Self care and health care
Maybe it’s just me, but going to the doctor is exhausting. I think selfcare in general is exhausting and so I’ve basically automated my routine, or maybe created a standard routine it is the correct way to phrase that, to make my life as simple as possible. One thing I can’t do is that with is my health care. I can’t be the only one, so in the spirit of sharing, let’s talk about self care and health care.
In a lot of ways self care is health care. I brush my teeth because I don’t want them to fall out. I go to the dentist for the same reason. Both self care and health care, for someone like me anyway, are hard to do on a regular basis. Unfortunately, both are needed, so days like today, I’m left feeling exhausted. I’ve had trouble in the past juggling the two things and I’m sure it’s not just me… right?
It’s not that I have a fear of the doctor/dentist/etc. I don’t. You could stick me with a needle or cut me open all day and I’m good with it. The problem is energy, I’m already running on what amounts to nothing when my day starts, so I need to conserve what I have to make it to the end or risk, very literally, just trying to shut out the world. Times like that I will miss one or multiple doctors appointments and pretend like nothing is wrong. Self preservation manifests in weird ways when we live in a society like we do.
Most of the time I have to plan around a doctor’s visit well in advance. I’ll try to shift workload away from the day before, day of, and day after. It’s not always possible, but even a slightly lighter workload can be a lifesaver for me. Having a routine (like this) is important for me because it gives me a little nudge to actually do the things on my calendar, even if I don’t want to or don’t feel like I can. Going to the hospital for any sort of care is a mental health suck and an energy suck.
In my case, most of my long term care has been at the VA, which if your unfamiliar I absolutely hate the VA. It’s underfunded, understaffed, overworked, and done on purpose by the government to ensure that they can point to how crappy the VA system is and say, “you don’t want free healthcare, look at those poor bastards.” Consequently the VA feels like death, it doesn’t help that I’m decades younger than most of the people using the system, but it has a feel (or maybe a smell) like everyone has given up. It’s a given up smell. I can’t explain it better than that.
Unfortunately we all need to take care of ourselves and because I have a resource to do that (no matter how poorly funded) and now I have actual health insurance (woo!) I have no excuse to not take care of myself. In any case, if you have access to healthcare, it’s important to keep in mind that the longer you put off something the worse it will get and (most likely) the more expensive it will become for you.
Plus, being in pain or whatever is going on is horrible for your mental health, as usual, ask me how I know. Since I’m lucky (/sarcasm) pain medications do absolutely nothing for me (at least nothing good). So post surgery or whatever when I’m in a particularly high amount of pain I’m left to deal with the onslaught to my mental health that comes from that. Luckily that chapter is winding down, or at least mostly. This last year I only had one surgery instead of my traditional two a year that has lasted for ~4-5 years or something like that, frankly I’ve lost count.
Let’s be real though, going to the doctor can suck. Especially if you’re a complicated or “rare” case. People are hard to diagnose and being told everything looks good over and over can make you want to give up. Yet again, this is horrible for your mental health on both ends of the situation, first with your disease or whatever is going on and then with the doctor’s telling you everything is great like you’re magically cured. Or worse, they stop believing you or they question if you’re making the whole thing up. None of that is good and you may want to stop trying to fix the issue to begin with.
Just trust me on this, don’t. That’s easier said than done, I know. But I’ve had similar issues and I still deal with certain problems that I get side eyed by the doctors for, my weird pseudo-blister rash thing for example (here). Okay I should not have gone back to read that…
The point is simple, taking care of yourself includes letting professionals take care of you and (unfortunately) requires you to advocate for yourself on occasion (all the time). From one anomaly to another I’m sorry if that is you, truely. There is nothing worse than being told your suffering isn’t real. I see you because I’m in the same boat. But push we must, because no one should have to live anything less than the best life they can possibly have.
In the US unfortunately that means needing health insurance and because teeth are optional and considered a luxury here, dental insurance. High bars to clear for sure and again, it sucks that we’re in that situation, but all the more reason to take full advantage of getting care when you actually have access. Even if it sucks, even if it’s exhausting, even if the hospital smells like “given up.”
Today I had a doctor’s appointment, so I’m extra exhausted, but after years (from that post I linked above) of fighting, I got a referral to a rheumatologist even though all my blood work says I’m healthy. There are still health care battles I’m trying to fight and I don’t know how this one will end, but I’m thankful that I’ve pushed enough that I’m finally seeing a specialist.
In short, don’t give up hope, or at the very least don’t be afraid to lean on people to help you. The disabled community is huge and sometimes we’re forced to help each other. This is just a small reminder, to you if you need it, to take care of yourself for both your physical health and your mental health.
Because at the end of the day, health care is self care.