by Caroline von Fluegge-Chen
Perhaps on the eve of my birthday (and a new decade), I am coming to terms with embracing courage and truth (mine, at least), rather than fearing being ridiculed and “opted out” by the naysayers. You may think I am dramatic. I assure you the health histories I read don’t lie. Being “just” your local schmokel run-of-the-mill yahoo back doctor is outdated. It’s like thinking a Vitamix is only good for making smoothies, not realizing those blades can chop, too.
A young patient of mine has been battling mental health issues her whole life. For the sake of confidentiality, I am changing identifying details. I will say, however, the rap sheet of medications, therapists and treatment centers is extensive. Frustration, lack of purpose, and self-harm (yes, suicidal tendencies) are the net results. The big epiphany for mother and daughter? Not one “expert” or prescription has touched this child’s soul. The whole person – yes, a human being…mind/body/spirit…the entire enchilada – was not addressed, let alone honored. And so with renewed optimism, the journey for healing began at Balance Atlanta.
She noticed the pictures of Love Has No Color, specifically the faces of smiling Native American kids. I explained these were taken at the Kids Fun Day, the one bright spot in their hellish world of poverty, drugs, abuse, hunger, violence, and despair. Ten years ago when we began Love Has No Color, an average of 68 children (yes…kids) committed suicide. In one middle school class of 123, there were 8 suicides. Ten years later, there are none. I told her the foundation of our program is to rebuild self-esteem, respect, trust, health, and hope. It seems to be working, no doubt. My patient remarked with astonishment, “…so you gave them something to hang their hat on, right?” Yes. And if we can do it in Montana, we can do it here in Atlanta. The patient’s mom told me her daughter rarely smiles. That is until she walks through my front door.
Her situation is not unique in the slightest.
We have a heroin epidemic. I can count on two hands how many people I know who have been affected by this monster in one way or another. All “nice” families. You’d never know it. Seventy-seven percent of heroin cases began with prescription opioids in white suburban communities. Fact. Right under our noses. Six degrees of separation.
We have an eating disorder epidemic – just ask any female, any age, and any community. Holly and I sponsored a walk-a-thon benefitting the Eating Disorders Information Network recently. As I listened to one story after another, I realized words could not describe the emotional turmoil families must endure in an attempt to get their loved ones back on solid ground. What is the average cost of in-patient care for three months? 135K. What is the effect on marriages, siblings, and family dynamics? Immeasurable.
We have a cutting epidemic – where inflicting physical pain is preferable to feeling emotional pain. If wounds from sharp objects are not devastating enough, the new trend is pouring salt, bleach and acid into the incision to magnify the sensation.
We have a suicide epidemic. If you don’t believe me, read the obituaries of young men and women who, despite their stellar academic, community and athletic accomplishments, felt death was the better option in their darkest moments.
In Atlanta, we have taller hedges to hide our dysfunctions from our neighbors. We also have deeper pockets to “pay our way out of” tough situations. But money doesn’t fix a spiritual and emotional disconnect. It may buy us time. But it doesn’t solve a thing. If it did, Big Pharma would go bankrupt; we’d have nothing to vent about, and we’d all be rich, thin, fulfilled, and super fantastic…if that’s your definition of success.
If you have been paying attention to anything I have shared by e-mails, on my website, in person, or on handouts, you will have noticed that I am looking wayyyy beyond the surface with every person who walks through my doors. I am looking to create mental and physical health by connecting the dots – structure, brain, and chemistry. Beyond science, it’s being that “horse whisperer,” “Aunt Dr. Caroline,” and that person you wish you had in High School – where I am not the teacher or the parent, but the one who is going to support you on your journey, no matter how many bumps there are on that path. And for those of you who only want the back-fixing side of the chiro equation, that’s cool, too. Everyone is welcome.
A former patient told me her new chiropractor gave entirely different recommendations for her daughter’s care. While I don’t know what the exact recommendations are, I suspect they’re about pain relief, come in when it hurts – the typical chiropractor back doc talk. While spinal hygiene is important, I’d like to see that her daughter is not bullied because she doesn’t fit the criteria of cool girl status in certain communities – “right” zip code, athletic, outgoing, slender. I’d like her to have a healthy respect for her body image, values, talents, and personality – just as she is…her standards, not those fed to us by Instagram. And those night terrors, rings under the eyes, chronic headaches, lethargy, moody outbursts – can we put an end to that by assessing and healing the body correctly, or is running from one doctor to another (without solutions) the best option? Otherwise, can we prevent more families and children from reaching that point of no return? No wonder the “other” chiropractor had different recommendations. Text neck isn’t the priority at Balance Atlanta for someone in this situation.
We have a problem here, right under our noses. That’s why I have been invited by Westminster to create a program on developing warriors (not worriers) who learn to navigate life with balance, breath, poise, awareness, trust, belief, boundaries, skills, concepts, vision, and connection instead of winging it with self-doubt and self-harm. What I can develop at one school can be replicated at others. You can only change a community by starting with the children. Love is No Color is a prime example.
My passion is fueled by reading thousands of health history forms over nearly two decades. Being in the pits – mind, body, spirit – didn’t happen overnight. Just like cancer, diabetes, arthritis and heart disease, emotional and physical dysfunction begins in childhood. It’s progressive and degenerative. There are no short-term solutions to chronic issues. Resisting change shows up in many forms – being peeved that insurance won’t pay (nope…they won’t), being too busy (stress is a choice), or inconvenience factor (depends on values and priorities).
There is a certain urgency I’ve developed to help those who truly have skin (not resistance) in the game. Call it what you will…the result of the number of years in practice, the start of a new decade, a deeper belief system, seeing more clearly? I’ve got work to do.
Some patients are merely passing through Balance Atlanta. For others, I am their last stop on an arduous journey. The currency is relationship and commitment. Everyone is welcome for as long as they choose to be a part of this family. In the meantime, I am committed to placing a value on what I personally believe is our biggest asset – developing healthy, inspired, confident, productive, connected, joyful, creative, and congruent children on a foundation of balance. While Balance Atlanta may not be the right place for everyone, it’s home to those who share my vision for this community.