Tag Archives: denial

A bunch of stuff that needed saying


The following stuff is important stuff I wrote elsewhere on the net. If some of what I'm saying doesn't make sense, ignore it, it's just context that I'm not able to describe right now. The main thrust of what I'm saying should make sense without understanding the full context of what I wrote. And I can't rewrite it all right now for this blog. So the following is pretty much as I wrote it. Also sorry for all caps in places, it was because where I was writing it I couldn't use other forms of emphasis. And please don't assume that this is all about autism. Everyone always assumes that everything I say is all about autism. It isn't. Most of it isn't. Not even the stuff that talks about autism is all about autism. I am fed up with just about every such assumption because my world isn't made up of only or mainly autistic people and when I talk about things I always get replies saying “This applies to people without autism too” and I want to say “no shit Sherlock, that's what I meant in the firs

This turned into a long post, and it may not apply to the people I’m replying too, but this conversation just brought up a lot of things I’ve been thinking but having trouble saying.

Thank you for writing that. It’s really important.

Also another point I want to make. There are many autistic people whose best method of communication is nonverbal. By which I mean, not speech, not writing. Some of us this is true of, can communicate well by speech or typing also. Some of us can’t. But we usually have trouble with receptive language — either some of the time, all of the time, or especially, during the early formative years of our lives. I’m one such person.

Most people don’t know this because the current theories of autism all involve us being terrible at nonverbal communication. By which people mean, terrible at one specific kind of nonverbal communication that most nonautistic people are good at. Also, most autistic people who can talk about their experiences in words, are (or believe themselves to be) bad at nonverbal communication, and their experiences get seen as applying to all of us, when this is not true.

So for many of us — nonverbal communication, and the world of things outside of words, are our best way of communicating. Whether we can also use words or not. I wrote about one such group of autistic people in my contribution (“Untitled”) to the Loud Hands anthology. Because I want people to know we exist. Because I want other people like me to know they aren’t alone, in an autistic community made up mostly of people who experience themselves as terrible at nonverbal communication. Where people even say that autistic communities are communities where people can use text or other forms of language, rather than having to deal with nonverbal communication. Even though there’s plenty of us who do better in person, BECAUSE we communicate best nonverbally, because words, whether we can do them or not, whether we are or seem good at them or not, are so hard and so difficult and so painful to keep using.

There are entire groups of autistic people out there who communicate with each other using our own unique forms of body language that are different from nonautistic body language, different from other autistic people’s body language, specific to ourselves, specific to each other. Who communicate best reading each others writing, looking for the patterns that exist between the words, rather than inside the words themselves. Who communicate best by exchanging objects, by arranging objects and other things around ourselves in ways that each other can read easier than we can read any form of words. Who share the most intimate forms of communication, outside of words, outside of anything that can be described easily, in between everything, seeing each other to the core of our awareness. Who see layers upon layers of meaning outside of any form of words.

In “Untitled” I was writing about my favorite communication ever, my video chats with AnneC (and her cats, when they show up, which Shadow absolutely loves communicating with me over video and reminds her every Friday at the right time because he loves it so much). I don’t necessarily do the best at visual stuff the way most people think of it. But I can see the patterns of movement in other people, including cats, whether or not I see them well in the usual forms of visual perception. And those patterns of movement tell me more than any word ever could.

I can even read nonautistic people fairly well at times — just not in the ways nonautistic people read each other well. That’s one of the problems with nonautistic research into autistic people’s abilities to understand nonverbal communication. Most of it relies on the understanding and use of words at the same time as understanding the nonverbal communication. And most of it relies on the kinds of nonverbal communication that nonautistic people are most aware of. This frustrates me to no end — how can people research forms of understanding that they don’t themselves have and therefore they don’t themselves understand even exists? I’ve actually told researchers ways they can research autistic people’s understanding of nonverbal communication without having to resort to the faulty methods they usually use.

