I was my typical clutzy self this morning and managed to cut my thumb while trying to slice up a watermelon. It looked worse than it actually is, so I went to my local urgent care clinic. My thumb is fine and I didn’t need stitches, but just going to urgent care stressed me out. It was the same urgent care place I went to when my pain first started in college. It was the same long wait, the same rude staff, the same clueless doctor. Back then, my chronic pain began with stabbing pains in my leg. Leg pain became hip and back pain, which became shoulder and neck pain, which became a bad migraine, and the next thing I knew, every part of my body hurt. It took me 3 years and countless doctors to figure out that my TMJ disorder was the cause of my pain returning and spreading throughout my body. It took another year and half to get the fibromyalgia diagnosis.
Doctors can be part of the problem when you are facing a chronic health problem.
That first doctor at urgent care examined me for about 10 minutes, prescribed Darvocet, and told me to deal with the pain. He was oh so helpful. I didn’t take the Darvocet more than once. I couldn’t function on it. It was too strong a prescription for the level of pain I had then. I moved from one doctor to the next, always searching for what was wrong with me. Not knowing what is wrong with you is the absolute worst. You imagine all the things that could be wrong and you scare yourself silly. Then doctors start talking about all these even more horrible diseases than you thought of, and then you’re scared out of your mind. I had X-rays done of my legs, back, neck, and jaw. I had two MRIs done. I lost count of all the different bloodwork that was ordered. I did exclusion diets to see if somehow this was allergy related. I repeatedly changed the exercises I was doing just in case something I was doing was making things worse. I saw a sports therapist to learn how I should be stretching. I saw a chiropractor who helped me some but kept leading me on to pad his bank account. I tried acupuncture and massage therapy. I saw osteopaths and MDs. I did physical therapy for 6 months. They tried a coritzone shot to my jaw (which really hurts by the way). They checked my eyes in case they were part of the problem. I even convinced my eye doctor to give me a just less than optimal prescription for glasses and contacts because I had read that an optimal prescription can actually make chronic pain worse. You name it and I’ve probably tried it.
You have to educate yourself about your symptoms so you know the right questions to ask your doctor. If you don’t like his/her answers, try a different doctor. Find a specicalist. If he/she doesn’t help you, try a different specialist. Keep going from one doctor to another until you find one that you trust 100%. Once you find that doctor, he/she can suggest other good doctors to you. You just have to weed out all the unhelpful doctors before then. It’s not that these doctors are bad, necessarily, its that they were trained a certain way and they can’t think outside the box. When you’re dealing with something systemic like fibromyalgia that involves neurological, physical and emotional pain and trauma, you need someone who will think outside of the box. You need a doctor who is willing to say “I don’t know the best way to treat you but I’m going to find out.” Doctors like that are rare in my experience.
It’s taken me almost 9 years now, but I’ve assembled a core group of doctors and therapists who I trust completely. They work to help me get better. They don’t just throw a prescription at me and send me on my way. If something doesn’t work, they figure out a new treatment alternative to try. I see my family doctor, osteopath, EMDR therapist, cranial massage therapist, orthodontist, and acupuncturist regularly. Most of them keep in touch with each other to monitor my treatment. If they don’t talk to each other, I update them on what the others are doing so they all have a complete picture of my treatment plan.
Doctors can be part of the solution…but they have to be the right doctors for you. Everyone has different needs. It makes sense that we’d need different doctors to help us through our chronic health problems. If you don’t have a doctor you like and trust, it’s time to start looking for one. Seeing the wrong doctor is a waste of your time, energy and money. It’s frustrating and tiring to keep looking for the right doctor, but trust me, it’s worth it.