It’s in times of struggle, when the going gets real rough that we learn who we are and what we need — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The past 3 years have been nothing but a journey dealing with chronic health issues, leading to a whole lotta learning; I’ve been put to the test to say the least.
When health issues began it became like a second job — seeing doctors, getting tests done, countless hours on the phone with insurance etc. This also brought up the need to be constantly evaluating and considering varying responses and forms of treatment… and the lack thereof. Even if you aren’t dealing with a chronic, complicated health issues, there is enough to be said for the amount of energy, patience, and problem solving that is required when working with our healthcare system. Surely you’ve experienced this at some point, or perhaps you may in the future. In light of all of the difficult lessons that have come my way, here are some things I’ve learned:
Don’t Be Patient
If something is wrong, seek help. Ask for help, and in fact, demand to be heard and seen. If you aren’t persistent in asking for help and getting the help you need, you cannot count on anyone else to do it for you.
Whether this is to get appointments for doctors, or to get procedures approved or to navigate insurance — or some other challenge in life — do NOT be patient. I mean patience is important in general of course, but when it comes to your health and well being you must be persistent; get the care you need and make your health and self a priority. Sometimes we are only a decision away from it being too late.
Listen To Your Gut
When something is wrong, your body will let you know. This can be as simple as getting headache or stomachache, or as obvious as getting the flu or becoming violently ill. Your body will tell you when something is going on that needs attention — so listen! In this chaotic and stressful world, putting something off can only make things worse, and unfortunately, stressing about it can too. The human body is incredibly smart, so please listen to it.
Don’t Give Up
For those of you who may be struggling with a symptom that isn’t visible to the eye, or with a mental health issue (I suffer from this myself), don’t give up. It may take a long time — a very long time — to convince someone to take you seriously. As I approach an actual diagnosis now (years later), it turns out a lot of the anxiety I was experiencing was due to the medical condition itself, physically.
Do not give up.
If like me, you have ever struggled with a mental health issue, it can become an AWFUL barrier to getting the help you are in need of. Mental health issues are unfortunately a HUGE (additional) barrier for getting the correct treatment — and even more so for women.
Let me just repeat this incredibly important statement again:
Mental health issues are unfortunately a HUGE (additional) barrier for getting the correct treatment — and even more so for women.
Be adamant if you truly feel something is going on with you. If you are brushed off, told you should see a shrink, or to take a shitty pill; be persistent in your convictions. Doctors don’t take people with mental health issues as seriously (and I say this as a mental health provider myself).
I’ve cried so many times at the doctor that it’s more than I could count. For not being listened to, for being told (essentially) that I was crazy, for being too emotional, or pushy. It took so much fighting on my part, and finally getting an actual diagnosis to ‘validate’ all of those tears.
No matter what you are dealing with, waiting for a diagnosis should not be what validates our experience. We must insist that we matter and that what we are dealing with needs to be attended to. It’s gross negligence on the healthcare system’s part to not take people (particularly women and those with mental health issues) seriously.
Doctor visit # 15:
Me: “I’ve been struggling with x, y and z for a year and have had a multitude of tests…what could be going on?”
Dr.: “Take this pill for several weeks and then schedule a follow up.”
Me: “I feel really awful still, is there anything else that can be done?
Dr.: “I don’t know what to tell you.”
Doctor visit # 20-something:
Me: “I’m still feeling awfully. So much that my heart races each time I move and I’m having trouble simply walking. Something’s not right.”
(Another) Dr.: “Have you seen a psychiatrist?”
SO NOW WHAT??
This led me to do even more research and to utilize any suggestions that came my way from people outside of the healthcare system. In my case, I found a great amount of healing and help from non-traditional, function medicine (holistic approaches). It takes an unforeseen amount of patience, and being able to listen to your body, as well as to what the universe sends your way.
I only got where I am today — with a much better understanding of what’s going on and an actual livable lifestyle — from not giving up. It’s also true there were times when I questioned what was happening, but ultimately I found a trust in my inner self.
If something is wrong and you know it’s wrong, don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
Fight for a Quality of Care
It is so very important to be sure you are on the same page as your doctor, or that you have at the VERY least been HEARD.
Of even greater importance is to be sure that you are receiving a quality of service that is appropriate. Far too often complaints about health are deemed as treatable with a prescription, and if there is suspect or knowledge of mental health issues, the doctor will refer you (pass you off) to another provider. Be clear, knowledgeable of your status and assertive regarding what you are seeking treatment and assistance for. Just because someone may have mental health issues doesn’t mean their concerns aren’t valid. Do not be ignored.
Always Be Your Own Authority
You know your body best. There isn’t anyone else who can tell you what you are experiencing. Doctors know a lot, so do natural health practitioners, and so do family, friends, the internet and others who have gone through similar things. Do your research, do your homework, ask questions, ask more questions, and don’t stop until your questions have been heard and addressed. Just because someone is in a position of authority, this does not make them the authority of you. Only you can be this.
Utilize Your Strengths
We will all come to a point in our lives where we struggle. Some struggles are worse than others, but when times get tough, reach out for help. Ask for support and know that it’s okay to do so. Find those who can provide support to you in your life, friends, family, partners, professionals/therapists. Find someone who provides you the kind of support that’s helpful and healing for you.
Make time for activity, exercise, engaging with community (maybe yoga!). Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged; this takes a lot of vulnerability and trust. Most of all, trust in yourself and in your own ability to support yourself, too.
While I certainly hope you don’t find yourself in a battle with your own health, I am certain you will come across challenges in which these principles can be applied. Don’t forget that we often can be the ones standing in our own way, and we can also be our greatest supporter. As always, feel free to reach out to me; I’m always happy to listen.