I’ve just become a doctor, and not the healing kind, but I’ve long been writing prescriptions for sentimentality and exhaustion: Plenty of sunlight, fresh air and exercise; Gin, dancing, etc to re-animate a tired body; A supportive entourage, and the right to refuse propositions from certain individuals who summon you like a genie and drop you like a stone. Most of all, something to awaken the curiosity, make you want to get up and go.
This has been my standard prescription for maladies that go unmedicated: heartache, headache, and the strange dizziness I contracted last year, that made me feel like my feet didn’t touch the ground for months. A friend who was similarly afflicted, told me that in Victorian times our predicament was termed ‘floating woman disease,’ and to this day, no scientific name better describes it. While an MRI scan revealed that there was nothing seriously wrong with me, the white-coats couldn’t do anything to alleviate my lightheadedness. So a friend recommended that I see a cranio-sacral therapist, Mika. Unlike the doctors with their standard medical education, Mika had been a hand-model, an actress, and the inspiration behind a popular love song, as well as a healer. She spoke in dulcet tones and occasionally swore. But, Mika’s touch gave her a clear advantage over the medical graduates: with the lightest pressure she sourced and gently released the tension in my body, enquired about my life, identifying toxic habits, relationships and thought patterns, and frankly advised me to make changes. I can’t help but feel Mika’s personal, holistic approach was the catalyst for me literally finding my feet again.
Michel Foucault reflected how in Ancient Greece medicine was considered an art because it comprised ‘a form of knowledge and rules, a way of living, a reflective mode of relation to oneself, to one’s body, to food, to wakefulness and sleep, to various activities and to the environment.’ Though pills and surgery are far more advanced than they were in ancient times, the idea of medicine as an art that affects every part of our lifestyle is stronger than ever. With the National Health Service under so much pressure and the realisation that we’re likely to live for decades yet, many of us feel responsible for our own health. We look to the media and our peers and conjure up our own prescriptions for all areas of our lives: Fortunes are spent on protein supplements that promise to make us perform like warriors, and his n’ her’s diet and exercise regimes are followed with the hope of enhancing intimacy. Professional healers can guide us in this, but we ultimately have our own ideas.
When medicine is an art as well as a science, the therapist’s manner, appearance, voice and immediate environment contribute to our perceptions of how healed we are. Visits to the GP always fill me with dread: the tepid waiting rooms with their feverish, drooping crowds, and then the often vague diagnosis once you do get seen, feel borderline macabre. Yes, I know we’re so lucky to have free healthcare in this country.
Heck, I even prefer going to the dentist than the GP. My dentist is pragmatic, clean-cut, and wears immaculate navy blue trousers. On my last visit, I went to him to replace my one filling, and had completely forgotten the procedure. (Sorry, there’s no avoiding the innuendo in the next bit). The anaesthetic that turned my mouth to jelly, and the drill, I expected. The blue rubber gag-type thing, I did not. For a second, as I was lying there, gagged, and semi-stoned from the anaesthetic, I wondered if this was a 50 Shades special to coincide with the film’s release. I started to giggle because Heart Radio was playing, and things around me were clean, so I knew I’d be safe, but I had no idea what was happening inside my mouth. Afterwards the dentist told me I’d been a very good patient and that I’d be ‘sensitive’ for until Friday. His diagnosis was refreshingly spot on.
Bewildered by the uncertainty of life, like many people, I’m an unqualified doctor, prescribing cures for those around me. Passion, rest and balance are my bywords. But life is messy, and quick-fix cures seem trite. Sometimes sadness and confusion are necessary, and you have to marvel at the chaos, emerging from it when you’re ready.