And one researcher told me, when I asked, that every parent of an autistic child she ever met said that their child picked up easily on things like stress in the household, but that SHE ACTUALLY DISREGARDED IT UNTIL I ASKED HER, BECAUSE SHE’D BEEN TAUGHT THAT AUTISTIC PEOPLE COULDN’T READ BODY LANGUAGE. I’m totally serious. If researchers are that biased themselves, how can they possibly hope to even notice that we can understand things they assume we don’t understand?! I taught that researcher a bunch of very simple ways to test that without relying on the painfully stupid research methods that guarantee researchers will find only what they expect to find — relying on us to use and understand words, relying on our understanding of actors and stage conventions rather than real people’s real nonverbal communication, relying on nonautistic people’s limited ability to read autistic body language, all sorts of other flaws that seem obvious but that researchers themselves seem never to notice. So hopefully she will set up some real experiments that show our real abilities.

Anyway. Back to what I was saying. There’s entire subgroups of autistic people out there _ not just my own — who rely on nonverbal means of understanding the world, and nonverbal means of communication. That’s one reason I usually put myself in my videos — because I know that certain other autistic people will be able to read me like a book, even if nonautistic people usually can’t. And that nonverbal communication is a crucial part of my videos. (See why the entire first half of “In My Language” has no words in it. I was trying to make a point about the best way I communicate, the best way many people communicate, autistic or not, verbal or not. Mostly lost on people, who think it’s a video about autism. It’s not. It’s a video about communication and understanding and personhood, that happens to be made by an autistic person. Big difference. I told CNN why I really made the video, and they left out that part of the interview in favor of putting their words in my mouth. I think my real intent was too political for them.)

Anyway. I may be a writer, but my real best form of communication has nothing to do with words. I use words because I have to. Because most people won’t understand me if I don’t. I don’t use them because I like them, or because I “can’t do nonverbal communication so text is best for me”, or any of the usual reasons most people assume. If I could never use language again, spoken or written, I would be really happy. But the world won’t let me do that, so I carry on using a means of communication that is outright painful for me.

I don’t know the people in the video, but I know that the way their bodies move makes intuitive sense to me and communicates things whether they intend it to be so or not. (The forms of nonverbal communication I understand best are unintentional, in fact. That’s one reason tests using actors don’t work on me. I know an autistic woman who failed a test of nonverbal communication because it used actors and she kept describing their real feelings instead of their acted ones. What this says about nonautistic people’s understanding of nonverbal communication is… interesting.) Whether they are able to use spoken language or not, the video would lose a lot if it only relied on showing them speaking or typing the words.

And I really dislike a lot of the self-advocacy movement for relying mostly on the self-advocacy that happens through words, written or spoken. This leaves out people who can’t do either but who are nonetheless quite capable of advocating for themselves through their actions and movements. If I hadn’t spent a lot of my life forcing myself to do words, I might be such a person, so I am always aware of this. Words are not natural to me the way they are to some autistic people. They’re difficult and my development could have gone either way. There are also people who, no matter how much effort they put in, could never have used or understood words, and they are also extremely important, and they are also capable of self-advocacy, and they are still capable of communication that is more full of meaning than the communication of many people who use words.

I wish there were videos using their communication — which by definition wouldn’t involve words. Both people who would have been able to use words had they put in a crapload of effort at critical times in their development, and people who would never be able to use them no matter what. Such people exist. I sometimes wonder if they are too inconvenient for some autistic people to remember. I hate when people tell parents, “If you just gave your child a communication device they would be able to type words (or use picture symbols) and everything would be solved.” You don’t know that. You just can’t possibly know that. I hear that a lot, this idea that autistic people would all be able to communicate in words if only they were given a means to type them instead of speak them. And it’s so not true that its utterly ridiculous. I hear it both from people whose main way of communicating is speech, and also from people who use typing, and people who use both. It’s wishful thinking and it’s not true. There are people whose understanding of the world is just like a typical “aspie” except they couldn’t speak for motor reasons, and they are the most likely of those who use typing, to believe this myth.

