A few years ago, after a series of cascading injuries and illnesses that rendered me unable to type, drive, or sleep, I briefly became a professional patient. Like all of my professions, I took it seriously. I went to appointments armed with lists of well-researched questions written down neatly on my yellow legal pad, brought in the occasional medical journal article, and compiled detailed descriptions of my array of increasingly bizarre symptoms.
My goal was to get my doctors to take me seriously so they would dive into the complexities of my case. I wanted to walk out of every appointment one step closer to determining the underlying cause of my mysterious condition and with concrete strategies to ameliorate my suffering so I could work, sleep, and live my life again. Inevitably, though, I instead was handed the same thing over and over—a prescription for mindfulness.
My primary care physician told me to download guided meditation MP3s from the clunky hospital website; my therapist insisted that I do deep breathing exercises even though they triggered my mysterious abdominal spasms; and the pain clinic declined to do “any interventions” at all, instead vaguely suggesting mindfulness. The pain clinic’s message was clear—after two appointments and a clean MRI, I was being dismissed. From now on, managing my pain was my responsibility, not theirs.
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