Newsletter #29 How this election changed the way I look at…

A Plea for Understanding and Compassion

          Like most Americans, for a long time this election has taken on epic proportions—it felt like the fate of free world, and democracy, hung in the balance, and it really, really mattered who won. While that might be true, before we even got into the last six weeks of televised mud slinging, the intensity of our feelings, mine included, ran high. I began to look at friends and relatives who did not share my views as being dangerously wrong to the point where I considered severing those relationships. The intensity with which we all felt this, regardless of which candidate you supported, ran high, fed by the fuel of the depths of isolation created by our handling of COVID, fed for some of us by the prolonged exposure to the smoke of wildfires out of control, and fed by racial injustice. All of this combined to produce the “perfect storm” of insecurities and fears about our future to polarize our country in a way that I have never experienced before. So what, you ask, could this possibly have to do with how I look at the treatment of mold toxicity?  Let me explain.

My concerns about our future did not begin just weeks before the election. It started four years ago, with the last election. I had very strong feelings about the outcome of that election, and had already, like many of you, put myself in a particular “camp” in which to me it was obvious that my views were correct, and others were absolutely wrong.

That perception had, without my fully realizing it, began to polarize my thinking about my work, and to create judgements about the work of others. Many of you are aware that the way I understand the “correct” treatment of mold toxicity differs in some important ways from some of my colleagues (OK, let’s get specific here, that of Dr. Shoemaker’s ideas) and both of us feel very strongly that the other is “wrong”.

          Last winter, I had the opportunity to spend a little time with Dr. Heyman, who works closely with Dr. Shoemaker, at a medical meeting and I will confess I was a little worried about how that might go. I had listened to
Dr. Heyman’s podcasts and found him eloquent and clear in his teaching, and while I was hoping to connect with him, I was concerned that he might be predisposed to disapproving of me.  So it was with some relief and surprise that when we did finally get a chance to talk, it turned out that we both shared the same goal: how to help our patients heal most completely. To our surprise, we were much closer on many of those details than we had anticipated, and we even agreed to collaborate on some research. Unfortunately those plans have been tabled by the arrival of COVID several weeks later, but they are still, I hope, in the works.

What that meeting did was to push me to reconsider all of Dr. Shoemaker’s teachings (which are equally shared by Dr. Heyman) in a new light. What if he was not completely wrong?  I am comfortable with, but not certain, that what I have learned and teach is of great value. But I have begun to understand that my views are strongly influenced by the unique sensitivities and toxicities of the patients who have been referred to me. Even though I emphasize, at the beginning of every lecture I give, that the information I am providing is tailored to those patients, I sometimes lose sight of the fact that many patients who are far less sensitive, can be helped by other approaches, and this interaction with Dr. Heyman brought that into focus.

Rather than thinking that one of us was “right” or “wrong”, I began to think about this with a new question: “What can I learn from his experience that can enhance or improve the clinical outcomes of my patients?  Am I missing something here that could be helpful? If so, what is it?”

With a new openness to exploring these questions, I began to study
their newest findings. I then began to explore what other approaches I have not fully considered from the same perspective.  Getting honest with myself, I recognized that I have not fully embraced the teaching of others in my field, even though I consider myself to be open-minded to them.  But was I really?  The answer surprised me—-I was not as open to new information because I had begun to evaluate that information from the lens of my own practice and experience, so that I judged it and found it, to some extent, lacking. To me, this was a revelation. What information was I ignoring from others that would help my patients? 

From this new perspective, I find myself listening very carefully now to the lectures given by my colleagues and discovering a lot of useful information that I can apply to my patients to help them to improve. And while I am ashamed of myself for my narrow-mindedness, in the spirit of disclosure I will mention of a few of these to share what I am learning.

I have long found myself in agreement with many of the teachings of Dr. Brewer and Dr. Carnahan so learning from them is no surprise. But I listened to a lecture by Dr. Andrew Campbell this Fall that made me reevaluate the possibility that testing for antibodies to mycotoxins might be more useful than I realized. I have been studying this intensely now for many months, and still am not certain about their value, but the point is that I am looking at it with an open mind now, discovering what I can learn here. In a different context, I find the teachings of Jill Crista of particular value as she expands this work into the naturopathic model. While I have always utilized herbal supplements and approaches in my work, I will confess that I viewed this as generally too weak to really get into the depth of treatment needed to adequately treat mold toxicity in my sickest patients. The revelation here is that for many other patients, not as sick or sensitive as mine, Dr. Crista’s approach has helped thousands of patients. The key to my new understanding is that both of our approaches are correct—-there is no “right” or “wrong”, but rather, we need to understand the physiology of our patients in enough depth that we can apply the most effective treatment known for that patient specifically in order to optimally help them to heal.

This means constantly be willing to expand our model of treatment to include every valuable concept as it reaches us. I am now aware that there is some germ of truth in all of these ideas and I need to find a way to discern that truth and incorporate into the bigger picture.

In the same way that I have come to realize that my judgements and, if you will, self-protection of my own ideas has limited my personal growth and even perhaps the effectiveness of my treatments, so too are the undercurrents of this election.

Rather than looking at this as “right” or “wrong” as a choice, I am now asking a different question. As we all do, I have my own personal values that I apply to potential candidates. For me, the highest value is that of moral integrity and that is the standard by which I have judged those candidates. But I now realize for others, different values come into play that are no less meaningful, and I need to ignore my opinions (because that is, after all, what they are: just opinions) and talk to those who voted differently to understand what motivated them. What ideas did your candidate promote that spoke to you so strongly? Help me to understand those ideas and those concerns, because I am now aware that there is some germ of truth in those ideas that I need to incorporate it into the bigger picture. (A repetition of what I learned about mold treatment).

Perhaps even more important than opening our hearts and minds to other viewpoints is the realization that holding on to certainty, anger, resentment and fear, profoundly affects our own well-being. Staying in a state of fear or anger depletes our energies. It saps our creativity. It distracts us from what is important in our lives—our relationships to loved ones, family, friends and community. It literally makes us sick as we are consumed by these emotions. It hurts us. And we are doing to ourselves, often unaware of the price we are paying for our moral certitude. For our own health and peace of mind, it is imperative that we let go of this, so that we, and our nation, can heal.

So here we are. The election results are in, and hopefully we can make a smooth transition to the next government. The divisiveness that has driven these passions must be brought to light and we must find a way to understand each other with deep compassion and an appreciation for each other. We must stop our focus on what makes our family or friends different or “wrong” and look for how their views can be incorporated into our own understanding so that we can move into the future together.

No matter who you voted for, please, let it go, and look for commonalities rather than differences so that we can, even with COVID, again embrace our families and friends with new respect and understanding. Our future depends on it.