In the Integrative and Chinese medicine fields, it's incredibly common that the original drive to train and practice this type medicine came from the practitioner's own experience of illness and receiving help from these approaches where industrial medicine was limited. This was certainly true for me.
I had quite a few different issues (chronic infections, autoimmune conditions, neurological short-circuiting) and whereas industrial medicine was unhelpful for me (to put it mildly), Chinese medicine and Functional Medicine saved my life a number of times and has helped me grow healthier and healthier.
I know this story is quite common.
But what I realized in the last handful of years was an interesting twist. I was struggling with a number of chronic issues and tools and approaches that had helped in the past weren't helping me now.
I was stuck and I was frustrated.
"Simple!", I thought. "Time to do more training! I'll get certified in X. This will help me learn something to get better and of course it'll help my patients, too."
It certainly makes sense on the surface. Feed two birds with one scone and make it a business expense, to boot!
So in the last 5 years:
- I attended advanced lectures in Functional Neurology.
- I did another qualification in Hypnotherapy.
- I did a certification in Brainspotting.
- I completed the Level 1 Internal Family Systems training.
- I bought a laser and trained in using that.
- I completed a certification in Frequency Specific Microcurrent
- I attended several seminars in Classical Chinese Herbs
- I did many advanced seminars in lab analysis.
Did I feel amazing for all that training? 🤣
As I write this list, I can see what a slow learner I am! Clearly the issue wasn't a lack of qualification, clinical skills or information.
What I realize now and why my health is finally better is because I realized something that was quite subtle and missed by me for years:
The process of gaining skills for treating patients and the process of recovering from complex chronic illness are not only not the same. But they don't even have a single step in common. In reality, they have precisely 0 overlap.
Your mind tells you otherwise. That the training you're doing is a way to be diligent about prioritizing your own health while also serving others.
But that's bullshit. It's your mind tricking you into procrastinating on getting better. The ego hates change and loves CEUs.
Attending clinical training when your health is chronically struggling is a form of dissociation. It's actually twice removed from what you're trying to do. Think about it.
Let's say I want to go swimming.
I could jump in the water and paddle.
Or, I could enroll in an online course that teaches the fundamentals of swimming (because hey, most of our training these days isn't in person where we're getting a hands on experience as practitioner or patient anyway).
But we skip that step - we enroll in an online course about how to teach other people to swim!!
We're 2 steps removed from even getting wet!!
Rather than just jumping into the pool and kicking.
And then we go from training to training wondering why we're not better.
Or let's use meditation as an example. A good friend of mine who teaches meditation puts it this way: "It's really simple. Sit down and shut up. I don't know why everyone over complicates it."
But we don't sit down and shut up. We do course after course. We read books. But not even to learn to meditate. To train other people to meditate.
My practice has had at least 50% practitioners and acupuncturists for quite a few years. I think partly this is because I specialize in complex cases and because many acupuncturists are interested in having their labs run but want someone who understands Chinese medicine to offer their perspective rather than a strict functional medicine approach (which I think is a really good Idea, by the way).
But now I'm starting to see it as a little red flag when someone who wants to work with me tells me: "I want to join your group because I'm fatigued, I can't digest anything, I have brain fog and hives. I've had Giardia for 20 years. Oh, and I could really use this information to help my patients!"
It sounds so innocent. So altruistic. So reasonable.
But it's actually keeping you from getting well.
Because from that frame, you're poised to collect more information rather than take consistent actions to get yourself better.
Like reading about how to teach swimming rather than jumping in the fucking pool every day.
Forget about going to that skills seminar to help yourself recover your health. Forget about learning more information to help your patients and telling yourself that you're taking steps for your own healing.
Make these two goals separate in your mind. Because they are in reality.
Follow a strategic process to get well. You can do what you want after, including helping your patients.