When you have fibromyalgia, doctors can be your best friend or your biggest foe. Having any chronic illness changes your relationship with your doctors. Heck, it makes you meet new ones, ones you never even really wanted to meet in the first place. But alas, we need them. To get our diagnoses, our meds, etc.
So for today’s blog post, I want to talk about this complicated relationship. I want to talk about the fact that for some fibromyalgia patients, this relationship is a blessing. And how for others, it’s a necessary evil. Some fibromyalgia warriors might even feel both ways about their doctors. And that’s just what makes this such a complicated topic.
I want to start by keeping it positive. I’m big on positivity, as I think it’s an important and empowering coping mechanism. But I also think it’s important to note that there ARE good doctors out there. Loads of them.
But what makes a doctor “good”? For me, first and foremost, it’s about listening. Really listening. I want a doctor that is going to actually let me tell them what’s going on with me, with my body, and with my life. A good doctor will allow you to explain your symptoms the best you can, and ask you for clarification if needed.
I think a good doctor runs all the tests he or she can to try to find out what’s going on. They ask questions about your lifestyle, stress level, diet, activity, etc. They do these things to find ways that can potentially help you feel better. If they can’t cure you (like with fibromyalgia), they want to help you find all the methods that help alleviate your pain, discomfort, and other symptoms.
A good doctor doesn’t solely try to accomplish this through prescription medication. They help you find methods that work for you. Whether it’s dietary changes, stress reduction, changes in activity levels, supplementation, or other alternative treatments, a good doctor will be open to finding symptom management methods that align with you, your symptoms, and your life. Sometimes, this may involve prescription meds. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But a good doctor will help you find a combination of management strategies and listen to what you need.
Unfortunately, a lot of fibromyalgia (and other chronic illness) patients experience some not-so-great doctors. This can be incredibly frustrating, emotional, and disheartening. So now that we’ve covered what you’ll find in a good doctor, I want to cover the bad.
And honestly, I feel weird saying “bad” when referring to doctors. I personally don’t think 99% of “bad” doctors are trying to be bad. I think their intentions are good. But something gets in the way of fulfilling those intentions.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as ignorance. They simply don’t know a lot about our illnesses. Wide acceptance of the validity of a fibromyalgia diagnosis is still a relatively new concept. Annoyingly new. To the point that there are still doctors out there who don’t believe fibromyalgia is real. There are some doctors out there who chalk it up to depression or anxiety. There are others who don’t believe patients when they express how bad the symptoms are.
It’s usually not that they’re trying to be bad doctors, it’s just that they aren’t quite there yet. They’ve been rejecting such a disease’s validity for so long, they don’t know how to change. And unfortunately, that makes for a poor patient experience and makes it incredibly difficult to get any help managing the illness and symptoms.
There are other “bad” doctors out there who have a stake in the pharmaceuticals game. They are receiving a kickback for certain medications they prescribe. Now I want to be very clear here. I don’t believe the majority of doctors are this way. I believe the majority of doctors have good intentions, as I mentioned above. Some doctors repeatedly prescribe medications without suggesting other management methods because that’s simply how they were trained.
But I do think there are doctors out there whose judgement has been clouded by the money coming in from prescribing medications. And while medications can be extremely helpful, if you don’t believe they are helping you, and your doctor just keeps prescribing different meds to no avail, you might have a not-so-great doctor.
Other signs of a “bad” doctor are if they make you extremely uncomfortable, are blatantly dismissive or mean, or they make you feel “crazy”. No patient should ever have to deal with a physician that’s anything less than caring, receptive, supportive, and determined.
Although the majority of doctors have good intentions and are genuinely good, it an be a challenge to find them! A big part of that is there is truly a shortage of physicians that specialize in treating fibromyalgia. Another reason is that it’s hard to even know where to start. You have to find a general practitioner that you trust to then refer you to a rheumatologist or specialist. And depending on where you live, your closest option may be hours away. Then there’s the stress of long waitlists and limited availability. And finally, when you do actually get to see a doctor, you have to make sure they are someone you can work with.
It can all seem like a bit much. The process can be daunting and ridiculous, even emotional at times. But have faith. Have faith in yourself and your ability to advocate for your needs. Have faith that there ARE good doctors out there. And if yours just happens not to be one of those, have faith in your ability to work through the process of finding a new one, and knowing that you are doing your best for yourself. You got this.