Self-advocacy is essential in the years around menopause if you are seeking help to manage your symptoms. Menopause is a complicated process and can give rise to multiple physical and emotional indicators that can be difficult to diagnose.
A recent survey by Louise Newson found that women in the UK are waiting up to a year for a menopause diagnosis from their General Practitioner. 79% of the women polled had visited their GP multiple times, including 7% who saw their GP ten times, and 27% who consulted more than three doctors at hospital following a referral. Shockingly 15% of those questioned had waited more than six years to receive a diagnosis from their doctor.
My radio show guest this week, Body Language Expert Sharon Sayler,
struggled to find answers for her autoimmune experience. As a result, she created what her friends call an “irrational passion.” That passion manifested into her highly regarded wellness show called The Autoimmune Hour. Since 2015 she has been dedicated to inspiring hope and help for those with autoimmune conditions.
Sharon shared with me her top tips for courageous self-advocacy.
When Sharon was in her 40s she was traveling for 200 days of the year from coast to coast in America delivering training and workshops. She started to experience symptoms and was misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia.
One morning she woke up in an hotel room and was unable to move her legs.
‘I could feel my hips. I could feel my legs, but getting them to do anything was impossible. It was very terrifying. Finally, I got myself sitting on the edge of the bed, and still my legs were quite weak. And of course, when you’re away from home, what are you going to do?
The condition progressed over the next 24 hours until I was covered mostly from head to toe with hives. Even more terrifying, it was Memorial Day weekend, and on those kinds of holidays it’s a little hard to get medical care, especially when you’re not in your hometown.
I flew back to my hometown where I had been under the care of a doctor for about a year. I got an emergency appointment and when the doctor came into the room, she took one look at me and I knew from the body language, it was not good. She walked out of the room. Another doctor, that I had not met before, came in and looked at my hands. For me, my hands were not the big deal, but hives turning into an appalling rash were the big deal. Anyway, he nodded and walked out of the room.
My doctor returned and proceeded to tell me in such a way that it was horrifying, that, yes I had an autoimmune condition. It means the whole body is inflamed, but the way I was told was more horrifying than hearing the label. There was no compassion.
When you have an autoimmune disease, it is time to start taking powerful medication. I started to lose my hair and my short-term memory, and to have all these other symptoms and side-effects. The doctor said, ‘Oh, that’s Okay’. I said, ‘Well, you know, at this point I’ve damaged my eyes, I’ve damaged my hearing and my memory. At this point, let me choose my symptoms.’
I didn’t go back to the same doctor and, over the coming years, I fired several doctors. I think they were happy to go! I asked too many questions – and there is nothing wrong with that. This is your life and it is for you to choose how you live it. That’s why self-advocacy is so important.
I always say trust your gut. I am not bashing Western medicine. I’m not bashing any kind of medicine. Being a doctor is a tough job. However, from the standpoint of being an advocate for yourself, you don’t want to take ‘no’ for an answer if you know it’s the wrong answer. Ask for an explanation. There’s nothing wrong with getting a second or third opinion. You need to find someone who really listens to you.
I updated my nutrition, really worked on my sleep hygiene and worked on managing my stress levels and inflammation. These are all great things and they were key in my reversal of the condition. I needed to implement the best health care for myself. I educated myself so that I could be a partner with the doctor.’
7 Top Tips for Self-Advocacy
Tip #1 Keep a health Journal to track your symptoms and assist your doctor to make a diagnosis.
Tip #2 Be prepared to ask difficult questions. Write them down to take to your medical appointment.
Tip #3 Remember to take time to breathe deeply especially when you are being given difficult news by your medical practitioner. It will calm you down and help you to think clearer.
Tip #4 Trust your gut feeling. Don’t take ‘no for an answer if you know it’s the wrong answer
Tip #5 Take notes during the appointment to help you to remember what was said by your doctor.
Tip #6 Ask your doctor about the urgency of dealing with the issue. How much time do you have to consider the treatment proposed? Is it a 24 hour, one week or one month decision?
Tip #7 Take somebody you trust with you to your medical appointment who can support you and listen to what is being said. It could be a partner, family member or friend.
You can find out more about Sharon Sayler and download her ebook ‘Five Things You Can Do Immediately That Will Help You Feel Better.’
If you need more support to take action to manage your menopause contact me today. It’s time to get on with enjoying your life.