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Being a Good Patient

By Read Hayward

As a patient of Dr. Bonnet's and as a friend to the many others I have referred to him over the years, I've had the opportunity to repeatedly witness how critical "being a good patient" is to successful treatment. Simply put, in holistic or "alternative" medical modalities (usually where some leg-work needed to find the fixes) good patients—which we will define shortly—get good results waaay more often than patients that... well... aren't so good.

According to Dr. Bonnet, being a good patient has two distinct but interrelated components: Attitude and Behavior... which leads to a sort of holistic treatment axiom: Patient's Attitude and Behavior + Doctor's Treatment = Recovery

Attitude in this case shows up as the recurrent private background conversations we have with ourselves when we think about basic stuff like what's good & bad, right & wrong, important & meaningless, virtue & vice, etc. Behavior on the other hand, is simply the mental or physical actions that our attitudes trigger us to perform. Deciding to have a salad (instead of a chocolate cake) would be a mental behavior and eating the salad would be a physical behavior. Simple.

Attitude and Behavior are very different... very interrelated... and very important for people who want to improve their mental and physical health.

The Good Patient's Attitude and Behavior To Do List

1) Take responsibility: Realize, and live the fact every moment, that you are responsible for your situations. Not that you necessarily consciously or unconsciously created your illnesses; but that—in the here, now, and going forward—you yourself, more than anyone else, can improve your situations and even more importantly, your emotional responses to them. Waiting for things to improve by themselves, or by someone else's hand, is not taking responsibility.

2) Consciously create courage: Courage isn't the absence of fear, it's the taking of action in spite of fear. So actively confront (be willing to fully experience) your illness head on!, i.e., be willing to experience the fact that your recovery, though now likely under Dr. Bonnet's care, isn't inevitable. This will heighten your sense of necessity for following your treatment day in and day out regardless of the fact that Holistic treatments sometimes don't work as fast as we'd like.

Also, if you actually single out a particularly troublesome symptom and sort of look it in the eye and snarl (to yourself!!) something like "Bring it ON!"—it will, for the time being, lessen significantly. (This is not some feel-good pep talk. Give it a try and see!). Simply put, courage—i.e., the willingness to experience something, no matter its pain or fear content—reduces that fear or pain content AND the stress that both cause. This not only provides some relief in the short run but also hastens recovery in the long run because chronic stress make EVERYTHING worse and longer lasting.

3) Don't deny the disease: When recovery begins and you find yourself exclaiming, "Whoa! I fell better than I have in years," avoid the temptation to then say, "Whoa!, so now I'm fixed," or "Whoa!, I was never really sick in the first place!" "And so now I can resume my old life again!" El wrongo! Keep in mind that that old life included part and parcel, the illness and its causes. Confront, and live the fact every moment, that your new health is an integral part of your new life, and it requires that you continue the lifestyle that achieved your recovery. No backsliding or cheating on your treatment!!

4) Give yourself the rank of "Physician's-Assistant" in Dr. Bonnet's "Healing Partnership:" Dr. Bonnet needs and wants regular, precise, and accurate reports on your treatment's progress. He can't guess at how you are doing or what is working and what isn't. His treatments are highly individualized (like your illness is) and so they often require adjustment; and so they always require monitoring (by YOU, the competent Physician's-Assistant!) to determine the need and direction of those adjustments. If you don't do you part in the Healing Partnership on a daily basis, serious time and money are wasted and unnecessary suffering will be endured by you and those around you.

5) Don't give up... ever, ever, ever!!!! Even though recovery has been elusive up until now, the past does not equal the future. New treatments evolve everyday (especially if you are doing you part as a good patient) and your ability to deal with your illness can evolve as well. Even after years of suffering, relief can gradually slip into your life, almost unnoticed at first, as an existing or new treatment slowly realigns micro-biotic processes that have been out of whack just enough to ruin your life up to that point. You must watch for that relief, acknowledge it, and nurture it by... being a good patient.

6) Don't despair if recovery comes... and then goes: It happens. Hold on to this... if you beat it once—you can beat it again. Maybe in the way you beat it before... maybe with some new approach or treatment. And most importantly, don't be embarrassed to tell Dr. Bonnet if old problems do resurface or new ones appear. You may be reluctant to be a party-pooper after celebrating an up-tick; but Dr. Bonnet knows (and you should too) that in holistic environments, remissions and recurrences are, more often than not, part of a long-term gradual recovery process.

