Reflections from a trailblazer of women’s health looking back — a personal letter of love and gratitude to her younger self
Dear Chris (circa 1994),
I have just finished watching episode 2 of Kelly Turner’s Radical Remission docuseries produced by Hay House. And I have found myself cheering, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” These are the types of healing stories that your pioneering work spoke of so many years ago when very few people were listening.
Even then you knew that people had the power to heal themselves — that our bodies know how to heal.
And now (finally), many more people are ready to listen.
As I look back at everything you believed and practiced so many years ago, I have such great fondness for you, and such admiration for your courage to keep going despite the world in general, and medicine in particular — not being ready to hear what you had to say. Teaching people that ‘food was medicine’ and that we can all heal ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually, was often considered weird.
Some people said your patients were ‘crazy’ when they told the truth about their experiences.
And, you were considered equally crazy because you validated your patients’ experiences. You were called ‘a quack’ for prescribing herbs, supplements, meditation, exercise, and organic food. Yet you persisted. Why? Because it worked! And because you knew that it was unethical to withhold information from patients, no matter how out of the box that information appeared.
And an amazing thing happened — together you healed.
Like your patients, you found the path to healing your own body, including a fibroid tumor, a breast abscess, and a dysfunctional labor.
When you wrote the first edition of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom in 1994 you forged new territory with very little support from your colleagues and society. Your book chronicled the effect of women’s histories on their bodies. But, the idea that the mind and body were intimately connected was simply not accepted back then. Yet, somehow your belief in the truth was strong enough to get you through.
Little did you know that it would take more than 20 years for the mainstream culture to finally believe women, and that many more women would begin to stand up for themselves and others by speaking about their experiences, as with the #MeToo movement.
If you had known what was coming, you might not have had the courage to make your journey.
I’m glad you didn’t know that sticking with your truth would end your marriage, or that it would lead to several lawsuits that had nothing whatsoever to do with malpractice or wrong doing.
Damn girl! I don’t know how you did it!
You couldn’t have realized back then that the work you were doing in a small town in Maine would eventually reach all over the world..
And that the very personal losses, grief, pain, healing, triumphs, and transformations that you and your patients experienced would have universal themes that would help millions of women worldwide (and continue to do so today). But, you had faith and you stood strong.
Do you remember how you could barely look at the finished copy of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom? You couldn’t really take it in. Writing that book was an arduous task. And you were like a mother after a traumatic delivery who had a hard time bonding with her baby. All you could see were the parts that weren’t quite perfect.
The week before Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom was published, you had awakened screaming several times during the night. You were certain that someone was in the house with a gun wanting to kill you.
Then, on the same day in June, 1994, when your book was published by Random House (a mainstream publisher), you were scheduled for grand rounds, the weekly meeting where everyone goes over case histories. You knew intuitively that you were about to walk through a wall of fear that historically women who have told the truth about their lives have had to walk through.
Entering the hospital that day — the same hospital where you had spent so many years placating your critics and keeping a low profile — was your ‘coming out’. You would no longer hide your truth the way you once did in the 1980s when your picture was on the cover of East West Journal and you bought every copy at the food coop so your colleagues would not see it. This time around you fearlessly went into the hospital ready to be pounced on.
Instead, you found that most of your colleagues didn’t even care. They hadn’t seen the book, except one colleague who gave you a hug and told you that he never would have had the courage to do what you did.
While you felt profound relief, you still weren’t winning any popularity contests.
Would it have helped you back then to have known that most of your critics would be retired or dead now and that you would still be going strong? Would it have helped you to know how many younger doctors and nurses and naturopaths and acupuncturists you would someday influence and help? I’ll bet it would. But life can only be lived proactively and understood retrospectively.
You were a wayshower. You still are. You have helped women through every stage of their lives and taught them to trust the wisdom inherent in their hearts and bodies — wisdom they don’t need a doctor to validate. Not only have you shown the way, you first explored which direction to go and then drew the map for others to follow. You climbed an unmarked peak in the dark and established a path.
But, because of you, other women have been able to install the landscape lighting, and a few benches to rest upon.
As a result of all you’ve done, you have received so many astounding opportunities to get your empowering message out to the masses including PBS specials, the appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, NBC Nightly News, The View, Dr. Oz, The Today Show, and Good Morning America.
So, my dear girl, I salute you. I wish I could reach back and give you a huge hug. Thank you with all my heart for everything that you have stood for, endured, and celebrated so that many others could do the same. We are all in this together. What you’ve done has changed the world.
With enormous love,
You may also enjoy watching Interview: Dr. Christiane Northrup & Kate Northrup | The New Conversation with Kristen Noel.