Sitting in my new doctors office for maybe the fourth time and I can’t believe how much has changed from that first visit. As I think about it I watch as a man says goodbye to the nurse, “I’m taking this,” he says holding up a Shape magazine and walks out, the nurse not even blinking an eye.
I laughed out loud and thought about how lucky I was to be in Mt. Shasta. Not because it has the best health care in the world and everywhere else doesn’t, but because I came from a big city where dealing with these health concerns would take considerably more time. It wouldn’t be as intimate as the experience is here. Where doctors know each other because their office is just across the street. With that said, things like broken MRI machines wouldn’t interrupt my appointment like here, because where I’m from, there’s more than one machine.
Since I came up to Northern California this July, I’ve been to more doctors appointments than I have my whole life combined. This all came about because I was ignoring pain that I had been feeling since last December. I’ve always looked at my menstrual pain as a final judgement put on me that I could do nothing about. It is what it is, I thought. Every woman must go through this and it’s the norm. Little did I know that my pain was trying to tell me something important about my body.
So why then, would someone like me who prides themselves on being interested in all things health, shun the one community that could help her? Well, it begins like all fear begins, with a story, a history of discomfort and the general attitude that doctors are Gods on top of their pedestals making important decisions about our fate.
That’s how I always felt anyway until I reached high school and my Mom took me to our family doctor because I was depressed. I remember feeling like I didn’t care about anything, like life din’t matter for me. I couldn’t find the joy in things and I hid my depression from everyone except my Mom. At this particular doctors appointment I saw not my primary physician but another doctor working with him at the time.
It is still one of the most uncomfortable memories of my life, being asked, in front of my Mom if I had been molested or abused. Because, obvious to my doctor but not me, this could be the only reason for my depression. I was stunned, embarrassed and uncomfortable. My answer was no but the fact that he had asked in such a manner changed my perspective of conventional doctors from that day forward.
I left that appointment with a prescription for prozac which I came to later find out he had prescribed to more people in my family than just me. After that appointment my fear of doctors grew and began going to see the doctor less. At first, it seemed like a good idea. No unnecessary money spent and wasted time. I’d seen lots of people go to the doctor for no reason at all so I was happy to learn that I didn’t need to go every time I sneezed.
Flash forward to 2015, I’m enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and still proudly not seeing any doctors because I believed with the new knowledge I had, I could take care of myself and I had the proof. Time after time I’d used whole foods and holistic treatments for ailments and began rarely getting sick because I’d changed my diet and lifestyle.
But behind the facade of healthy eating was a person desperately trying to control everything that went into their mouth without really giving attention to the other aspects of my life that were beginning to unravel. It took a while for me to admit something was really wrong with me. I had a lot of excuses for what could be causing my pain. I’d taken a Soul Cycle class with a friend that left me hurting for weeks on my left side that I connected with my cyst pain. I also blamed work and their terrible chairs and tiny work spaces. I didn’t know a cyst could be the issue until I started focusing my studies on female health.
While reading Women’s Bodies Women’s Wisdom by Christianne Northrup, the idea that I may have a cyst crossed me mind. My symptoms matched up with those described in the book so I made a gynecologist appointment. At the time I was still San Francisco. I told the doctor I had pain but also said it may be from work so she ignored the comment. All my tests came back normal so I let it be but couldn’t ignore the pain eventually and knew deep down something was wrong.
Once I moved up North for the summer I made a gyno appointment right away which after a vaginal ultra sound, determined I was right, that I actually had two cysts. So what have I learned from this whole ordeal? I’ve listed some myths that I’ve come to find are just that, myths and resources beyond conventional medicine.
Doctor Myths Busted
- My doctor knows it all-This is a dangerous one. Although conventional medicine has offered us so much especially recently with its developments, it is usually better for a band-aid fix and not prevention. This means that doctors rarely have other options than to slice, stitch or prescribe. Although I went into my situation cautious about conventional medicine, I was still shocked when my new gyno didn’t have any advice to give me on pain management for cysts or reducing their size other than hormonal pill form birth control. Something that she profits from and probably learned in medical school was the only solution. Which is just not true. So don’t worry if you feel let down when you go to your appointments, you doctors aren’t supposed to know it all and they don’t. There are plenty of other resources available to you like health coaches, integrative doctors, acupuncturist, etc.
