Cynthia Li – Brave New Medicine – One Doctor’s Unconventional Path to Healing Her Autoimmune Illness

welcome to a healthy bite your one
nibble closer to a more satisfying way of life a healthier you and bite-sized
bits of healthy motivation now let’s dig in on the dish with Rebecca Huff Cynthia
Li and we are discussing her new book brave new medicine and it’s called a
doctors unconventional path to healing her autoimmune illness and I have to tell
you I was sucked into her book from the first line it’s not just like from a
medical standpoint it’s really your personal experience right yes absolutely
I mean people always asked me what exactly what do you do what kind of
doctor are you and I start by saying you know I’m a human being first and I don’t
even like the labels of integrative or functional medicine doctor or
conventional or internal medicine doctor I just don’t you know I’m a doctor
really seeking out the most tools that you know that can have to help support
my patients in their healing journeys so absolutely this this book was is really
about the paradigm shift that I I broke open to like how I was trained
in a very mainstream medical center which which I still deeply deeply hold
in great esteem but sort of how the lived experience of illness is very
different than how we’re trained you know with very very controlled studies
and trials and very black-and-white frameworks of how to diagnose disease
and how to treat so but but it was through my my own experience of having
autoimmune and really complex conditions and
had there been a magic bullet for my conditions I would you know I wouldn’t
have wished this journey on anybody but had it had there been an easy way out or
an easy way to cope I probably would still be be using that method right well
I mean in the opening yearbook I’m glad that you said what you said just now
because I was like is this a spoiler if I asked her this question but you you
already mentioned that you had this autoimmune disease and it is on the
cover of the book but in the opening you tell a story and then you kind of pose
this question if the tests are normal those disease exists and I was like oh
my goodness as I was reading it and then you’re talking about how you were on
stage and you were giving this presentation and you were talking about
this woman and she had all of these symptoms and it was one of your patients
and and she had all these test results and of course you know they were normal
and this and that and then you talk about it and then you tell who the
patient is can you tell me a little bit about this patient yeah so this patient
that I presented has a difficult patient you know these patients that I as a
doctor had really come to dread partly because I had no tools to offer them and
they kept coming back and coming back with worsening symptoms and but their
screening tests were normal and also difficult because you know they they
have increasing I mean rightly so anxiety and grief and
they’re really looking for a solution and these are the patients that you know
I feel also like an emotional and sort of existential weight in in confronting
so I was feeling increasingly frustrated at this difficult patient and I you know
and I really revealed that this patient was me and I was giving this at a it was
a Grand Rounds presentation to a hospital-wide doctors luncheon and you
know and when I said that it was very much like
you could hear a pin drop but it was yeah because first of all it’s very
unexpected and secondly you know we don’t talk we as doctors don’t there’s
sort of this unspoken taboo that you don’t really disclose anything personal
especially if you haven’t sort of it’s not something that you could conquer and
become the world’s expert on and when I was giving this grand round I was still
very much you know I remember the morning of I wasn’t quite sure I could
do it because my symptoms were kind of kicking up and so I was I was still very
much in the middle of my health journey so at the same time it was one of the
most terrifying things I had done but it was also very liberating and it ended up
being one of the pivotal points of just healing because I had realised I had let
go of some shame that I had been holding back so to actually go into the places
that scare me and moving through it was then became sort of one of the guiding
principles I followed to go deeper into into my own closet so to speak and
releasing them you talk a lot about that the story that you write you know this
book is very i I felt like it was very personal I felt like I knew you as I was
reading it and you share some tragic things that happen to you in your life
and some things that you know you had to grieve and get through and then you
share about your illness and I think it gave me cold chills when I read some
parts of it but I think it’s because I know what it’s like to be the patient
and I’ve always thought it would be fascinating to talk to a doctor who
understood what it’s like to be that patient and you keep saying there’s
there’s clearly something wrong with me I know this test result doesn’t show
that there’s anything I know that there’s something wrong with me I’ve
experienced it my oldest daughter has experienced it I
actually have a Facebook group full of women
who have varying chronic illnesses but it’s called hope likely and it’s a