Reality is that there are lots of people who will either never be able to use words, never be able to understand words, or both. Or whose use or understanding is so limited that they will never be able to use words as their primary means of communication. But they do communicate, whether the communication is intentional or not. And they do matter. And they are capable of self-advocacy. And they should be included in self-advocacy movements if those movements ever expect to represent autistic people, developmentally disabled people, cognitively disabled people, disabled people in general, whatever group is trying to represent itself in that movement. And in order to include them, you have to show their movements and their sounds and all the things they do that aren’t words.

It’s true that many people who are thought not to be able to use or understand language, actually are. And it’s terrible that they are overlooked. But in their desire not to overlook such people, many people claim that all disabled people who can’t communicate through speech fall under this umbrella. And that’s simply not true. In order to communicate with people who will never use words, you have to learn their language. (And surprise, that’s one thing that “In My Language” was actually about. And it would be about that whether I used typing or speech to communicate — either one would be my “second language”, and as such I can easily, easily envision a situation where I never learned and never would learn to use speech or typing, both of which I used at different points in my life.) And each person has one. Sometimes several people have a language that is in common but is not words. Sometimes each one has a separate way of communicating that is not words. But either way, you have to learn how they communicate, not force them to either communicate how you best communicate, or else be considered “non-communicative” for the rest of their life. And yes it’s possible to get consent to use their communication, it’s just sometimes harder work than asking a yes or no question in words.

And a community that doesn’t include such people isn’t my community. The developmental disability community is far better at including such people than the autistic community is, even though not all of the DD community manages it either. One reason I’ve spent a lot of time communicating with people who can’t use words in any form is because I’ve been in the developmental disability system for pretty much my entire adult life and have spent a lot of time with a wide variety of people. And I’ve spent a lot of time communicating with people who can’t and may never use speech or typing or even picture boards. And that’s something that certain segments of the autistic community are sorely missing. Even parts of the autistic community that involve people who don’t use speech, are often made up of only those people who were able to learn typing, and often put forth the (false) idea that everyone could learn typing if only they tried hard enough or were exposed to the proper teaching methods.

The response someone made is true: Some of the people in the video use typing, so they could never be shown speaking the words in the video. But I’d like to go further than people who use speech and people who use typing, because unlike a lot of people, my social world is made up of a lot of people who can’t do either one. And also made up of a lot of people who, even if they can use speech, typing, or both, those are not their best means of communication, and it would be better to show us using our best means of communication rather than merely the form of using words. Not everyone has words but everyone has a voice and a means of communicating. And not everyone who uses words sees words as their primary voice or their primary means of understanding things, and that needs to be respected. And I’m sick to death of spending time in communities where most people seem to miss these facts, and automatically see having a voice as the same as using speech or at least using language.

“I don’t know that person’s program.”


That's a sentence I've heard a lot. And when they don't say exactly that, they say things that mean the same thing. Usually in the developmental disability system, for some reason, although I can easily imagine it in other contexts.

What it really means:

“DD people aren't like regular people. When people do things to them that would be horrible if they happened to other people, there's always a logical reason that justifies whatever is happening. Staff and case managers rarely if ever abuse power. All of their decisions have the best interests of clients at heart. So if something looks terrible, chances are that there's a reasonable explanation behind it. I just don't know what that explanation is. And I likely never will, so I'm not going to judge.”

They say this when staff scream at an old woman with an unsteady gait every time she falls, and refuse to help her get back up or allow her to hold onto things for balance.

They say this when staff publicly humiliate a man who clearly has trouble moving to avoid obstacles, when he accidentally bumps into someone.

They say this when staff do their best to keep a boyfriend and girlfriend apart. Or when staff are okay with boyfriend and girlfriend, but balk at the idea that two women with intellectual disabilities have fallen in love. As if it's even their job to decide who can love who.

