Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Cranial Sacral Therapy & The Dignity of the Human Person (Pt. 3) - Forgiveness

Several years ago, an endocrinologist performed an upper endoscopy on me without an anesthesiologist. I awoke in the midst of the procedure, repeatedly tried to signal him, repeatedly tried to pull the tube out of my mouth, watched as he obliviously cut bits of my insides out & continued to hurt me for another 20 minutes. I escaped as quickly as possible but when my results were due, I returned. I had imagined spewing all sorts of verbal vitriol at him. Instead, I gravely told him what he had done & requested my results. Upon learning of his failure to provide adequate care, the endocrinologist told me he was surprised at my return. Of course he couldn't say, What a horrible experience for you! I'm so sorry. Please forgive my carelessness. He had been trained to protect himself from a malpractice suit &, after 20 years in litigation, I understand that desire. But had he apologized, I would have benefited. The relationship between medical practitioner & patient is intensely personal. We let medical practitioners do things to us that we would never let our nearest & dearest do. The inability to say, I hurt you & I'm sorry shatters the relationship just as it shattered the relationship with that endocrinologist, just as it has shattered the relationship between me & the former friend who practiced CST on me.

I was not the only one harmed that evening. My former friend was also harmed, horribly. Yes, I live with the repercussions nearly a year later. I walk away when I'm angry, avoid many situations, even to my own detriment, because I fear my rage. I am afraid most of the time & not just of my rage. People don't notice. I learned long ago to hide what I'm experiencing inside. But the fear is real. Almost every day, many times on most days, I must stop & remind myself of what is actually happening: that I am not the center of the universe & have no reason to believe another person's bad humour is particularly directed at me or that my bad humour is reasonable, that guys who make unwanted comments at women exist throughout the world &, unless further evidence tells me otherwise, may be ignored. Conflicts I would have addressed simply a year ago leave me unsure of how to respond. Everything I do, from taking a shower to deciding to call a friend to working on the book I must complete to getting the women's webzine, GlamOfGod, up & running, has become excruciatingly painful. If I had my way, I'd be hiding in a corner where it's safe but life won't let me have that right now.

I also wonder, what the person who was my friend experiences. How does one face the knowledge that while acting in a professional capacity, one has caused another, & a friend at that, great harm? That's a heavy burden to carry. It must be heartbreaking. Perhaps that's why there has never been any inquiry into how I'm doing. And perhaps that's why the person who was my friend does not trust me, feels it necessary to be protected from my rage & blame. I've not shared the rage I feel with my former friend. Rather, I've walked away when I'm intensely angry & clearly stated that I avoided contact so that I wouldn't share that rage. If my former friend asks about CST, I reply but I don't bring it up myself. Ditto anything regarding New Age. When encountering my friend in social situations, I try to be cordial & limit our interchanges. At the same time, I've gone out of my way to assist the former friend in an unrelated way hoping we can find a means to achieve reconciliation; I've made that clear. The reason for the mistrust is that I told my former friend that I had nearly filed a lawsuit because of the failure to disclose the risks & because the practitioner had no training to prevent, minimize or respond to damage from CST. Had I discovered myself in similar jeopardy, I'd be frightened too. But I also told my former friend that I would not be suing because I believe a suit would only be justified to prevent harm to others. That's obviously not enough. My former friend believes to be angry is rage & to blame, even when one is blameworthy, is totally unacceptable.

Certainly, I realize the training my former friend received was deficient. That is something my former friend must address with those who provided training. I've taught dance & hope to do so again. Whether I'm being paid or volunteering, if I ask or allow my students to do something that harms them, even if I honestly don't know that it will harm them, I am culpable for that harm. I've taught cocksure teens who want to force movement for all the same reasons I wanted to force them when I was a teen. Each time I've caught them at it, I've had to reiterate that to remain in my classes means following my rules, have even had to reject some students. I've frequently & probingly questioned students about abilities & pain & then modified movement to protect them. That's my job, my responsibility. Neither the glories of dance, nor my desire to see a person with limited mobility be healthier, nor believing dance is a gift God has given me to share with others overrides my responsibility to protect my students from harm. And lack of knowledge is no excuse. Before I ask a student to do something, I must determine if it's safe & safe for that particular student.

A state license in one of the medical professions indicates qualification to provide medical services. It also means the practitioner understands the ethical demands & ramifications surrounding those services. As a licensed medical professional, my former friend must adhere to higher standards than I must as an unlicensed dance teacher. The failure to adhere to the requirements of one's license, not ignorance of the ramifications of a procedure, determines culpability. There is a positive requirement that a medical professional know before acting & inform the patient of possible harm before proceeding. The endocrinologist who did not know I was awake had the responsibility to understand the anesthesia he administered & monitor me as he performed the procedure. He failed to do so. The CST practitioner, though a friend at the time, had the responsibility to gain adequate training & understand CST's potential for harming a patient with a traumatic past. I can't protect my former friend from being culpable for failing to live up to those professional responsibilities.

