unprepared to be my own advocate

The following post is part of the on-going “I went to the Doctor” series, which details first hand experiences of Christian Scientists and former-Christian Scientists who sought medical care or treatment outside of Christian Science.

Today’s post is by former Christian Scientist Bacon.

Having health insurance is still a very new thing for me (thanks, ACA!) and having only been to the doctor twice previously (with no insurance), I was more intimidated about the paperwork than anything else… especially when I showed up at my primary doctor’s office and found out the address on the insurance card was wrong and had to call and change it to their primary location. That was about a 15 minute hassle, but I was able to go in for what I guess, for most people, is a routine checkup. And, for the ladies, the pap smear.

I had a pap smear done in 2009 by a remarkably gentle, matronly sort of doctor whose bedside manner was fantastic. I barely felt anything. This round was by a younger general practitioner whose specialty was something other than easing the nerves of patients. The pap smear itself was an odd sort of prodding feeling, but on a scale from pleasant to unpleasant, it wasn’t much worse than unpleasant and at least, thankfully, very fleeting sensations.

At the time of the appointment, I also had a horrible cold. And, regrettably, I downplayed it. The doctor offered to prescribe antibiotics and I had foolishly declined, thinking that 3-4 nights of
constant nose-blowing and coughing was improvement… on the bright side, in order to have blood work done, I was required to fast overnight (12 hrs of no solids, then only water until a few hrs before the sample is drawn) and return in the morning. The morning visit was when I piped up and said “I should have taken your advice about the antibiotics” and they obliged. Three weeks of medication later, the sinus infection finally let up – but I had needlessly gone an extra day, prolonging the situation which hurt only myself.

One thing I have noticed about having been raised in CS is not only downplaying problems that I myself have, but also those of others. There’s the gut feeling that if you acknowledge your problem and verbalize it, others will affirm, confirm, and make the problem that much more real. And I never wanted to hear of anyone else’s problems lest I internalize, personalize, and manifest those issues myself. Yet CS doesn’t believe in contagion…… (unless it’s mental?)

Being my own advocate was something I was not prepared to do – not knowing how much of what kind of pain would require medical attention, and not knowing how to admit that I didn’t know how to handle symptoms, much less the doctor’s instructions (“what do you mean by take an over the counter antihistamine?”) …but with enough questions and patience, it’s possible to muddle through. And it’s ok to call back and say that you really should have emphasized your sinus infection instead of ignoring it. But these are the things that will be a steep learning curve, long after leaving CS, but hopefully things will get better.


6 thoughts on “unprepared to be my own advocate

  1. Jenn says:

    Yes, this describes me exactly. Somewhere in the back of my mind I still feel like it’s an embarrassing personal failing to be sick.

  2. Dan Landerfin says:

    Thank you brave soul for sharing your story about ‘unprepared to be your own advocate”! It is a shame that we have allowed ourselves to be trapped in the dogma of cs and to suffer needlessly and to actually cause ourselves harm. Where did the love go? I feel that generations of decent people passed on needlessly as a result of trying to “fit themselves into the narrowness of the mother church and her manual. Shame on those individual’s who did not tell of the failings of this religion and it’s utter devastating consequences for those who “practiced it”. cs practice has left thousand’s at the dumpster of psychology or worse to an early grave.

  3. David Price says:

    It seems to me that being “your own advocate” means taking control of your health and wellbeing by being well informed. Trusting everything a single doctor tells his patient may not be the wisest course either. The use of antibiotics for a sinus infection is a great example, no where in your article did you explain why in your case the wisest course from a medical perspective was taking antibiotics when it is common medical advice not to prescribe antibiotics for common ailments such as a sinus infection especially in light of the dangers of antibiotic resistant viruses. In my opinion listening and researching is much more helpful than blind reliance whether it is on Christian Science or the medical profession. So it would be helpful if you explained how you actually advocated for effective health care by learning and being informed.

    I recently had a healing of the flu symptoms when I turned to my understanding of prayer, felt the closeness of the Christ, ever-present for anyone and everyone. The healing happened in one night, and I am so grateful for what I learned about myself and God.

    In another instance I had the symptoms of a cold which lasted an entire week, but I stayed firm to my sense of praying and when I felt my thought change and felt a closeness to God, the symptoms left within the hour. You might say I suffered needlessly, and I respect that, but the uplifted thought and spiritual sense I felt and learned has been a foundation that I hold to when praying.

    • kat @ kindism says:

      I’m glad that you found “understanding of prayer” to he helpful, however, the common cold usually runs its course in about a week, regardless of whether or not you pray about it.

      In this case “advocating” for care means speaking up and now down-playing or ignoring symptoms. There are many levels of advocating for one’s self, and as we venture out into the medical world we are still learning what that entails.

      “it is common medical advice not to prescribe antibiotics for common ailments”

      It is common medical advice to do what is best for the patient, and if a sinus infection is not clearing up on its own, then yes, antibiotics are often the best course of action. I too am wary of the over-prescription of antibiotics, however, they have their place. Often sinus infections are caused by other underlying problems — in this case it was likely seasonal allergies (this is speculation on my part, based on the comment about “over the counter antihistamine[s]”) and once those are handled sinus infections become far less common.

    • EG says:

      Perhaps in some cases, antibiotics are over-prescribed, but in my own experience, that is not the case. My doctor is very careful and prudent with them, as all medical practitioners usually are. Antibiotics, while very beneficial, do come with side-effects, and I’ve always been advised on simple steps to mitigate those. Proper care for patients, as Kat says, is common medical advice. Also, my friend, you betray a basic ignorance that most anyone who knows even the slightest thing about antibiotics knows, ALL viruses are resistant to antibiotics. The only way to fight a virus is proactively through vaccination. Antibiotics are used to fight off bacterial infections. A cold is a viral infection and no doctor in their right mind would throw antibiotics at it, hence the reason there is no cure. Like flu, you can only treat and manage the disease once you have it and let it run its course (fortunately for colds/flu, it’s just 4 or so days of misery usually, and it’s over). Bacon had a bacterial sinus infection, and antibiotics were a proper course of treatment. If you’re going to speak up against evidence-based science, and promote pseudo-science, please get your facts straight. I will have no hesitation to call you and all other Christian Scientists out on your ignorance.

  4. EG says:

    Another challenge that many of us former Christian Scientists face, and this tacks on to Bacon’s experience here with the sinus infection, is striking the balance between running to the doctor when you REALLY need to vs. when you can deal with more minor conditions on your own with OTC meds. I try not to be that hypochondriac who runs for help at the slightest thing, but sometimes I miss, and dismiss things that my doctor later wishes I’d been more concerned about. I know this doesn’t sound scientific (real science not “CS scientific”), but it often comes down to a “gut” feeling. As I learned earlier this summer, if that dull pain in your foot suddenly turns into a burning pain, and the discoloration spider-webs up your leg, better go to the ER (which I promptly did). However, not every little ache occasions a need for alarm.

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