Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reflections & Musings: Taking good care of ourselves begins with how worthy we feel.

"Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is costly, care for it.
Life is wealth, keep it.
Life is love, enjoy it.
Life is mystery, know it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it."
-Mother Teresa

Yesterday, I saw my craniosacral healer Gary to help me ease the pain in my ribs. As he began to palpate around my torso to find the source of the pain, he asked if I had seen a doctor.

"Yes, I went to see an orthopedic physician's assistant who took x-rays and said it wasn't broken."

"Did they check your sternum?"

"No, he didn't touch me at all except to wrap an ACE bandage around my ribs. Just came in and said he looked at the x-rays, which didn't show a break."

"That's it?" Gary asked, incredulous.

"Yeah, he didn't show me the X-rays either."

Gary shook his head. "I can't believe he didn't even palpate around — it feels to me that you may have dislocated a rib or two from your sternum, which is why it's so tender to the touch right now. I suggest you consider getting a second opinion."

This isn't the first time that I haven't stood up for myself when it comes to receiving adequate and accurate healthcare. I'm a hypochondriac at times, so I feel that when I go into a doctor's office, I already have guilt associated with why I'm there and assume that most of what's ailing me is likely in my head. Therefore, I may not speak up about my symptoms or just take what the doctor says as fact. After all, he/she is a doctor!

However, there have absolutely been times when I deserved better treatment or when the person I placed my trust into significantly crossed the line:

  • I've seen two different chiropractors in the past who behaved inappropriately — one continued to hit on me though he was married; the other stuck his hand down my shirt under multiple layers of clothing to adjust my back and after speaking with a chiropractor acquaintance I met in a writing group, she informed me that this was completely unnecessary and unethical.
  • A general physician asked if I wanted to join a multi-level marketing scheme during the course of our appointment.
  • A dentist suggested I invest over a thousand dollars in a mouthpiece that was unnecessary; another dentist said that the only way to fix my underbite was to break my jaw and put in screws. Luckily, the Chinese orthodontist I went to was able to fix everything with braces and rubberbands.
  • When I developed "hand, foot, mouth disease" in elementary school, my anesthesiologist cousin made me feel shameful by telling me it was because I was dirty.
  • After coming down with a high fever in junior high, my mother forced me to attend my piano lesson regardless of the foggy head I was suffering through; I didn't catch chicken pox until high school and before I was ready to go back, my mother dropped me off to class — I was sent home shortly afterward, because they said I was not yet fully healed.
  • I dislocated my knee in high school after a quick growth spurt, and because no one was around to help me, had to break into my house and hobble into a chair, waiting for my relatives to come take me to the doctor several hours later.
  • The first psychotherapist I saw after realizing I had an eating disorder asked how many times I was bingeing and purging. When I told her, she responded with, "Oh, that's not that bad." My instinctive reaction was, "Isn't bingeing and purging AT ALL bad?!" but I said nothing.
  • I began to come down with strep throat, but forced myself to go through multiple rounds of a job interview, even as the fever was making it difficult to sit upright or drive home afterward.
And, what comes to mind as most shocking in recent history:
  • When I developed an allergic reaction to sulfa medication I was taking, I woke up in the middle of the night with severe chills, uncontrollable shaking, and purple lips. When I brought up my concerns that I might need to go to the emergency room, the guy I was dating at the time told me not to overreact and to go back to bed. Here's the clincher: I resolved that he was right! I just forced myself to go back to sleep! I could have died!! In fact, I distinctly remember thinking, "Well, I guess if it's my time to go, then it is."
I shake my head in disbelief that I had so little self-worth in that moment that I did not fight for my health or honor my life force! I am a substantial presence in this world — just as everyone else is! — and to disavow both my purpose and power, especially because I shifted the responsibility for my well-being to someone else in the misbelief they would know better for me, is still shocking.

Before, I was in the throes of my eating disorder and constantly treating my physical form as an enemy. I've begun to befriend and fall in love with all the wonderful things that my body can do (including protecting my organs during my recent fall onto the rail of my board!) and now know my body pretty well. I may not always listen to it, because of my go-go-go nature, but for the most part, I know what it's trying to communicate with me. For example, I feel that the injury to my side body is more than a severe bruising of my ribs and when I get a second opinion, we'll see who's right.

I've fought more to get better customer service for products I've purchased than for the care of my entire being, which I'm now changing! The onus is on me to use my voice and trust my instincts, to believe that I deserve optimal care, and it starts with me taking good care of myself. As I teach every student in my class, "We all know our bodies better than anyone else does, since we're living in it day in and day out. Listen to what your body is telling you. Honor yourself through these asanas by striving to be at your growing edge, and sometimes, that growth comes from easing up rather than pushing harder."

Even though doctors may have more knowledge about diseases and diagnoses, we are the ones who feel each and every sensation. As I was reminded just yesterday, "It's okay to feel your feelings!" That means all the light, joyous emotions as well as the weighty, tugging ones. 

Many doctors don't like to admit they're wrong, but only in acknowledging our shortcomings do we see where there's room to grow. "Life is life," Mother Teresa said. "Fight for it."

I am worth every good thing in this life and beyond. And, so are you.

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