No one likes to be blamed. I don't. I want everything I do to be blameless. But sometimes I am blameworthy. Sometimes my actions are wrong. Sometimes I'm blameworthy even when my actions are right. When I began this series, I knew that if my former friend ever read what I've written I'd be responsible for causing pain. I did not know if my friend read my blog & decided to make these posts anyway. I'm making this last CST post even knowing that former friend has read my work & that this will probably contribute to my former friend's mistrust & desire to be protected from my blame & rage (even though I've never expressed rage & continue to seek not to do so to my own detriment). I can't give my former friend what is desired by not assigning blame where blame is due. I can't respect my former friend's dignity by pretending there's no harm, no foul. My former friend can't fix this. But neither would a lawsuit fix this, it would only sap us both. Telling my friend was appropriate & helpful at the time as a way of expressing how serious the situation is. Writing these three posts has also been helpful particularly in bringing me to see that I must continue to tell the truth.

By the way, my posts about CST & the failure to respect the dignity of human person aren't about attacking alternative medicine. After being hyper-medicated for a number of years, I am a strong supporter of alternative medicine. Having a two page list of pills, diagnoses based on grant proposals, some doctors who don't listen & others who don't know how to say, I don't know how to help you, is enough to push anyone to look for alternatives to the medical establishment. But New Age practices are not viable, not if we value our souls more than our bodies. I have gained great benefits from eating a healthy diet of real food, from removing as many traces as possible of foods to which I'm allergic from my diet (difficult to do when soy is a culprit), from looking back at what I found helpful in the past, from following simpler suggestions from doctors who couldn't promise me a cure but only the knowledge to live as well as possible. I've gained from research into how illness I face was treated before there were magic pills, from physical therapy, exercise & finding doctors who are honest with me. The Sacraments, prayer, community & friendship are healing. Six months ago, I ingested 60 mgs of a powerful narcotic each day. Now, I am nearly down to 10. I've cut my sleeping medicine in half & decreased another pain medicine by 25%. There are viable alternatives to blind dependence on established medical procedure. But there is also a dangerous thread of New Age practice that runs through alternative healthcare including massage therapy. Massage therapy is viable. My physical therapist massaged knots out of the muscles in my thigh that came from an old dance injury. But when massage therapy goes by names such as CST, Myofacial Release (MFR), Reiki & a host of others in which "the source of healing is said to be within ourselves" it is no longer medicine at all. Therapists talk of listening to the patient's body, about being guided by what they sense. What they sense cannot be measured or replicated; science cannot comprehend it. Neither do those who engage in such practices submit to the authority of the Church. When the Church pronounces, such as it does in Jesus Christ The Bearer Of The Water Of Life, the response is, my particular type of energy/body/massage therapy falls outside the Church's teaching.

Recently I spent five weeks back east visiting friends & wanted to continue exercises begun in physical therapy. Doing so required that I work out on particular equipment. There was only one gym in the DC area that had such equipment without a corresponding program of CST, MFR & other New Age practices. Transportation to that one gym was five times as expensive as transportation to more local facilities. I spent the extra money. When I was looking for an exercise therapist in Houston to help me build on the work begun in regular physical therapy, I found one within walking distance who ended each session with MFR. After my experience of CST, I knew of the need to to research MFR & knew how to do so. I wasn't surprised that a search on MFR revealed only positive remarks. Looking further, I learned from massage therapists that the developer of the technique sues those who publish negative comments. Then I discovered a journal that had only chillingly positive comments to make:

Tina was my therapist. As I type this, I don’t remember a lot about this session except that at one point Tina had me trapped face-down on the table. Now Tina has a tiny body, but she has a HUGE essence and when she is on top of me holding me down, it feels like I have a brick house on top of me. And I know that she was holding onto the other side of the table adding even more weight on me. I seem to have a lot of “fight” in me so I assume I was fighting or needing to fight. I struggled and struggled to get her off of me. Of course, she was encouraging me to “get away.” I was crying and getting angrier and angrier, and finally got her off of me and swung my feet off the table and onto the floor. I turned and shoved her away and then turned back to the table and shoved it hard across the room and onto its side. I desperately wanted to get away. But there wasn’t anywhere to go. The room was small and this one didn’t have a deck attached. I ran to the corner of the room and shoved my face into the corner. When Tina told me that I was safe and had gotten away, I cried “Then why am I hiding in this f**king corner?” She told me to come out of the corner – to find my power – and that I could stop hiding. It was a struggle for me to stop hiding. But then my beautiful tiger came to me and I found the strength to pull my face away from the corner. I turned from the corner and leaned against the wall. After a moment or so, I slid down the wall and sat on the floor. Tina asked me if she could touch me and I told her yes. I think she started slowly, but she soon was hugging me.  
After reading this journal, I cancelled my appointment to meet with this "exercise therapist" & told her I was uncomfortable with MFR. She replied telling me she only does light MFR. Is there a light version of cyanide? Would I not be a fool even to expose myself to a light version of something that could cause me to go into regression & flashbacks because an exercise therapist with no training in psychology or working with people with traumatic pasts thinks it would do me good? And once I know the danger that lurks behind the acronyms, do I not have a responsibility to erect some sort of  sign to warn the unwary? Doesn't justice demand at least that even though someone who was once a dear friend will be pained because of involvement in such practices? I believe it does. Alternative medicine does not consist in trading truth for a hip New Age acronym that releases memories stored as energy without reference to the needs or desires of the patient. To do so is to take a path I will not walk & my former friend knows that because we've had many conversations about the occasions when I have sacrificed friendship because I cannot follow where a friend is going.

