For much of my early adulthood, I worked for and with doctors. Some of them were fantastic and amazing. Some were less than supportive, to say the least.
I've worked in both allopathic and alternative medicine. As a trained paramedic, I have enough knowledge and understanding of the human body and mechanism of injury and disease to know that Super Woo medicine is not the right call. I also know that sometimes more than one perspective and approach to health and healing is necessary for long-term wellness.
Over the years, I've compiled a list of things I look for as a woman, mother, health advocate, and human. I firmly believe that the relationship you have with your doctors and healers is paramount to your overall well-being.
1. Choose practitioners who believe you.
This is the number one thing in my book. I have a propensity for attracting all manner of parasites and skin issues. My husband and I once got some sort of pest from a swanky hotel, and we both received the same treatment. The treatment worked on him, but it did not resolve for me. For months, I suffered, asked for refills of the prescription topical solution, washed bedding daily, treated our mattress with Diatomaceous Earth, and sprayed our bedroom with industrial pesticide. Finally, the doctor wrote me a prescription for Xanax and an anti-anxiety medication, told me I was crazy and that his colleagues agreed, and sent me on my way.
After feeling crushed and still unable to sleep because I couldn't get rid of the mutant mites, I sought out help from a holistically-minded doctor. He believed me, gave me a few potent natural remedies for my body and home, and everything cleared up in a week. ONE WEEK. I wasn't crazy. I just needed someone to approach it differently.
2. Interview your practitioner before committing to their care.
There is a tenuous trust that exists between patient and practitioner. You are allowed to ask questions. You are allowed to be skeptical. You are allowed to need a better explanation. You are allowed to ask for something different than what is presented. It doesn't make you high maintenance. It makes you conscientious of your own care. It makes you empowered.
You can respectfully ask your practitioner about a course of treatment or ask about their approach to patient care and advocacy. It's important that you are both on the same page in respect to your care.
3. Don't be afraid to find a new practitioner.
Maybe you've had the same family doctor since you were 15. Maybe they still see you as your adolescent self. Maybe you morph into your adolescent self. Maybe they nag you about the same issue every time you see them. Maybe you like them, but they've dropped the ball on several occasions and they aren't helping you in the ways you need them to help you.
Don't be afraid to discontinue care, or look for a new doctor. History is important, but not as important as competence or clear communication.
4. Ask for a positive approach to your body from your practitioner.
I have an amazing doctor-midwife, Leslie. I am a size 16, and she's never brought up my weight. Ever. Because she knows there is so much more to health than the absence or presence or abundance of fat.
She looks at me as a whole person, not a fat person. This allows us both to focus on what needs attention. Spoiler alert: It's not a number on a scale. There are other important numbers, like blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, cortisol, vitamin and mineral levels, thyroid, lipids, iron, hormones, all of it. Choose someone who can look at all of the data, not just the one piece of information that's easy to interpret.
5. Find someone YOU LIKE.
Maybe this is petty, maybe not. But if you're going to get in front of someone naked, be poked, prodded, divulge intimate personal information to, and seek help from, you NEED to like them. You don't need to like them enough to hang out on the weekends or to have over for a barbecue, because that probably isn't appropriate.
But you need to like your practitioner enough to feel comfortable. Think more along the lines of your friend's aunt. You probably wouldn't call her up and hang out, but when you see her, there is warmth and understanding. I once had an OBGYN who had a poster of George Clooney in his Batman costume taped above the exam table. She was normal and nice and funny. I forgot that my feet were in stirrups and that she was doing an in-depth breast exam. She was competent. I felt comfortable telling her that I didn't want to take fertility drugs as a first course of treatment for PCOS-induced infertility when she offered it. I felt comfortable taking her advice about a host of other things, and she always put me at ease. Find someone who puts you at ease, too.
Your experience, your relationship, your connection with your practitioners matter. You can seek help in an empowered, open, and determined way. You and your body are sacred, your journey is unique, and you deserve to have support every step of the way from care providers who regard you as such. They exist, I promise. They're out there, they're waiting for you to show up, too.