support group for women and it’s just to help them keep the hope because so many
times when we don’t get that diagnosis after seeing doctor after doctor after
doctor and I don’t know if you experienced this but I think a lot of us
you know not being doctors were like maybe it is in my head but I feel it
feels real I have the symptom I can see it but at some point a lot of us are
told that these are psychosomatic symptoms and I’ve always wanted to ask a
doctor what that’s like to see these normal test results and Dee did you ever
start to wonder is this all in my head is there something what was that like I
mean I I knew what I was experiencing but at the same time it didn’t fit into
my paradigm it didn’t fit into my worldview and you know when I started
getting the initial symptoms I was a new mother I was about three years out of
residency so I was at this place in my work life where I had a sense of mastery
you know I was I knew the the the cutting edge studies just pat you know I
knew the drills I knew I felt very confident at my game we want to call it
that and so when I began to have these symptoms that didn’t fit and my tests
were normal I I of course I went straight to questioning myself okay wait
a minute this is this must be all in my head so I
thought it was a lot of right motherhood it happened at this that’s so such a
similar time as being a new mother I thought initially as postpartum stuff
and then after the postpartum period was over I thought it was well I was
diagnosed then with a thyroid condition but the the autoimmune thyroid condition
resolved by numbers but not by symptoms so I had thought even as my symptoms
persisted insomnia real you know exhaustion and a lot of
palpitations dizziness but I’m still very function I had lived a very full
life I was very functional I was used to pushing through not complaining and my
numbers were normal and I considered myself cured that tells you a lot about
where I was like I must be cured and maybe these symptoms will just take some
time to to resolve but they didn’t resolve and so after a trip to Beijing
to visit my family there was a very dramatic incident that
then tipped me over into chronic fatigue syndrome and another condition called
this autonomia which is it was the long fancy word for a complete dysfunction of
the autonomic nervous system which is the branch that controls largely
unconscious but very vital bodily functions like blood pressure heart rate
digestion body temperature and it’s sort of the things that we really don’t even
know our bodies doing until it it crashes and so this left me in a state
of perpetual vertigo my heart rate would shoot up into the you know 160 180s with
me just sitting at rest I always felt like I was on the verge of passing out a
lot of people with these conditions pass out regularly so it was a very anxiety
producing state to be in and the exhaustion was was really profound as
well I you know so for two years I was largely house bound and it took about
two years for me to break out of my paradigm I mean that’s how deeply
entrenched I was in it and I I put all my faith in it so it was during this
two-year period that I had gone from specialist to specialist and found no
answers but I was really baffling myself and what happened to me is something
that I have seen you know just reflected in the eyes of my patients is this sense
of learned helplessness sort of you know deepening helplessness with each sort of
Punt right bye-bye specialist and so I
referred myself to a psychiatrist I mean I knew that this was where doctor just
sent patients you know when we had no answers but I and I think they were
merciful on me because because I was a doctor and oh she’s a doctor she must be
saying we know she’s not making it up right I wanted to know and there was
part of me that wanted the diagnosis of depression and or anxiety so that I
could hang my hat on it you know it was better than having no diagnosis and
having no name but you know I left the psychiatrist’s office and she said you
don’t have a psychiatric condition you know I think it’s hormonal and you go
back to your endocrinologist and so I you know and I laughed just there was it
was a merry-go-round and there was nowhere to to go we weren’t going
anywhere so I knew I had to get off but it was not without a lot of resistance
and I literally was just too tired to continue oh yes I I mean I’ve been there
I mean some of the diagnosis that for example I have epstein-barr virus and so
that in itself makes you very tired I’ve had a tested positive positive for mold
allergies I’ve had tested positive for Lyme, I mean so there’s like all these
things and then my older daughter started going through some of the things
that you just explained she would start feeling the just like shaking all over
and she had all these unexplained symptoms and she went from Doctor to
doctor to doctor and as she’s still pursuing a diagnosis but it is very
interesting to me to hear it from your perspective because I mean even you’d
started to doubt yourself at some point so that makes me feel better because I I
think a lot of us women do wonder am I depressed you know is this in my head
and so we begin to question ourselves but what are some of the signs now I
know you have written extensively about just how to you know stay healthy and
how to keep the toxins out of your home and all that but first I wanted you to
