By: Jena Ann
Many people have grown up with having one general doctor that they go to for everything. Unless of course their doctor recommends that they go to a specialist for a certain type of treatment. At least this is the commonality in my culture, my society, among my friends, and family members. Secondly, we listen to whatever advice that doctor has about what medication to take, what tests needed to be done, and don’t really question that advice. We might ask questions to understand the advice, but for the most part take the advice. Visits to the doctor are short. The process is listing symptoms, maybe a test, medication is prescribed, and then we leave.
For the majority of my life this worked out fine. It wasn’t till about 2.5 years ago that I realized relying entirely on one doctor’s advice or even multiple doctors was the complete wrong approach to health care, especially with something as complicated as a chronic illness.
Western Medicine is Not the Answer for Everything
Three years ago, I was told after numerous tests, after explaining all my health symptoms that I had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and I could take some medication for it for the rest of my life. This was the best advice my primary care doctor and stomach doctor had for me. I can’t even begin to explain to you how much that didn’t make sense, or how angry that made me. I knew of people who have or had IBS and my understanding of the symptoms was slight stomach pain once in a while and some constipation issues. It definitely did not define my experience of sharp stabbing pains in my stomach from half the food I ate, fatigue, migraines, neck pain, chest pain, back pain, and depression. It did not define ongoing pain so bad that 2-3 days out of the week, I can’t do anything but lay on the couch in pain. Plus, it’s not even a real diagnosis, because it still doesn’t get to the bottom of why the pain or discomfort is there.
I felt like my complaints about my pain were unheard, but most of all I felt these people were not adequate health care providers. (I do realize they are just inadequate for chronic conditions, but are still helpful for other healthcare reasons. Still I haven’t had a need to go back.) Note: I did find the problems with my body through alternative treatments and eventually got my life back.
Taking Control Over Our Health
After being told I had IBS, I realized I needed to take control over my own health. This meant contemplating everything doctors tell me to decide if it aligns with my values and makes sense for me, not believing in just one doctor’s opinion, and most importantly doing my own research if something doesn’t add up. This is something we all need to be doing! The only person truly in charge of our health is ourselves! We are the one who makes the choices in the end. We are the only person who truly understands all the pain we are in. Even if we don’t have chronic pain or a chronic illness, we need to take charge of our health and decide what is best for us.
The Price Paid for Relying on One Doctor Completely
Even though, most of my life I listened to my doctor and didn’t have any problems I still was misled long before I knew I was chronically sick. Roughly about 7 years ago, I knew my hormones were unbalanced and I thought maybe I could get a test from my doctor or go to a specialist to get some help. I thought my doctor could find these imbalances, but she didn’t know of any test and advised me to go on birth control and I did. If I had actually done my own research and didn’t blindly take her advice, I could have found a specialist back then. Instead I just relied on her to know of all possible solutions for fixing my hormones. So the birth control didn’t fix the problem; the problem was still there for years and most likely caused all sorts other problems. Then nearly a year ago, I found a hormone specialist that gave me tests to actually find the root causes of my imbalances. That doctor found multiple problems that are actually being addressed.
The Problem with Relying on Western Medicine
Some western medicine doctors may tell us that some alternative treatment we want to try is not worth it (maybe because they’ve never heard of it). Some doctors will tell us just exercise and we will feel better. Some doctors will tell us there is no cure for our illness. This is just because it is beyond their expertise. Question it, question all of it! Not one doctor knows everything about all available health options or all chronic illnesses, and some don’t know much beyond what they were taught. Modern Medicine doctors typically treat symptoms; this is what they were trained and educated to do. They were taught to provide medicine most of the time for those symptoms. Most of them can’t help us reverse a chronic illness, because they don’t have the tools or knowledge to get to the source of the problem.
Advantages of Holistic Medicine
Believe it or not there are holistic/functional medicine doctors that do take into account our full health. They take the time to understand how much stress we have in our life, how healthy we are eating, what types of exercise we are doing, chemicals we are exposing ourselves to, and sometimes even genetics. Visits are not a get in and get out approach. They search for the problems with our bodies, symptoms are only a small part of the equation, and they take a natural approach to our health. This is pretty ideal. But again, they can only help to a certain extend. We need to be the one to recognize whether we need another health care provider too, if there are other things we should be trying, or whether our body is being healed or not.
Building Trust and Staying in Control
I’m not saying we can’t trust any doctors. I have an excellent holistic doctor that has helped me tremendously. I do trust my holistic doctor with his expertise and don’t question a lot of what he tells me, but I still take control over my own health. I realized on my own that I needed the help of a chiropractor too, and sought one out. I made a point to mention my hormone imbalances, because I knew something wasn’t right. My holistic doctor was then able to help me with that too, through a test and recommending a hormone specialist. In addition, I made changes in my life beyond what my doctor advised that I knew would lead to a healthier lifestyle. We have to try to figure out what different doctors’ expertise is and what is beyond their knowledge. We also have to question whether their expertise is adequate for dealing with chronic pain or chronic illnesses. And if we feel like a doctor doesn’t understand or have our best interests at heart, then they probably don’t.
It’s your body, your choice, you are in control!