Friday, March 24, 2006

Oh, it's nothing...

Yesterday I had a checkup with my trusty psychiatrist, who gave me some much-needed valuable and non-psychiatric advice that I've needed for about 20-something years. Here's the gem: when something hurts, you should tell your doctor about it. Novel concept for me, maybe not for the rest of you, but for's like turning on a floodlight in the dark.

Here's the situation: chronic headaches and neck/shoulder/back pain. I've tried all of the over the counter remedies for the headaches, creams for the neck & shoulders, massages....nothing seems to do the trick completely or for long. In fact, I recently had a deep tissue massage that actually left me BRUISED, but still did not relieve all of the tension and pain in my upper torso.

I mentioned the headaches to the doc yesterday in case they were a side effect of some of the meds I'm taking, though I was pretty sure they weren't. She asked a few pertinent questions, such as the type, whether they seem to be affected by position, etc., and confirmed what I thought to myself -- tension. She said I should talk to my family physician about a prescription for Flexeril, ask if there was a reputable chiropractor he would recommend, and/or get him to refer me for physical therapy. This was all just matter-of-fact, which, again, some of you may see as no big deal, but I guess for me, I've always operated on the assumption that complaining about something "minor" like a headache and muscle pain was akin to "whining". Oy vey.

I think this is because I had trouble getting my mother to believe me when I was sick as a child. Her classic advice, even at times now, was "gut it out". I am sure that there were times when I exaggerated, or even made up, a stomachache or something similar to get out of something, but I also recall the time I was at school and complained of a sore throat. She didn't believe me, but they made her come get me anyway, and it turned out I had strep. Then with all the serious illness in my family throughout my growing up years, I think I may have just convinced myself that nothing short of death was worth reporting to the medical community.

When I was married to the idiot first husband, I had constant headaches, which eventually turned into frequent migraines. I also had all kinds of abdominal pain, and had all kinds of tests as a result. Xrays R Us, it seemed like at one point. I had everything from EEGs to IVPs, CTs to Ultrasounds, and nothing was ever found. Well, let me take that back -- I did find, thanks to the IVP dye, that I'm allergic to iodine. And I did eventually have a laparascopy for abdominal pain, which revealed polycystic ovaries. But for the headaches, "nothing" was ever found. I was given several different types of medications, but they continued, and evolved into classic migraines, complete with aura, sensitivity to light, odor and sound, right on down to the eventual vomiting and "hangover" for the next day or two after. The migraines slowly subsided during the first few years after divorcing the idiot, but I don't have an idiot in my life at this point, and, thankfully, don't have migraines any more.

The doc and I talked about why we don't mention these things to our physicians -- saying that she's also LIKE ME in not complaining when she should. She said it's a trait of women who do too much and think that they can just "handle it", when in reality, there's a very real issue going on. She said this while reclining on her sofa, 6 months pregnant and confined to "bed rest" by her own doc. Yes, "bed rest" -- this was her version of bed rest. Sounds an awful lot like something I would do.

To be believed and supported is worth more than all the prescriptions and analysis in the world to me. And you can bet that, next week, when I'm niece-free, I will be seeing my family physician. And further, as doc told me, if family physician doesn't take it seriously, I will call her back for a referral to someone else who will take me seriously. I can't tell you the sense of relief I feel to know that A) a doctor (a psychiatrist, no less) doesn't think I'm making this up, and B) strongly encourages me to seek relief, because C) I don't deserve to be in pain when there are things that can be done about it!

Let me repeat -- this may seem like common sense to people reading this, but to me, it's a revelation and affirmation of the highest order. Maybe it's evidence, too, of learning to trust more and to tell the whole truth instead of the bare minimum. And maybe that means I'm REALLY on the road to recovery. Wouldn't that be nice?



RunAwayImagination said...

I think your recent dream in which you saw an indigo bunting may signify a coming turning point, a break in this long, long winter by the promise of spring and new life ahead.

Just around the corner.

I love you,

Anonymous said...

Congrats! This isn't something that's obvious to one's self. It's only obvious to observers. We often feel like we should just suck it up and we'll feel better in the morning. The problem is that, the next thing you know, 10 years have slipped behind you. You need to be selfish and take care of yourSELF. Without that, nothing else exists. You deserve to be happy AND feel GOOD!

Wrkinprogress said...

Thank you, anonymous! You're the first unknown-to-me-as-far-as-I-know poster who's commented. I appreciate your taking the time to read my babbling and to make such an affirming comment. :)


girl MD said...

There is a time for stoicism in this world, but being in pain is not such a time.
I agree that women tend to downplay their pain to avoid being seen as a complainer. I would also add that I have seen many doctors write off women's complaints as just that. So if you find that your doctor is not receptive to hearing what is bothering you, or you are not getting the help that you need, find a different doctor.

neuroticillinifan said...

Reading this entry brought tears to my eyes because I am exactly the same way. I would have to be on death's door to bother my doctor about anything. Mostly this has been brought about by also being raised by parents who would tell me to tough it out coupled with having a doctor become annoyed that I called off hours because I was having enough difficulty breathing due to bronchitis that Hubs was concerned enough to insist I call the doctor. I never trust myself to know when I should bother the doctor. I ask Hubs, or I tell friends or coworkers about symptoms and ask if they think I should see someone. How nice to know that pain is indeed enough indication that one should seek help. Perhaps I should see someone about my arm and shoulder that have bothered me for years.

Wrkinprogress said...

I really appreciate all of the support you've given me, commentators. ;) I know that girl md is absolutely right -- that if your healthcare provider doesn't give you the proper consideration, you should go somewhere else. And I'm resolving to do just that from this point forward. Trust issues must be dealt with, and truth must be told if we want to be healthy people.

Neuroticillinifan, get thyself to your doctor! Don't suffer! If you still see the one who blows you off, go to another one. Ask around, ask nurses in particular -- they know who's who. YOU are worth taking care of, dear, and so am I. :)

Again, thanks for the comments and the support/affirmation. I appreciate you reading and taking time to write. :)