… kind of tell for people that maybe aren’t sure what are some of the signs
that you may have an autoimmune disease or this you called it dis autumnal
dysautonomia what are some of the symptoms that we maybe could know maybe
it isn’t depression maybe there really is something wrong with me yeah I let me
just backtrack a little bit before I answer that question is the search for a
diagnosis can sometimes just really turn into the search for the holy grail I
mean and it’s actually it’s not a Holy Grail so even if we find the diagnosis
it can be really disappointing you know I diagnosed myself in my bathroom when I
couldn’t stand up without my blood pressure you know dropping with chronic
fatigue syndrome and dis aughtta no Mia and I it didn’t it actually made me more
despairing because number one there’s no good treatment it’s number two it’s poor
those are very poorly understood conditions if the the doctor even
believes that they’re quote real and and three the prognosis for these conditions
are depressing so to identify with that those diagnosis was was very risky in my
in my eyes because it could really kill any hope that I had of recovery so I
actually chose to not even like it’s nowhere in my medical records that I
have those things I think that’s kind of what my daughter did to eventually she
was like you know what I’m just gonna start living a healthy lifestyle and
doing all of the things that I can I don’t need a doctor to tell me what I
have so that I can move forward but for a while you do you feel like you have to
label it right and that’s because of the way our first of all that that our
medical system works but also our culture I mean I think it’s you know we
feel for have a name right it gives some kind of
validity to know what’s going on if we can write if there’s a form to it it’s
not just this formless sort of nebulous experience and you know the big turning
point for me was right, was actually going back into basics like I you know I
had nowhere to go I know specialist was going to fix me
and I went back to basics went into my pathology textbook and I was reviewing
you know what’s happening at the cellular level like what’s happening in
my body and that’s when I learned that diseases are not black and white like
they’re not defined by a set of criteria they’re not defined by a blood test or
another diagnostic test the state of health and disease is really a
continuous spectrum and we know now from data that’s been published that diseases
often happen years and sometimes decades before a diagnosis can be made so that
was a game-changer for me because I realized you know what the the common
denominator for all chronic diseases is inflammation regardless of what’s
causing it and if I could address inflammation then it doesn’t matter what
name I give it I’m just gonna be addressing how do I reduce inflammation
in my body whether it is autoimmune like sort of the immune system is creating
antibodies against my own tissues the inflammation damages the cells if our
bodies can’t keep up with that sort of you know processing what’s damaged and
trying to repair it then eventually a diagnoseable disease occurs so back to
your question about symptoms I mean a lot of the symptoms of autoimmunity are
are common symptoms of a lot of other chronic conditions so it’s you know it’s
they things like fatigue or brain fog you
know I can’t I’m not you know quite losing my memory but I’m not sharp I
can’t recall things as quickly I flip numbers you know I flip phrases common
phrases that I might need so those are examples stiffness generalized stiffness
and I feel a little bit achy you know common thing I had when I was fully
functional and quote healthy like I remember in residency after these crazy
36-hour call shifts I would feel dizzy I mean look really dizzy and I would feel
light-headed and my muscles were really sore like I had kind of run a marathon
and you know in hindsight after learning what I learned I realized my god you
know my hormone systems my immune system and my neurological assistant like they
were already imbalanced I just assumed everyone else felt that way I mean
things like who wouldn’t feel like they ran a marathon off in succession but you
know but then my colleagues actually didn’t didn’t experience that so I think
what we tend to do is because we nobody likes you know a whiner and nobody you
know it’s very much what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger culture we tend
to minimize that and normalize it so oh you know what I think it’s just normal
right yeah so we we come to accept a state of sub
optimal health as normal and I see that also with aging right we sort of just
associate getting older with aches and pains and you know all sorts of other
slowly malfunctioning parts for high if they wait a minute no no that that’s
actually not what what could happen right and probably what ought to happen
so let’s let’s begin to uncouple these associations
we have and and really demand and give ourselves the chance for optimal health
yeah you were talking about focusing and swapping the words in your mind or
whatever that happens and sometimes I would do the same thing I’m like is this
part of being you know having these things that are going on in my body or
is this because I’m getting older or is this because I have too many things on
my plate but I will do that and my kids will point it out to me that sometimes
