How To Advocate For Your Health

You may need to advocate for your health and healing at some point in your life so it’s important to know what that looks like.

Sometimes we are faced with a health crisis so we go out and seek help and healing. At times the help we seek is effective and we get back on track as expected. Other times, either the counsel we seek turns out unsuitable, or the problem with our health is more complicated than anticipated. If it’s the latter, the path you take makes all the difference in the landscape of your healing and longevity, and this is where you must become your biggest healing advocate.

When our body behaves in ways we aren’t familiar with, we can feel vulnerable and even scared. But it’s really important to place value on our inherent knowledge of our body, the thing that we alone have inhabited our whole life.

It’s vital to seek help and support if you don’t know what the symptoms are telling you, but it’s essential also that you never stop being curious about what your body is communicating to you and you alone. There is no one else like you and therefore your healing is unique too.

How To Recognize When You Need to Advocate For Your Health

Your symptoms are your body’s way of communicating that something is off balance. Notice that when you feel great you don’t question your health and you don’t have reason to. Your energy flows, your mind can handle stress and your body supports you with ease.

Energy, flow and ease are all positive affirmations expressing that your body is in equilibrium. Why question anything? But when symptoms arise, it’s because your body is calling out to you to take notice. It can be a gentle nudge like being more tired than usual, or a kick in the butt like getting sick regularly, a fierce shake in the shoulders with an angry skin condition or a knock over the head with a disease diagnosis. There is always a progression, but we don’t always notice, or not right away anyway.

When the first symptoms arise it’s your opportunity to stop and listen, ask what your inner malfunction is and ask what’s going on in your life that may be creating this problem. Your body is desperate to be heard, it relies on your attention and spirit to give it life. By listening, you are advocating for your health.

Symptoms of Distress in Your Body

For example, if your short term memory suddenly nods off, your periods are getting heavy when they never used to be, you once loved sex but now you just put out to get it over with, you raise your voice to your kids at the slightest thing when you once considered yourself patient, or you used to run 5 km no problem but now your muscles don’t seem to recover. Whatever the change may be for you, be curious about it. Get ferocious about your health, tackle these new symptoms and refuse to accept them until all avenues of understanding and healing are explored. What is your body telling you and why has it chosen to communicate in this way? Your body may incorporate all kinds of symptoms other humans have too, but your genes, history, emotions and environment are all uniquely yours and therefore your body is going to speak in ways that only you can hear. It may not always come easy, or immediately though so it can take some time to read your body and advocate on your own behalf.

When I was 23 I had a psychiatrist tell me it was fine to immediately go off the anti-depressant that was making me stare at walls for days on end. I questioned not going off gradually but I didn’t speak out, I mean who was I to know, I had no experience with this, the doc did. I ended up in the hospital with such excruciating withdrawal symptoms that I honestly thought I was dying. Yet months later when a new psychiatrist suggested immediate, not gradual removal after the next anti-depressant made me practically run in circles like a chicken with it’s head cut off, even though I had that previous experience and feared the same thing happening again, I did what the doctor said, and again, I ended up in the hospital. I was new to navigating my health issues so I was completely unconfident speaking out despite my previous experience because I feared looking like I was questioning authority. This was the beginning of me learning how to advocate for my health but it by no means came naturally or swiftly.

Advocate For Your Health
Unmanaged Hypothyroidism

In later years, when I suspected I had Hypothyroidism because I had gained 15 pounds almost overnight, my moods had dropped suddenly and dramatically, my skin was dry and cracked, I was always fatigued and freezing cold, my eyelids were heavy, face puffy, and my muscles ached from head to toe, I approached my doctor with my concerns. She suggested an anti-depressant and more sleep. I knew my depression patterns and I knew anti-depressants didn’t serve me, (I had been on 5 different ones as well as lithium by that point) my heart told me I was right to suspect Hypothyroidism. Yet despite my intuition, for well over a year I suffered, not advocating for myself through seeking a second opinion, or changing my lifestyle of my own accord to steer my own healing. I eventually couldn’t handle it and sought help with another doctor who immediately tested me and treated me for as I had suspected, Hypothyroidism. And even then, it took me another year to get the guts to ask him to switch me from the synthetic thyroid prescription that wasn’t helping, to a natural thyroid supplement that I was hearing good things about.

How to Advocate For Your Health
Managed Hypothyroidism and the energy to complete a Spartan race in the top 23%.

Becoming an advocate for your health may not feel natural, especially when our health practitioners have years of study and experience and we unwittenly expect them to have all the answers and the ideal path to healing. Or if you have a history of low self-esteem like I did, or you are new to health challenges, place all trust in doctors to heal you, and haven’t considered your own rightful role in your healing, you may end up on a longer healing path. I totally get it. It took me about five years of unsuccessful medicated therapy before I sought help for depression through bodywork and therapists who didn’t insist on medicating me first, and it took me a couple years to get help with Hypothyroidism and develop lifestyle changes to support healing. I just wasn’t confident in asking for alternative help, despite my knowledge that there were other options to my healing.

How to Advocate For Your Health

Your voice is so important! If you don’t feel like you are heard by a doctor, it’s not to say your doctor is bad, it just means you need to speak in different terms or seek a more complimentary doctor. Or if your doctor is trained in allopathic medicine and you need complementary procedures or approaches that your doctor is not licensed or trained to fulfill, seek out that additional help in the from of a naturopath, therapist, osteopath, doctor of Chinese medicine, functional medicine doctor, whatever you may need. It’s rare that one person or one medical professional can fix it all so don’t give up if one person or one method doesn’t help you. It’s important to create a team that hears you and that compliments each other’s skills.

When your quality of life and health are suffering, you are ultimately in control, it’s your body, your life to the end. This means that you get to choose who is going to advocate alongside you. Create your team, keeping two vital things in mind: always remain curious and always trust in your voice. And don’t forget that healing can take time, whether it be mental or physical, so don’t give up, keep seeking and trying new things if you hit a dead end, and always incorporate positive and committed, healthy lifestyle practices as that is ultimately where both the illness and healing begin and end.

Being an advocate for your health is one of the most loving expressions and you are so easily worth it so don’t hesitate to reach out when you need it, but also trust that your voice and inner knowledge is essential. Taking an active role in your health will render more positive and swift results. Don’t be afraid to switch things up if something or someone isn’t working for you either, but also keep in mind that sometimes the things or people we face with resistance are also the people we can learn the most from. I saw a psychiatrist two days a week for two solid years and my first couple of months seeing him were really hard because I had challenges trusting men in positions of trust. However I decided to stick it out a bit longer as he had an approach that was new to me and I was desperate for a psychiatrist who didn’t use anti-depressants. I am so thankful I stayed for those two years because I eradicated Bulimia in that time even though I don’t believe we ever really tackled it head on as an eating disorder like I had unsuccessfully in other forms of therapy. He helped in many other ways, but if I had turned away from him because of my initial resistance, I honestly don’t know where I would be today.

Please share in the comments below if you have experiences with advocating for your health, or if you have questions on where to start. Good luck on your healing journey!