Have you been told “it’s just stress”? Diagnosed as a hypochondriac? Has it taken the typical 5-7 years to find a diagnosis? Or maybe you’re still searching for one.
The exhaustion is real!
It’s a long road to figure out what’s wrong and how to address it, without getting derailed by judgement and misdiagnoses. The experience of managing chronic conditions can be as agonizing as the symptoms themselves.
So who do we trust – the medical system we feel has let us down, or our untrained selves?
At the beginning, when we’re new to the world of chronic health issues, we tend to cling to the medical system, confident that the doctors and specialists will have all the answers.
It may take years before we realize that they’re only part of the equation.
When the lightbulb goes off, we might slingshot towards the other end of the spectrum and overlook the value in maintaining and building relationships with medical professionals.
Through rigorous schooling, residency, and work experience, they gain – in short – an understanding of how the human body works and what happens when systems don’t function properly.
Naturally, we look to our doctors for answers. We watch them fix broken bones and heal wounds, perform life-saving surgeries, and administer medications to improve quality of life.
From a young age, we view them as the one source of knowledge when it comes to the body.
However, we tend to see their status and medical school education as a stand-in for our own personal wisdom. This also means we may overlook the value in other fields of medicine.
The doctors we’re supposed to trust have let us down one too many times. We’ve grown bitter, disillusioned. We therefore lack the motivation to return and be subjected to more misdiagnoses, judgement, and rejection. Instead, we attempt to carve our own paths.
Through online research and talking with peers, we can discover fields of medicine and therapies not typically accepted or promoted within our modern (or Western) medical system.
We may be introduced to functional, integrative and naturopathic medicine, which are particularly well-known within the chronic illness community. We may learn that pharmaceuticals aren’t always the answer. We may uncover the power of nutrition, meditation, essential oils, and supplements, and incorporate some of these into our lives.
These bits of knowledge that seem to have been “hidden” from us can further calcify our decision to go rogue.
However, we soon learn that functional medicine and other whole body approaches are not usually covered by insurance. The cost is too high for many, and we can easily fall into a space of self-reliance that is less than healthy.
One person alone cannot build the path to better health – not you, and not your doctor.
Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier though. A rolling sea of worries can easily shake your resolve when you so much as think about making an appointment.
Will they shame me for not going to the doctor for years? Will they order invasive tests? Will they actually listen to me?
Walking into a doctor’s office again can feel like ripping open old scars into fresh, streaming wounds. You might want to slip your armor back on, and march in there with a fiery list of rebuttals to the comments you expect to hear.
It’s not a cakewalk. And you might have to deal with “it’s just stress” “here’s a prescription” “your labs are normal” all over again. But by expecting the same results every time you walk into an office, you’re only perpetuating that pattern. Remind yourself that this is a new journey, with new doctors and new possibilities, and that you are also different. Let the past medical-related traumas give you only their wisdom, not their lurking presence.
With perseverance and an open mind, you can find a happy medium.
On your search, look for professionals whose communication styles work for your needs, who listen and acknowledge the value you bring to the table, who are open to exploring “alternative” or “complementary” approaches, and who are able to collaborate with your other practitioners.
Before you even step foot inside a doctor’s office, there are a few things you can do to start the process and ease yourself into this new undertaking.
It’s only natural to be exhausted from the diagnosis/treatment hunt. By all means, take a break if you can. Letting everything sink in could very well give you a fresh perspective and a renewal of energy and determination.
But try to avoid letting that break turn into years and years of figuring it out on your own, without the guidance of professionals.
Think of the relationship with your doctors as a detective team working together to investigate your health issues. Each person has wildly different skills, but both are vital in order to solve the case and work towards a better outcome.
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