They say this when parents simultaneously put on a big public show of wishing their son could move out on his own like he wants to, but sabotage his every attempt to do so. Because they had planned out a whole life for him in the group home they run, and can't handle the idea that he doesn't want to live under their control the rest of his life.

They say this when a staff person kisses a grown man's leg and says “I kiss you boo boo aww betta!” in baby talk.

They say this when, in the name of integration, staff prohibit disabled people from speaking or socializing with each other. I just saw an instance of that last one, which is why I finally remembered to write a post on the matter.

They say this when we get outright tortured. Tied down. Skin shocked. Slapped. Pinched. Made to smell ammonia.

I wish I could upload the scenes from real life that play out vividly in my head. But like as not, people likely to say these things wouldn't consider me a reliable observer. They never do, when you start pointing out the truth. When you see yourselves as people. With all that this means.

Suddenly you are either too severely disabled to understand what's happening, or you're not disabled enough to grasp why treating people like dirt is necessary. Or both at once. And they'd much rather you were highly submissive, maybe even the really cool type of client who helps staff out by giving them information about other clients.

All of this requires seeing DD people as less than. It just has to. There is no other way to justify these actions towards us.

And I know how people see us. As in, I know what we look like inside their minds. Sometimes we're human — almost, anyway. Not quite. There's something vitally important inside every real human. And to them, we either don't have it, or are missing large chunks of it. So we go around in human bodies but there's pieces missing in our minds and our souls. Even people who don't believe in souls in any religious sense, still perceive something inside us as only partial.

I know this because this is one of those viewpoints that isn't content to stay in the minds of others. It tries to force its way as deeply into us as it can manage. Until many of us look in the mirror and see only part of a person.

I can't describe the violence that involves. It's horrible. And a whole system of relating to us, forces its way into our lives. It tells us that we are taken care of, that we can relax, go to sleep, almost. And then it suffocates from inside. There's no words for it.

I suspect the drive to say this about people comes from several places at once.

If you work in the system, there's not wanting to see yourself or your coworkers or people who could be you, doing something horribly wrong. Much less on a regular basis.

I also suspect a strong desire to trust the society they live in, not to do horrible things to people. Or at least, not to do horrible things to certain kinds of people.

A member of my family once told me that it took him a long time to believe what happened to me in mental institutions. He said that in order to come to terms with the reality of the abuse, he had to destroy a strong desire to believe that the society he lived in was safe and just. Him telling me that was far more honest than a lot of people are.

That desire to trust society gets in the way of understanding every kind of injustice. I am amazed that people trust a society that does its best to shut out and destroy all but a handful of people. But they do.

And not seeing us as quite exactly people, is the one thing that you can't avoid if you think like this. Because if you see us as people, you have to see what happens to us as dreadful. And you don't immediately, upon being told of the latest awful thing, say any variant on “I don't know that person's program.”

To anyone who provides intimate care and believes you don’t have fingernails.

A pale hand showing four fingers with very short fingernails.


It works like this:

If you have anything more than a bare nail bed, you have fingernails.

If you have fingernails, they are capable of painfully digging into skin. It's just a matter of the angle.

When someone tells you your fingernails are digging into their skin. The proper response is not to say “I don't have nails” and then decide you must have been “pinching” me. And then, when you figure out you haven't been pinching me, to go back to digging your nails into my skin.

Especially when the skin in question is in my vulva. That seriously hurts.

The proper response is very simple: Quit digging your nails into my skin.

Today's post has been brought to you by that weird effect where once people believe something strongly enough, anything contradicting that belief flies out their ears or something. Even if it's a belief about fingernails.

How to solve “behavior problems” without having to learn self-control.


Many years ago, meetings with my case manager tended to involve shouting and cussing. Mainly on my end. Today, our biggest problem during meetings is whether I'm physically and cognitively capable of holding a serious conversation at that time during the day. I would love to take credit for this by saying I learned a lot of self-control between then and now. But I suspect that even if I have, that's not what really changed things.

