While I was waiting for the subway, an older couple standing next to me was arguing over whether the husband should keep his doctor’s appointment. He thought it was unnecessary, but her response was, “Since when do you have the letters M.D. after your name?!” And with that off they went. Is that really true? Should a doctor, who often spends less than 15 minutes of actual face time with you, really be the only opinion by which we determine how “well” we are?
A number of years ago I found myself in that exact predicament, although it was doctors (plural) who had no problem telling me that there was nothing wrong with me and that I was not qualified to know better. I had a list of symptoms — which unfortunately were rather vague — such as random joint pain, being tired all the time, irritability and seeming to catch every bug that went through my office, despite the fact that I rarely ever got sick in the past.
Even the tangible symptoms were dismissed. I was inexplicably gaining weight and my hair was thinning and brittle. I've always been a very high-energy person, but there were weekend mornings that I would wake up, take a shower, put sweat pants on and head directly to the couch without even bothering to dry my hair because it was just too much of an effort. In general, I just felt bad. I know that's not an easy complaint for a doctor to address, but in my heart of hearts I knew something was wrong with me, and no amount of normal test results was going to change my mind.
I completely revamped my diet, hit the gym, hired a trainer, went to a nutritionist and read everything I could get my hands on about nutrition, holistic health, women’s health, hormonal issues or anything I could think of that might be wrong with me. I'm no doctor, but I figured out very quickly what was wrong with me. However, without that blood test showing that I had a thyroid problem, no doctor would help me.
Doctor after doctor pretty much told me the same thing, which was essentially that I wasn't 25 anymore and it was unrealistic to expect that with age my metabolism wouldn't slow down, that I would likely never be that thin again or have as much energy as I did when I was younger. So basically once you hit your 30s, it’s all pretty much downhill!
Well, who says? I didn't buy that answer, and even though it took me nearly two years to find someone who would actually listen to me, I was bound and determined to prove them all wrong.
It may sound strange, but I cried tears of joy when my current doctor told me that I did in fact have a thyroid problem. It may seem counterintuitive to be happy to find out you are sick, but really I knew I was sick all along, so this was just the validation that I needed.
It was a long road back to where I am today, but I'm grateful that I didn't give up and just accept what I was told by the “experts.” I will never be 25 again (thank god!), but I can honestly say, as a woman well into her 30s, that I'm in the best shape of my life, weigh the same as I did in my 20s and feel better than ever. So much for downhill!
This isn't a knock against doctors. It was an incredible doctor who ultimately turned my life around and got me to where I am now. However, the biggest thing that saved me was my trust in myself. Who else knows your body better than you? You live with you every second of every day, 365 days a year.
When it comes to our health, I think we often feel we should accept what we're told because we're not “qualified” to know any better. If your car wouldn’t start, would you accept your mechanic's telling you that nothing was wrong with it? You'd likely tell that mechanic what he could do with his useless advice and find a new mechanic!
We only get one body, and it needs to last us a lifetime. So my advice to you is to own your health and be an active participant in maintaining it. Trust me, it's worth it.