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Curing and Healing

Driving to the restaurant where my college was hosting a luncheon to honor retirees (me!), I tuned in to the tail end of a show on National Public Radio about a new hospital that recently went into business. All the rooms are singles so the patient has more control over creating a healing environment for him or herself. And, as I understood it, meals are cooked fresh every day at the hospital kitchen. Imagine–a hospital that honors nutrition as a key component of healing!  Apparently, the director is getting flack because it will cost more to maintain. Yes, he said, in the short run, but in the long run costs go down. He seemed to be saying that it’s worth investing in healing, not just curing.

At the retirement party, I mentioned to a colleague my new adventure increasing public awareness about PTSD and infant surgery without anesthesia or proper pain control. He told me that a dear friend of his had had cancer and that the many specialists who still follow her case discuss her physical condition in a professional and effective way but never once discussed with her the psychological, spiritual, or emotional aspects of having and coping with the disease. When I told him the saying, a cure is not a healing, he held my gaze for a long time. His eyes told me everything. His friend was not healed. In fact, he thought she had some PTSD from the cancer treatment.

Another colleague I spoke to is a learning disabilities specialist. I told her I suspected that many learning disabilities result from PTSD that a student may unsuspectingly have from early trauma. She corroborated this view. Many students can’t sit still or focus or stay with a task over time; many of our students have difficulty reading, for example. I know that learning disabilities are complex and varied and no two students are the same, but after almost twenty years of teaching English in a community college serving largely inner city, at-risk youth who experience the deaths of friends, lovers, and family members in drive-by shootings and who have witnessed the deterioration of parents and family members, themselves included, from drug and alcohol addiction, I know that trauma has affected their ability to learn.

Another colleague said that he thought my work would be successful because the message I want to impart is best communicated by someone like myself who has experienced PTSD and early trauma rather than a psychologist or a therapist presenting a talk about this subject. He thought I could have a greater impact, for a professional might not want to share a story of his or her own personal struggle. In any case, I’m getting out there. Wish me love and luck!

When Medical Professionals Wound

Whenever I tell someone of the new direction my life is taking–public speaking about PTSD Awareness and Self-Empowerment, teaching Writing as Healing workshops, and teaching reflective writing at a nursing program or medical school–I am often given a story in return. It’s usually after I mention that the field of medicine is undergoing a change… Continue Reading