Fostering Resilience in Our Patients and Ourselves
By Montiel Rosenthal, MD, FAAMA
AAMA Board of Directors
Resilience is not something we normally write in a prescription for our patients. I have not seen it on any advertising or on the web page of a medical acupuncture office. It is not usually expressed as such in resolutions for personal change. It does not come from a pill. You will not find randomized controlled trials affirming it and acupuncture. We do not administer it, but we can foster it among our patients, for ourselves, our families, and the communities where we live. It does not come at the tip of a needle. Or does it? At least metaphorically or spiritually?
As I am writing this, my first patient of the morning arrives. She is in her late thirties, a wife and mother of teens, a home health nurse, and as someone living with the vagaries of Neurofibromatosis 2. Her craniotomy for a meningioma and cervical spine surgery for a schwannoma have left her with scarring and myofascial pain. Allopathic remedies, including physical therapy, muscle relaxers, anti-depressants, and Botox injections, have provided only limited relief.
She has learned the hard-won lessons of chronic disease — to choose her response to adversity, to live in the present with hope for a life filled with meaning and blessings, to cultivate healthy relationships with family and friends who are her champions, to control what is in her power, to be self-aware, and to engage in self-care. Certainly, she brings her own strength of character. I am challenged to bring intent, caring, compassion, and competency.
Her eyes and voice are animated today, as she shares her “discovery“ that acupuncture really makes a difference for her in terms of pain control and also her outlook on her future and her family. Success builds on success in terms of pain relief, freedom of movement, and fewer aggressive interventions. I am delighted with her growth, and I and am gratified by being a catalyst for these changes for her.
How do we foster these and other aspects that lead to resilience among our patients? To what extent do our efforts inspire commitment, a positive outlook, consistency, coping, equanimity, confidence, healthy challenge for inner growth, courage, compassion, and integration of body, mind, psyche, and spirit? How do we help our patients identify their sense of purpose? How do we affirm their growing physical, emotional, social, and mental flexibility? How do we endorse that who they are is enough and what they bring is sufficient? And as healers and physicians, how do we do these things for ourselves as well?
I wish you success with your patients and delight on your own journey.