Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Making a Fuss - When to Push

I'm not the kind of girl that sends the food back.

I think humans are split up into two groups: one group sends the food back, one group eats the food as-is. I'm in the latter group. It's not that I'm complacent, I'm just the kind of person that would rather eat cold food, or the wrong food, rather than bring on the awkwardness that I feel accompanies "making a fuss" at a restaurant. If I'm brought the wrong order, I honestly believe - in the moment - that it will be easier on everyone if I just suck it up and eat what I get. In theory, I know that telling someone they brought the wrong tray won't break their inner psyche, but in practice, I feel as though I'm making their world crash down if I say, "Excuse me, but I asked for a vegetarian sandwich, not a bacon wrap."

Why am I bringing this up? Because it's not just about food, although that's probably where it is quite noticeable, it's about every aspect of life - especially when it comes to health and health advocacy. I have never been a strong advocate for my health, both mental and physical. I also come from a stoic Scottish family who refuse to ask for help, so the odds are against me.

I didn't ask for a time line of how long it takes for the fertility clinic to book an appointment after a referral is made. I also asked my shrink a month ago for another referral to reproductive psychiatry, and he has not got back to me. Another doctor said he was going to ask a colleague a specific question about a specific medication I'm on, and he forgot to mention it last time I saw him, and I didn't bring it up. I don't want to be pushy about things, because that's just not what I do, but I'm realizing that for this journey that Devon and I are embarking on, we need a voice. Devon has been a really good advocate for me in the past, especially when it comes to my chronic pain that I've been dealing with, but I imagine (I know) that it becomes exausting for someone else to be the constant fighter, when you don't do any fighting for yourself. It's not really fair to ask.

With a mental illness, it's twofold. Your self-worth takes a hit, and that's why there are so many people with mental health issues that aren't getting help - unless you have a fighter close to you, you won't get the help you need, because you certainly aren't going to ask for the help yourself. All those years in hospital, I always thought that I was the most despicable patient in there, who was making nurses go out of their way to "treat" me, but in retrospect, I certainly wasn't a shit disturber, in fact, I was hardly asking for a thing. Despite being suicidal, I was actually really quite lovely. Figures...

I don't know whether TTCing is suited for people who don't fight. There will be lots of appointments, lots of doctors, lots of questions, and I'm not good with any of those. I had to get 7 vials of blood taken from me today to go through the fertility blood tests, and I couldn't even ask the lab tech whether she could take it from the other arm (knowing that it's near impossible to find a good vein in the arm she eventually took the samples from). I just don't know how to stick up for myself.

I envy those people who can just say what they mean, when it comes to service, and medicine. Those wonderful characters who can grab a waiter over and say, "Yeah, sooooo not what I ordered, so go get me the right meal, and just so you know, I'm not paying for it". Although they make me cower in shame if I'm with them, I do envy them... but I know there is a happy medium in there somewhere.

I just want to be respected through this journey. I don't want to wait for calls, but the alternative is not enticing: calling a clinic to ask how long they take to set up an appointment? No way! That's not what they're there for! They're there to make babies for worthy people! (I know, it sounds silly, but that's the dialogue that goes on in my head). I want to feel in charge of my health through this fertility journey. I'm so glad I have Devon to fight for me and us, but I need to be conscious of what I'm giving towards our advocacy.

It is my uterus, after all.


  1. CLM,

    Okay I am the opposite to you. I have a few suggestions and why this is so important for this journey or any other.
    1. Write all your questions out before you go anywhere (make a copy for the doctor) unless you can do this without it (which you can't).
    2. I worked in the medical field for many years and I saw first hand mistakes made. So you must ask why the blood is being drawn and for what tests. Also, I have running veins so I always warn the blood drawer that it is hard to draw and they would be better using a smaller needle in my wrist area. Some argue and try their way and usually they end up apologizing. Others are so appreciative that I warned them and they do it my way. I have let more nurses poke and prod and move the needle while inside trying to search for a vein. I have learned to speak up.
    3. Bring someone with you so that if you are confused they can also take notes.
    4. Take notes on anything said so that you know what the doctor said.
    5. Doctors are not gods and they make mistakes as do all in the medical field.
    6. Must be your own advocate or take someone with you.
    7. This is your journey and you owe it to yourself to speak up. Who gives a shit what anyone thinks as long as you are polite and speak in a relatively soft voice. Elevate your voice only to make a point or when someone is ignoring your request.
    8. You are on what could be a long journey and talking is a must.

    Restaurant and things like that.

    1. Send back what is not right in a sweet, but firm voice. I know the worry is that they will do something in the kitchen to your meal but if you aren't mean or disrespectful they will gladly make it right for you.
    2. Compliment the server on the things that are right.