I’ll say can you go in there and get that and then the words just not there
like I know what I want them to go get but the word just doesn’t come to me so
and I think that is something that a lot of us with chronic illness tends to we
want to think okay well that’s just because I’m getting older or it’s you
know it’s just because I have so much going on but I do think a lot of it goes
back to the illness because for me and you can correct me if I’m wrong on this
but I think a lot of times when I’m not taking is good of care of myself so
maybe I’m not doing turmeric I’m not doing you know some of the other
supplements like I do a lot of Lauricidin and things like that maybe just
slacking off of taking care of myself then I feel like I struggle with it a
little bit more so maybe it’s not I don’t know but I think a lot of times
we’re trying to pinpoint it really whether it’s too many things on our
plate it all kind of goes back to self care whether it’s too many things on our
plate or if it actually is the illness that’s causing these symptoms bottom
line you know we still need to take better care of ourselves and do the
things that we know we’re supposed to do absolutely and I mean to your point I do
I mean we put significant demands on our minds and our bodies and the
multitasking and the digital age and you know boom boom boom boom boom I mean
you’ve got six kids you know I’ve got two in a very active husband and it’s
it’s really really challenging so regardless so I said you know part of it
is yeah how do we slow down how do we
internally right sort of remember and connect to our bodies remembering that
we are our bodies still abide by the laws of nature you know we are not meant
to be operating at this digital pace and recognizing that instead of fighting it
I remember you know a lot of times when I had symptoms I felt like my body
betrayed me my body betrayed me you know as if my body was some kind of vehicle
that just carries my spirit my mind wherever they want to go and they have
no boundaries so it’s really about wait a minute wait
a minute am i who who’s betraying who you know and and my body is me
so really beginning to integrate the sense of body mind and spirit and
recognizing also that the body is basically where the subconscious can be
accessed I mean we store within the within ourselves within the way our DNA
is folded a huge amount of the subconscious so the symptom of let’s
just let’s just call it brain fog right or for forgetfulness whether it is some
mineral imbalance whether it is you know an omega-3 deficiency whether it is an
autoimmune flare whatever you know an allergen in foods to doing too much
whatever it is it’s a mismatch and it’s the symptoms are really our body’s way
of tying as well wait a minute something is not working and something’s got to
change or else I will I will change it I will demand a change at some point right
depending on how we listen or don’t listen it’s really up to us I mean
that’s the hard part of healing in the old parent or I mean that’s the old
paradigm but in the way that I was trained by sort of in the mainstream
paradigm 15 20 minutes per patient we we come to both expect
the doctor and the patients I just kind of a quick solution right we want to
what what can I walk away with now today a prescription that’s going to help me
feel better and we need to get away from that and see it as a partnership so I
you know I always tell my patients thank you you are the captain of your ship and
you are your ship and I’m gonna help you navigate so all right you know what
you’re forgetting things or you’re you’re scrambling words I’m gonna do
some investigating on my part but then what are you gonna do I’m your part
right you’re the one living your life and you know and and it’s it’s not it’s
very rarely as simple as oh you know what you got to remove gluten and then
everything is fine oh you know what you’re magnesium deficient oh and
everything is fine it’s usually a it’s a full catastrophe living sort of and the
sooner we can embrace that that notion of health as being just a way of living
rather than prescription I think the the easier the path ahead
for everybody I love that and along with that I think one key thing that a lot of
people overlook is how important it is to get sleep so many people skip out on
sleep and then wonder why their brain isn’t working properly and I’m late
you really can’t function unless you get enough sleep but I think that’s one
factor that a lot of people tend to overlook and I know you talked a bit
about insomnia but I had written down another quote from your book that I
wanted to talk to you about that I really loved and highlighted oh you said
the simplest step in healing is also the hardest believing it is possible and
then you talk about the process how it often happens with chronic
disease when the illness becomes your identity and when it becomes
all-encompassing and then you go on I’m not gonna read the whole thing because I
hope that everyone goes out and reads this book because it is life-changing
but you go on and you say this isn’t positive thinking its physiology at its
best by addressing root causes reducing inflammation restoring imbalances and
connecting to something greater beyond us healing happens as a side effect I
love that can you expound on that a little bit it’s been something I’ve been
