useless. They can feel like an incumbrance, a burden. They can have a lack of self-esteem based on the inability to do the things they once were able to do. Having a disease… well, let’s just say that some days – it can be a major bummer.
A doctor who is intuitive and knows his/her patient well, has taken the time to get to know them well – to some degree. The doctor is able to pick up on his patient’s mood and ask the right questions in order to treat them properly. That may mean an anti-depressant is prescribed or a recommendation to a counselor is given in order to work through fears or overcome nagging, negative thoughts. I, and the other patients under my doctor’s care, are fortunate in the sense that our doctor has a degree in psychiatry (as well as having all his other expertise) and is able to offer care for us emotionally and mentally as he treats us physically. (And, speaking for myself, heaven knows I need all the emotional and mental help I can get.) If a patient is neglected emotionally and mentally, it is a sure fire guarantee that they will suffer physically.
So – back to this road trip / vacation thing and does going to see my doctor fall under this category of ‘vacation’.
Remember I said that a vacation constituted getting away and being renewed? This is what happens when I go to my doctor…
I am renewed. Yes, he adjusts my stimulator (DBS apparatus) and he adjusts my medications, and he shows his intern this and that, and he takes care of the stiffness and pain in my neck and back for another three months, but emotionally and mentally? I am renewed just as much. He asks about this and he asks about that. He suggests this and he advises that. I walk out of his office with more courage, with more life-tools, and with a better mindset of how to deal with what are sometimes the harder parts of having Parkinson’s disease. It is through a greater courage, having the right tools for dealing with life, and the right state of mind, that I find healing. My PD may progress, I may find the following day after my appointment that I am stiffer than the day before, but I am being healed emotionally and mentally and because of that I do better physically.
So – I got away, learned to let go of some more junk, and I had a great visit with my doctor.
Yep. Going to my doctor is not just a road trip, it really is a vacation. A good one.
A version of this article was first published in 2012.