My name is Ivy. I have sleep apnea, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypothyroidism, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and as of this writing, I am dealing with abdominal pain and awaiting results of a CAT scan. Aside from my depression, every single one of my illnesses is of my own doing and I take full responsibility for it.
Several years ago, a friend expressed concern about my health. She gave me books to read, herbs to deal with illness and the stress of life, and many lectures on taking care of myself. One time, she even pulled the car over and screamed at me for not listening to her about it. Still, I continued on a path of self-destruction.
Three years later, I would be tipping the scales at over 300 pounds, wondering why I felt so tired all the time and why I was so thirsty. A week after my 40th birthday, I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. Fast forward two years after that, and I am faced with two more autoimmune diseases and possible liver problems.
A few weeks ago, I found myself getting upset because someone was not taking my health advice. Who would want to end up with diabetes and thyroid problems? I then thought back to the advice I did not take years ago and I let my anger go. Will I stop giving people advice on their health issues? No, but I will give the advice freely and let it go.
One of the other things I found myself doing was blaming doctors and the healthcare system for my woes: it was too expensive, I didn’t like the doctor, or any other of a myriad of excuses. I cannot blame the doctors because I did not fight or follow-up on my own health issues. I probably would not be having gastro issues now if I had listened to my doctor a year ago. What is more important than your health?
In my own experience, I have found my healthcare to be lacking, to say the least. I have been misdiagnosed or undiagnosed several times. I have been frustrated to the point that I stopped going to doctors altogether. That was a very stupid thing to do. I should have kept going to other doctors to get second or even third opinions. This is my first point of advice to you.
Society sets us up to fail. The government does not care about you or your health. We are constantly bombarded with images of things that are not good for us. Remember that food companies had to be forced to place nutrition information on labels along with cigarette and the liquor companies. It takes will power to do the right thing for yourself.
You know when something is wrong with you. Act on your intuition and it may turn out to be something minor or you may get a jump on an illness that could have been life-threatening. Sometimes, you will have to make a lot of noise to get someone to listen to you. Many of my doctors behave as they just don’t care but you can be lucky enough to find one who truly does.
You have to arm yourself with knowledge. I was diagnosed with poly-cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in 2004. I did not know that it could be a precursor to diabetes. Then later on when I got diabetes, I did not know that it could be a precursor to other autoimmune diseases. I find that WebMD and the Mayo Clinic websites are of great use. There is too much information on the internet for us “not to know better”.
When you see your doctor, make sure to ask questions. What are the side effects of this medication? Will it interact with my other medications? When will I get my test results back? I saved myself a lot of grief and possible complications when I went in for my CAT scan. I found out by asking about a question on the questionnaire they gave me that I could not take my diabetes meds for two days.
I could have been mad that my doctor had not informed me but instead, I took responsibility for myself and I suggest you do the same. It is great if you have support at home but here will be times you will have no one to turn to. Turn to yourself. Those of us who are nurturers by nature can also be self-saboteurs because we self-sacrifice. I am unapologetic when I say I had to start sacrificing for myself.
I learned the power of the word “no”. I started turning off my phone at bedtime. I stopped playing errand girl and chauffeur to people. Some people will not understand when you do this because you have made them dependent on you and you have become an enabler in your self-sacrifing but your health and peace of mind will comfort you when they won’t.
When we take care of ourselves, we can be there to take care of others who need us. I know it’s a cliché but in the case of an airplane going down, the parent is told to put on their mask first and then the child’s. I know it’s second nature to help someone by why do we not give ourselves the same courtesy? Why not take care of ourselves so that we can be around longer to put that child’s mask on?
We all are grownups. We THINK that means we get to do whatever we want and of course we can, within reason. But, it is up to us to take care of us. We can have loved ones who surround us, who tell us to do the right thing, but ultimately, it is up to us to act on it. I hope that someone reading this may take my advice, but if not, I still give it to you. Freely and with love.