Over the years, patients have asked how my practice as a chiropractor evolved into Homeopathic Medicine and Kairos Therapy. My story includes many personal anecdotes because I believe the emotional side of medicine is a requisite for healing. Raising my children using Homeopathic Medicine and seeing lives transformed through Kairos Therapy have been pivotal for me.
I was the third of nine children, born extremely cross-eyed. In our culture, crossed eyes earn a lot of taunts, surgery, eye patches, glasses and a bad feeling about yourself.
But there was an upside. When you’re cross-eyed as a youngster, you don’t develop depth perception, so I began to see things differently from other kids. I remember walking with my dad at age three and asking why I had to take so many more steps than he did. This and other "unusual questions" got me into kindergarten a year early, and there the taunts began. Sometimes kids at school called me a bookworm because I squinted through thick glasses and tilted my head to focus really hard. I thought (hoped) I looked more like a scientist.
But not a real doctor. My mother worked for an orthopedic surgeon, and I babysat for many doctors’ kids. So like most people in our small town of Newburgh, New York, we thought of doctors as nice, authoritative men with pretty wives and well-behaved kids. (Sounds sexist, I know; Dr. Crabtree, my first pediatrician, was a woman, but she didn’t marry, which at the time made her closer to a man.) Generally, medical careers for women were limited to nursing and dental hygiene.
Soon things began to happen that I could only call "Wow!" Stories, because there was no explaining them according to Western medicine. Gradually I changed from a well-behaved "good girl" to a healthcare practitioner who questioned everything. Chiropractic medicine appealed to me because I like to work with my hands and was drawn to the chiropractic interface with the nervous system. I took the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test, required for Chiropractic College), got a high score and applied for admission with great excitement
"But Jan, you could be a real doctor," said my mother when she heard my score, thinking of the M.D. she worked for. "Mom, I don’t want to be that kind of a ‘real doctor,'" I said. "I want to be a chiropractor." There was also a hint (just a hint) of spirituality to chiropractic medicine that I wanted to explore.
Years passed, and I found myself asking whether any kind of medicine treated the whole being -- the body, mind, heart and soul together. This was not a question chiropractors asked out loud. Only when I began exploring what was for me the unknown -- first homeopathy, then Kairos -- did I begin to grasp the true practice of healing.
Along the way, you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that in Native American cultures, crossed eyes were seen as the mark of a potential healer. Native American medicine women -- the real doctors of their time -- treated the physical and the spiritual as intrinsically related. That may be what I’ve become.
1. In my 20s, I was laid low by acute lower-back pain. Matt, an M.D. I respected, told me to lie in bed for three weeks and call him if it still hurt. But this was the month of May: I was a Montessori teacher in love with 25 kids age 3-6 and only four weeks of school left. Missing three of those weeks was not an option in my world. So, I put Matt's advice aside and started asking around, and three days later despite my worsening condition a friend carried me into a chiropractic office in Harvard Square. After an exam and a 30-minute, very gentle and subtle treatment, I walked out on my own. I didn’t leap out, or do handsprings, but I walked. Wow! I thought to myself. Why didn’t Dr. Matt send me here?
2. In my 30s, I came down with severe strep throat, not uncommon for me in February. M.D.s cultured the throat on Thursday, said the results would be back on Monday and, if positive, antibiotics would follow (at the time, the dangers of antibiotic overuse were not known). By the time Monday rolled around -- and the results were indeed positive -- I was already 75 to 80% better. With no medicine. The doctors shook their heads, not believing their own findings, but I was exhilarated. Seeing my body cure the throat infection on its own was for me another big step away from blind faith in conventional treatment. Western medicine had basically said that without antibiotics, I would be in deep trouble. But if the reverse was possible, I wondered, what else was?
3. I became pregnant with our daughter Sarah during Chiropractic College, and when my professors suggested that I consider a home birth attended by a midwife rather than an obstetrician, the idea held great appeal. Midwives were women trained specifically in the art of helping other women give birth, at home, unimpeded by mechanical devices and doctors' schedules that tended to interfere with the body's intrinsic knowledge about childbirth. I liked the fact that most midwives had gone through the birth experience themselves. My own hospital experiences (three surgeries!) had been none too pleasant.
Most important to me was this question: Birth is a natural process, so why make it a medical problem? My mom had been in the hospital for all of her nine births, but her labors were short and uncomplicated, and I wondered: Had she really needed to be in hospital? It seemed to make sense that my labor might be like hers. If complications arose, then we could go to hospital. Why act as though obstacles and mishaps would occur before it was so?
Sarah was born after six hours of labor in our own bed, with our wonderful midwife Pat Mitchnick, who quietly and knowledgeably supported me at every step, and with my husband and several friends in attendance. No drugs, no monitors, no episiotomy, no stainless steel or bright lights. No code reds. Serene. Calm. What a blessing. Wow! (See more "WOW" experiences on the Kairos page and the Homeopathy page.)
LOOKING BACK: HOW THINGS SEEM TO ME, AND MAYBE FOR YOU
So what’s the point of all these "Wows"? When my strep went away on its own, that changed my perspective. When I was able to walk out of the chiropractic office at Harvard Square, that changed my perspective; when blisters on my arm disappeared within an hour, that changed my perspective.
In each case, the message was, There’s much more available in healthcare than what I’ve been taught to believe. I kept asking questions that cropped up in traditional medicine because I wanted to know all the answers, not pretend there were only a limited few. I couldn’t ignore the evidence in my own small life that things may be different than we’re told. After all, if we don’t trust our own experience, then what shall we trust?
This is what I mean by the big picture: In our culture, people are trained very young to not trust our own experience, mainly our experience of emotion. We are born with infantile cognition, meaning that intellectually we know very little as babies; but we also begin life with emotions fully formed. Just watch the face of a newborn for an hour: Dancing across that face are the full expressions of all our human feelings. (We're taught that these expressions are nothing more than the buildup of gas or the need to mimic the smiles of adults, but let's question that one, too. In my experience, paying attention to the real feelings of babies as we view them reaps untold rewards as they get older.)
In fact, as we all get older, we're shamed out of inconvenient emotions, coerced or manipulated into acting one way when we feel another. This is endemic to our culture and happens so early that not knowing what we’re really feeling is the status quo, the desktop of our lives.
One of the things that happens in both a Kairos series and a homeopathic cure is that this awareness of who we are and what we feel returns. We call that empowerment, a word that's become hackneyed in modern life but still does mean something: knowledge of your unique identity rising inside you with no apology, no effort, no power struggles. Empowerment means recognizing your internal judge for the bully it is and removing it from the throne of your life; empowerment means digging out from the isolation of shame and inadequacy and stepping into a sense of purpose, connectedness, joy and compassion.
That’s the default human condition, not shame. That's the secret each of us carries within us every day, awaiting discovery.