Dr. Caroline Comes Clean

by Caroline von Fluegge-Chen

Dr. Caroline Comes Clean

One year ago, I addressed and stamped envelopes. I had every intention to write a newsletter. For twelve months, those envelopes lived in a box under Chelsey’s desk or by the fax machine. Though I enjoy writing and I had notebooks filled with ideas, the task morphed into the big fat elephant in my living room. What was missing? Conviction. Passion. Focus. Words. And most importantly, courage.

Something was burning a hole inside of me. I came to understand my calling within the chiropractic profession and at Balance Atlanta. I was too scared to share it. I feared rejection. You know – arms crossed, backs turned, eyes rolling skyward. Who doesn’t want to be liked? Who doesn’t want to please? Who doesn’t want to protect themselves from vulnerability? Instead of writing to be liked, I am writing to be understood. One’s true essence is then exposed. Or, so I have decided.

Finally, on the first sunny weekend in an eternity, the timing was right. I struck while the iron was hot. I hunkered down in my small office in the back to let the cat out of the bag. For two days, coming clean to my practice members was more important than enjoying the outdoors with my family. It was time to open my heart wide, bypass the whining of my brain, and simply share. The confines of being perceived as merely a run of the mill back doctor suffocate my ability to serve all of my patients, young and old. I cannot inspire you with the best of my abilities, to reach your highest good, stuck in a paradigm of chiropractic that is outdated and narrow.

When I was five years old, I was sick. My mother gave me penicillin. The pills smelled bad. Behind her back, I threw them in the fish tank. I ran to my bedroom. The water in the tank turned a weird shade of orange. The fish died. The pills were supposed to help me get healthy, yet they killed the fish. To my young mind, something did not make sense. I was already a contrarian…in trouble, too.

On career day in third grade, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grow up. “I want to research Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and the Bermuda Triangle.” I have always been curious. I asked “why” so often that my older sisters, in exasperation, told me to shut up a thousand times. I pushed the envelope eagerly wanting to figure out things that, to me at least, were puzzling. I never stopped asking.

After college, while working in NYC for an ad agency, I was overcome by chronic migraines. Though the docs didn’t have an explanation, they prescribed plenty of drugs. Chiropractic adjustments finally gave me the relief I was looking for. Chiropractic made sense. And so I embarked on a 180-degree career change. I don’t like suffering – human or animal. With a little inspiration, a lot of love, a strong intent, and a skillful chiropractic adjustments, maybe I could mitigate suffering in my community. I was naive.

In the five years of graduate school, our studies  rarely touched on the true history and philosophy of chiropractic. We became test taking machines specializing in physics, neurology, biomechanics, physiology, and radiology. By the time we were handed diplomas, we were nothing more than back pain specialists, the chiropractic version. Forget about mind-body connection, healing, humanitarian compassion, caring for families. We were lost. Joy, curiosity and optimism were beaten out of us.

My classmates chose different paths. Many became associates working for other doctors. Disillusioned and in debt, they quit chiropractic all together. Others had a knack for riding the insurance wave until the tide of insurance benefits receded. With the back pain relief doctor paradigm in mind, some built amazing practices and helped many people in need – without drugs or surgery. A minority created wellness practices on the foundation of healthy nerve system = healthy families = healthy community. Each version took soul searching, perseverance, trial and error. With the same education, we went our separate ways. The public was confused.

Patients saw me as a back pain doctor who happened to see families. In fact, I stayed in Atlanta because I became one of two chiropractors for the NHL Atlanta Thrashers. I got my start adjusting professional HOCKEY players. Eventually, one pregnant mom came to see me for back pain. She told her pregnant friends. Babies were born. They were adjusted. More pregnant moms came. And that’s how families found their way to Balance Atlanta. Then more people showed up with back pain. I was between two worlds. Back pain doc or family wellness mind-body-balance family doc? I want to see more families, but felt stuck in the back model.

