Find the best physician for you, a.k.a. “How to fire your doctor” Part I of II
Unhappy patient

There may come a time when it’s necessary to “fire” your doctor to achieve your best health.

It’s important to ask yourself, “Do I genuinely feel that my doctor has my best interest at heart?” The doctor you choose to entrust your health with is vitally important.

The right doctor for you may not be the convenient one five minutes down the road from your home. It may not be the one that your family members all to go.

First and foremost, it’s important to reflect on why you are going to a doctor. Other than a routine physical exam, most of us see a doctor for a specific problem or two. For me, it is to get professional medical advice, care, prevention measures and treatment to allow me to be in the best heath possible. I also have needed help managing my migraine headaches. The day-to-day goal is to feel and be healthy, sleep soundly, be proactive to avoid conditions that are in my control, and enjoy as much time as possible with family and friends. Those I love and cherish in my life choose mindfully and stay proactive with their healthcare for their highest good. I want to continue to make great memories and they do too.

I have found that the 20 to 45 minutes I spend at a doctor’s visit is one of the best investments of my time and money.  This investment has benefited me in my physical health and mental health. I trust my three doctors. I don’t have doubts after leaving their offices. I’m being taken care of.

But, it hasn’t always been that way. So, let’s roll back the clock seven years when red flags were waving right and left. When I reflect, I realize there had been some cautionary flags prior to that point. I should have switched back then, but I didn’t because I downplayed it and thought, “Well, this is just a small thing and this is convenient. I’ll be fine.”

When I had meningitis and started getting migraines, the care I was receiving awakened me to the lack of empathy and expertise I was receiving as a patient. One of the best decisions I ever made was to leave my previous medical group. Yes, I fired my doctor.

Why did I fire my doctor? He and his medical group refused to refer me out to a neurologist for help with my migraines. I was horribly impacted with the debilitating headaches. How could they refuse me? I was, and still am, in an HMO insurance. I was so disappointed and unhappy. I truly can’t even fathom what condition my health would be in now if I had left decisions and my care in their hands.

I am so happy that I made my way away from them. A reminder – you must be your own advocate!

Whether you are managing a short-term illness or a chronic condition (or if you are striving to feel confident in your provider), I encourage you to take time and analyze how you feel when you see your doctor. Assess if they are handling your condition well and how proactive they are trying to be to help find solutions for you.

Whatever your individual situation may be, this is your life and your health – it’s precious. You can change your circumstances! You aren’t in this alone and a doctor shouldn’t make you feel alone. Your voice, your thoughts, your gut feelings are valid.

Observe if your doctor is really listening to you. If you have a doctor who dashes in and dashes out – making you feel like a fly on the wall and not letting you express what is going on with your aches, pains and health – consider changing.

Ever seen a doctor who appears to posture themselves more than being involved in a two-way conversation with you? Does he or she make you feel uneasy or less intelligent than you are? Do they minimize your pain, your concerns, and your hope for the future? A simple question: How are you really doing? It goes a long way. 

I’ve heard from several individuals about their own, not-so-wonderful doctor experiences.

One of my relatives has fibromyalgia. Yes, it is a real condition and it is painful and debilitating. She says some doctors have told her, “Well, there isn’t really any valid information that fibromyalgia is a real diagnosis.”

This is what is known commonly as being “gaslighted” by a medical professional. In other words, they make it appear that you are creating the condition in your mind. Some people view gaslighting as a type of emotional abuse.

I say this calls for a new doctor, a specialist who understands the condition better!

When my relative did some research, she found specialists in the field of arthritis and internal medicine who knew exactly what she was experiencing. They ran a battery of tests and confirmed her diagnosis of fibromyalgia (yes, there are tests to confirm the condition) and have walked by her side to minimize the effects of her fibromyalgia pain.   

Another example is from a reader of The Honest Migraine blog. She contacted me and said she is a lifelong ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) sufferer who knows only too well what it is like to be gaslighted by medical professionals.

Judy Giuliano, a ME/CFS patient and lifelong migraine sufferer, who is passionate about increasing awareness of ME/CFS, said, “ME/CFS is not always (in fact, rarely) accepted as a real diagnosis and people with the disease are often gaslighted by their doctors.” She said the complexity of the disease and the very realness of it destroys lives.

“Twenty-five percent of people with ME/CFS are home or bed bound,” Judy said. While the Centers for Disease Control and the Institutes of Medicine have provided diagnostic criteria, “patients are [still being] ignored and/or passed over to psychiatric care,” Judy said. “ME/CFS is complex and difficult to diagnose and can only be treated symptomatically.”

Being a proactive individual about her health, Judy said in her experience it’s common for “doctors and specialists to not agree with each other and therefore downplay the possibilities” when it comes to helping manage and treat various medical conditions.

Those of us who do our best to navigate the unknown landscape with doctors appreciate when we walk into our appointment and are truly listened to. We value learning about various approaches to our health concerns in an effort to live healthier lives. 

In regards to ME/CFS, the CDC website states “symptoms of [ME/CFS] may appear similar to many other illnesses and there is no test to confirm ME/CFS. This makes ME/CFS difficult to diagnose. The illness can be unpredictable.  Symptoms may come and go, or there may be changes in how bad they are over time.”

However, the CDC website states that a physician should be able to identify a patient with ME/CFS after performing a “thorough medical exam.” (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/me-cfs/symptoms-diagnosis/index.html ).

Whether your condition is recurring migraines, fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or any other persistent problem, it is important to really analyze the care you are receiving from your doctor(s).

Parisa Vidafar, PhD, a medical researcher at the University of Michigan, summarized it best in a recent interview when she said, “You are your own best doctor, [because] you are in your body 24/7. If your doctor isn’t giving you answers, it’s probably a good time to find another physician, because in that relationship you are essentially putting your life in someone else’s hands.”

Coming next: Find the best physician for you, a.k.a. “How to fire your doctor” Part II of II