    I know you know all this but this is the time to step up. Start small. Ask for what you want. Call doctors back and tell the person taking the message what number this call is. I have called once already and this is really important to me that the doctor get back to me. If he/she can't could you pass me to a nurse who could help me. I worked for doctors and I know doctors get busy but usually they have a time when they call back. I know my own doctor calls at lunch time or later at night (9pm) so I wait for the call and it always comes. So I know if she didn't call back she has not gotten the message.
    Please know that it is your health, your body and your life so please try with little steps to voice your thoughts. You will be amazed at how better you feel. I now advocate for people who can't speak up and point them in the direction to make things work better for them.

  2. Hey there, lady :)
    Your post has so many reasons that it is valid for you, and I can certainly see why you might feel the way you feel, given the road you have been down :)

    Perhaps, since you have been making so many other positive changes (decreasing then dismissing all meds, waiting to talk to Devon about things until the right time, etc), you can make this change as well. Working in patient related care during the week, I am always realizing "Oh, I forgot that so-and-so asked me about X"....it's not that the patient's request isn't important to me, it is more that with 40 patients a week, sometimes things slip through the cracks(which I hate). All the more reason to give those friendly reminders if people aren't holding up their end of the bargain. I am always grateful to be reminded when I need to hold up my end of the deal.

    If your future baby was being treated unfairly, or teased, or had academic needs that weren't being met, you and Devon would step up and take care of it, immediately...right? B/c this is your child, who you are the advocate for. Perhaps take on the mindset that, in this TTC process, you are instead advocating for your future baby....and in the mix, will end up advocating for YOU.

    Good luck finding a solution that works well for you :)

    PS (incase this wasn't long enough already) I'm with ya - - I won't send my food back either if it's the incorrect order. But if it has a non-food item in it (i.e. hair...ack!!) it goes back no question. :)

  3. I feel your pain - at times, I'd rather run than speak up for myself. Interestingly, when I'm manic, I'm just the opposite. And I find in the moments when I don't feel I can speak up, it's because deep down, I feel like I'm not good enough, like I don't deserve to be heard, like I should just take whatever is thrown my way. (I work daily to fight my inner demons and stand up in spite of that.)

    Not advocating for myself is part of what got me into the most serious trouble of my life - I literally lost my mind in psychosis. Finding my way back involved fiercely advocating for myself - for my right to be heard, for my right to choose my own treatment, for my right to focus on my own needs and not just the needs of those around me.

    It's funny, because I always sucked at that before on my own behalf, but when I look back at preparing for our son, I was his fierce advocate before he even arrived. I grilled every pediatrician we met with, our midwife got used to numerous emails and calls about every detail, etc. And now that he's here, yeah, like hell would I ever let his needs be set aside by anyone.

    I think it may be the same for you - I can't imagine you being anything but a fierce advocate for this baby you are working so hard to have. So, in these moments, when you feel like you have no right to call the clinic, ask what tests are being done, etc., remember that all of these steps are indeed for that baby. When you call, when you ask, when you say I need that information I asked for a month ago...you are not only standing up for you, but also for that beautiful baby.

    And if you can find a way to work on whatever is at the core of your belief that you don't deserve to be heard and respected just for YOU, that would be tremendously helpful for your mom journey as well. After all, they learn what we model!

    And I love Madgew's suggestions above of practical tools to help you advocate for yourself (and that baby!). Do whatever it takes, take baby steps, and be kind to you.

  4. I love all of the suggestions above!

    It's weird, but in most situations I have to say that I'm the opposite - I say what I need to say, when I need to say it - If I get the wrong food it's going back IMMEDIATELY!

    Lori is exactly as you are and I'm the advocate for her. It took 2 years for her Sjogrens to be diagnosed because she wouldn't le

    t me go to the doctor with her and push back. Finally when I started going and lost it in the ER on a doctor who brushed me off for the last time, she got the referral she needed and got her diagnosis. I'm constantly telling her that she needs to be the advocate for her own health care - she (and you) have every right to know what's going on with your treatment and have it explained in a way that you can understand.

    The weird thing is, when it comes to my own health care...I'm quite passive as well :)

  5. I was going to say that this will change when you become a parent... but the PPs beat me to it! I'm not a good advocate for myself, never have been, and wasn't throughout TTC. (And yet I made it through, so it can be done - LOL!) To be honest, advocacy didn't come easily to me as a mother, either. It took me a lot of time and internal pep talks to find the voice I needed to stand up for E and his needs, and I still have a lot of improving to do, but I did find that forcing myself to advocate for him (and seeing that the world didn't collapse as a result) has made it easier to stand up for myself and my family in all arenas. As with most things, practice makes perfect. Please be gentle with yourself over this. I know that you will find your voice when the time is right and in the meantime, it sounds like you have a great advocate in your corner already.