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August 15, 2013
This is Not a Stone
Nature is Trying to Kill You
by Hannah Bird

There are a few experiences held in common among sufferers of chronic diseases. We all worry about money. We all struggle to find the right doctors. We all get to decide how to make a fabulous life with a less than fabulous body.  We all get to decide how to live with pain and exhaustion. We all learn to live with fear. We all feel the creeping guilt of being a can’t in a can-do world.

And every single one of us has been asked if we have tried treating our health issues naturally. Nature, we are assured, is our friend.

I am not opposed to natural treatments. I have a cupboard full or herb-y this and thats. There are some that I believe in quite firmly and some that I take on a bad day so that I can feel like I have done all I can.  But all of that aside, when did people decide that nature was our friend?

I have been assured that if I will try this root or that berry or some oil of a plant that is only picked on the second Thursday in May on a hillside so remote that the pickers helicopter in, said substance will gently heal my body. This of course sounds great. I am all for healing, but can we just back up a second?

Am I the only one that watched Mutual of Omaha’s “Animal Kingdom” as a kid? That show was so traumatizing that we should have had mandatory grief counseling afterwards.

“Today we are watching this darling rare baby giant panda be torn to shreds by tigers, some feral dogs and then some scavenging birds who will feed on its tiny, adorable carcass. Enjoy.”

My entire childhood can be summed up by the clumsy gazelle whose stumble lands its entire hindquarter in the mouth of a lioness. Then it was replayed in slow motion while the chipper narrator explained that’s how nature works.

I blame Disney (for this and almost everything else). We are taught that bluebirds would love to carry our things. Skunks are cuddly friends that absolutely do not spray. Mice make dresses and do not just ravage your food storage and leave you the parting gift of hanta virus. And predators are just misunderstood.

But we have sufficient daily evidence to question this PR campaign. Let’s briefly review just some of nature’s handiwork:

…and birds chirping early in the morning when you are trying to sleep.

If a friend showed up at your house and said, “I brought you chamomile tea to help you sleep and crippling cramps to help you remember that you do not want to be immortal,” you would not think they were a trustworthy friend. Yes, I like honey and lemon cough syrup, but I see that radon in your pocket, Mother Nature, and I am not falling for it.

The irony, of course, is that so many chronic illness are natural too. The bug that wrecked my lungs as a toddler was not developed in a lab.

It is also true that nature has a plan for me. I am not the majestic lioness going home to feed my cubs. I am the stumbling gazelle. Nature’s plan is for me to have a lion gnaw on my hindquarters while I watch my herd run away without me.

I am not saying that isn’t a good plan in theory. I am just saying that nature looks a little meaner if you are a gazelle. Or the baby panda. Or a person who can be felled with one sniffle of a small child’s nose.

So by all means, let’s all keep using whatever natural remedies we have found that we like. Nature has given us fire ants, and chaffing a little help now and then is the least she can do. But before you offer your sick friend whatever is being sold by that totally not MLM that you signed up for, just remember — the chronically ill do not want nature to win. And if you think about it, you probably don’t either.

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