I believe in going Upstream…

For years I’ve gone against the grain: I’ve never been happy with the fact that ‘this is just the way things are’ or ‘good enough is good enough’. I like facts that are black and white, or follow a specific pattern, I’m perplexed and questioning of ambiguous constructs. As you can imagine, my parents thought about giving me away a few times, and some teachers may have reported finding me an exasperating student, but I’m still looking for answers.

I stumbled across a Ted Talks by Rishi Manchanda and I feel a new sense of excitement for I am no longer a lone voice trying to articulate something that I don’t quite understand! Not only are there other advocates of challenging how the healthcare system* works in the Western world, but some of them are recognised professionals in the healthcare system and they DO have the language!

The synopsis of the talk is this:

There are three friends out for a walk one day and they come across a river where they notice lots of children in the water heading towards a big waterfall and drowning. The first friend jumps in to start rescuing children closest to the waterfall, throwing them onto dry land one by one out of harm’s way – he is the equivalent of a trauma surgeon intervening at crisis point. The second friend assesses the situation, then builds a raft and throws it in to the children a bit further up so they can stay afloat – he is the GP, doing what he can with resources available at any given time. The third friend walks off. She** walks up towards where the water is flowing from to find out why the children are in the water, to see what is throwing them in. She is seeking prevention upstream.

The point Rishi makes, is that not many health care practitioners look upstream. Many do not have the time, training, skill, resources or confidence in opening that can of worms. This is a whole topic in itself which I am not qualified to address. Rishi suggests that maybe an entire family can suffer from breathing problems and appear to have weak lungs, so a genetic cause is suspected and medication provided. But perhaps they are living in a damp property where the landlord refuses to do anything about he mould on the walls.

Over the years, I’ve become increasingly aware and frustrated that so often, people are offered a solution to the symptoms which doesn’t actually address the cause. The simplest example is that when you have a headache you may take paracetamol. I ask you: do you consider why you have the headache – are you dehydrated, suffering withdrawal from something you usually put in your body, have stress, have you been on your feet all day, are you constipated, is the weather humid…? Some of those causes can be treated easily without chemicals, as mouldy walls will not be cured by an asthma pump.

There is so much we just do not know about the human body. If anyone out there can explain to me why some women suffer from PMT / severe menopausal symptoms while others do not, I’d genuinely be eternally grateful. And if anyone could explain exactly how the gut, nervous system and brain interact to register pain I’d be engrossed for as long as that explanation takes. Until either of those things are explained to me, I will have a certain level of cynical disregard for any healthcare provider who tells me that the only answer is to take painkillers or nerve blocks.

As a holistic therapist, I look at the whole person. Reflexology helps the body to rebalance thus encouraging self-healing, alongside which, some simple changes to diet and lifestyle can help alleviate all kinds of ills. The more I study, and the more I live, the more convinced I become that the answer lies Upstream.  I might be described as a royal pain in the arse on occasion, but for what it’s worth, I’m going to keep looking Upstream. Because no amount of ibuprofen will regulate my pain receptors, sleep pattern, energy levels, blood pressure…..

Note:563968_10200837122950594_1855185710_n* – some people refer to the ‘healthcare system’ as a ‘sickcare system’ as it rarely aims to keep people at optimum health, preferring to treat the main symptoms of sickness.

** – I labelled the third person as ‘she’ for a good reason. In Community Work, we are taught that women are usually the ones who keep society together for they are the child carers, the informal educators, the information sharers and the ones seeking improvements for the future.

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