Like a lot of cognitively disabled people, I am not capable of keeping track of the dozens of things that have to happen for my basic needs to be met. And I really mean basic: Food, water, clothing, bills, hygiene, shopping, and medical care. Unlike a lot of states, the DD agency here only serves cognitively disabled people — you have to have an intellectual disability or autism, cerebral palsy doesn't count. So you would think they'd require case managers to be organized enough to meet those needs. You would think, but you would think wrong.

My case manager back then was a nice enough guy on a purely social level, but he was not an organized person. At all. So he was able to do a few things, but other than that he gave staff very little direction on how to consistently do what I needed. Meanwhile I was unable to even know most of what needed to happen. So stuff. Very necessary stuff. Lots of it. Wasn't getting done.

This meant that I pretty much lived from crisis to crisis, discovering a different gaping hole in my care each week. My case manager, having lots of power and being unwilling to face his role in these matters, kept telling me that these things were not his problem.

The more time went on, the worse things got, and the less he was willing to take responsibility for what was happening. So he blamed me. Nobody could possibly keep track of this many medical problems and appointments at once. I was unreasonable to expect basic care. There was no possible way to meet the needs of someone like me. I was the problem.

I kind of wanted to survive. So the more time went on, the more often I chewed him out for not doing his job. And the more frustrated I got, the more he treated me as if I was the one doing something wrong. Because hurting his feelings was worse than him forcing me to live in perpetual crisis mode. And it was perfectly reasonable to simply deny I had needs rather than work to meet them, right?

Towards the end, he began to get snippy and snarky. If I brought up anything he wasn't doing, he'd get this twisted smile in his voice and say, “Well maybe your new case manager will be able to do this.” Even I could pick up the implied meaning: that it was unreasonable and demanding of me to expect anyone to do these things, and I would soon find this out when I got a new case manager who would be just as incapable of keeping track of these things as he was. Then I would be forced to admit how impossible it was to meet my needs.

Except it didn't work out like that. At all.

My new case manager was a young woman. She was organized and efficient. And within a month or so, she completely turned my life around. I could finally rest, because I no longer had to keep a constant lookout for things going wrong.

And my reputation changed. Suddenly they considered me reasonable, polite, and civil. They acted as if I was the one who had changed. But I wasn't. What changed was my situation. It's hard to be nice — hell, literally fatal to be nice — when it's your life on the line, when there's a different crisis or three every week.

Yet that's exactly the position a lot of agencies force disabled people into. They don't provide adequate case management, and the outcome becomes our fault. We are forced to fight for basic necessities. When we do fight, they take that as evidence that we are capable of keeping track of our own needs without any extra assistance. We become not their problem.

From what I've seen, a lot of disabled people die this way. With help from friends, I've been able to catch situations like that. But not all the time, and not before the situation becomes dire. The amount of emergency room visits I used to have due to dehydration alone is astonishing compared to what I have today. It used to be routine for me to get fluids in an IV on a regular basis, because nobody was helping me drink water or Gatorade.

So the situation becomes this: If we don't speak up, they presume everything is okay, because if it weren't, someone would say something, right? If we do speak up, they presume everything is okay, because speaking up proves we are competent to track these things and direct support staff on our own. Plus,if we spoke up in one instance, then our failure (inability) to speak up in other instances means nothing's really wrong, because if it were, we'd say something. “You're such a good self-advocate,” they say, when they really mean “If there was another problem, you'd say it.” If we routinely end up in severe medical trouble, that's only to be expected given how many medical problems people like us have.

Needless to say, my being alive at the moment owes a lot to coincidence.

They also take signs of desperation as just happening, with no context attached. So our justified terror and anger become behavior problems, or psychiatric disorders. Or it's just part of who we are to be demanding or nasty. I'm still not certain my agency perceives the change in my behavior as a response to a change in context. They probably think I mysteriously learned self-control, or finally matured past being demanding.

