Tales from the Practice of Medicine: Addiction to Medicine (Part Two)

Yu Ling

PureInsight | July 11, 2005

[PureInsight.org] A year and a half ago, when Tyler came to me for treatment for the first time, she left me with a strong impression. She was as slender as a ballerina and she had a beautiful head of long hair. She came only once, and then she disappeared. When she returned a year and a half later, I could hardly recognize her. She had gained a lot of weight. Her hair was messy and uncombed. She wore a lot of makeup and looked ten years older. She even had bags under her eyes. Her eyes looked dull and out of focus.

After applying the acupuncture needles, I examined her back carefully. The first things I noticed were white and brown marks in strips that covered almost 2/3 of her back.

"Did you burn your back?" I asked Tyler.


"How did you develop marks on your back?"

"I have no idea," said Tyler. "At first the marks appeared on small areas of my back. Then they began to spread out. Now they are almost all over my back."

Then I suddenly remembered that I had treated a patient with the same problem before. It was a special type of herpes zoster. The symptoms of the patient's herpes zoster were hidden, which made it difficult for the doctor to detect. The symptoms started with the patient's back and would surface when the patient was tired and when the patient's immune system became weak. The virus is hidden in the patient's vertebra. It is very difficult to treat this type of herpes zoster.

Herpes zoster causes the patient excruciating pain. That was why Tyler had been experiencing such severe back pain. She was not suffering from the common back pain or sciatica like her doctors had thought. The pain was caused by herpes zoster. Because all of her previous doctors failed to identify it was herpes zoster, they gave her all the wrong treatments and surgeries. Now Tyler has become terribly ill with herpes zoster untreated for two years.

Starting from that day when I finally identified the root cause of her pain, Tyler finally began to make recovery. However, getting rid of the addiction to painkillers is as painful as getting rid of addiction to drugs. One cannot call it quits and close the case. One's body responds to the lack of medicine. For example, Tyler would experience sudden drops and rises in body temperature, anxiety and pain. Therefore, I taught Tyler to take deep breaths and to practice sitting meditation. I also told her to tie herself to the chair. I told her not to take painkillers no matter how much pain she might feel.
At first, Tyler was very skeptical about my diagnosis and my treatment because no doctor had ever told her she suffered from herpes zoster. Three days later she began to feel increasingly clear-minded although she experienced a lot of pain. With each hour that went by, Tyler felt a layer of pain being removed from her body. Three week passed and Tyler did not touch any painkillers or tranquilizers.

I started talking to Tyler about doing exercise and improving her diet. Then I talked to her about starting cultivation practice. I told Tyler to borrow the book about cultivation practice from the library and then we could continue our discussion after she finished reading the book. At the time when I wrote this article, Tyler was still continuing her medical treatment with me. She was still battling with herpes zoster, but at least she was making recovery and was no longer feeling hopeless. She is now learning to return to her normal life and is starting to discipline herself.

Later on I spoke with Tyler's doctor, the western family doctor who referred her to me. He told me, "Tyler trusted me completely. She thought I had all the answers to her back pain. Because of her trust, I had become overly confident in myself. I wanted to make her pain disappear, so I kept increasing the dosage of the prescription. On one hand, I knew I was ruining her health. On the other hand, I felt very painful and guilty. I was tormented each time I saw her feeling disappointed by the prescription I wrote her that was not strong enough for her and each time she paged me for help in the middle of the night… I had no choice but to keep prescribing a different painkiller. Although I was trying my best, I was leading her to a worse situation…"

On the surface this may be just a story describing the psychological process of a medical treatment, but there is a moral to the story: Do not pursue fleeting pleasure. No pain, no gain.

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