Taking Responsibility For Our Health Care
By Guest Blogger Lynn Rossiter
If you’ve ever experienced a chronic or acute illness, you know how important the role of hope can be in the recovery process. It moves us along a seemingly impossible road and it’s the flicker of light in a dark situation. Despite its strength and beauty, a solid plan is essential to moving ourselves from a vision of health into the reality of health. The chronic illness I’ve been working my way out of for over 20 years has been labeled many things: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Leaky Gut, Lyme, and Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS). Whatever the label, the debilitating effects on my life have been the same. Hope?! While it kept me motivated and focused, there was more to my healing than hope. We are living in a world where we are faced with increasingly complex physical ailments where cut and dry answers and solutions no longer exist. Gone are the days where we have one doctor over the course of our lives and a quick diagnosis with treatment that resolves our problems is not the norm. I’ve uncovered 10 helpful strategies on how to navigate the world of health care.
1) Networking. I called people I knew who were struggling with similar issues and I called the people they knew. I collected information about different doctors, about what people were doing and what treatments were working or not working. I read books and articles and was pointed in the direction of invaluable resources. Not only is networking an ongoing skill for information gathering, it is equally important in providing support.
2) Identifying my own unique health issues was a significant step towards recovery and empowerment. Everyone is unique and reacts differently, physically and emotionally, to the illnesses that challenge them. When I identify exactly what is happening with my body, it gives me something to work with and I am then able to make a plan and move forward.
3) Create a health history notebook and interview potential doctors. After many years of working towards health, it became increasingly difficult to remember the details of what I had already done for myself. When seeing a new doctor, I bring information about my health history and what I want to accomplish. In my notebook, I list the doctors I’ve seen, their diagnosis, treatment plans, remedies and results – good, bad or neutral. I include lab tests and anything I feel is important. I also include everything I remember from childhood, including things that may or may not be directly related to my current condition.
4) Know when a doctor has done all she can do for me and move on. Not only is relying on one doctor for everything impossible with a multi-faceted chronic illness, I believe it is unfair. A doctor can only acquire knowledge and experience in so many areas. Moving on is about acknowledging and accepting when a doctor has taken me as far as she can. It is a time to gather information, make decisions and act on a solid plan.
5) Remain open to new options. It can be extremely disappointing when I’m moving in a certain direction and the results don’t turn out as I had planned. It sometimes means starting back at square one. It always means, reevaluating what I need and how I’m going to fill those needs. As discouraging as it can be sometimes, a dead end is really a neon sign that lets me know I need to go in another direction or sit still!
6) Realize that healing from a chronic illness is a long-term endeavor and there is no ‘quick fix’. Living in an instantaneous culture can make it hard to believe that anything takes time. It would be great to find a treatment that would make everything clear, easy and fast! However, many chronic conditions are complex disorders that were manifesting in our bodies long before we became aware of them and it is important to accept that it will take time to recover.
7) Deal with the many emotions that go hand in hand with a chronic illness. Being chronically ill can trigger feelings of grief, loss, self-pity, rage and depression. When I try to ignore this swell of emotion, I make everything worse. Dealing with my emotions in the present has become imperative to my wellness. When I don’t cry I get a headache. If I say ‘yes’ when I mean ‘no’ I feel exhausted and resentful. When I don’t express my love I feel dead. I learned I have the freedom to choose how to express my feelings and the ability to get the support I need.
8) Clean out the psychological/emotional/spiritual wounds that contribute to health issues. Embarking on this journey was the most rewarding decision. My health has improved immeasurably by acknowledging and cleaning out old traumas, changing old behaviors and learning new ones.
9) The importance for partners of people who suffer with a chronic illness to get support as well. So much focus is placed on the individual who is ill that often times the partner/caretaker is left alone with their feelings and needs. I came to realize that I wasn’t the only one who suffered at the hands of this illness. Support is crucial for everyone on the journey back to health.
10) Treating my health care as part of my life, not my entire life. Health is a precious thing and a lifelong commitment, but it doesn’t have to be my entire life. Taking breaks from a constant focus on health is very important. I like to take time to sit back and enjoy the window of peace when there is a lull in treatment. After a while, I begin feeling impatient for even better health and then I move forward again. During long phases of difficult treatment, I made an effort to do something pleasurable every day in order to break up the painful monotony of feeling sick – even if all I could do was sit and watch the breeze blow the trees. There is more to my life than health care and there is more to me than an illness.
In taking responsibility for my health care and incorporating all of the above into my life, I have been rewarded with ever improving health. I offer my experience and knowledge as inspiration for those who are just beginning or are still on the healing path. There is hope. Most miracles are not handed out on a silver platter. They come from hard work, perseverance and a passion for change. But miracles do happen!
Lynn Rossiter is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City and the owner of Back to the Garden. As a Certified Health Coach, she supports people who are actively seeking creative, healthy, abundant and productive lives, but feel stuck, afraid or unsure what the next steps would be to move from their existing life to the life they are seeking.
She facilitates workshops, conduct groups and lead retreats across the country that educate and inspire people to make positive changes in their lives around nutrition, lifestyle, healing and transformation, and spirituality.
She is in the start-up phase of a new venture called Brain Sponge Buffet, an online site dedicated to giving a voice to people who are creating positive transformation in the world through art and social action: brainspongebuffet.com