How to Make Progress

Making sense or progress in the medical industry can be hard.

When I was younger, there was no progress to be made. I was considered too young to have any medical problems, and I just needed to get outside more. (I’m an outside junky, by the way, so hearing that opinion caused emotional whiplash.) My hips have always ached, my back has always been sore, PMS has always been intense and often debilitating. I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2009 during my tubal ligation, but the gyne wasn’t particularly worried. He said there was nothing to worry about, so I just didn’t. I thought that this was normal and that everyone must experience the same pain on a regular basis, so I did my best to just cope. All of the aches and pains intensified after my knee break – something I blamed my leg for. After knee dropping PMS pain without menstruating for several months, I went back to my gyne to tell him something was wrong. He actually rolled his eyes at me and brushed me off, telling me it was nothing, and prescribing a medication that didn’t actually address the symptoms I came to him with and that was likely to cause depression – something I was just pulling out of. I went to see my GP to explain the same concerns, as well as bring up the concern of my gyne brushing me off, and I was met with the same response. I didn’t fill the prescription.

I also didn’t see another doctor for several years after that, since they couldn’t seem to be able to help me anyways. During this time my pain worsened, I gained alot of weight, and I became desperate. After my previous experience with the last doctors, though, I was scared of being brushed off again. I saw the occasional walk in doctor who prescribed pain medications, but they didn’t work well enough to make a difference.

When the pain became debilitating, and the fistfulls of OTC pain relief medication weren’t working anymore, I just couldn’t do it anymore. That’s when I finally started trying to find a new family doctor and tried Alberta Health Services for a cannabis prescription. (That’s a story you’ll find here.)

The new doctor I found was amazing, and my heart sank when I found out she was leaving so quickly. The clinic assured me they had found an amazing doctor to take her place, but I was skeptic. But I gave him a chance. And I’m glad that I did.

The issues I started seeing him for were minor. They didn’t have much history of mine, so when I went to him one day and told him something was wrong, he was skeptical when I brought up the possibility of Lupus. I couldn’t blame him. He had been seeing me for under a year, I was always healthy, and suddenly I think I have Lupus? Yep. That did sound absurd. I don’t blame him for that. He ran some basic bloodwork to start, and in the time between appointments I sat down and wrong him a letter. Time is limited in the appointments, so I knew I couldn’t get everything that I needed to out. In my letter I detailed my fear and anxiety of physicians, the reasons I didn’t see him about old, common complaints, and the various signs and symptoms I’ve struggled with that were never addressed – most of which I still struggle with, and I made test requests after doing some reading on my own. It was alot. I worried he wouldn’t take it seriously, or that he would be offended at my own requests. I’m not a doctor, afterall – what would I know and maybe I’m just another Google doctor?

And he read it all, while I was there. He asked me questions, and he ordered a buttload more tests. He refers back to it regularly while he deliberates my case and consults with other professionals.

This was my key. This is what I had needed to do, and this was the physician I needed to find. He’s caring, sincere and is working WITH me to try to find out what’s going on. He didn’t roll his eyes, and he’s communicating all steps with me. I wouldn’t have found him if I refused to see a physician for so long. So whatever happened before, it just doesn’t matter. This is where I need to be now.

I used to be angry at the medical system. I felt let down. And now – I’m ok. The medical system is run by people, who make mistakes, which can create more mistakes and loopholes and holes in the system where you can get lost way too easily. It’s a human thing, and it happens. I need to be able to do my part in taking care of myself.

The best thing I ever could have done for myself was to look into things on my own, with an open mind and avenues to look at without convincing myself of something we can’t know yet. There have been days I’ve been scared. Hell, I’m STILL scared. Sometimes unknowns are exciting and adventurous – but some are scary. This is one of those times that the adventure is more scary than exciting.

Progress is being made, though. It does take time, sometimes, and it’s important to remember that. I took control of my own health, and I have learned to FIRE my doctor if I’m not happy with the one I have. There are others – and some will be more well suited to my case than others. Some doctors don’t fit well with me – and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean they won’t do better for someone else.

One of my teachers advised me to trust the system. Maybe not the medical system, per se, but the system overall. Things will happen, and I’ll adjust as I need to. And I’m excited to have more exciting unknowns again!

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We can do better

There are times in everyone’s life when things don’t seem to be fair. Neighbours are cruel. Kids get sick. Cars break down. People die. People come into our lives, while others make their exit. You watch others self destruct. You take the blame for some offences while standing your ground on others while groups implode from dishonest players who tag along for the ride.

Everyone has something going on, and it’s become fairly normal to forget that. While we are busy trying to keep ourselves together from all that life may throw at us, there are sometimes expectations we have of others to help us keep things rolling smoothly. We always have choices throughout the day on how we react to situations. Often what I see is excuses being made for the choices we make instead of compromises. It may be worth taking a step back and seeing another side of every situation.

