April 19, 2012

The Quack Who Traumatized Me

When I was about thirteen, my mom went through a health-obsessed phase. Like many well-meaning but naive people, she began venturing into the questionable world of alternative medicine. Now, before you go and get offended on me, let me say that I don't think all alternative medical practitioners are quacks . . . just a whole lot of them. She dragged me along to see a few of these bizarre quacks. Let me share one experience with you.

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Quack #1: I can read your eyes.

When a neighbor raved about how an iridologist cured almost all her ailments, my trusting mother decided to try it for herself. Since I was always saying I felt sick (mostly as an attempt to avoid the misery of eighth grade), she thought I should go too. So, I was reluctantly dragged along.

We walked into the side door of a house. An older woman with bloody hands greeted us, saying, "I'll be with you in a minute! I just delivered a baby!" Now, she may have had decent midwifery skills; I can't vouch for that. But I'm pretty sure her iridology (eye-reading) skills weren't quite up to par.

When she came back, she led us into a small room and asked my mom what was wrong with me.
"Well," my mom told her, "she's always tired, she says she's sick a lot, she's often angry. . ." I sat there glaring at my mom as she spoke.

"Alrighty then! Let's have a look at those eyes of yours." The gray-haired woman pulled her chair right up in front of me, pulled out a little flashlight, and stared intensely into my eyes. I remember thinking that I had never seen such clear blue eyes; I wondered if she really did have some eye magic.

"Oh wow. Oh my goodness. You are not healthy at all!" She sat there shaking her head and clucking over my poor health. "Look at those flecks of green in her eyes. This is one sick girl."
My mom looked worried. I suddenly felt very afraid.
"You've got a stupid ovary. You might be infertile." She stated these points very matter-of-factly, as if it wouldn't affect me at all. "You have bad kidneys. Your digestive tract doesn't function properly . . ." On and on she went. I can't possibly remember all the ailments I had. My eyes began to fill with tears. How could she keep reading them if I was crying? I don't know. But she kept pretending to.

". . . Your biological age is 52. AND, you have depression."
My mom was horrified at my condition. She then asked the question that all quacks want to hear: "What can we do to make her better?"
"Today's your lucky day! I've got every herb she needs. Come this way!" She sounded so upbeat. My poor mom was sold. And so were a few hundred dollars worth of herbal crap remedies.

I walked out of the room into a waiting area where a large woman sat on a couch. She saw me crying my eyes out and ordered me to come sit by her. Since my will to live was pretty much gone at this point, I did as I was told.

When I sat down, she put both her index fingers up to my temples and started trembling. "Oh honey! You have so much negative energy inside you. It's actually making my fingers shake!" Her fingers were indeed shaking. For several minutes, she shook and trembled with her fingers shoved into my temples. Finally, the trembling slowed and eventually stopped.
"There," she said sweetly, "I drew it out of you." She pulled me in for a big pillowy big hug as the iridologist looked on in approval.

I was still crying when we got home. My dad and sister were in the kitchen.
"What's the matter?" my dad asked.
"I'm half dead!" I shouted furiously. My mom tried to explain it to my dad, but he (rightly) thought it sounded ridiculous, especially the part about the "stupid ovary."
"Great," my dad said optimistically, "that means you're half alive!" Then my dad and sister laughed. I was dying and they laughed.
Another burst of tears and a slammed door later, I was beginning to think that maybe I would be okay. It took a while to get over the damage the eye lady caused, but time heals all wounds. Or maybe herbs do. I can't remember which.

I love this Seinfeld clip about the "holistic healer" because it's eerily true to life and completely hilarious.


I'm curious. Have any of you experienced quacks like this?

One more thing: Donna from My Write Spot was one of the winners of a blog header designed by me. It's on her blog now if you want to see it. She's a writer and is doing a unique theme of 10 sentence flash fiction posts for the A to Z challenge.


