Things in Erin’s Head

 

Today marks the first day of #NationalFamilyCaregiversMonth. It’s also the time of year when I go in for a portion of my annual medical exams (mammogram done! labs done! kidney doctor done!). It’s also the amazingly fun time of year when I get to research and renew my healthcare insurance (yes, that was deeply drenched in sarcasm because I don’t care for my health insurance options). So today I thought I’d put a little spin on Caregiving:

Being a Caregiver for YOURSELF.

Wait – isn’t this the same as “self-care”?

I’m going with a solid no. It is not the same. In my heart, self-care fills you up. It replenishes you. It illuminates facets of joy within you (even if they are teeny, weenie glimmers). This crap? It can feel annoying and frustrating, yet it’s 1,000% completely necessary. Caregiving for yourself, being your own healthcare advocate, is NOT the same as self-care.

Example:

I recently had a follow up visit with my Primary Care Physician (PCP). I used The Patient Handbook, so was organized with my questions and I knew what the follow-up appointment was for. (Special shout out to anyone going through major medical because it’s really, REALLY easy to lose track of what you’re following up on and with whom.) 

Sooooo… I knew why I was there… But my PCP did NOT.

Not only did they NOT know, but as they read through my lab results they became very alarmed. EXCITEDLY alarmed. Like they had just discovered penicillin excited, but somehow veiled it in “alarm.” You see, my kidney numbers appeared off to them and the doctor immediately launched into an excited, extensive dissertation about WHY they were so alarmed: my age, the current function of my kidneys, how kidney function deteriorates over time, so it’s only going to get WORSE… and there was nary an indicator that they were going to cease anytime before our precious 15 minutes were up.

I made a little time-out sign with my hands (and likely distorted my face and / or shook my head) and said, “I’m going to interrupt you here for the sake of time. I have chronic kidney disease. I know that. My numbers have been exactly the same for fifteen years. I have a nephrologist who I see every year, who you write annual referrals for.”

Their response was, “Oh that makes me feel so much better.”

What I *wish* I had said was, “Would you like me to give you a minute to review my history?” 

Because wouldn’t those five minutes have been more productively spent if they took that time to look at my chart instead of jumping to alarming and incorrect conclusions (I’ll spare you the details but the appointment actually only got worse from here)? On the flip side, the minute my kidney specialist walks into the exam room, they open my chart and they read quietly and thoroughly so we can have an intelligent conversation about my health and treatment. It honestly doesn’t take much longer, but their preparation makes all the difference in our conversation, and the confidence I have in their recommendations and advice. 

Yeah, this newsletter feels a little whiny to me. But I’m going to guess I’m not the only one who faces these challenges. I’m going to guess some of you may not have been to the doctor in a long time because it just feels HARD, and Caregiving for YOURSELF can feel just as exhausting as it does if you’re doing it for someone else. So I will keep on keeping on… and hunting for a new PCP… Because I love myself. 

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