Process Over Protocol

 In Anxiety and Stress, Compassion, Health, Promoting Tolerance

Since the age of five, my mother has raised me under the belief that authorities aren’t always right. A close friend and I laugh over the “so-called experts” who staunchly demand that we follow their A-grade guidance only until they’re proven wrong, or until we find a discrepancy between their words and their actions. Then we wonder why we blindly trusted them in the first place. 

I am not claiming that ALL experts are ALWAYS wrong. They got to their prestigious position somehow, right? Of course they’re qualified! What I am advocating for is personal scrutiny of their “expert guidance” before kneeling at their feet. What I am pressing for is self-awareness and prudence before taking an action with major implications. Never plunge into the group mentality; you know yourself best.

Despite my mother imbuing this belief in me, until now, I hate to admit that I have submitted my trust to many authorities. In those situations, however, my emotional demise saturated me in stress and fear, in helplessness and hopelessness. Intuition and visceral feelings have failed me– literally. Void of trust in myself, I submitted my well-being to the “so-called experts.” In some cases, I was lucky, and in others, I spiraled further. My journey has taken the turns it has because of those navigating me from the passenger seat and how I’ve learned to navigate myself using their knowledge, expertise, and resources. How can one possibly reach their destination without the know-how to get there? Those people in the passenger seat have been unyielding examiners for my well-being in the moments where I could not–in the moments where I could hardly stand, move, or even breathe. Without their direction or the resources they’ve extended, my path to treatment would have shaped itself very differently.

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Health is a tenant of survival: Without it, an individual cannot thrive, aspire to their dreams, or even function. The same goes for mental-health. In fact, mental and physical health go hand in hand, as in my case materializing along the gut-brain axis. Although my IBS condition doesn’t mark so high on the medical severity scale per se, I have felt my well-being diminish in my own hands. And indeed, that IS severe. Far from “normal.”

In severe situations, we call for help. It seems easy–contact the doctor, get some testing, receive a diagnosis, pop some pills, and you’re set! But what if the tests come out normal? What if medication isn’t magical? What happens if the experts you depend on no longer have remedies for you?  Then you’ll end up as I was–left with nowhere to turn and on the verge of collapse. 

In our healthcare system, there is something called standard protocol. This protocol leads professionals to ask general questions, often leading them to a conclusion founded on a mere portion of your story. Many experts with whom I’ve interacted failed to listen to me attentively; standard protocol has sharpened the skill of selective listening, which a medical professional should never employ. The implications and outcomes are tragic: Even if you try to articulate your whole story, the relevant parts may be ignored and dismissed. You may not even be believed. The outcomes are even more tragic when professionals are so resolute in their conclusions that the patient could be at risk if they lack knowledge about their own situation or fail to fully express themselves. It baffles me that THE PATIENT must ensure that they are being listened to and fully understood. And of this craft, I’ve become a master.

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My gastrointestinal situation sent me on a rocky journey. Obviously the physical pain set me back, but the obstacles obscuring my prospect of healing made my situation far worse than it needed to be. The paradox is that those who are supposed to unlock the doors of treatment may become another impediment; this impediment should be eradicated and become a well of partnership between you and the expert.

There is no question that within the same area of expertise, there are numerous ways to approach similar situations. But because we are all individuals with unique biomes, that same approach can yield identical or different results. This is why you must be your own examiner to know which treatment plan best fits your situation so risks or further adverse reactions are minimized. 

Within the past year, I can estimate that I’ve seen about ten specialists. They each tried to help me understand my symptoms with good intent, employing their standard protocol to devise a treatment plan. Standard protocol, unfortunately, usually feeds into the medicative approach: it’s an outcome of their training. Wouldn’t proper protocol start with individual assessments involving simple, conservative treatment plans?

Medical exams may point to a root cause, but drug after drug, the root cause is buried underground. What happens if your symptoms return? What if your symptoms lead to another complication? Then the root cause becomes harder to find, and as for the cure, even harder to obtain. 

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This post serves as an introduction to pieces that will be stationed on my newest page, My Biome is My Home. Each story will provide an insight to my personal experiences– particularly surrounding the advice of medical professionals–and the direction I followed or did not. With each article, I aim to demonstrate the mistakes I’ve made through my quest for healing, and the obstacles along that have transformed me into my own examiner, advocate, and in the near future, healer. Each piece will provide examples as to HOW I was forced to transform and become a stronger version of myself in the face of authority. My goal is to serve as a resource and support to those in similar battles, in any arena, where they feel diminished, dismissed, or hopeless. The chronic challenge that is IBS just happens to be MY battle, and has become something I have to embrace, voice, and soon, come to cure.

I’ve become more astute after having experimented with a variety of remedies and learning to ask more questions before submitting my well-being to anyone. Along my journey, I’ve stumbled upon experts with the right processes in place, guiding me with the right tools to understand my biome, just as my mother has always ingrained in me. 

We must always inspect and verify before we act. In my fight, I am committed to taking on the role of a shepherd who surveys the lay of the land for myself no matter what anyone–even if they’re an expert– tells me. And to others who wish to follow in my footsteps, I will give them that very same advice.

In lieu of this, I have built a process which I gathered from an esteemed surgeon whose story I will share in another post. Although he was not the right doctor for me, his process can be applied to every expert and specialist. He was THE ONLY doctor who took this unique approach that ultimately empowered me to partner WITH specialists and embark on my healing journey. The process will be shared in my next post!

 

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