I've had a strange fantasy for years now.
Maybe you've had one similiar...
Telling off the person who made you feel small. Here's how it unfolded...I wrote my doctor this letter.
I told my coach about my fantasy. About writing a letter to the doctor who told me I was a little bit nuts because he couldn't help me. Over the years that letter has had varying tones. At first angry, then sad, it was like I was going through Kubler-Ross' stages of grief with the whole thing!
I never did it because I was scared. I was scared of what he would think of me, scared of offending him, just scared.
Speaking your truth can be scary. Maybe because it's real and once you speak you have to own up to your words.
I'm done with being scared to speak up. Keeping it all bottled in has done nothing for me but keep me small and make me sick.
My coach helped me come to a better place with my fantasy, a place of peace and healing. What follows is the letter I actually mailed this doctor a few weeks ago. I've edited some parts here to protect his identity. I hope it helps you find some peace of your own. I'd love to hear how it resonates for you.
I’m not sure if you remember me, several years ago you were treating me for chronic urticaria. We tried several different drugs but nothing ever worked. A few years ago I learned this was an autoimmune disease. That diagnosis was the turning point in my life. I felt compelled to write you this letter to share my story in the hopes it may make a difference one day for another patient.
I learned I had autoimmune disease about 9 months after my son was born. I was glad to finally have an answer but devastated that I was essentially handed a life sentence of a lifelong chronic illness.
At the same time, I was also dealing with a horrendous case of cystic acne. A friend suggested that I try eliminating dairy and sugar from my diet. I was game. Nothing else was working, and you had told me years before that I had a mild allergy to milk. I remember telling you I was sad that I couldn’t eat ice cream (silly to me now, but at the time it was very upsetting). You said something to the effect of “well eat it or don’t depends if you want to rid of the hives”. You never educated me about what it meant to really eliminate dairy, or any other food allergen from my diet. At that time, I stopped drinking milk and eating ice cream and saw no difference. But this time, I educated myself. I read labels and avoided anything that contained milk, cheese, butter, casein, whey, etc. To my delight, within 8 weeks the acne was completely gone!
Unfortunately, I soon started getting terrible migraines. They would knock me down for days with visual auras and nausea. I lost 20 pounds because I was too sick to eat. I saw my PCP who treated the migraines with the usual medications. Everything he gave me made me feel worse because it was all compounded with dairy. So I had nothing to provide any pain relief. I even had a CT scan to rule out anything more serious and everything came back normal. I truly felt like I was dying and no one knew it yet. The pain was so intense! I couldn’t be a mother like that and I worried that if this kept up, I wouldn’t even be around to see my son grow up. I vowed then and there that I was going to figure this out on my own. I refused to accept the life sentence of autoimmune disease and refused to accept that I would have to suffer with these migraines. The next day I discovered a dental paste I was using sporadically contained dairy. I stopped using it and the migraines stopped.
The last time I saw you in your office, you told me you didn’t know what else to do for me and that treating patients with hives was the worst for this reason. You even told me “I think you’re a little bit nuts” and that I was too hyper-aware of my body and maybe it would help if I tried to not focus on it so much. I felt really bad leaving your office that day and I held my tears until I got to my car. I know there was no malice in your words, and I do appreciate your honesty, but your words were not helpful. Having IBS and endometriosis, I’ve heard or felt similar sentiments over the years from many doctors. That somehow I was imagining my symptoms, or I needed better stress management, basically that I was somehow at fault because no one knew how to fix my symptoms. It’s very frustrating, isolating, disempowering, and makes you feel completely hopeless.
Today I’d like to thank you for that experience. In all honesty! You see, once I figured out that dairy was the cause of my misery, I remembered your words and that of many other physicians, and it spurred me into action. I got really mad and decided I would not accept this autoimmune disease and would figure out how to fix it for myself. That’s exactly what I did.
It’s been a long journey and I’m still healing. This past November marked 2 years that I’ve been free of hives and off all allergy medications. I did it! I still get the occasional hive here and there, but I’ve figured out how to calm them naturally to resolve them quickly. I used food, mind-body techniques, and lifestyle changes to heal my body. I’m so grateful that I’m so hyper-aware because I know when something isn’t right and can take steps to correct it. In fact, my whole family is healthier because we learned how food and environment can hurt or heal. We are so thankful that we made these changes now instead of waiting for some more devastating illness to happen.
I even obtained Certification as a Transformational Nutrition Coach in order to help others that struggled like I had or heard there was nothing else modern medicine could do for them, or that this was all in their head. I chose specifically to work with women who have IBS so that they feel heard and respected while learning how to listen to their bodies so they can take back their power to begin healing their bodies naturally.
I’m writing this to you because I respect you. You spent a long time trying to help me figure out what was wrong and I’ve encountered many along the way that just shrug their shoulders and wish me luck. I think you are a good physician and I hear people rave about you all the time. I wanted to share this with you in the hopes it may help another patient in the future. Never underestimate the power of empathy or someone’s ability to connect with and listen to their own body. My journey to healing started with functional medicine. If you’re interested, you can read more about it at www.functionalmedicine.org