I'll admit I am someone who's willing to spend more money on organic produce, natural products and coconut anything. I'll also acknowledge that I'm more likely to be fooled into choosing something just because it claims to be "healthier." But as someone who grew up learning that companies don't always have our best interests at heart, I became skeptical of what I put in my body. And since there's so much contradicting information out there, it's easy to get caught up in the hype.
My fear of western medicine started when I was 17 and was put on birth control for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, a hormonal disorder that revolves around your menstrual cycle. After my prescribing doctor left the clinic, the family doctor who owned it later put up a letter saying he wouldn't prescribe birth control because of its potential side effects and that we would need to find another doctor to provide birth control prescriptions. Unfortunately, I was never able to find one who understood my issues, or my needs.
Over the years I saw countless doctors and specialists, being passed from psychologists to gynaecologists and back. Because my symptoms affected my quality of life so severely for most of the month, I was desperate to try whatever they gave me, ending up on various antidepressants that only made things worse. I remember telling a female doctor that PMDD affected my ability to work, and she just shrugged it off and said I was wrong.
Finally I decided I had enough of relying on doctors to help me and was going to take control of my health – diving into the complete opposite end of where I started.
Three years after changing my diet, exercising daily and reducing stress, my symptoms are much less severe and even manageable. I stopped eating processed food, sugar and dairy, and started doing yoga and meditation. I stopped getting anxiety attacks and migraines around my menstrual cycle, and I have more energy than I've had in a long time. The only western medication that I stayed on was my birth control – I haven't even taken an aspirin since – and even though I tried to wean myself off it, I was completely miserable so I decided to keep what was working for the time being.
What's interesting is that I consulted with a woman from New Zealand years ago who told me that reducing toxins in my body would help ease my PMDD symptoms. At the time, I thought she was just trying to swindle me – but it's been working so far.
And after my poor experiences with western medicine and my new-found discovery of the benefits of holistic remedies, I came to lose a lot of faith in our medical system. Like many people, I was frustrated at the long waiting times, short amount of time with the doctor, and how so much of it seemed like guesswork. I was more confident that I knew my body better than they did. I didn't need a doctor, I had Google.
So when I started getting a rash on my arm that was crusting over, I came to the conclusion that I had scabies – mites that live in your skin. Since I'd had it years ago and remembered the doctor giving me Lindane – a highly toxic medication which isn't often prescribed anymore – I decided to opt for a more holistic route at home. I was damned if I was going to go through the traumatizing ordeal of putting a chemical that said “may cause seizure” on my body for 12 hours, and even the less toxic options prescribed by the doctor said they may or may not work.
So, I bought a large container of coconut oil, a bottle of tea tree oil and grabbed some cayenne pepper from my partner's kitchen. Preparing for battle, I scrubbed the rash on my arm with a mixture of cayenne pepper, tea tree oil, coconut oil and some lavender essential oil as well. Then, I filled a hot bath with cayenne pepper. Yes, cayenne pepper. It burned like you'd expect it to – and let's just say shaving earlier on in the week wasn't a good call – but it got even worse after I dried off.
Afterwards I applied a lotion of coconut oil, tea tree oil and lavender essential oil lotion to my entire body – and already I felt like I'd been through war. Not only did my asshole feel like it was on fire, but I couldn’t imagine having to smell this shit every day for a month.
When my partner – who drinks more Coke than coconut water – came home from work hours later and told me I looked like I had a hard day, I was already feeling defeated. The burning hadn't stopped, I washed off the tea tree oil hours ago and according to the advice on Google, these treatments – or even the ones from a doctor – might take months to work.
I hated the idea of wasting my time at the clinic when I already knew what I had – or I thought I knew – but I also hated the idea of doing this for longer than I needed to and giving my partner scabies as well, so I agreed to get treated with the same western medicine together.
When the doctor greeted us in his office and started looking at my arm, I was expecting him to quickly write me a prescription for scabicide. But as I told him nonchalantly that I was pretty sure it was scabies, he said that's not what it was.
Guess what I had? Fucking eczema.
Once I started using a steroid cream my doctor prescribed, my eczema got considerably better. There's no doubt that scrubbing cayenne pepper on my skin not to mention bathing in a hot bath filled with it had made it entirely worse.
Not only did I not have scabies, but all I had to do was use a light layer of this cream.
I realize now that not going to the doctor was foolish and just added more stress, and in the future I'll keep that in mind. But this experience has also taught me that not only is the information out there conflicting, but we need to change the way the medical system works because of it.
Western medicine is a great contribution to society. As a preemie, it saved my life, and as an adult it helps reduce my PMDD and eczema. It's not necessarily pharmaceutical drugs that I don't trust – it's the doctors who are quick to dish them out without knowing much if anything about their patients. It's the poor experiences that I've had in the past that have left me still searching for a doctor who understands my needs and the fact that I had to take my own initiative to take back my health despite being told that doctors know what's best for us. And I'm not the only one who feels this way.
We're increasingly hearing more about people who are treating themselves and their children holistically rather than using western medicine – whether it's people who have died trying to treat cancer naturally, children whose lives were cut short because they weren't taken to the hospital, or all the hype on the internet that the pharmaceutical industry is in the business of making money rather than actually treating illnesses. More and more people are scared of going to the doctor.
Society is starting to see the cracks of our system – that a lot of our food is bad for us, that a lot of our products are toxic and our medicine isn't one-size-fits-all. Perhaps we need to think back to the origin of western medicine and realize that holistic remedies are how we got here in the first place. Achieving good health is done through more than just taking a pill. Of course we still need doctors to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs, but we also need them to look more in depth at how we treat our bodies and not just hand us a prescription 10 minutes after seeing us. I think then we'd be able to build back the trust in our medical system – and fewer people like me would misdiagnose themselves.
Image credit: Sara/CC