When I talk about empowerment concerning your healthcare, I’m talking about being liberated from the standard views of the doctor-patient relationship. Your doctor is there to help you, to be your guide in this very complicated field that he or she has spent years studying and understanding.
But your doctor is not to be worshiped (though we all can admit, there are doctors out there who would like to think they should be!) Your doctor should really be a partner, helping you understand your options and giving you the tools necessary to continue on!
I’ve talked to many people with this problem: they need a specialist, they are referred to one, and they make an appointment. Newly diagnosed we are all a little unstable. Life has been turned upside down and we are just trying to figure out how to deal. So we go to this doctor, who is supposed to comfort us, tell us that things will be ok and help us to get back to a happy state.
Unfortunately, a lot of people find that their first appointment is more overwhelming and upsetting than anything remotely close to comfort.
The doctor might be a little overbearing. The doctor might be very negative about the future treatments. The doctor might also leave you feeling helpless and even worse than you did before. But because this is a new experience, and you were referred to this specialist, you stick with it, assuming this is how things are and you might as well learn to live with it.
It’s more common than you might think. Out of the many people I’ve heard from over the last couple of years, a majority of them aren’t 100% happy with their doctors, but don’t do anything about it because they think that’s just how it goes.
When I was diagnosed with Juveline RA, I was 12 years old. It’s unfortunate that I had to deal with that at such a young age, but I often feel very lucky because I had my parents by my side through those crazy first few years of figuring out what life with arthritis was going to be like.
The funny thing about going through all of that at such a young age was that I wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed to say I wasn’t happy. I was a teenager, and teenagers are full of emotion, and there’s no stopping that emotion no matter how hard you try. If I wasn’t happy, it was apparent. And my lucky parents and even luckier doctors got to experience that.
There’s nothing more comforting than having a support system that you can fall back on. People who give you that safety net. There were more than a few times where I openly told my parents that I did not like where things were going. A child who was terrified of needles, I was kicking and screaming when steroid shots came my way.
I had severe swelling in my jaw at 15, and was presented with the option of having one of those said steroid shots on the side of my face to try to get control of that hungry arthritis. One doctor wanted to give me the shot while I sat in his office. The image of seeing a needle coming at me out of the corner of my eye was enough to make me state “Oh hell no!” and leave his office right then and there. Much to the chagrin of my father who had to follow me out while saying thank you and goodbye to the doctor with his jaw dropped.
After I had the courage to say “Nope, not gonna happen.” I was taken back to my regular doctor who came up with some other options. Hooray! If I hadn’t stood up for myself I would have had to sit through a situation I was 100% uncomfortable and unhappy with. That was the moment when I realized the importance of knowing what I want (or didn’t want) and clearly stating it.
We get what I call “the ick feeling” when we meet a doctorwe’re uncomfortable with. We get that same ick feeling when we’re recommended to treatment we don’t feel is right for us. That instinctive feeling in our gut that tells us something is off, something is wrong. We need to listen to that ick, and figure out why it’s happening.
Is the doctor too controlling for you? Do you feel like the medicine recommended isn’t something you feel good about? Even if it’s just a total overwhelmed feeling, it’s important to step back and figure out what is causing it and why. And then take action.
Because we should never be forced into a situation we aren’t comfortable with.