Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lessons Learned

I realize that this probably doesn't apply to everyone. The vast majority of people see the doctor only occasionally for a check-up or a random illness/injury or whatever. Lots of medical issues are pretty straightforward, and the treatments are simple, established, and effective.

But chronic illness kind of changes the landscape. Over the past year, I've gotten an pretty extensive education in How the Real World Works.

Lesson #1: Doctors are not gods. They come with biases, agendas, and egos. Sometimes they are just plain ignorant. Sometimes they just simply don't care.

Lesson #2: Certain recommendations are meant be ignored. One of my doctors recently told me to try eating gluten-free because "the American diet is highly inflammatory. All you really need are fruits, veggies, and fish. Not too much dairy." Hi, Doc, have you read my chart? Telling the anorexic to cut fat and carbs is proooobably not the soundest advice. Also, you are full of bullshit.

Lesson #3: Be rude when necessary. When scheduling an appointment, never accept the statement: "She's booked three months out." It is always a lie. Don't shy away from being a demanding brat.

Lesson #4: Get a second opinion. The main pain doctor I've been seeing originally told me that physical therapy wouldn't do any good until I got the nerve pain/stiffness under control. So I got desperate and found another doctor, who referred me to a physical therapist immediately. Knock on wood, but I think it's helping. My pain is ever-so-slightly lessened and I am feeling the tiniest twinge of optimism.

Lesson #5: Don't worry about offending the original doctor by doing #4. They are professionals, they'll get over it. And if they don't, ditch 'em. There are plenty of other good doctors out there.

Lesson #6: Educate yourself. Not to the point that you are having panic attacks reading horror stories about drug side effects and incurable diseases on the internet, but enough that you have a basic understanding of what is going on, what works, and what doesn't. It's your body. In the end, you are the expert.

Friendliness and courtesy have always been important to me. I try really hard to treat people with respect - whether it's a professor, a friend, a cashier at the grocery store, or a random homeless Joe Schmoe on the street. It makes me sick to overhear someone being needlessly rude or snotty. But you know what? Sometimes you gotta look out for #1. Sometimes it takes a little brattiness to get what you need. I've bullied more secretaries over the phone in the past six months than ever before in my life. I routinely find myself saying: "No. I need to see the doctor this week. Find a space." Sometimes I can make it happen while staying polite, and sometimes I can't. And I'm okay with that.

Does that make me a bad person?

Happy Sunday, everyone.

1 comment:

  1. Good lessons indeed, thanks for sharing! I do think sometimes it's hard to not put doctors on pedestals, but you're right--they're human beings just like the rest of us. I think these lessons can translate to a lot of other interpersonal situations, so I'm glad you shared them. Also, what you describe sounds assertive more than anything, and I'm sure you do it respectfully, so it sounds like you do what's necessary to take care of yourself. Good for you for standing up for yourself and your health!