Prior to getting my Hashi’s diagnosis and my thyroid shutting down, I was rarely ever at the doctors. My experience of hospitals had been limited to having my tonsils out when I was about 7 and childbirth twice.
So it came as a huge shock to me that my doctor at the time, had little to no knowledge of my condition, no interest in researching it and only one option for treatment; take my thyroxine every day and I would soon be fine. Then if I wasn’t fine, take more thyroxine.
But I wasn’t fine at all, thyroxine didn’t work for me and I know that chances are, if you are still trying to get a diagnosis or already have one autoimmune disease, you are far from fine either.
When you are scared, feeling awful and desperately seeking answers, it makes sense to turn to your doctor to tell you what to do and how to feel better.
However for a large percentage of people, the help they so badly want will not be provided because of doctors who don’t listen, don’t understand or tell you that the problem and issues are “all in your head”.
When you have an AD, your relationship with your doctor is one of the very first things that needs to change for you to get the support that you need and here are the steps you need to take to make that happen.
Stop giving your Doctor all the power.
Though doctors are highly trained professionals, medical education provides little learning about autoimmune diseases. Research has identified 80 to 100 different AD’s with often complex and puzzling symptoms.
Your doctor is looking for a cluster of symptoms that will fit a particular diagnosis and treatment, all in limited time, generally 10 to 15 minutes.
Autoimmune symptoms like anxiety, exhaustion and depression fit a profile that your doctor understands without looking any further and patients are either given antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication and told to get more rest.
Patients who present with weight gain and exhaustion are told to diet and exercise more.
New Mothers who exhibit the first signs of autoimmune thyroid disease are told that their symptoms and exhaustion are a normal part of being a new Mother.
“Patient profiling” which many doctors are guilty of, often affects people with chronic disease. They can be labeled as “difficult”, “chronic complainers” or “hypochondriacs”.
The truth is that autoimmune disease is very complex and due to it’s multi system nature, it crosses many medical specialties who so often fail to see the interrelated, whole system nature of the beast.
So how do you deal with this?
By taking your health and well-being into your own hands.
By educating yourself on the life-style interventions that you can make to create better health like diet, supplements and stress management.
By researching your condition and going in prepared with a list of issues and symptoms in hand.
Most importantly, by seeing your doctor as a partner in your well-being, knowing that you are the person living in your body and experiencing the consequences of getting the right or wrong treatment.
Start seeing your Doctor as a service provider who is working for you.
We have this very romantic view of doctors don’t we? Saving lives, being heroes, having all the answers to make people well?
Sadly that is not always the case.
Doctors like the rest of us are very human with their own agendas, blind spots, prejudices and personalities and like anyone else, they make mistakes.
They work in an industry where there is no accurate statistical data collected about the effects of mistreatment, medical complications resulting in disability, “wrong site surgery” (operating on the wrong body part) and death. Even the Australian Bureau of Statistics does not register cause of death by medical negligence.
They also work in an industry which is self-regulated when it comes to being wined and dined or having other financial incentives offered by pharmaceutical company representatives to start prescribing their new medications.
Preventable medical error is the number three killer in the USA with the staggering number of 400,000 people per year which is probably an under reported figure. A conservative estimate for Australia in 1995 by the then health minister was 18,000 Australian deaths per year.
Doctors, like any other service providers are also running a business to make a living and provide for their families and doctors are one of the highest paid professionals in Australia.
So knowing all of this, we as their potential customers, need to look for doctors who provide a good standard of service and become conscious and aware consumers of medical treatment and weigh them up just the same as any other service provider.
With a doctor, it is even more important to find the right one as the impact on our lives and health by receiving sub-standard care can make the difference between living well or getting sicker.
So how do you deal with this?
The best word of mouth about good doctors for particular conditions comes through patient to patient online support groups. For people with thyroid issues, a great site to start at is Stop the Thyroid Madness.
They have lists of different Facebook groups around the world that you can join who are more than happy to recommend doctors and treatments.
They are also the best places to find information on the most effective treatments and useful information. Disclaimer: Like any medical service, do your own research and do not just blindly take or use what others do. What works well for someone else may not be the right choice for you.
Search for the positive stories that are backed by good science. A great place to start when supporting yourself with diet is The Paleo Mom.
The author Sarah Ballantyne PhD is herself living with several autoimmune conditions including Hashimoto’s, psoriasis and lichen planus and gives the science and research behind why certain foods are more beneficial for autoimmune disease.
Use the Doctor Letter template that I have created just for you. There is an example letter and a template that you can change to suit your particular issues and symptoms. You can find the template here: Doctor Letter Template.
The letter will help you when you are feeling brain fogged and emotional and worried about remembering everything.
Take someone with you for moral support and/or to advocate for you. Having a partner, friend or relative there to take notes, ask questions and remember things you have forgotten can make all the difference.
Choose a doctor who is willing to work with you and not dictate to you. There are many good doctors out there who will readily admit that they don’t understand your condition but are willing to work with and partner with you.
Don’t settle for anything less! The doctor is NOT the one who is living in your body and feeling their quality of life, relationships and health going down the drain. You are!
If you do not make your health your priority and take it seriously, you can’t expect anyone else to, especially when it comes to autoimmune diseases.
By being an educated and conscious consumer of medical care, supporting yourself with diet and lifestyle changes that will create the best possible environment for health and by practicing self-care and self-love, you take the power to create a better life.
I would love to know. What have your biggest issues with doctors been?