I looked down at my toes as I lay in the restorative yoga pose and noticed one pant-leg pulled up on my shorter leg, accentuating the way I was born. My right leg is an inch shorter than my left leg and so my body has compensated. My back curves to balance above uneven hips. The arch on my left foot has flattened to try to shorten the discrepancy in my walk. Most of the time I don’t even notice. But today the reading was about honoring different perspectives, standing in the idea that “both could be true.”
I realized my own experience had never been to have both feet on the same level footing. I have always been lopsided, not only in my physical body, but also in my outlook.
Growing up in the Middle East and South Sudan, I bridged the outside world with my family holding on to American ways inside our home. I learned quickly that the fates of the children we cared for in our clinic were vastly different from mine and fought the inequity and unfairness of the luck of being born into our respective families. My parents taught me by example, opening their hearts and our home to our neighbors and workers who needed loving care and communion.
I became a doctor to stand in two worlds again – the world of jargon, medicine and complexity juxtaposed with a need for simple explanations and to be informed and supported through tough times. One of my greatest pleasures has been using my talent for explanations to cross the chasm of understanding with patients by describing the aspects of their concern in easy-to-understand words and drawings.
As time passed, it became clear that another lopsided approach was needed when I encountered functional medicine. I needed to bridge the vertical silo-type approach of Western medicine with an interdependent systems-version of health. The joy in seeing the synergy of the mind, body and spirit in building whole-person health is a daily reward.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence of this multi-factorial approach has been in the research around preserving brain health. Neurologists such as Dale Bredesen, MD, and David Perlmutter, MD, have shown that the key to a clear and healthy brain is whole system health. Diet, movement, sleep, connection to community and stimulation of the brain all support cognitive function. It turns out that our brain is only as strong as the body’s weakest link, and building health utilizing multiple approaches is effective.
So, I straddle these multiple healing traditions. I have one foot in the Western medical world and the other in an Eastern approach. I see health both from the perspective of it being a culmination of the entire life-story, as well as from the view of the microscopic, cellular health level. Both are true. Both are worth seeing. I like to believe that this is exactly how I’ve been called to live and to serve: Lopsided.
Jeralyn Brossfield, MD is the founder and physician of XO Health in Rancho Mirage and medical director of Brain Health Restoration also in Rancho Mirage. She can be reached at (760) 573.2761. www.brainhealthrestoration.com
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