- I Shouldn’t Ask Questions-I get it, the doctor has been rushing around the office and has no time for you and now that they’re finally there, it’s like they can’t wait to leave. You don’t want to bother them with questions or take up anymore of their time. Ditch that thought. Your health is more important. Be sure before your appointment to jot down some questions that you have about your ailment or in general. Feel free to do some of your own research and check with your doctor to see their accuracy. Don’t feel ashamed or worried if they aren’t comfortable answering. You have every right to ask questions and if you’re not getting the answers you need, it may be time to find another doctor.
- I Don’t Need to be completely honest about lifestyle/food choices with my doc-It’s easy to feel like we don’t want to be judged by our doctors. The first time I ever wrote down how many alcoholic beverages I consumed in a day, I was shocked at myself, embarrassed and worried what my doctor would say. But the reason this is so imperative is so that they can better help you. The more they no about you the better they can make a plan that will work best for you and your ailments. So be honest!
- I Don’t Deserve Health care-Regardless of your job, income, race, age or religion, everyone had the right to good health and the resources we provide for this health. Never feel bad about yourself or think you deserve less care because you are on medicare More money shouldn’t buy better health and doesn’t make you more deserving of it. We should all want our neighbors to have the best health care because when everyone is healthy they are at their best and can then become thoughtful members of society.
- There are no other alternatives and if there were, my doctor would’ve told me-This last one relates to the first but it’s so important because there are always alternatives. More importantly, there is always someone else that has gone through what you’ve gone through. Get out there and find them, connect with them and learn. Never assume that your doctor knows all the options out there because they may not. Do ask because there are plenty of great doctors out there and they may have some valuable resources to share with you.
This blog is in no way meant to discourage anyone from seeking medical help via conventional medicine. It is not a call to get off medication or swear off conventional medicine. I am incredibly grateful for the health care I’ve received especially in the past few months that I’ve been in Mt. Shasta. This post is instead intended to raise questions about conventional, medical advice and tactics when other, less severe options are available to us. I intend and hope you will as well, to continue to use both conventional and integrative medicine throughout my life and not be afraid to ask questions, seek advice, or challenge anything I’ve learned because when it comes to my body, I’m really the one on the pedestal.
So what are your options if conventional medicine doesn’t have something to offer you or you aren’t comfortable with your choices?
Your choice is something know as integrative medicine. You may have also heard it called functional medicine, eastern medicine, alternative medicine or holistic medicine.
This type of medicine differs from conventional medicine because it looks at alternatives to surgery and medicine and instead tries to get to the root of the issue using whole foods, therapeutic practices, supplements and exercise.
- Integrative doctor-they will test blood, hormones, talk to you about diet, lifestyle, relationships, family medical history-they dig deep. And the deeper the better.
- Acupuncturist-they can help by talking to you about what your symptoms are and where pain lies and accordingly use metal pins and insert them into areas of your body to relive pressure. Helps relive pain by moving restricted blood around.
- Regular massage, Thai Massage or massage specifically geared toward female healing-This can offer pain relief and is just a great practice of self care if you can get one once month or whenever possible.
- Holistic Dentist-They will use safer practices while teeth cleaning and can remove your fillings and replace them with something newer and less toxic.
- Health Coach-Health coaches can really add to your life by providing help with a lot of these resources and support throughout the process of healing. They are your biggest advocate to help get healthy and stay that way. They help you adopt new healthy habits that won’t fall by the wayside like they typically do when you try to go at it alone. They consider all aspects of your life that may be affecting your health and have helpful information to your specific body. I went to school to be a health coach at IIN so I’m a big advocate for health coaches and how they can help someone achieve they health goals.
- Holistic therapy-I specifically looked for a holistic therapist because I didn’t want to be offered medication and I wanted someone who was familiar with the approaches I’m comfortable with. She also offers things like nature therapy which is a perk of seeking out a holistic therapist. Therapists also tend to have lots of other great resources to give you and I think are an important part of a healthy lifestyle for anyone.
- Groups like Al-Anon and AA–They aren’t holistic but depending on your individual situation a group like this might be beneficial for you. I started attending Al-Anon meetings, which is for children, family and friends of alcoholics and I think it’s been a great addition to my well-rounded healing. The experience and stories from the people there offer something that therapy or talking to a friend doesn’t offer. It helps me to feel less alone and refocus my life on myself. It’s also helped me with my decision to stop drinking but more on that in another post.
- Holistic General Practitioners–I haven’t looked into this thoroughly but I know they exist. I wanted list them because I think it’s important to note that there are doctors out there who have studied and gotten degrees from medical school who have taken their studies further to include eastern medicine as well.
Do you have any to add to the list?