Of course, if parents only viewed me as a back pain doc, then it wouldn’t make any sense bringing in their kids because kids don’t need chiropractic care. Or, do they? Between iPads, computers, heavy back packs it’s inevitable.  But spines are not priorities for most families with children. That is understandable coming from the paradigm of back pain specialist. Limited beliefs yield limited opportunities.

Here’s the part where I am going to come clean: I firmly believe that every person needs chiropractic care from birth until death if they expect to have a healthy, inspired, productive and peaceful life. There is simply no reason for someone NOT to be adjusted. Everyone has a brain, a spine and nerves. Everyone is going to face stressful events. It’s a matter of will you bounce back from the events? Will your nerve system handle the load of what life shovels at you? Will the pendulum find center? Will you regain balance? Or, will you spend a lot of energy and money at odds with your own mind and body? I see it on your health form. I see it in your eyes.      I hear it in your voice. I feel it on your spine. Are you a bright light bulb or a dim light bulb?

I adjust a 22-year old who was on nine different drugs and falling apart. She’s now off all her meds, her world has completely changed for the better, a life was saved. Read her parent’s testimonial in the newsletter. How many parents will step into the unknown and put their faith in me when their trust in others was broken?

I adjust a baby who was stuck in his mother’s pelvis. The OB broke his clavicle to get him out. He was without oxygen for over four minutes. Birth trauma. No matter how one came into the world, making sure that nerve system is healthy from day one is a priority. His parents are adjusted as are the grandparents. They get it.

I adjust a young boy who wets his bed. He was bullied in school. His grades went downhill. He thinks he’s fat (he is not). The pediatrician thought the bedwetting was due to constipation. NO. Bedwetting is a physical manifestation of stress. Amazingly, this kiddo is one of the most appreciative, creative, generous and intelligent people I know. With his background, he can either spiral downward towards self-destruction, or become connected, get mental-physical balance, find belief in himself and in others. I will do anything and everything for him. I will not have blood on my hands knowing there is someone in front of me in need that I can help. Weekly adjustments plus a field trip with Dr. C to the High Museum + pizza = sweet deal for a sweet boy.

I adjust adults who seem fine by society’s standards. Yet beneath the surface, things are different. Roommate marriages. Divorce. Cancer survivor. Kids experimenting with drugs. Abuse. Eating disorders. Financial problems. Unexpected surgery. Aging parents. Unsatisfying careers. Loneliness. Empty nests. Searching for purpose. Is it any wonder why spines are rock hard from tension…anxiety and depression are pandemic.

A parent’s biggest hope and fear? Are my kids going to make it? Get through school. Find a niche in the world. Get a career. Be stable. Have healthy relationships. Adults worry if their money will last. If their mental or physical health will prevail. Everyone is wondering if they will be OK. We nearly kill ourselves in the pursuit of staying alive. What people really need is MORE CONNECTION, not less. MORE BALANCE. A brain that can handle stress FROM BIRTH, not succumb to it. Clearing that mac daddy nerve system should start at the beginning, before the debris of life accumulates. You don’t have to wait for symptoms to appear. Perfectly healthy people are adjusted because they wish to remain that way. It’s a higher commitment to seeing what is possible in life. Embrace opportunity for greatness. You need a brain that is in tune and primed for action.

I will certainly be a back doctor for those who need that type of care. I will always invite your entire family to be adjusted because everyone deserves health. I will not hold back on teaching you new ideas about wellness. I will always ask “why” to find the solution to a problem. I will always question what is conventional, especially if it makes no sense. We will accept your insurance if we can. We have family and budget friendly financial options for those wishing to participate. We have incentives for you to make referring loved ones easy. I will go the extra mile for you. I will be honest with you as I expect you to be honest with me. I will recommend what your body needs. Fearing judgement is cowardice. I will not hold back. I only have so much time to make a difference. You matter to me and everyone who loves you. I will encourage you because I love you. xox Dr. C