A friend of mine who has been gravely harmed by the medical establishment, much like I have, asked for some advice via email the other day about how to begin a relationship with a new (alternative) doctor.
Because I’ve found that alternative doctors are very much like mainstream doctors when it comes to thinking they know all, I’ve learned how to approach new MDs and other types of health professionals so that we understand each other from the get go. I suggested my friend make boundaries right off the bat. This does not guarantee continued respect from the provider but it greatly increases the chances. If they are not willing to work with this agreement it’s a good idea to move on.
My friend told me it was very easy to fall into the “obedient patient” role. I told her that is what she must avoid if she hopes to stay safe. We cannot afford to be obedient patients ever again. The sad fact is those of us with severe iatrogenic illness caused by psychiatric drug use and withdrawal run the risk of being harmed further by routine medical care. Most doctors regardless of training have not seen this sort of thing, or if they have they’ve not recognized it, and many will balk at the severity of it and frankly want to treat in ways that are dangerous. This has happened to me many times now. Though at this point I know the red flags and that helps minimize the problem.
So, I told my friend:
That’s the only thing you need to avoid — being the obedient patient! And tell the doctor upon meeting him that you will not become the obedient patient. There is nothing better than clear communication to get our needs met.
That’s all…tell him you’ve been living in your body and that you’ve researched your condition and that you’re in conversation with others who also have it and that doctors of all stripes alternative and otherwise can harm us…because no one really understands our sensitivities…and well, neither do we, which is why we need help.
TELL HIM THAT…if he can’t hear it he’s not worth working with.
TELL HIM you will be his partner, but not his subject…that you hope that you and he can learn together.
TELL HIM you will research anything he suggests and may or may not follow through.
TELL HIM that you reserve the right to make choices about how you care for your body.
Find a way to communicate all of the above and you’ll be okay…whether or not you end up working with him…(oh…and he’ll agree to all of it…but he may not really mean it…it’s very common for MDs to go along with these sorts of boundaries and then get pissed off anyway when you show that you have a mind of your own (see here for example)…still you may get what you need for a while…)
When someone is seriously ill finding a doctor one can work well with is akin to finding a good and healthy spouse. It’s a serious matter and you and that person must be compatible and have deep mutual respect.
Another way to consider this, and this is unlike what one has with a spouse, is that until a relationship develops between you and your doctor and the partnership can begin, the doctor is essentially a paid consultant. He or she is in your employ and you determine whether or not their service is for you. If trust and a relationship develops after that then the partnership can begin.
Not long ago Dr. Steve Balt, author of Thought Broadcast, wrote about the topic of medical “adherence” as well. When “Adherence” Is A Dirty Word. It’s worth seeing what a doctor thinks about this topic and the comments after the post are worth reading as well.
So I imagine the above notes to my friend might annoy some doctors, but you know what? I have a good team of folks that I work with now. Wonderful professionals who deeply respect me and I them. It works to be explicit about the above needs. And if a doctor doesn’t understand how it’s a good thing that you’re deeply involved in your own care then that doctor is not the one for you. Let them care for the people who want to be the obedient patient. Move on and find one that will hear you and understand that your are the best person to know what some of your particular needs are.
A collection of links: Information and inspiration for the chronically ill
I understand that not everyone is in a position to pick and choose medical care. In those instances one must try to protect themselves in other ways when needing medical attention. We live in a far less than ideal society. Bigotry among health providers of all stripes against those with psychiatric histories, for example, is very high.
Recently when I had to go to an Urgent Care clinic for treatment of a serious burn I avoided giving them any information about my history that might have led them to believe I was a psychiatric patient at any time. It’s not always possible or wise to avoid giving such information for many reasons but since the care of my burnt hand and arm didn’t require any such information and because I am now drug free, there was no reason for them to know anything about my culturally imposed psych history. A history I now do not agree with in any case. We must make wise choices about what and when we share information.