Learning the importance of advocating for yourself is not only good for you but also for your family. Here are six tips to empower you!
As women and moms, we often put our children and husbands first. I’m guilty of this. But if we don’t take care of ourselves, how will we take care of our families? And, more importantly, who will care for our families?
If you learn to advocate for yourself, your family as a whole will be healthier and happier.
Beginning in my early twenties, I suffered from Endometriosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis, Thyroid Disease, and Psoriasis. I had surgery after surgery, including a hysterectomy, two discs removed from my neck, ACL replacement, and MCL restructure. I began to feel like a hypochondriac.
Advocating for Yourself
I wish I had learned the importance of advocating for yourself sooner. I thought I was. I went to doctor after doctor and eventually found some relief for what was hurting—symptom by symptom, disease by disease. But it wasn’t enough.
No one, no doctor, put the puzzle pieces together until one day a physical therapist (after knee surgery) noticed I wasn’t feeling well. I told her my hands were hurting and showed her the deformed fingers on each hand. She told me I had arthritis and I should see a rheumatologist.
So, I made an appointment.
He asked me a million questions, looked at my medical history, looked at my swollen, deformed hands, and the psoriasis covering my body, and diagnosed me with Psoriatic Arthritis. I felt relieved and depressed when I left his office. Relieved because I knew what was wrong with me. Depressed because I knew this was big. But I was glad to have answers.
And then, I started reading about Psoriatic Arthritis, also known as PsA, and I was shocked at how many symptoms I had suffered from for over twenty years. I also learned that many of the other diseases and syndromes I suffered from were linked conditions, more clinically called comorbidities.
I tell you this because I was unaware and you might be, too. Now I bring awareness to the disease and advocate for myself on my social media so others who suffer might ask questions and see a rheumatologist.
I scream, “Advocate for yourself.”
Why didn’t any of the doctors—my gynecologist, dermatologist, podiatrist, surgeons, put two and two together?
PsA isn’t widely known, which is one reason it’s hard to diagnose. It’s easier to tell people that PsA is RA, with psoriasis. PsA is a unique inflammatory condition that occurs in up to 30-40% of people with psoriasis and is a chronic, lifelong disease. It affects various organs and tissues, which is why I have so many ailments. My immune system is essentially at war with my body.
Most days, my joints take turns screaming at me – getting out of bed is hard, and mornings aren’t my friend. There are a lot of PsA commercials for biologics on TV. They portray people who take take medicines and are cured; individual playing tennis, running marathons, and golfing daily are shown! The message is misleading because I’ve been on several of these prescriptions and haven’t felt well enough to do any of those activities. Although my meds help me handle the pain, they don’t cure the pain.
Here are some tips for advocating for yourself:
- Arm yourself with information. Yes, you can diagnose yourself and spend hours going down a rabbit hole, but learning about diagnoses and diseases is beneficial.
- Keep your own records. Write down your symptoms and when you have them. You might begin to see a pattern.
- Tell the doctor EVERYTHING. And be specific. If you lie or withhold information, your doctor can’t help you!
- Ask questions. If you’ve read about specific diseases and think you have the symptoms— ask about them!
- Trust yourself and your body. Listen to what your body is telling you.
- Get a second opinion. If you don’t like the answers you’re given, find another doctor. Be vigilant.
I can’t stress the importance of advocating for yourself. If I had done this sooner, I could have stopped the progression of my disease and who knows where I would be.
Take power into your own hands and realize the importance of advocating for yourself! Once you do that, you will be in a place to take care of your own health, and your family, at the highest level.