Finally we reach the topic that seems to bring out the worst from all sides--medication. It seems that some of the most genteel and compassionate people can sometimes unleash their claws when doctors and medications are mentioned whether in favour of them or in harsh anger against them. It seems to be a trend these days to forsake medical professionals in the name of "all things natural" and "natural is always better" ideology. While I have an appreciation for some natural remedies and don't want to be disrespectful to those who practice them on a regular basis, I do feel the need to explain more extensively why my husband and I have made the decision to pursue a more traditional medical doctor in treating my fibromyalgia and why I do not hold that "natural" is necessarily better. Please do not consider this a rant against natural or home remedies, merely an apologetic to open up more honest discussion for both sides.
As a young teenager I had very little confidence in medical doctors. I don't mean to imply that I didn't think they could be good at their job, but I didn't have a very consistent relationship with my personal doctor and tried my best to avoid doctor visits whenever possible. Doctors weren't someone you saw often enough to confide in or show weakness to or even complain to. Doctors were the ones you went to in order to get physical forms signed off or in the rare case of being so sick your school might tell you to stay home until you got a doctor to (again) sign off. Most diseases were to be suffered through until you felt better, not worth spending money on a doctor visit. If something unexpected happened in your health, the first response was to call around to people you knew who had various levels of experience with the healthcare profession who wouldn't charge. A doctor was always a last resort. So, I understand people coming to the table with little or no trust and confidence built up in their doctor/patient relationship.
I also had limited experience with chiropractors. I'd only been to one extensively, and I had very limited symptoms before starting those "adjustments." This doctor/patient began and soon had me sitting through seminars designed to destroy whatever small trust I'd still held for traditional doctors and medical professionals. I was given X rays at the chiropractor's office and told that my problems were severe, even though they didn't feel so at the time. After the first several adjustments the pain did become severe, but I was told I was getting better, so I kept going. This continued for several years. To this day that pain is still present. I no longer frequent a chiropractor, but I have been there as well.
As a young adult, I decided to give doctors another chance and struck out to find my own primary care physician. It was a difficult decision and left me afraid and anxious wondering if anyone would listen to me, and if there was anyone I could trust with the unexplained pain and fatigue and headaches. I had yet another migraine headache and decided to start a relationship with a new doctor. What I found in the world of "being an adult and choosing your own doctor" was an amazing world of finding someone you could trust. I found a caring, compassionate, professional woman who could handle the most awkward, embarrassing, scary, confidential information I could give her.
So, when test after test came back negative and the only diagnosis I came back with from the referred Rheumatologist was Fibromyalgia, I started getting advice and prescriptions from my newfound confidante and doctor on dealing with this condition. She became an expert I could bounce ideas and my own research off of. She became a trusted "friend" I could confide my bad flare-ups in, and when the pain got really bad she was the one I could go to and ask for some temporary help to get me through the worst points of it. When my brain struggled with obsessive thinking patterns, she's the one who helped me navigate a medication that gave me back control over that thinking, and when I just needed to tell someone my struggle with this disease. She was there to listen.
That was the beginning. I've now been with her for several years, worked through trial and error on several different treatment plans that include medication, vitamins, exercise, sleep patterns, and more. She's been a steady source of support and advice for me on the journey of walking through the pain and flare-ups. I understand that hasn't been everyone's experience with doctors. I also know that not all doctors are good listeners or humble enough to be upfront when they don't really know an answer. Finding a good doctor is not an easy task, and I won't oversimplify the up's and down's that go along with this process. Navigating the medical insurance isn't any easier, particularly with Obamacare and rising healthcare costs. It can be expensive and emotionally taxing to say the least. Medications can be costly, depending on your insurance. These are not easy issues to make wise decisions on. However...
Here's where it gets a little less anecdotal and a little more controversial--
I understand that there are many varying reasons that some people decide not to use traditional medicine for their conditions or genuinely can't find the answers they need from it. It is often not an easy decision to make the step away from traditional Western medicine. What I find disheartening is when some of these same people decide that their personal medical decisions (whether using essential oils, a chiropractor, homeopathic remedies, or traditional Chinese medicine, etc.) are morally superior or intellectually above the common person choosing to use a traditional doctor.
People's experiences in this area will be vastly different depending on your personal health, your body's chemistry, your background experiences, your family history, the area of the country you live in, and even your personality. It is unrealistic to expect every other person to be held to your method of dealing with disease and health, and unkind to judge other people's health choices by your own decisions. If you find a certain diet, in conjunction with supplements, helps your pain, go for it. If you opt for acupuncture and yoga, and it helps--awesome. If essential oils and a combination of vitamins make your flareups better, go in peace and keep it up. If you find that your treatment plan includes some strong prescriptions and traditional medical doctors, blessings. This is not one size fits all. It doesn't have to be.
It is not morally superior to choose one diet over another. It is not a mark of your extreme intelligence or your family's great achievement that you follow one specific health regimen over another or refuse to use over-the-counter pain relievers. It doesn't make you wrong to choose alternative treatments, either. The Bible does not give us specifics when it comes to our physical health. As such, we rely on principles and wisdom to make the best decisions we can with the information we have and the resources available to us. It is unkind and unhelpful to treat others poorly or snub them because they have made the best decision they can for their situation and it does not match the decision you would have made in a similar situation. This is a wisdom issue, not one of morality.
So, how can we apply these thoughts to our everyday conversations and interactions with others as we all try to stay as healthy as possible and just show Christ in our basic pursuit of being well? Here are some practical thoughts I came up with.
1. Show grace when others' medical decisions make no sense to you. Allow others the courtesy to make their own decisions and love them the same. Don't make them feel the need to defend or justify their decisions to you. It's likely they put a great deal of thought into it. Give them that benefit of the doubt. Going on serious medication is a big decision, and a lot of people have serious fear and doubt about making that decision because of the backlash they face when others find out.
2. Be kind when engaging in public conversation about debated medical practices. Some people are very concerned about the dangers of vaccines; others are scared of the results of not getting them. Realize that both sides have reasoning for their positions and deserve respect. There are people involved, not just ideas.
3. Promote without bragging. It's not wrong to encourage others to consider the health choices you've made. Just try to do it without making others feel like trash for not necessarily agreeing with you.
4. Practice Healthcare Universalism. This will probably be most difficult for those of us who cling to absolute Truth, because just the term "Universalism" seems to bring out a perpetual twitch. By this I simply mean, in the world of health, what works for me may not work for you. Keep in mind, there is A LOT we still don't know about how the body and mind work. The test is not whether it matches my definition of good healthcare, but whether or not it is working to improve your quality of life. This is healthcare, not religion.
5. Be open to listening to others, without feeling the need to correct their choices and opinions. Don't shutdown discussions with others whose experiences don't match yours. If you find yourself in a conversation with someone who had a good experience where you had a bad one, consider it an opportunity to learn and grow, not something that needs to be corrected and stopped. Their experience doesn't invalidate yours and vice versa.
6. Recognize and acknowledge the unknowns. Fibromyalgia is still not narrowed down to one specific root cause, and no known cure exists. More so than even typical health issues, Fibro often comes down to individualized treatment plans that address the issues most significant to the patient. Don't berate someone for doing their best to deal with their situation. After numerous attempts at trial and error, it gets really discouraging to finally have some progress with your treatment only to have someone come along and lecture you for not pursuing the "right" treatment.