When your coffee isn’t made right in the morning, it could cost you being late for work in order to make a new one to your perfection. You snap at the barista a little strongly because you know you are going to be late, but decided risking being late to get your coffee “just right”. (You couldn’t have known that the barista was up late with her sick child in the emergency room last night, and having to remake your coffee has put her behind in customer orders and is now making others late and she ends up getting reprimanded by her superiors.) When you show up late with a Starbucks in hand, your boss comes down a little harder on you and a few others than normal. (S/he has just been reprimanded for your department’s dwindling efficiency.) One of your coworkers gets let go from her job because she made an abrupt comment to your also-stressed boss, and leaves in a hurry, knocking into you and spilling your Starbucks. You tear her a new one for staining your shirt. (You didn’t know that she had found her husband cheating on her the night before.) You finish your day at work unhappy and wanting to go home, but have to pick up your daughter in 20 minutes. Traffic is jammed and you’re going to be late, which incurs an additional cost for child care. You cut someone off trying to get around people and they don’t stop in time, and you get bumped but no one is hurt. You call them stupid and irresponsible and blame them for not paying attention while you exchange information. (That person is coming back from a doctor’s appointment. They just found out they have cancer.) You get to the daycare to pick up your daughter and she’s missing her shoes. You tell the daycare worker that you’re taking it out of her monthly fees. (She has just learned that her husband is going to Afghanistan in less than a week.) You get home late and find that your husband hasn’t started making dinner like he promised he would when you told him you were running behind, and you yell at him not to bother while you hastily get started. (He was in the traffic jam on his way back from the store with dinner, and made a special trip to Starbucks because he knew yours from earlier in the day had been spilled, and he hit someone riding a bicycle who was trying to weave illegally through traffic.) In your haste and anger at your husband while making dinner, you step on a toy your child leaves on the floor and burn yourself, spilling the pot. You yell at your child for not picking up her toys, making her cry. You end up feeding your child cereal so you can just go to bed as soon as you can, angry at the world and upset that no one is competent. (Your little girl thinks that eating cereal is punishment for leaving the toy on the floor and can’t get to sleep because she thinks you’re still mad at her.)

We can do better than this. We can make choices not only to help us help ourselves, but to help others as well. There are studies that show that when we are compassionate and kind to others, our own levels of happiness also improve. Pay happiness and gratitude forward. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. All of us. Sometimes we make a bad call and it’s not always necessarily a bad thing. It can be fixed, but the first step to do this is to admit it. Apologies are more powerful than defenses.

You are ALLOWED to feel whatever it is you feel. You can feel frustrated at your barista for making you late. Or you can feel grateful that she tried, take what you got and not be late. You are allowed to feel abashed that you got reprimanded by your boss. Or you can choose to admit remorse over making your coffee your priority over work. You are allowed to feel upset that your favorite shirt may be stained. Or you may choose to put your coworker’s well being higher than the monetary value of a piece of cloth. You may feel angry that someone didn’t see you switch lanes in time. Or you may choose feel lucky that it was a very minor incident. You may be upset with your daycare staff for not keeping your child’s belongings safe. Or you may choose to recognise the dedication they have to the children under their care and be grateful that you have a safe place for your child to be while you are working. You can be angry at your husband for not planning his day better, or you can choose to be thankful for his thoughtfulness and his well being. You can reprimand your daughter for not cleaning up, or you can teach her a valuable lesson that she’ll learn out of repetition and positive encouragement rather than out of fear of reprimand or negative responses.

You are allowed to feel whatever emotion comes to you. You are also allowed to choose how you react, however, and sometimes that reaction is changing the emotion you feel towards a situation. Fear doesn’t belong in the driver seat. Neither does anger, or hurt, or regret. For that matter, neither does happiness, joyfulness or any other emotion. You are in charge, not your emotions, so it’s worth keeping them close to help your decide which direction to go, but not always a good idea to let them drive you or your reactions. Emotions are a great fuel to get to your destination, but they don’t have a great sense of direction on their own.

Next time try this. Let the barista know that the coffee is a little too hot so she knows a mistake was made, but thank her for making it anyways and let her help the next customer if it’s something you can live with. Apologise to your boss for being late and let her know that you’ll stay late or work through one of your breaks to make up for it. Ask your coworker if she’s ok since it’s obvious she’s upset. It’s just a shirt and if you act quick then staining can be prevented. Apologise to the driver of the vehicle for cutting them off and make sure they’re ok and didn’t get hurt, and deal with the insurance (if needed) later. Ask your daycare worker to ask other parents if they have the shoes – you have others at home. Help your husband with dinner and ask him why he was behind. Make a game out of cleaning for your child.

Sometimes these little changes can make the biggest difference – not only in your own life, but in others as well. Those deep breaths people recommend to take during times of stress work well. Those deep breaths increase oxygen (and functioning) to the brain, they create a pause, they lower the heart rate and can create a moment to just be for long enough to find the calm needed to get through the moment. Your moment of aggravation does not need to become someone else’s frustration on top of whatever else they may be dealing with in their life.

SmilingBuddhawm-199x300And if you do react in a way that isn’t kind? It happens, to the best of us and to the worst of us. Sometimes we are overwhelmed and our amygdala takes over, which causes a knee-jerk reaction to our situation, but it’s not always the most reasonable one. A sincere apology can sometimes make the biggest difference to start the healing process after a hurt has been made. We are all people trying to do the best we can, and it’s ok that we slip up now and again. The best thing we can do is be the best we can be and to help others do the same. The ripples we make travel far. You don’t have to log hundreds of volunteer hours, or donate money you don’t really have, or sacrifice anything you don’t want to sacrifice. It’s doesn’t take much – a bit of understanding, compassion, a smile or a hug. We don’t know what’s going on in another person’s world. We can’t expect ourselves to be perfect – so why expect it of others?

There’s always a way to find peace. Hug a kitten. Snuggle a baby. Wear your favorite pajamas. Plant a tree. Plant an idea. Give your neighbor flowers. Pick up some trash. Buy a friend coffee. Go for a walk. Make something to gift to someone – just to let them know you’re thinking of them. Find something that makes you feel good, and do that.

What kind of ripples do you want others to feel in your wake? Ripples of kindness, or of resentment? It’s up to you. It’s up to us. We really can do better for each other. Let’s start at home.