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Whether you’re living with chronic illness or just fighting the common cold, there is a lot of information on health care out there. And there are always health care decisions to be made. Just scrolling through Pinterest you see “cures” for incurable illnesses and everything you “have” to be doing to live your “healthiest” life. Who needs western medicine, right?
On the flip side of that, if you talk to (almost) any conventional doctor about trying acupuncture or ask for more holistic recommendations, you’re all but laughed at. Those woo-woo things don’t actually work, right?
Well, who says you have to pick one? Who says you can’t use conventional western medicine and more holistic eastern practices in tandem? Why is everyone so judgmental of what you do to take care of yourself? Well, this post is here to tell you to ignore them. Ignore all of the judgement. Ignore judgement coming from both sides and implemented the practices I felt were best for my body.
My Health Care Decisions
I’ve been living with chronic illness for years. I’ve had Interstitial Cystitis (IC) symptoms for about 8 years now, being officially diagnosed just 3 years ago. Over the last year or so, I developed non-IC symptoms and just about a month ago received a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.
When my bladder symptoms started at 16 years old, I was initially told it was simply overactive bladder (OAB). The urologist started me on a medication that immediately gave me bad side effects, and honestly didn’t help. So, I went back and we started a new overactive bladder medication. In addition to that, I started a low-acidity, caffeine-free diet to help minimize bladder irritation. This second medication, called Gel-nique, actually helped a lot. It was kind of a pain in the butt to rub gel on my stomach every morning, but it definitely seemed to help. I continued with that medication and tried my best to stick to that OAB diet, and things were pretty under control. For a while.
As things got worse, I had to go back to the doctor. At that point, I was diagnosed with IC and told very sternly by my doctor to stick to the IC diet. No caffeine or alcohol. Nothing with soy or citrus. And nothing artificial. On top of that, he put me on Myrbetriq for the first time. Again, this helped for a while. But I was just about to turn 21 and didn’t want to give up alcohol. So I ignored his advice and just took my meds. And that was probably not the best decision ever. It took over 6 months for me to realize just how miserable I was feeling. And finally, when I did choose to focus on healing myself again and really worked at sticking to that diet, I started feeling good again. Until grad school.
We often don’t think about how stress affects us physically. It’s just part of life and we have to deal with that. But I learned first hand just how detrimental excessive stress can be to your body. After about a year of grad school, I started developing new symptoms. Not only was my mental health taking a major hit, but the fatigue was insane, my whole body hurt, and my IC symptoms got increasingly worse. I was not okay. So I chose to go on medical leave, and my doctor agreed that was the best thing at that time.
And it really was. I was able to come home and start focusing on getting better. For a while, I spent more days than not in bed or on the couch. But I really focused on eating nourishing, healing food and doing everything I could to make myself better. And everything I could do involved both western and eastern methods. I started getting bladder installations from my urologist and going to pelvic floor physical therapy. I started working closely with an herbalist and began acupuncture treatments. And I found a rheumatologist who actually listened and started me on meds that have me feeling the most “me” I’ve felt in almost a year. Although acupuncture and herbalism are on the opposite side of the spectrum from prescription meds and weekly urological procedures, all of these things have been extremely beneficial to me.
Why the Judgement?
So, if all of these things have been helping me feel better, why are people so quick to judge my choices? Here’s my theory on it: we’re all very defensive of what works for us. We think that what works for us is guaranteed to work for someone else. We don’t understand why anyone would try another method when we know this works. Or when we know something is harmful or is bullshit. But, do we really know?
In short, no. We don’t know. We have no idea what may work for a person or why they are making the choice they are. Nor do we need to know. It’s no one’s business but theirs. Even if you believe they are making a poor decision, it’s not your decision to have an opinion on. It’s simply theirs. It’s between them and their doctors/nurses/herbalists/naturopaths/etc.
When you’re on the receiving end of that judgement, it can be really hard to dismiss. We are often so heavily influenced by what those around us think. And while that’s not ideal, it’s really hard to avoid. Those of us with chronic illnesses are often not believed, are told we’re faking it, and are given every suggestion under the sun from those who know nothing about our illness. Or even, sometimes, from people who do. However, chances are, we’ve heard it before. And we’re doing everything in our power to help ourselves feel better. But when someone judges us for making a choice to do or not do something in relation to their illness, it can be emotionally debilitating. Being on the receiving end of negative judgement can make anyone second guess themselves, their struggles, and their choices. And that’s not healthy for anyone.
What to do with it?
So, what do you do with it? What can you do when everyone and their mother seems to be judging you for every health care decision you make? In short, ignore them. I know, I know. Easier said than done. But hear me out. Not dwelling on the words and opinions of others is really the only way to deal with the judgement. Unfortunately, we cannot trust that others won’t judge us, or voice their judgements to us. However, we CAN take our experiences and use them to be more empathetic to others.
Whether it’s health care decisions, career moves, or any other life choices, we can remember just how we feel when we are unbelieved, judged, or scoffed at. We can remember that everyone makes decisions for themselves and everyone is different. We can remember that we have no right to judge the decisions made by others about their own lives, but rather try to understand what they are going through and why they are making it.
I’ve made a lot of health care decisions over the last 8 years. Some have been beneficial and some honestly made things worse. Some maybe helped for a little bit but then stopped. And some had absolutely no effect whatsoever. But the fact of the matter is, they were my health care decisions to make. Mine and mine alone. It’s incredibly difficult, but incredibly necessary to tune out the ever-present judgement and trust yourself. Trust that you know your body, that your medical professionals and healers know what they are doing. Trust that you are doing what you believe to be best for you. Make your health care decisions out of love for yourself, your body, and your sanity. And know that you are not alone.