So, you keep telling the doctor, “Something’s wrong.” And the doctor responds, “I just don’t see anything conclusive on your tests. It’s probably just… referred pain/muscle pain/arthritis/ adhesions (scar tissue), etc. etc.” And you say, once again, “No. Something is wrong. The pain is intense at times, and it’s different than the myriad of regular pains I deal with every day.” “Hmmm. Well nothing I can pinpoint. Sounds like intermittent constipation” But you know. You live in this body every day. You are not malingering or unnecessarily complaining. Yet this very judgment often keeps you from going to the doctor until the situation is unbearable. You know about accepting every day pain that many others don’t deal with. This is different.
So you’re faced with either: letting the doctors wormhole their way into your brain, making you question your intuitive sense. You may start think, “Well, I guess I may be overreacting. The doctors know best right?” But, there is that small insistent voice that grows more and more persistent, “Don’t let the doctors question yourself! You know your body better than anyone else! Every time you’ve said something ‘bigger’ is going on, you’ve been right!” Time for option #2: putting on your “Self-Advocate Hat” and getting to work. Be the squeaky wheel. Not allowing yourself to be a push-over. Keep insisting on further tests until you uncover the true source of your pain.
So you push and you push and lo and behold, there IS something wrong! Alas, something pretty majorly wrong. And now you start to think, “Hmm. I don’t know if I wanted to be right after all! Maybe denial wasn’t such a bad place.” Because now reality is smacking you straight upside the head. This pain will no longer be ignored!
This is the story that most recently played out in my life. I have had an intermittent pain in my upper right abdomen, right below my rib cage. At times it doubles me over, almost knocking the wind right out of me. But then it will quiet down, and I wouldn’t hear from it for a while. Starting about 6 weeks ago, it would no longer be ignored; the persistent and at times intense pain demanded attention. Hence began the above journey.
I started to question my own intuitive sense. I started to acquiesce to someone else’s opinion about my body. I almost didn’t seek out additional evaluations because I didn’t want to appear as someone who over-reacts.
Where does this irrational fear come from? I know I am not alone in this experience. A dear friend recently encountered similar resistance when she was sent to the ED to get treatment for an urgent condition. Hearing just one voice naysay her doctor’s advice was enough to make her shut down. Enough for her to push on, to work beyond what she should of being doing in her current state. Enough to keep her from calling the doctor when her symptoms flared again.
And I am intimately familiar with this self-conscious resistance. The advice I would so freely give to another, the concern I would have if they were experiencing similar symptoms, the nudging I would provide to encourage them to call a doctor asap… are all compassionate techniques I seem to reserve for others. Not for myself, heaven forbid!
Why is that?
Why do we joke that men will never let their ego stop and ask for directions, when we, females, are just as guilty when it comes for asking for help with our physical bodies?
This stoicism doesn’t serve us. It inhibits are well-being and our ability to fully be there for others. And most often, the end result is an exacerbation of the (physical or mental) situation, because we did not seek help or treatment in a timely manner… we blatantly ignored our intuitive voice.
And all of this is reinforced by society. How many stories have we heard of doctor’s dismissing women’s chest pains when they go to the ED, being told,:”you’re too young/the wrong sex/ too healthy to be having a heart attack… must just be indigestion.” Even in the face of irrefutable studies showing that heart disease is the number one killer of women!
I have already had a near-death experience (truly) due to listening to a doctor tell me that there was nothing wrong… again, the phone diagnosis was that I was constipated (what’s up with that?) and just needed to take a walk. When, in fact, my colon had ruptured and I was septic… and dying.
I now know what is happening inside my body. And I know when something is awry. Now I just need to trust myself. And, even when it is challenging, be my own advocate… push, push, push until I get the care I need.
So, here I am, today, waiting on an appointment with my surgeon on Tuesday to discuss removing my gall bladder. That pain that was “just constipation”… is in fact a large gallstone that appears to be also effecting my liver (hence the lovely cankles I have been sporting as of late!). And if I hadn’t insisted that the doctors keep looking, I would have found myself much worse off. Of course, I am not thrilled that there is something so serious going on. But with knowledge, comes power. Now that I know the source of my pain, I can focus on the treatment for my pain.
I encourage you to take a few quiet moments today and “listen” to your body.
Is there anything that has been lingering, nagging at you mind, that you’ve left unattended? Is it time to ask the doctor about that pain/ache/different sensation or symptom?
Have you held back from telling others how you are really feeling for fear of being judged?
Are you experiencing anxiety, worry, stress, sadness that you are trying to keep bottled up inside?
Or perhaps, it’s something more positive, but just as secretive. A voice in your heart that sings the song of your dreams… a wish left unfulfilled for fear of disappointing or stressing others; of taking time to feed your own needs for once instead of everyone else’s?
What are these intuitive thoughts telling you?
Do NOT ignore them.
They are the essence of your being.
And they are meant to be listened to… by yourself and others!