No. My needs got met. That's a huge difference between that, and some kind of change on my part. If they went back to screwing me over and blaming me for the consequences, I'd probably go back to yelling at them.

When doctors ignore pain, and new agers worse than ignore it.


I have frequently been, the past few months, in a state of strong but controlled rage. What anyone reading this has to understand is that the rage is not only for my own situation, but at how large the situation, and similar and worse situations, are, for a whole lot of people in the world. If it were only my own situation… well then I might not need to write about it so much, and I wouldn’t be this mad about it.

At some point I started realizing the back pain I was experiencing lately was familiar. The part that made it somewhat obvious was the kind that starts at one spot in my spine and radiates either upwards or downwards. I remembered that. What made it even more obvious was when the pain was terrible, and I was twisting around into all kinds of positions on the floor trying to find one that took the pressure off the parts that hurt the worst. Then I remembered what it’d been like in my late teens. And I remembered what was done about it.

I’d been able, somehow, to say something that got people’s attention about the pain that I was feeling. It was intense. Almost as intense as it’s been lately. I was having not only back pain but periodic migraines and the pain that is now being called some form of trigeminal neuralgia. I was only able to articulate a lot of it in vague ways, if at all, but I did articulate it.

At one point I was sent to my general practitioner about this. He told me to bend over. He told me that since I was obviously quite flexible, there was no physical problem in my back, and therefore nothing to worry about. (Even though I have a family history on my mother’s side of spines so flexible that they induce pain and other problems.)

Then someone suggested that I check into some alternative concept about this pain. It had to do with energy. There was supposedly a snake curled up at the bottom of my spine. My problem, of course, was that the snake was jumping up my spine, creating all this pain. When it thrashed around in my spine, that created the different positions I twisted myself into. When it thrashed around in my head, those were the migraines. This was an acceptable thing to believe in California. They had therapists for it.

I went to see a therapist for it. She showed me diagrams of the different areas down my spine and what they all supposedly meant. She told me that the snake awakening in me had something to do with spirituality. At one point she told me that autism was just being born with the snake awakened. And the different parts that hurt had to do with spiritual progress or spiritual blockages.

Nobody offered me physical therapy. Nobody offered me pain management. Nobody offered to try to find the source of the problem. All I got was the woman my father dubbed the “snake lady”, whose main advice was that I ought to stop praying and join a cult because there was no way I’d survive — literally, she said I’d die otherwise — without a guru with a long Indian-sounding name and a big following of well-off white new-agers.

Meanwhile, I had been trying to function.

I had had to drop a class in college because I got terrible headaches. (Headaches, I was later told, were a sign of higher spiritual advancement, and I just needed to get the snake to jump out the top of my head in order to get release from this pain, the problem was I just had these blocks that wouldn’t let me.)

I tried to go to university when I was in so much pain that I spent a lot of my time writhing into different positions on the floor, crying, moaning, or screaming. I didn’t know it wasn’t only being autistic, but also the pain I was in, that was keeping me from functioning there. I didn’t even know fully how much pain I was in, or that I was in pain so severe that most people would stay in bed, call their doctor, and not even attempt anything close to what I was attempting.

I didn’t even make it to class most days. I thought I was dumb, weak-willed, and crazy. I felt the pain, it wasn’t that I couldn’t feel it, but I couldn’t connect the feeling to the severity of what I was experiencing, or the limitations in what I could do. I kept straining to do more and more and being able to do less and less. And when the snake lady and similar previous people got hold of me, I began to see myself as lacking in all kinds of spiritual qualities, and began praying desperately for help and guidance (which I did receive eventually, and said guidance told me to get the heck away from all this snake crap) and viewing myself in general as having some horrible deficiency related to the symbolism the assorted snake-obsessed people taught me about whatever area I had pain in.

