Sunday, November 04, 2007

Pt 5- My Journey

After the first trimester of Chiropractic school it dawned on me that nobody had any objectified method for practicing. At that point I thought briefly about dropping out. By the near mid-point of the curriculum I lost interest in the purely biomechanical approaches of chiropractic because I decided it was unnatural to manipulate the spine on a regular basis, and frankly, I didn't like being adjusted myself and found no reason to be. This led to a crisis for me, where I had nowhere to go but the metaphysical route. At that time I was heavy into yoga and meditation and the metaphysical realms of Chiropractic were imbedded in the same foundations of spiritualism that I was getting involved with. I paid exhorbitant sums to attend seminars on things that were so kooky I couldn't believe anyone would buy into it. I developed a sense of "groupthought" with the people I was surrounded by and blamed myself for "not getting it" instead of realizing that it was the people I was surrounded by who were delusional. But I was trapped.
I remember sitting in my apartment one incredibly hot and humid Iowa summer with the air conditioner blaring, laying on the couch in my underwear. My shirt and tie and slacks were laying on the floor and I was supposed to be at the student clinic getting credits to graduate. But I sat there in a state of bewilderment wondering what in the hell I was doing there. I was not accumulating the credits to graduate because I could not stomach the absurdity of the student clinic. I decided not to go to the clinic at all, and I eventually barely got the credits I needed.
At a talk by the school's president the huge crowd stood and roared with enthusiastic smiles and clapping. I stood just to avoid looking weird. I looked at my friend Diane and said sadly, "I don't want to be a Chiropractor". I called my friend Maria and told her that I did not want to be a Chiropractor.

For the next 3 years after graduation I was in a state of living torment and profound cognitive dissonance. I did not have any desire whatsoever to practice Chiropractic. My goals was to try to pay off my student loans as quick as possible and live like a monk to do it. I took an associateship position making good money and after 2 months found my throat muscles literally locking up from my conscious inability to continue telling people things I knew weren't true. I quit out of the blue, for my health. They offered me more money, and I declined. The guy I worked with made 600k a year, doing what a chimpanzee could do.

But I was deep into spiritualism. I lived my life as a servant of God, the universe. I blamed myself perpetually for doubting Chiropractic, believing that this profession was god's calling for my life, and I just "didn't get" something everyone else did. The only way I could keep making sense of it was to blame myself. I would call and talk to every Chiropractic friend I had and tell them that I didn't want to be a Chiropractor, and every one of them would explain to me that I "just didn't get it", that I "just needed to have faith", or needed to "trust the Universe". I believed them. Once again the cognitive dissonance was overwhelming. What I believed concerning spirituality was so at odds with the actual reality of Chiropractic that I couldn't place the two together, but I knew I had to find some way to do this or be out 100k-300k and end up on a park bench.

I tried weakly to start my own practice on the cheap. My heart was far from into it. I thought that by meditating I would get an epiphany from God that would see me through. I didn't believe in any Chiropractic techniques so I literally invented my own and got the same apparent "results" as anyone else. I remember one family I helped bring together with my care, the father was a brilliant Microsoft programmer who became an alcoholic and the wife hated her job and wanted to quit and move on. The daughter was very smart, but underperformed in school. Somehow I brought these people together by touching them and caring for them and they thought I was God. They made profound changes in their lives, and I felt so incredibly sick inside doing pure quackery and having it do such great things for people. I couldn't hold up the illusion. I couldn't live this way, but it's God's desire for my life, I thought. I have to live this way. It's all my fault that I can't.

I took menial jobs while halfheartedly trying to start a practice. I lived with my parents. The pressure and embarrassment was cooking me alive. Everyone wondered why I had such a problem with Chiropractic. Why was I such a loser? Why was I living at home when I was 27? Why didn't I just practice like everyone else did?

I contemplated suicide.


wcm said...

I really sympathize. I've been a chiropractor for some time (NEVER came close to making the $'s you did) and the cognitive dissonance in this profession is exactly as you describe.

However, you have experienced a dichotomy

1) Some of the lunacy is embarrasing but speaks more of the ease with which people can get into chiro. school and their lack of critical thinking.

2) Some of the 'procedures' are indeed wacked (ibid.)

However you did what others could not with that family. It wasn't BS and it wasn't voodoo. You can't explain it but that doesn't invalidate that you can 'deliver'. Chiropractors do consistently succeed where 'real' doctors fail, sometimes in spite of themselves/ourselves. There is also demonstrable and peer-reviewed innovation among our ranks, witness ART or Biophysics among many.

You're showing real class in challenging assumptions. If people like you were the norm there would be fewer and better chiropractors and we wouldn't feel so embarrassed about the profession and the detractors wouldn't have their wonderful examples to magnify.

So who can blame you for getting out? Just remember, the detractors are as dishonest as some of the people who share our degrees. The innovations and contributions of chiropractors are real. But the negativity quotient, from both inside and outside, is too high to hang with. I tell students not to consider chiropractic as a career.

Good luck;

wcm said...

signed, Wm. Moser, DC