Following Your Instincts with Health and Healing
If you’ve ever struggled to be heard in the medical system, to have a condition diagnosed or symptoms evaluated objectively and thoroughly, you are not alone. There are countless stories from people just like you who have spent months or years with a feeling of ‘not being quite right’. Sometimes experiencing even more concerning symptoms that impact quality of life and the ability to perform every day tasks. Yet despite this, patients can sometimes be turned away from doctors, emergency departments, and other health professionals, and often made to feel as though their symptoms are 'all in their head'.
Why does this happen?
There are many reasons why this can occur. One reason is that our bodies are individual and the same conditions/diseases can cause a range of different symptoms in each person. How we experience our symptoms is unique to ourselves. To add confusion, how we describe our symptoms can be even more unique, and if you are like me, at times descriptions can be absolutely abstract! (Insert sound effects and hand motions!)
Another hurdle inhibiting diagnosis is the way in which chronic illness moves and evolves. We are always striving to feel at our best, to push through and get things done, and stay positive. Our bodies are always striving to achieve homeostasis and maintain a balance despite the illness or imbalances that are occurring behind the scenes.
In this sense it is easy to down play and trivialise the symptoms of illness. Symptoms don’t always come on suddenly, and the slow progression of symptoms can mean that we become accustomed to them as feeling normal.
Many diseases and ailments have the same symptoms!
Symptoms of fatigue, nausea, dizziness appear in almost all conditions, some of which temporary and harmless and some severe and urgent. Here you need to follow your instincts.
What is your inner voice saying?
Where are those concerns coming from and how pressing are those concerns?
You are in charge, and your instincts are your best guide. If it doesn’t feel right, if that diagnosis doesn’t sit well with you, push on and seek more answers. Don’t allow someone to brush you off if you feel unheard and unvalidated. Prioritise your health and follow up until you are getting the help you need.
Evaluating symptoms is truly an art form which takes time and patience. Natural health/Naturopathic practitioners will use very long consults to ensure they have heard, and specifically understood the experience of a patient so that they can pinpoint the cause of symptoms. This will include a time line of your life, significant health and emotional events, seemingly unrelated signs and symptoms, and thorough questioning. Obviously the medical system is very different, and time constraints prevail.
At some point people will need to see a medical GP, possibly a specialist, and sometimes some may need to present to an emergency department. It is important to communicate the facts in a language that doctors will understand at these times. This is not always as easy as it sounds.
Preparing for your appointment with a Medical Professional
1. Before hand keep a journal noting:
• the nature of symptoms
• timing and length of time that symptoms last
• things which may ease symptoms
• how long you have had this and whether it is becoming worse, better or staying the same
• whether your symptoms have a cyclic nature (certain days of the month, certain seasons are worse, certain times of the day, coinciding with certain activities)
• details around the symptoms (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, breathing, anything which seems relevant that you can measure yourself
2. Summarise your notes as follows:
• I am concerned by these symptoms because ….
• I experience these symptoms ? x per week, or ? x per day (whatever the case may be)
• And have done since……
• However in the last few months things have changed (in what way)
• When I have the symptoms I note (heart rate? etc.)
Don’t forget to tell the practitioner if your symptoms impact your quality of life or your ability to do daily tasks and activities.
3. Remember to be clear about what you require from your practitioner. Don’t be afraid to ask:
• “Why am I having these symptoms?”
• “How do I manage this condition when symptoms are bad?”
• “What should I do if things get worse?”
• “What are your thoughts around possible causes?”
• “What should I do in the meantime?”
• “When should I arrange to see you for a follow up?"
A good practitioner (no matter who or what their title) will see you as a person requiring help, and will do what it takes to determine the cause of your symptoms. If you don’t get this service, then push for it, or continue on with a new practitioner.
Hope this is helpful