When I am my own best health advocate

When I am my own best health advocate

I begin by raising a thought that somewhere early on in life, we are taught that children are not yet truly capable of knowing their minds.
And yet, how many times have we heard adults say that children are a good judge of character, still possessing pure natural instincts, that sense when something is not quite right?

Well, it was another appointment day
Sitting in the waiting room wandering how much longer it would be before my specialist consultant came out of his office and called my name, I took great interest in the other children sitting with one or both of their parents-also waiting to be seen.

Did these children have what I had and were they going to be seen by my specialist too?

I remember my consultant being a genuinely warm, smiley gentleman- his voice was calming and reassuring which had a way of disarming the aura of anxiety and tension that threatened to take over the waiting room.

But the doctor’s good energy could only go so far because I really disliked the whole experience of waiting around.

Finally, my name was called…

And just like maybe a 4×4 relay race, a series of handovers were put in place by the lady on the desk…seeing the doctor…being poked-prodded and asked to carry out physical tasks before being sent off to a different department clutching a form for a blood test and then going on to another department to have an x-ray.

As my young body grew, I also visited the plaster department every 9 to 12 months where my torso was wrapped to make a cast in preparation for a new back brace.
Now, this I liked!

I was fascinated to see part of my body copied in a three dimensional form. Did I look like?
With the exception of standing in front of a mirror, how many of us can say that we’ve seen entire sections or our whole body-front & back?

So, a new back brace was made and I needed new clothes all over again.

I sometimes wandered if the specialist had a daughter-maybe a son. I imagined his child or children to be very healthy and happy and wandered if he would use the same treatment for them if they were unwell like me.

So as a child growing up living with a few medical conditions, the whole affair of being told what to do or not do was greatly extended from parents and teachers to doctors, nurses and others involved in my medical journey.

Of course, their training and qualifications placed them in a position to advise my parents about the best way to treat my condition, so at such a young age, why did I often feel like I was taking part in an experiment? Maybe in the grand scheme of things as a child suffering with a spine abnormality, there were techniques, procedures and materials that were actually quite new.

Maybe I felt this way because I found some of the advice and treatment approach a bit strange, bizarre or even a little funny which often led me to ask the medical team questions about all sorts of things.

Of course there were times when I felt less courageous to speak out and would stay quiet- telling the voice in my head that the professionals knew everything.
Well after all, I was only 9 years old!

But try as I might to stay quiet, my instincts would eventually start shouting out-returning me to my ‘SELF’ again where my overriding thought was that the doctors didn’t know how I was feeling and couldn’t be sure about what was entirely best or me.

I have a strong memory of a time after having major surgery and being told that I would have to stay completely still in bed for many days if I wanted to recover from a serious operation.
I listened to the doctors and cooperated for a few days but as an ugly cycle emerged my instinct screamed at me to get up!

This ugly cycle of the drugs for pain, the drugs to treat constipation and medication to address iron deficiency had taken me further away from my reality and made me feel ‘out there’ somewhere. I didn’t like this feeling.
My instinct carried on screaming at me to get up and after becoming increasingly vocal with doctors and nurses, they agreed, with planning to schedule an earlier release from the bed.

Yes, I was in some pain from just simply being helped to sit up but movement really quietened my screaming mind, reduced tension in my body and was a great distraction while my body reconnected with its own abilities to heal.
Whenever I won the battles to stay out of bed, I didn’t feel like a sick person. Instead, I felt that I was having a say in my life and participating in my outcome.
With this new arrangement working well, I was discharged from hospital ahead of time.

So back then over 40 years ago, it’s amazing that my ‘child self’ must have seen something of the future because today, if we have back ache or are recovering from any number of operations and procedures or have a medical condition, we are routinely advised to move around, get exercise, natural light, fresh air and stay OUT of bed unless it’s ABSOLUTELY necessary.

I believe we are ALL born with the ability to develop and nurture our survival instincts.
But when we hand over to others that ability to engage with our intuition or ’gut’ or we totally expect others to make decisions for us we dilute or loose this skill which quickly behaves like a muscle that is unused.
Fortunately though, we can rebuild and strengthen our instinctive muscles again if we put in the work and maintain interest in our wellness.

How do we do this?

Well, before exploring different methods, I first want to be clear by saying that I do not encourage anyone to be a maverick about their health. This is not taking responsibility for your health and could be detrimental in some cases.

1) Instead…If you are told something relating to your health & wellness that doesn’t feel right or make sense to you, remember that in many cases, you have a right to request more time to think about what has been said.
In this case, you might decide to gather additional information, do more research or seek a fresh opinion where needed. Remember…Knowledge is King.

2) The best doctors are not stuck to their drug prescription forms or standard medical journals.
Where possible, the best medical professionals want you to participate in the job of keeping you well. Often with little time to spend on individual patients and appreciating that they don’t know how you’re feeling (unless you say), good doctors are in favour of not just working for your benefit but working with you.
This kind of working relationship allows for ideas, suggestions, wellness plans and programs to be explored and used for the best treatment results.

When dealing with wellness plans or programs, possible ideas and suggestions that could not only be very affective and also resonate with you could also be important consideration especially when you and your doctor work together.

The long and short of it is:

You can have a huge rewarding part to play in your own life when you decide to be your own best advocate. This means: listening and trusting your instincts, having the courage to question and dismiss the things that do resonate with you and striving to live a life that feels like yours instead of someone else’s.