really reflecting on as a doctor as well because you know going back to what
we’re talking about a diagnosis the way that we’re trained with drugs and
procedures everything does hinge on the diagnosis right so the protocols are
reflect but once you have a diagnosis then you have a B or C protocol to
follow without it you know we look for some causes but we haven’t really been
trained to look at you know more fine-tuned deficiencies or stealth
infections or hidden allergens in the way that I learned in integrative and
functional medicine so but what happens with the diagnosis it’s sort of like
labeling a child a C student okay it might be useful in terms of measuring if
we’re looking at large populations and following trends and having some sort of
standard but what happens to that student on the individual level and as a
doctor what am i doing when I actually diagnose a patient with something right
something like chronic fatigue syndrome something like autoimmune thyroid
condition you know often one of the first things that people do is they get
online and they start researching and it is first of all it is there’s so
much stuff out there and it’s a mixed bag but what patients really want to
know is what it what am I likely to expect and what is my prognosis and a
lot of those numbers and the information that’s out there is is not not
encouraging so we begin to identify with a state of chronic unwellness even if we
are living our lives but it’s like this this identity that is now sort of
hanging over our psyches as we live our lives and so I watch I mean I still have
to diagnose for you know billing purposes for documenting my notes and
just as a way of communicating with patients but I’m very careful about the
language even the the more testing that we do more and more testing we’re
reinforcing the notion that they’re not well so I’ve been become over the years
a lot more selective like what do I really need to look for what do I not
need to look for what did they actually need to do stepwise that’s going to be
empowering to them as opposed to diminishing sort of their their sense of
their capacity for wellness it’s a very very nuanced line but it’s something
that that I was so aware of that I became much more aware when I started
writing when I started in writing I was I had never had an intention to publish
and I had always kept a journal and I thought you know what why don’t I just
and I’ve always loved reading so why don’t I just start writing and it
allowed me to step outside of my identity of someone who was sick you
know I was writing about myself and even I was writing the
and I had to get outside of myself and I had to actually start thinking for
example about my husband right what was he doing when I was like you knew
clearly and like you know wanting to just detach from my life and sort of
disappear what was he doing oh my god you know he was holding the family
together right we had two young kids and he was working and he was so it I didn’t
quite realize how insidious and how strong the identification of me being
ill and ill with conditions that had really bad prognosis and how that was
affecting me so the writing itself was very therapeutic it was hard to go into
the harder times but it was incredibly therapeutic you know this is another way
of opening that closet and kind of confronting the skeletons and realizing
oh you know what they’re actually not so scary and I’ve been caring all this
shame I’m a doctor who has conditions I can’t even figure out and just let him
out you know give him some sunlight and they’re not so scary anymore and then
suddenly you know like I have a little bit less inflammation in my body I mean
the the not just the neurons in my brain and my body are changing the way they’re
connecting but the way my DNA is expressing itself mm-hmm has shifted so
the one of the things that I learned about belief also was you know and I
think belief is one of those threads that has been with me since I was young
and I had grown up in an evangelical community in Texas and this this
dualistic notion of Heaven and Hell really plagued me you know how can some
people be quote chosen and others are just gonna the vast majority of the
world is just gonna go to hell and I remember as a child being terrified that
I was going to be one of those left behind that I didn’t believe the way
that other people and my family my church believed and I was terrified
how do you make yourself believe something that you don’t and so that
that same question plagued me when I was very very unwell how do I make myself
believe something when I don’t believe it
number one by the numbers that I see and number two by my experience you know
I’ve been in this misery for years and I’m supposed to believe really that I’m
just gonna I’m gonna be well and so it wasn’t until I really began the practice
of Qigong which is a moving meditation and really integrating mind body spirit
and it’s using not just movements very gentle movements like Tai Chi but
consciousness is awareness building and also sounds so there’s like sound
vibrations that are very healing literally and how they you know the body
responds to the vibrations and but it was through that then I realized oh wow
you know what I don’t actually have to belief is something my left brain is
gonna do it’s an analytical thing do I you know does it make sense to me or not
