Of empathy and listening
Recently, I went through a bit of a scare. It suddenly felt so real - something I always just heard about from others. A sad, yet so distant story. And in one thought, it became a possibility.
To give you some backstory, I learned a short time ago, that it's considered abnormal to have 15+ headaches a month. I always just thought, as a mother of two younger children with all the demands this entails, it was a common thing. Perhaps you too think it's common...
But apparently, it is not. And me, the always-go-natural girl, in a weird way, decided to see a doctor about it.
They prescribed a drug I had never heard of. They said it was safe, they had great results with it. And for an instant, I forgot how oftentimes, doctors are willing to prescribe some really potent stuff...
I waited on taking it, but started about a month ago...
I felt great for a time, but then, it seemed the effects were wearing off. I was starting to have more headaches and with more severity. Before, I had just mild headaches, now they were becoming almost migraines.
I saw the doctor's assistant, who nonchalantly recommended I up the dosage.
Wow. Big mistake.
Because suddenly, I was feeling so groggy, and well, I guess the only word to describe it, was like as if I was drunk! But it was not a silly drunk, it was a disorienting drunk. I felt horrible.
I was concerned. I called the doctor pleading for an appointment. They said to increase the dosage and come in tomorrow.
The grogginess got worse. I honestly began to fear the worst. What if - God forbid - the medicine wasn't working because I had... the ... C- word?
In an instant as short as the thought that came in, rushed the realization that so many come to know when that dreaded diagnosis comes. And you try to talk yourself out of panic mode - out of that feeling that somehow you have been duped - somewhere along the way you know you did something that had to have caused this. The guilt. The possibility of your children growing up without their mother. The possibility that your parents would have to see their child die. OMG it was overwhelming...
And the story that seemed so distant was a few tests away from either staying there, or on the horizon.
I went to the doctor, and sure enough, he took my case very seriously and ordered an MRI. But in that same breath, recommended I lower the dosage because it obviously wasn't helping.
I left that place confounded. As I walked past the many elderly people going inside, and the cold, rude nurse receptionist assistant person whoever they were, telling the poor old lady that she could not help her get her medicine because it was a paper prescription and almost yelling at her (as if the elderly lady's insistence must have been due to deaf ears or stupidity), my thoughts spun...
An elderly gentleman smiles at me and says, "quite the place to hang out, am I right?" I smile back as another woman in her golden years walks in the elevator, asking who might have been her daughter, "What floor is it? I thought it was 4? But why are we going to 3? That doctor better hear me I am so sick of this..."
"I'm getting too old for this"
"This is ridiculous"
"I'm on 5 medications and they're giving me another prescription?"
"That medication is making me crazy, I don't want it anymore!"
And as it all comes crashing in to my mind, the realization of what my future could be - if I continued down this route.
Getting older, with more and more medications on my prescription list. Becoming ever more dependent on the despotism of the health care assistants and receptionists that prefer to yell at me than actually help. That my gray hair and wrinkled skin would somehow reduce the credibility of my thoughts, simply because, I am old.
And some of them do act a little quirky. But could it be because perhaps as we age, some of us become more playful and silly for the sake of a smile? Or because they have gone senile? Or - perhaps - because that cocktail of medications have bred confusion, dizziness, and clouded minds?
When I got home, I finally did what I should have done a long time ago. I checked the side effects of my medicine on forums. And sure enough, everyone was talking about how it made them feel dizzy and 'spacey', gain weight, and have digestive problems.
And my doctor just asked if I had dry mouth...
So I decided to stop the medication. But alas, the medication has withdrawal symptoms. Meaning, it is - addictive! I couldn't believe with what ease this had been prescribed to a pretty healthy 37 year old woman, with no other condition, I don't even take contraceptives!
And in one simple appointment with a doctor, I had in my possession, the first of probably many other drugs to add to that soon to be cocktail a few years down the line.
I was reminded why I started my natural path. Why I rejected the status quo of products and healthcare recommendations - because they don't care what happens to me in my old age or if I get confused and dizzy. They will make sure that I find my way back to their clinic to beg them for more.
Was the doctor nice? yes. Probably super smart.
It's a funny thing, balancing the two. On one end, celebrating the scientific method in which they have created amazing medications to help us live and thrive and rid ourselves of infections.
And on the other, trying to maintain a connection to our natural ability to heal and all the wonderful resources nature has put in place to help us thrive as well.
Because I know we can't just reject one or the other. Both have a place. But it seems we are placed in the middle and are required to choose ourselves.
So, I lowered my dosage and will continue to do so until I am off this medication for good. Something that affects my brain and can lead me to feeling "confused" as a common side effect? No thanks. I would like to be present for my life, thank you. I'll take the headaches, and find a more holistic approach.
At least that's what I'll do for now, and so far, I'm much better - no more dizzy...
But this experience was not a waste because I realized that amidst the frustrations and the fear of seeing our possible futures, I found the beauty in empathy. How, if only those people attending our elderly friends, would just smile - be empathetic to their plight - how different the experience would be.
Many have become disillusioned with our healthcare system for many reasons - and I'll say, customer service is primal to affecting our perceptions, and is the least important item on our healthcare's agenda for some reason.
I found that just by walking inside and spending some time with my fellow friends styling silver threads, I was able to talk, smile, joke, with people that were just fine with being themselves, and looked me in the eye, and didn't hide from human interaction behind their phones.
Amidst my fears on life and death, and diagnosis, and medications, in that clinic, I found my kind of people - people who remember what it's like when we used to acknowledge one another. I'm even tempted to grab a coffee and just sit on a bench and chat with the next person waiting for their ride home...
So next time you go to the clinic, put your phone aside and look around. Smile at whoever is next to you. Because if you are there, I'm sure both of you can use it - it's the best kind of medicine...