Do I have a story for you! I think you will resonate with it.
This is about two medical doctor interactions that I recently had.
One demonstrates a “don’t do this”.
The other “do this”, for me and how I approach my health.
What it’s like to challenge the accepted norms.
What I look for (and most importantly: avoid!) in any kind of healthcare provider – from a massage therapist, to an acupuncturist, to a general practitioner, and so on.
This path, life, isn’t always the easiest.
But it is definitely made easier with community, sharing, and knowing that you are not alone.
And boy do I have some doozy stories from years gone by.
This is the first of what may be many “healing journey” stories. It’s time to share with you what my story has been so far. About what’s possible when you step on this path. Then, you can understand not just who I am, but why I work the way I do. How I started on this path, and the myriad twists and turns. Also, maybe, about that one time I did a liver cleanse and had a job interview moved up a week that I went to, reeking of garlic and who knows what else…
I’ll share what I’ve learned, and where I’m at now.
(Spoiler alert: BETTER THAN EVER! GETTING BETTER EVERY DAY! Yep, all caps for that one.)
Last week I had a really, truly, crappy experience with my general practitioner (GP) at my annual physical. I went so that I could keep an eye on certain blood markers, and so I could have an emergency-use (for migraines) prescription refilled.
This experience reached peak terrible around how to “treat” my thyroid condition. I left the appointment feeling bullied.
Like worse than Mean Girls bullying bullied.
This GP berated me for not wanting to medicate thyroid medication. And…
For not needing thyroid medication to manage my Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in the first place.
And then she questioned my endocrinologist (the one doctor I see very regularly), and suggested that I was some sort of irresponsible person for, gasp, not wanting to take unnecessary medication.
I know I don’t need this medication because I see my endocrinologist several times a year, closely monitor my health between observation and lab work, and discuss the entirety of my health-life with my endocrinologist at my appointments.
Did the GP ask me these things?
And here’s the thing that had me all worked up the entire weekend:
Patients should not be bullied or made to feel bad, or infused with fear, over how they are managing their chronic conditions. Especially when they are a success story. And even moreso if they are struggling!!!
Being educated about one’s condition should be considered a GOOD thing. Not something seen as a liability, a form of defiance or combativeness.
Successfully managed chronic conditions should not be weaponized against the patient.
Heck, no doctor should be weaponizing a patient’s health and health-history in the first place!
How the GP acted and reacted is not how medicine (of any kind) should be practiced. Period.
Medicine is about doing no harm.
It’s about bringing people to more health through compassion, and care, not through bullying and shame.
Doctors should not be saying, “you are here so I can fix you” to a patient with long-term, complex, chronic conditions. Especially not without engaging in more inquiry about the situation, person, and so on.
Or, I don’t know, asking if the patient wants to, or feels they need, “fixing” to begin with?
This is especially true when that person sees you once a year or less for a 15 minutes appointment.
This approach is not only downright arrogant. It’s harmful.
Everything I have experienced on my long health-journey tells me that true health and wellness is not rooted in arrogance.
Acting from such an arrogant place severs the bonds of trust between patient and practitioner, between the medicine and the potential benefactor (the patient)…
Arrogance is also a barrier between myself and my own wellness. Between me and the world. Between me and God/Source/Universe/Spirit. Between me and love. Me and others. (Gosh, any time I’ve gotten arrogant about anything in my life, it has done nothing but cause harm!)
Arrogance severs and prevents connections.
This interaction exemplifies why I said, “screw this” and began turning to “alternative” medicine 18 years ago.
It’s why I enrolled in a clinical herbal program when my health was in the toilet.
I knew there had to be another way.
On the other end of this spectrum with a medical doctor…
I had a wonderful recent experience with my endocrinologist.
At our last appointment, I challenged a recommendation of hers and said I was more comfortable approaching this recommendation from a different angle. We discussed it, and she said, “sure, if that’s what you want to do. Just know, this delays any measures we can take until this testing is done.”
I was fine with that. My endocrinologist was too. She got it.
When I told my endocrinologist about my GP visit, she rolled her eyes. My endocrinologist assured me that what I said to the doctor was SPOT ON regarding thyroid health, treatment, labs, and so on, that I wished I could have hugged her. I was so relieved.
My endocrinologist and I talked about my lab results, how I’m feeling, what’s going on with me outside of the labwork health-wise. Oh, and that recommendation that we shifted to testing first so I was more comfortable? Yeaup: didn’t need to do anything.
At the end of the appointment, she said, “well, your labs look great! See you in six (6!) months! Keep up the good work!” Can’t argue with that. (This is the first time that she’s said see you in 6 months since we started working together. Usually it is one, two, or three…)
As you know, I spent the weekend in a tizzy over how my GP talked to me last week, and this appointment was just what I needed.
It’s really hard for me to “stand up for myself”, to stay rooted in myself, when there is a huge conflict such as my appointment last week.
I’m getting better at it, but this is a huge challenge for me.
Advocating for yourself is not easy.
You have to educate yourself and then advocate for your health needs. You have to remember that you are the expert of your health, that you know you best. You have to observe how you feel, what works for you, what doesn’t, and act accordingly.
This is especially true if you have a complex chronic health condition, or multiple conditions. Or don’t want to be taking medication when a dietary change will do. Or, if you want to be the gorgeous self-empowered human that you are!
Self-advocacy is the key to well-being.
Self-advocacy is what gets you eating those vegetables.
Telling your practitioner, “that’s not going to work for me because…”
Getting out and exercising because you know you feel better when you do.
Getting enough sleep every night.
Not eating that food that you know aggravates your health condition.
We all need and deserve a care team that honors our lived experience.
You deserve someone who understands that you are unique, that your experiences are your own, and that there is so much healing that can happen simply by working with the whole picture.
For me, having a care-team involves not just “alternative” practitioners and practices, but the standard allopathic ones as well. I know what I get from each practitioner and how it fits together, but it took me 18 years (holy moly, I still can’t get over that) to get here.
For you, and your team, the bigger picture will be different.
No matter what your picture looks like, in the end…
All that matters is that you are getting the care that you deserve.
Self-advocacy and being health-empowered help you winnow out the people who are not right for your care team.
The process can be exhausting. Enraging and frustrating.
It can leave you feeling unheard, invalidated, dismissed, bullied, “fired”… I’ve been there. I’ve been fired by doctors on more than one occasion. Yet, all this has been worth it.
It’s worth it because ME and MY HEALTH are worth it.
If all you have is one person who “gets it” – that can make a world of difference.
That’s whats taken me to the next step, on more than one occasion!
How are you taking your next step towards living a health-empowered life?