"Well, perhaps you should see a counselor as this is obviously not a physical issue."
I sat and stared at the doctor in disbelief. I was a young wife and mother and had been suffering debilitating fatigue for months. At first, I had been told it was postpartum depression. I doubted this diagnosis, but I thought the doctor must know best – right? The overwhelming exhaustion and feeling of death that hovered over me did not go away, and I repeatedly went back to the doctor for answers. I knew something was seriously wrong – why could not I get a doctor to believe me?
I considered myself a normal, upbeat, high-energy person. My husband and I were working hard to get his chiropractic practice off the ground. We loved each other and had two beautiful daughters. My life was good, my family was well-adjusted, and I thought I was the last person to be pushed away or deducted by a physician, but here I was at a dead-end. I felt betrayed and disillusioned by the medical profession. Was not it their job to figure this out and not just tell me it was all in my mind?
My experience is much more common than I ever could have guessed. Millions of patients walk out of their doctor's office each year feeling frustrated, hopeless, and ready to give up. It is not that doctors have become uncaring; it is that they are taught to rely so heavily on tests and diagnostic tools that they can miss something if it is not identified by their normal procedures. If your issue does not fit in that box, then it may be difficult to find answers.
In my case, I was suffering from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. The adrenal glands sit atop each of our kidney, like a small hat, and they control the release of adrenalin and other vital hormones which affect our energy level and certain other functions of the body, such as blood pressure. The problem with this syndrome is that there is not a routine test that a doctor can give to provide a definitive diagnosis. The only standard testing they have is a test to determine if the adrenal glands are functioning or not – but it does not determine if the glands have been significantly decreased and are at low function. Adrenal fat falls into a broad category of nonspecific symptoms that doctors have a hard time understanding, and if they can not offer a specific diagnosis, many doctors will assume that the patient is seeking attention or is a hypochondriac.
It is very common for patients with Adrenal Fatigue, Chronic Fatigue, or Fibromyalgia to be told that their symptoms of fatigue and pain are all in their mind. I knew that was not the case for me, but how do you convince a doctor? I had never had to be an advocate for my own health care, but I also knew I was not crazy. I felt terrible and could barely function at home – how could that possibly be fake?
I took my anger and frustration and became committed to finding answers – whatever it took. In the process, I learned a great deal about being an effective and positive advocate for my own health and well-being. You can do the same. There is nothing worse than sitting in your house worrying about what your next step should be and fearing that you are doomed to suffer for the rest of your life. No matter what your particular medical issue may be from migraines to botched surgery, you can take control and start your own journey of discovery by employing a few simple techniques.
Believe in yourself
This is the hardest part. I literally spent years going from doctor to doctor knowing I was right and they were wrong. It became very difficult to maintain confidence. It is as if you are telling someone that the sky is blue, and each time they say, "No, it is red." After a while, you wonder if really it is red! There were times, I would even consider if I were going crazy and that maybe the doctors were right. Was it possible I had created a problem because I was a drama queen? Then, of course, the symptoms would appear again, and my body would reel with the effect. I held tight to the belief that this was a real problem, and I had to find answers or die trying.
Today there is no end to the information available, especially about medical conditions. There are many books, and most libraries have medical journals that may be helpful. The internet is a wonderful resource and allows you to do extensive investigation. You can research traditional tests and therapies to discuss with your doctor, and you can also research many nontraditional or holistic possibilities. Educating yourself about all the possibilities is very empowering and can give you more confidence when you do talk to a medical professional.
Be a Detective
Ask questions! Many of us are taught to accept the word of a doctor without question, but in order really to adhere for yourself, you must accept that it is okay and necessary to ask questions. I encourage everyone to keep a journal of how you feel, what you eat, what medications you take and when, and any symptoms that result. This is how I began to really help myself. Through much trial and error or what I call the "guess and test" method, I was able to discover what helped me improve and what did not. Adrenal Fatigue, as with many syndromes, involves complex chemical reactions in the body, and there is almost never a magic pill or perfect therapy. It is a combination of approaches which can be different for every patient. Your own detective work will give you many of the answers you need to help you feel better.
This is vital. My journey took nine years and a lot of perseverance. I went to many doctors and tried therapies too numerous to mention. Through that journey, I also empowered myself to find answers, although it was not easy. I can remember lying on my bed one night while my family was out at an event my children were involved in, and hoping the mattress would just swallow me and end my physical and emotional anguish. At the time, very few people believed I was sick, even though I was constantly missing events and time with my family: I just could not get any answers. It is easy to get cooked up in the negativity, especially when you physically feel bad, but you must focus on the fact that one day you will have your life back.
The quest to find answers for any medical issue can be isolating. I felt alone, as if there were no one else who had ever experienced these same horrible symptoms. Now, I know that is not true. I finally got my life back, and I am once again living a full life. In many ways, I feel that I went through this experience so I can encourage and help others on their journey. I discovered that no one is going to be more interested in your recovery than you – not your doctor, your family, or anyone else. They can not do it for you, as they will never have as strong a commitment to finding answers as you will. You can take control of your own health and help yourself find the answers you need. I encourage you to start today toward your new healthy life.