7) Be valuable: Humans are group-oriented (family/tribe) animals and as such, feel best when engaged in some sort of activity of value to others. So actively seek out and exploit opportunities to be useful to others and then acknowledge yourself for doing so because, among other reasons, you are more likely to recovery when you feel like you deserve to recover. Contribution, along with Confront, also lowers chronic stress and chronic stress makes EVERYTHING... well, you know.

8) Visualize being well: On a routine basis... especially at night before sleep and first thing in the morning, picture specifics about how you'll feel after recovery and what you will do with your new live as it slowly unfolds. This helps make your hopes and plans more realizable, emotionally uplifting, and less like a pipe-dream that, in our dark ours, we fear can never really happen. (And yep!, it also reduces chronic stress.)

And if you think visualization stuff is new-age malarkey, try visualizing the "Alien" bursting out of your chest as you doze off to sleep for a few nights a row and then see if you think visualization can't affect your mind and body!

9) Get enough sleep: Men require nine hours and women ten hours of sleep each day. Recovery will suffer without it! Find out what disturbs your sleep, e.g., sugar, caffeine, arguments, eating late, greasy food, provocative TV, red wine, video games, etc. And then DON'T do that! Next, find out what enhances your sleep, e.g., quiet walks after dark, a (or "the"?) good book, warm milk, hot showers, getting or giving a message, or Benadryl? And then DO that, every night.

10) Eat right: Fight your temptations and rationalizations regarding "NGFY" (Not Good For You) foods and other NGFY addictions calling your name. Going cold-turkey on NGFY's that you crave is much better than just cutting back. This, because the heavier intervention requires your confront (i.e., in this case, willingness to experience the deprivation), which puts you more in-control over yet another facet of your life. Also, just cutting back can maintain or even intensify your cravings. Eating right, if done right, eventually feels right. Point being, you won't crave your particular NGFY's forever if you stop them for a while. (Note: Dr. Bonnet and I don't always completely agree on this; so talk to him about any cut-back vs. full stop of a NGFY-situation and do what he says.)

11) Get physical: But pick an exercise form and environment that is fun or you will quit when distractions beckon or motivations lessen. (I like biking, hiking, and kayaking with my I-pod and an audio book. I get stronger, thinner, AND smarter.) Physical activity also tends to reset and balance your major and minor bio-processes. It also puts you in more control of yet another part of your life and anchors your attention in the "here and now" which is the only place healing takes place.

12) Avoid scary terminology: In discussions about your illness (with yourself or others), heavy-duty labels can frighten friends and family (and you too). Such labels will also linger in others', and your, visions of yourself long after you are well. Think of ways to describe your condition in biological terms, not psychiatric or behavioral ones, e.g., I have a "zinc deficiency" or "cerebral allergy" not "Affective Bipolar Disorder "or "Hebephrenic Schizophrenia." Don't hide from these terms; but don't beat yourself—or others—over the head with them either.

13) Continue the treatment (this is a big one!): Typically there are 3 reasons patients stop: a) It's not helping (yet). b) It makes us nauseous c) it seems no longer needed because we've been feeling pretty good for a while.

If you want to try something different—or something less—tell Dr. Bonnet (it's EXACTLY what his "Daily Call-in" time is for). He will listen and respond. Doctor and patient (he and you) must leave no stone unturned in the hunt for a successful and tolerable treatment. Again, remember that—especially in the trial & error world of individualized holistic treatment—recovery is often more gradual than you'd like.

14) Acquire knowledge: As Dr. Bonnet's Physician's Assistant in the Healing Partnership, you must learn what you can about your illness because to be an accurate communicator about your illness, you need to know it inside and out. Such information is also inherently comforting—even if not great news to start with—in that it dispels the fear inherent in unknowns (back to the therapeutic value of "Confront" again) and it puts you more in-charge—and being in charge makes us feel better.

15) Don't just fade away: ...Call first. And when you feel better, Dr. Bonnet very much needs to know that as much as he needs to know when you feel like crap! Detailed feedback on your particular treatment is critical for him to have in case you relapse; and so he and other practitioners can learn from your experiences to better help others sooner; and because good news about your health is what makes his.


"In view of this long experience with him, I can say without any exaggeration, that Dr. Bonnet is quintessential healer of the most gentle kind. He has adopted an approach that is simultaneously state-of-the-art yet practiced as closely in tune with your own body's natural, "built-in" healing capabilities—e.g. the LEAST invasive approach, tailored to that particular person's body."
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