  1. When I got back from Russia, mom took me and you to the Bountiful quack lady who told us both our biological ages were older than mom's. I apparently had some horrible blood parasite and needed $250 dollars worth of IV drips. I remember sitting in the lazy boy chair in the patient room with the IV drip in my arm convinced I was the sickest person in the room. I wrote back to my friends who were still in Russia and told them they may pick up this blood parasite too so they had better watch out. Of course, there was no name for this 'blood parasite' just a cure that was exclusively found at her clinic.
    Dad used to get so sick of these guys. I walked into the office one day and he was printing off a list of medicinal quack doctors to prove mom was wasting their money. But, I think she was so desperate, she considered it hateful, anti-healing literature.
    Ohhh then there was the foot lady! With the huge knuckle! I made fun of her to her face one time and that was the last time mom brought me to her.
    Good, funny post and love the Seinfeld clip!

  2. Oh yeah, I've been to em all. Been told and sold so much crap, but it was nothing a good old fashioned prescription couldn't fix.

    By the way, I love your blog.

  3. Hilarious .. I could see how that would be traumatic for you as a 8th grader, my goodness! Luckily you are all ok now ;)


  4. Oh my! That made me laugh. My mom goes to a doctor who does the "drawing out energy" trick (he's also a chiropractor).

    With the people who claim to be healed by natural medicine, I wonder how much of it is psychological.

  5. Wow, what an experience!!! My goodness, I think I would cry too.

  6. Another great post...and thank you for the mention. Have to tell you that I keep getting comments on how folks LOVE the new header. Sunday's blog will link to you - thank you again!

  7. I don't have any personal experience but I've read some scare stories in the paper. Herbalist healers are popular with certain segments of the immigrant society here in L.A. I've seen the storefronts of some and have been curious as to what they sell. The ones that are really weird are those sell concoctions made from animal parts like bear gall bladders, rhino horns, and tiger penises. Those are the ones I usually hear about in the news--when they get busted.

    Places I Remember
    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  8. I must apologise but I'm with your dad and sister, I laughed like a drain at this!

  9. Goodness! Anyone would be traumatized by that--though I did giggle at your description of the ordeal:)
    Happy A-Zing!

  10. Well, that story sounds funny and dramatically very well written. But to be honest, I also went to a Iridologist, I was very skeptical, but since no other cures were working, I went, and she did in fact help me vastly, especially when the "real MD's" couldn't, here I am more than 7 years later still happy to have went, she wasn't old, or bloody and didn't speak stupidly. She has helped numerous family members and friends, and I did not even have to tell her what my doctors tests had reported, she figured it all out on her own, so in my case I am pleased with my experience and have found lasting improvement from a visit of good advice on how to turn my body into better health. Every piece of information she gave me has lasted and helped. Thank you for your article, hopefully not all will pin Iridology to your immature testimony. And I say that from a standpoint of someone who is younger and visibly much younger looking than yourself.

    1. Glad it worked for you. However, there is no research (or logic) to effectively back iridology as being scientifically valid, so I can't help but be skeptical, even without my own experience. Thanks for the comment and congratulations on your youthful appearance!

    2. Wow, Lisa, congratulations on managing to be polite to this Anonymous person! I don't think I would have been able to. Thank you for your testimony. I have tried several doctors too, holistic and regular specialists, I have been scared by them both
      I suffered from vertigo and peed a lot:
      A kinesiologist told me I had an ear parasite and had to dump all my pillows and bedsheets and that I had old emotions trapped in my kidneys.
      Then there was this urologist who cheerfully told me he was convinced I had bladder cancer even when my ultrasound and urine tests were normal and he thought that I needed a biopsy of three areas immediately.
      Then there was this otorrinolaringologyst who diagnosed my vertigo, gave me medicine... and told me I was too apprehensive and dubious and that was why I was sick, he was like my coffee: half and half.
      In the end I was diagnosed with an overactive bladder, reduced drastically my caffeine intake and I am much better now from both ailments.
      I wished we could trust completely the judgement of the medical specialists, but they are human too, they make mistakes, in the end we want to get better and do everything in our hands to get there :-)


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