last week tonight
We put our trust in medical professionals. Whether they're psychologists and dietitians or rheumatologists and PTs, we go to them hoping they will bring some type of healing.
Sometimes they fall short.
On Monday that happened. I have a dairy allergy — not just lactose intolerance, but a whey allergy. During an "inning" meal challenge at IOP, they served us sandwiches. Whoever ordered lunch didn't seem to understand that dairy allergy means I can't have pesto or burrata. After being incorrectly assured by diet techs that it was vegan, I had an allergic reaction.
I was angry, disappointed, scared, confused, and exhausted. For the rest of the night I engaged in behavior. I felt like it meant that recovery isn't for me, that I don't belong in a place for healing. I felt weak because I didn't restrict the sandwich on gut instinct.
But now that it's been a day I've calmed down and I understand that was catastrophic thinking. It was definitely a big fuckup on their part, but I deserve a high quality of care, not the opposite. Rather than wishing I'd restricted, I've learned that I need to assert myself. Doctors and other health professionals aren't omniscient. There were half a dozen other people in the room to whose needs they were attending; one of them did assert themselves when they felt their meal deviated too far from their meal plan. They received a meal that was more in line with their dietitian's plan and then ate a majority of it. That's the kind of self-assertion we all need in our recovery.
When doctors and other caretakers fall short, it isn't a "sign." It doesn't mean that we won't get the care we need. It just means they're humans and they made a mistake. Does their humanity mean you can't be angry? Not at all! Be angry. They fell short of expectations mandated of them by their job description; they have a responsibility to meet or exceed them, particularly because they are inherently responsible for our lives. So you are more than in the right to be angry. The point is to not let that anger negatively affect you and your recovery. Be angry, and use that to remind yourself that you – and everyone around you – deserve the highest level of care.
This applies to specialists as well, for my fellow chronically ill posters. When we go into a new specialist's office we hope that the doctor will be attentive, sympathetic but not condescending, respectful, and knowledgeable. Sometimes we receive that; oftentimes we don't. In the past I took that to mean that I was being overdramatic or didn't deserve care. NOT TRUE! Now, when I am in a place where I feel capable, I push back. Be respectful but self-assured; know your symptoms back and forth; use relevant, accurate medical terminology; cite studies and print out diagnostic manuals.
You deserve respect and medical care. Demand it.
Example 1: "Actually, I believe this requires more than a change in sleep schedule or diet. These are my symptoms; have a look at the list, and compare it to the symptoms of this disorder or that syndrome. While they could be due to anxiety, it interferes with my life enough that I've come to you. If it's nothing, then it's nothing, but in order to find out please run tests or refer me to a doctor who would be willing to treat me."
Example 2: "It seems that while you did some preliminary examination, a lot of the diagnostic criteria were not addressed. On this printout, it lists A, B, and C as vital aspects of examination to confirm or rule out this condition. I'd like for you to follow these criteria. If not, that's fine, I will go to another doctor."