and the right brain and when you’re really expanding consciousness and
intuition really drops into this realm of visualization so I had the capacity
to visualize myself fully healthy even if my left brain didn’t believe it and
that was really powerful and I remember the very first time I visualized it and
brought that in visualization into my body you know what would it feel like if
I were climbing a mountain and I was at the top and and I was visualizing myself
spinning around because I was really feeling strong and it triggered vertigo
and me I mean I have braced myself and you know whoa but but it it was it
reinforced the fact of how potent that was that my visualization actually
triggered vertigo and I thought wow if it can do that it can I can start
working that so I really began working with it
and and it was it’s hard it’s hard work but it’s significantly easier than
believing and making my my skeptical other you know mind believe that it’s
possible Wow yeah I mean I have never been good at the power of positive
thinking and since you are familiar with and the evangelical side of things
you’ve probably heard the name and claim it kind of things so I never was very
good at that but I did have a dr. something that you said before kind of
triggered this memory I had a doctor in Lakeland Florida and he’s long since
retired dr. Robinson he always made me believe I was well just by the way he
talked to me I mean obviously you know he would do tests and stuff and but he
always was like your body you know I mean he just I don’t know something
about the way he talks to me would always make me believe that I was gonna
be okay and I had on the opposite side a doctor
because I traveled to Florida to see this doctor I had one doctor who would
do like an EKG and he would start freaking out off that I call the nurses
in here and we’ve got to talk to you you’re you have your EKG isn’t normal
you have inverted T waves and then I’m like convinced I’m gonna have a heart
attack right on the spot and and then I go see this doctor in Florida and he’s
like you just had a baby you have hormones these inverted T waves often
happen with progesterone you know fluctuations and so he completely
soothed me nothing changed for my physical self but suddenly I felt
healthier and so I do think that belief has a lot to do with it and my number
five child when he was born at home he was 12 pounds and so I went through this
like crazy crunchy phase of my life where I was a
raw vegan and I was doing all these things and so um
I didn’t have an ultrasound with him and I was just gonna have my midwife and I
didn’t know that he was 12 pounds but miraculously my body was able to handle
it and yeah I mean so I think during the time that I was pregnant with him I did
a lot of what you just described is I pictured myself you know just being
healthy and giving birth to this healthy baby and so it really helped me because
I honestly don’t know if I could have gotten through this giving birth to a 12
pound baby at home is not advisable I don’t recommend it go to the hospital
you’re gonna have a baby but I survived it and I healed and everything but yeah
I do believe completely in the power of your the mind and just the whole
mind-body connection and on the flip side I do believe that when you’re
filled with bitterness and resentment and anger and all of these things that
it can also affect your body negatively so of course if you can affect it
negatively then there’s also the positive side so I think right and I
mean that that particular challenge comes up like a lot of people raise
questions about that like how do you get from a place of complete despair which
is where I was for quite a long time to these characteristics of resilient
people you know that you that you’re bringing up right optimism calm sort of
this inner confidence and unshakable sort of steadfast confidence and and I
would say that well first of all you know my husband is one of those people
and I had a really hard time being around him you know so it felt I’ve
never had migraines before but it the analogy that I would gave is you know it
felt like someone who has a migraine who can’t tolerate the Sun right or any kind
of light for where I was and how overly sensitive I was to any kind of stimuli
and how miserable I felt I could not be around his energy or
people like that yeah how do you get from you know where I was to where he is
and and it’s it’s also annoying I mean it’s aggravating for people say oh well
you gotta be positive and you gotta have you know you can’t give up hope and so I
sort of got there through the back door I mean yeah I was doing chi gong and I
was doing a lot of you know visualizations and and such but the the
way I would say I really got to the other side of helplessness to feeling
empowered was yeah it was through the backdoor by releasing so instead of
trying to attain a certain state I just started releasing crap and again not by
some enlightened measure was because I was too fatigued it takes a lot of
energy to hold on to fears mm-hm you know I’ve just got to the place
where I was too tired though all right well okay I got to talk to my mom right
my parents came to support us they lived in Beijing they came to
support us at the drop of a hat and when I asked but I had a lot of stuff I I
needed to confront with my mother you know just about childhood stuff and who