People around me didn’t see me as in pain, either. Because I was autistic and had spent my adolescence in both inpatient and outpatient versions of the psych system, I was simply proving that crazy autistic people who go off their meds don’t belong in universities. They were perceiving me through a specific lens, and therefore unable to perceive what was really happening, even though it was right in front of them, and if I had been ‘normal’ it would’ve been clear as day to them why I behaved just like someone in severe pain, and why a person in untreated severe pain might not be able to function in a university environment.

I left university and found the snake lady.

And eventually I left the snake lady too. (As I got into the car with my mother after announcing my intentions to do so, she screamed at me and my mother all about how I was making a mistake.)

There was someone else who was heavily active in the same circles as the snake lady. The snake lady looked down on her because of the fact that the disease she had did not go away. The snake lady seemed to see that as a sign of lack of spiritual progress. This person died of the disease she had, still convinced it was a spiritual problem.

It took the pain I’ve experienced the last several months to remind me what it was like back then. I’m now in complete awe of the amount of things I tried to take on in a state so reminiscent of what I’ve been feeling like lately. And I’m also enraged. Not in a way that consumes my life or anything. But a quiet rage that shows up whenever I think about this whole thing. And I don’t think it’s at all misdirected

It’s directed at all physicians who treat some people as if we’re not the same as their ‘normal’ patients, and as if our expressions of pain don’t exist or don’t mean anything.

It’s directed at all physicians who simply refuse to treat severe pain, or to try to find out why it exists.

It’s directed at at the parts of the new age movement that step in where the physicians have failed to, and encourage people to view people with chronic pain, including that which comes from life-threatening diseases, as experiencing a spiritual block of some kind, and thus being either higher or lower spiritually, but definitely not in need of something like, say, pain management or treatment of the actual problem or anything like that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of genuine spirituality, and even don’t mind the possibility of genuinely considering where our bodies fit into our religious beliefs, but this is not it.

For me, in this particular case, it was eight years of missing out on possible treatments for severe pain while wondering at times why I couldn’t function. For other people, it can be longer. And for still other people, a disease can take their lives while doctors are standing around doing nothing and the new-age movement is stepping in to tell them their pain either means they’re on their way to enlightenment or they’ve sinned in some way to cause it. There is nothing good about this situation, but maybe writing about it will be one step towards changing it. And doctors, take note, when you refuse to treat this sort of thing, the people who eagerly step in to take your place have an even worse effect on your patients than nothing at all.

Edited to add: Another thing doctors should take note of, is that sometimes the new agers (or whoever else teaches these strange things) have gotten to your patients first, or sometimes your patients have extremely different interpretations of the sensations in their body than you do. I wish I could remember the web page I once saw where a doctor had written down some stories he’d told his medical students.

One of them was about a man who came into an emergency room screaming that the devil was squeezing his heart. At first, the people who worked there didn’t take him seriously, figuring he was “just schizophrenic” (which was, in fact, a diagnosis he’d received at some point), and that therefore any odd perception he possibly had must be a hallucination or delusion and have no grounding in reality at all. They were proven wrong about those assumptions when the man had a heart attack.

The moral of that story is, just because someone tells you that the devil’s squeezing their heart doesn’t mean nothing’s wrong with their heart, and just because someone tells you there’s a snake jumping up and down their spine wreaking havoc doesn’t mean they don’t have some kind of genuine back or neck problems, migraines, MS, referred pain from any of a number of internal organs (I’ve felt pain in the middle of my back from gallbladder disease and reflux personally, and at the time I saw the snake lady I had untreated nerve pain that amplified any pain of that nature to cover a larger area than it did after treatment), or other things that might cause that kind of pain. Whether their perceptions are distorted to begin with, or whether they’ve been taught to view things in a way that seems distorted to you, or whether they just happen to have a very colorful way of saying things, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing behind what they are telling you.