Medical trauma is a thing. Whether it is a new term to you or you have personal experience with it; medical trauma is definitely worth discussing.
What is Medical Trauma?
Believe it or not, I couldn’t find one general definition for medical trauma. However, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress network:
Pediatric medical traumatic stress refers to a set of psychological and physiological responses of children and their families to pain, injury, serious illness, medical procedures, and invasive or frightening treatment experiences. Medical trauma may occur as a response to a single or multiple medical events.https://www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/trauma-types/medical-trauma
It truly is the best way to sum up medical trauma; but it’s not just something children experience.
How I Identified I Was Traumatized by Medical Experiences
I’ve shared many of my experiences within the medical arena. As much of my experiences that I’ve shared, it still doesn’t cover all of them. You can get an in depth view by checking out my podcast interview with The Uninvisible Pod. The last few months of doctor’s visits, I realized I was having a physical response.
My jaw would tighten, my shoulders would get tense, I’d start ramping myself up to be on the offensive because I just assume I will have to fight. And that’s when it really hit me: I am SO used to being dismissed by medical professionals that I’m ready for war.
How wild is that?
I had to sit down and really assess why I felt that way.
Missed & Delayed Diagnoses & Dismissals
When I dig into my health history, the bias goes way back to when I was a baby! My mother shared with me a story of how I used to fall all the time when I was learning to walk. She shared her concerns with the pediatrician who quickly dismissed her as hysterical. They told her it would go away on it’s own. Turns out what my mom was seeing was signs of hip dysplasia; and also the reason that I developed osteoarthritis in my left hip so early.
That diagnosis didn’t come until 30+ years later. It was treatable as a child; my arthritis now requires major invasive surgery. The missed and delayed diagnoses only continued on throughout my life. Whether it was a traumatizing first birth because the doctors didn’t believe my complaints of labor pain that resulted in an emergency c-section, multiple miscarriages blamed on weight when in fact my body was struggling with thyroid disease, or even having to have a total thyroidectomy because they caught my Hashimoto’s way too late and resulted in a goiter growing.
I can’t make this stuff up.
How I’m Taking Back Control
It’s no surprise that I am fed up with the health care system. However, despite my experience, I still need to have access to healthcare in order to take care of myself. So how do I fight back against a system determined to dismiss me?
I no longer wait for doctors to put me through an array of tests. I do my own research based on my symptoms. I learn about things as much as possible by reading reputable and credible sites and medical journals. I document the way my body feels and prepare questions before I visit my physician.
I advocate for myself without concern for whether they want to hear me or not. If I don’t do this I am leaving myself at the mercy of a healthcare system designed to ignore and simply pump prescriptions.
Once I’ve been given a diagnosis and a prescription; I RESEARCH. I research the side effects, adverse reactions and then I PAY ATTENTION to what my body tells me. Even if my physician or specialist insists that what I’m feeling is impossible; I LISTEN to what my body tells me. These doctors can never know my body in the way that I do. I have to honor my body’s voice by listening to the signs and symptoms it gives me.
You can’t be afraid to speak up for yourself or to ask questions or even challenge what you hear. We pay astronomical prices for insurance and copays and coinsurance. I need to make the money I pay into this system work for me.
Tips on How to Protect Yourself
Sometimes we don’t know what to say or do to ensure our utmost care; so below are some tips you can use!
- Document your symptoms – Keep a journal of how your body is feeling for at least a week. Write down anything that feels abnormal especially after you’ve started a new medication.
- Create an Electronic Paper Trail – Document all your conversations as much as you can via a patient portal if your healthcare provider has one or via email. Save a pdf copy or print a copy of your emails for your records so that you always have proof of conversations and concerns.
- Tell your provider you want them to make a note in your chart – This was something I just recently learned from a fellow blogger babe. When you ask your provider to document what you’ve said in their notes; they’re legally obligated to do so, it also becomes apart of your record. The provider is more likely to honor your concerns once you hold them to do this because they have to be concerned with liability. I just used this language with a doctor recently and let me tell you, her entire attitude changed.
- Ask for specific tests – This goes hand in hand with researching your condition and or symptoms. Often times doctors will skip certain blood work or diagnostic tests because they don’t feel as if it’s necessary. If you learn of a test that would benefit your circumstances; ask for it and have your request DOCUMENTED in your notes.
The Wrap Up
It’s unfortunate that the healthcare system is a product of systemic biases. However, that’s the reality for many of us. Just because the system is completely messed up does not mean you should not arm yourself with knowledge and be proactive in your care. In the next coming months, I will be working hard to create and link resources for patient advocacy. If you have information and would like to add to the resource lists, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until Next Time,