Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Turning Anger Into Something Positive

Two nights ago, my husband and I were discussing this blog, and he said something that is worth reflecting on. He told me that he is very happy that I am writing this blog, because I am doing something positive with the anger I have had for so long.

My husband was not referring to anger due to my condition. Believe it or not, I am not angry about dealing with Parkinsonism. My husband was referring to the anger I have harbored for so long at the medical community.

What fueled my anger? One aspect of trying to find answers to my medical problems that angered me greatly, was consistently being told that my medical issues were due to depression. This was the “diagnosis” I most often received by physicians, without ever being referred to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor for any type of evaluation. I was given samples or prescriptions for anti-depressants. I refer to depression, or any other diagnosis that has not been proven by testing, evaluation, etc., as a diagnosis of convenience. I will not elaborate on why I believe that a diagnosis of convenience is often handed out. I will say that the reason this particular diagnosis affected me so deeply, is because I was given this diagnosis early on, even though I did have a spinal condition that could have been easily identified through appropriate testing. Rather than being told I was depressed and prescribed anti-depressants, had the proper tests been ordered when I first began seeking treatment, the spinal problems would have been identified six years earlier than they were. I spent six years with various symptoms, which included pain. Instead of treating the actual physical medical condition, I was given various medications for a condition that never existed.

Another big trigger for my anger was being told that my symptoms were because I am female. The headaches I once had due to a cervical spine herniation, were attributed to my gender. Those headaches resolved after I had a cervical fusion. I am still a female, so why do I no longer have occipital headaches? Obviously, this was another diagnosis of convenience. Additionally, being female also contributes to the “depression” diagnosis; something about a female’s hormones changing and causing chemical changes in the brain, which cause depression, anxiety, additional stress, etc. Again, without the appropriate mental health evaluation, medical testing, and appropriate specialists, these types of medical opinions are not founded in facts.

Finally, the most difficult aspect, which fueled the anger in me more than anything else, was dealing with multiple physicians who were not patient friendly. It is my perspective, that had these physicians been patient friendly, the “diagnosis of convenience” scenarios would have never occurred. Had these physicians acknowledged my symptoms, I would have had fewer years of physical pain, frustration, unnecessary medications, and self-doubt. Self doubt? At times, I would doubt myself; because I was told so many times that no physical medical problems existed. Additionally, I would have been saved multiple years of knowing that something was physically wrong, but not knowing the cause. I will never understand why these physicians made the choices they did with respect to my requests for help. I have come to a point of forgiveness, with the hope that these physicians have evolved into patient friendly physicians, with the passage of time.

I have often wondered how these physicians would react, if I wrote each one a letter that detailed the medical conditions that have since been diagnosed, but were given a “diagnosis of convenience” while I was under their care. Would they be enlightened, or would they not care? Would they take a step back and analyze how effectively they deal with their patients? Would it assist even one, to recognize that the needs and wellbeing of the patient should be the physician’s top priorities? Physicians need to remember that as patients, we rely completely on them to assist us when our health is in jeopardy. Our lives are in their hands. The words they speak, and the actions they take, can be the patient’s biggest blessing or greatest nightmare. I may sit down one day and write those letters. For now, my priority lies with other patients like me, who are struggling to find the answers they need.

Being angry with the medical community never assisted me in my search for a diagnosis. The only thing my anger did was waste my time. Rather than giving up any more time to anger, I decided to take the lessons I have learned and share them.

I have only touched on a few methods that can assist a patient who is traveling through the diagnosis journey. There are so many other things that a patient can do to make the diagnosis process smoother, and I find myself getting frustrated, because I can only type so fast. I get so excited each day, waiting in anticipation, for the next moments that I will have available for writing in this blog. This excitement and desire to help other patients, has completely replaced the bitter anger that I had allowed to invade my heart. The actions and words of these physicians that caused the anger, have now become the nexus for something positive. I cannot change what happened in the past, but maybe I do have the ability to help change the amount of time it takes, and help reduce the frustration, for other patients who are now facing the challenges that I once did. It would be such a blessing to know that through sharing my experiences, I have made a beneficial contribution in someone else’s life.

My husband is the one person responsible for this change in direction. Each time the anger would rear its ugly head, he would calmly tell me to turn my anger over to God. Sometimes that is easier said then done. I will admit it took quite a while before I was willing to let the anger go, and turn it over to God. I did finally give up the anger, and in its place, God placed a plan in my heart. This blog, which allows me to share my experiences and the lessons I have learned along the way, is the plan I was given in exchange for my anger. My husband provided the guiding words, and God provided the healing.

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