Though I doubt my former friend believes me, as far as possible, I do forgive the transgression committed against me & seek to forgive more each day. We live in an age when we want forgiveness to be the equivalent of spilling a cup of milk when we're four. An I'm sorry or no word at all because another knows we would never intentionally inflict harm ought to be enough. We think forgiveness somehow erases our actions. That's not forgiveness. For forgiveness to be real, transgression cannot be erased or brushed aside. One of the real consequences for those who inflict harm is blame. At four, it's just a cup of milk & a wise adult knows a four year-old is unsteady: not much blame. At eight, the spilled cup of milk is carelessness: more blame. As an adult, when carelessness rises to the level that harm is inflicted, particularly by someone who knows or ought to know better, blame can neither be deflected nor minimized. A dance teacher who asks students to perform movements that harm them is blameworthy. An endocrinologist who fails to monitor his patient is to blame if he harms his patient. A massage therapist who practices CST without understanding the damage that can be inflicted is to blame if the patient is harmed. It is painful to accept that one has harmed another. I know, I've harmed others. By harm, I don't just mean the day-to-day knocking up against one another which can be painful. Neither do I mean the personality clashes or moments of rudeness when one is ill or out of sorts. I mean times when I've failed to live up to responsibilities that I know are mine & caused damage to others. I can't foist the blame for those off on anyone else or lump them with the inappropriate blame others have heaped upon me. Sometimes I'm just to blame & can only seek forgiveness.

I've received such forgiveness & will certainly require it again & again. It's always been painful. And though it's necessary not to inflict pain when possible, forgiveness cannot come through a lie because the truth is unacceptable nor does it preclude the pain that must come when the one who has inflicted harm faces the action done. Facing the reality that one has harmed another hurts abominably. It hurts even more when I myself who have been badly hurt by others & am guilty because I ought to know better than to do such a thing. I think that is mixed up in my former friend's mistrust & desire to be protected from rage & blame, mixed up in my former friend's inability to recognize that I've never offered rage & that blame cannot be removed from the table. I want to take my former friend in my arms & weep at my pain, at my friend's pain, at our shattered relationship. There is a part of me that wants to rewind the months & unmake the damage that we both have experienced but I have not been given that power. My former friend must also bear the cross or not. And that cross includes responsibility for harming me, a/k/a blame. I cannot pretend that I was not harmed nor can I pretend that my former friend is not culpable even if doing so would make the cross feel easier. The cross is hard & real & painful no matter how it comes to be on one's back.

There is hope. My former friend plans to contact the Upledger Institute & inform them that their training is deficient & that practicing CST on a patient with a traumatic past can trigger flashbacks. I hope that contact will include informing the institute that practitioners are certified without being prepared to respond to the damage they can inflict or even to inform patients that they are putting themselves in danger. Even so, as long as my former friend walks a road that embraces the New Age, we will be former friends. Perhaps we can find some other kind of relationship that will lead back to friendship. Perhaps our friendship can be healed & perhaps not. We'll have to wait & see. Certainly, the topics of CST & anything related to New Age are off limits which is fine with me. From now on, I cannot even respond to my former friend's inquiries on such subjects. The wounds cannot heal if we constantly pick at them & I do believe God would use them to heal us both & to heal others. Perhaps someone will abjure CST or some related type of "massage" because of what I've written. Perhaps a massage therapist will stop using New Age techniques: at least some of the therapists on this Network understand some of the dangers of CST & other energy work & ask if it can be practiced by Christians. What God will do only God knows. That He gives me the strength to pick up this new cross, even in faltering fashion, & make it through the day is already a miracle. I'll trust Him to work forgiveness without lies, forgiveness that affirms not only my dignity but the dignity of the human person who harmed me.