As many of my readers know, I often think of myself as a fireman, working to put out fires before they do serious damage. My patients come in screaming, “FIRE! HELP ME!” Unfortunately, many of my patients are arsonists, actively feeding the fire I am trying to extinguish. Being a doc/fireman can be awfully frustrating sometimes.
As a doc/fireman, I have a variety of fire extinguishers. My main extinguishers are medications. Others include an assortment of therapies (physical, occupational, and psychological). A three-alarm fire requires not only my full assault with the above therapies but the help of others, my consulting group.
Unfortunately, the arsonists I treat often have their own ideas about how they want to put out their fires; and, many times, their unique demands only serve to fuel the fire that is injuring them.
Some patients refuse medications believing that pills are harmful. It amazes me when a smoker refuses medicinal help due to an irrational belief that pills are toxic; yet, he voluntarily inhales hundreds of known toxins 20 times a day.
Some patients demand medication and shun therapy, even when therapy is a better alternative. “Doc, I just want my tranquilizer, it solves all my problems.” Not really! In many cases, tranquilizers are firewalls, temporarily protecting my patient from being burned by the raging fire. In the case of anxiety, the psychologist has a much better chance of eradicating the fire than I do. In the case of a three-alarm blazing anxiety, my deploying medications along with the psychologist’s therapy is necessary. “Doc, I ain’t seeing no psychologist! They can’t help me”, means just “give me my pills”.
Using the wrong extinguishers may cause as much harm as just allowing the fire to burn on its own. Years ago, we had a fire alarm go off in my office. Firemen streamed through the front door with axes in hand. Luckily, there was no fire and no ax was used. Those axes could have caused a lot of damage if used inappropriately. Giving in to the demand for tranquilizers can lead to a lifetime dependency on those very medications. Being a doc/fireman can be frustrating.
Still other patients come in yelling “FIRE, HELP ME”, then refuse all treatments. They want something “all natural.” What’s more natural than sitting with a therapist, talking about what ails you? “I don’t want to see a therapist.” “What about valerian, it’s all natural?” “Pills”, published earlier this year, addressed these totally unnatural, unregulated, non-FDA approved, manufactured pills. Despite the fact that no one really knows what’s in the capsule, what effects it may have on an individual, how the body processes it, and how it interacts with other substances the patient ingests, people have really bought into this form of witchcraft. Being a doc/firefighter can be very frustrating! By the way, I have a bridge for sale. It’s all natural, made from wood. It’s located in Long Grove. Any buyers?
Being a doc/firefighter can be extremely rewarding! I saw a smoker who was being consumed by a raging fire. His ears hurt, his throat hurt, his lungs hurt, and he couldn’t stop coughing. Just as the real firefighters and paramedics have to deal with victims of fires and just as those victims often succumb to smoke inhalation, my patient had succumbed to smoke inhalation. His was no accidental fire! He actually lit his fire 20 times a day for the last 10 years! I put out his fire and rescued him from smoke inhalation. Once his burns are healed, he will never again smoke. Why? The answer is easy. He loves his wife and children. He would never cheat on his wife or children. When I pointed out that he was cheating on his family 20 times a day, the expression on his face was one of horror. He had never looked at it that way. Sometimes, you win one!
Attention, arsonist! Help me help you! Do not feed the fire that is consuming you! Help me help you by listening to the wisdom of my 30 years as a doc/firefighter. Use all the tools available to you. The life you save may be your own.