wants to go there but you know what I had no energy and they were there she
was right in my house and okay mom can I just can we talk about you know
some of the stuff in my childhood that I remember and not to blame but just so
that you can acknowledge that you know some of it was hard for me and I had
these conversations with my mother that I never imagined having and I attended a
grief ritual you know which I write about too and I ended up attending a
couple more after that but I had no idea what to do with grief and you know I had
a tremendous loss during my medical medical school years right when my
partner died and ring that you’re wearing on your
necklace I wondered if you were still wearing it because I read about that in
your book is no I don’t I don’t actually have that ring anymore
we ended up yeah kind of releasing it into the wall but this is a actually
that replaced by a ring given to me by one of my mentors Oh
though the but the in the Greek virtual you know I just learned so much and I
learned about how the reason why we fear grief is first of all nobody likes to go
there but our culture is very obsessed with you know being in the light and
being peppy and being enthusiastic and again not being a downer
and yet grief is just a part of love it’s a part of being human and our
ancestors used to do these regular soul detoxes and so we’re walking around with
a bunch of grief and we fear it because we fear that they go there we’re going
to go into despair but it’s not that just the grief that’s the problem is
that we’ve privatized it so we grieve privately and yeah nobody’s around
supporting us we’re gonna risk despair so how do we release in a healthy manner
where we feel supported and which which really has made me reflect about doctors
because we’re confronting people with their greatest fears with their deepest
griefs and what we what we’re given is generally two choices we either
empathize and we carry their grief or we detach right so if we carry too much
grief and we’re not taught how to process it and release it it’s gonna
make a sick it’s gonna make us more burned-out if we detach we’re coping
we’re functioning but it also leads to burnout because when we detach from our
patients were also detaching from her own humanity we’re detaching from
ourselves so both ways lead to burnout and everyone’s talking about physician
burnout physician burnout and oh how do we you know give them more time for
leisure and more time for you know balance with their family and you know
in these other measures how do we reduce administrative duties but like I feel
like nobody’s talking about the elephant in the exam room which is this grief so
and and that’s one of the areas that I’ve been focusing on with with doctors
and in large medical centers is this is something we have to begin to talk about
so through my journey it was really releasing more and more stuff and when I
released the stuff there was just more spaciousness and so things like
gratitude and you know gentleness and optimism those things sort of filled it
naturally mm-hmm it was it became a side effect rather than something I was
trying to attain because you can’t you can’t sort of attain those things right
it’s not something you can actually work for right right you can’t work for it in
and off and and obtain it in an authentic manner because and then you’re
cramming and more stuff right it’s more like I should do this I should do that
which is the the antithesis of healing right and my therapist says when all of
us should on each other so not allowed to shit on yourself just say stop
should-ing on me that’s good well I just think you have
such a good perspective on this and you’re in such a position that I feel
like it’s it’s so wonderful because you have both sides of this perspective from
a doctor and as a patient and so I just thank you so much for sharing with us
for writing this book from such a personal place and you know as you
talked about the grief and just about the things that you went through in your
childhood and how you struggle to even share those with your mom because you
knew what she had gone through I think so many of us can relate to that and I
think your book is going to help a lot of people
and I just thank you so much for writing it for being on my show thank you thank
you and just I want to close with you know Carl Jung you know Carl Jung very
famously said that our capacity to heal others is directly related to our our
own self-examination and so it’s you know I really see as a call to doctors
and patients I mean really human beings human beings to continue
self-examination self-awareness and we’re never done learning
I mean learning is really when we stopped changing we stopped being alive
and how can we venture on into this new era of healing and medicine in a
partnership that doesn’t you know blame one side or another so that’s that’s
really my hope and I think I help too yeah it’s been a real pleasure yes words
of wisdom thank you so much I really do appreciate it and I’ll make sure that
all of the links for your book and you have a website correct yes it’s and Cynthia Li – spelled with an “i” MD dot com okay I’ll make sure all of
the links are in the show notes so make sure that if you’re listening to this
you go and check out the show notes so you can find all the goods, so…

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