It’s a list! Like Taylor Swift’s…but with a twist.
I was at a loss (again) for what to write while I wait for my next appointment/procedure, when I came across Taylor Swift’s “30 Things She Learned Before Her 30th Birthday” article in Elle. This was a great find because I happen to be turning 25 in a little under a week – woop woop, Pisces friends. I’m not a big birthday gal anymore, since I had the best parties as a kid and got that out of my system. By best parties, by the way, I don’t mean the glitziest or that I had tons of guests. My mom was just great at tailoring themes to my weirdness.
I don’t want to blatantly copy Taylor’s idea with 25 things I’ve learned before 25, so I give you…
25 Health Lessons I Learned Before 25
- Write everything down: You’ll have much better luck identifying trends and going head to head with doctors who challenge your symptoms.
- Flavored water: I’m the worst at drinking enough water, but I love flavored sparkling water. When I’m feeling bleh and know I’m not hydrating properly, I head to CVS and load up. It helps me feed my sweet tooth, as well, without doing myself the disservice of getting back on the soda bandwagon.
- Hot packs (and ice packs): The loves of my life. The ones with straps that allow me to hobble around the house (or sneakily wear them under my clothes in public) are even better.
- Always have snacks in your purse: Especially salty snacks – gotta keep the dizziness at bay.
- Always carry bandaids: This one is less personal and is more of a general fact for women. Will they ever stop making shoes that are designed to hurt us?
- Keep the receipt for your copay: Hospitals and urgent care centers love to send me bills after I’ve already paid for my services in the office. I used to just pay them the second time and they would pay me back, and we would have this nice little back-and-forth.
- Defend your preferences: I had a horrible, painful reaction to morphine the one time it was administered and the nurse told me to tell future nurses that I’m allergic. Every time I do this, I’m asked how I know that I’m allergic and what happens, and I used to feel bad for saying “well, it hurts” as though that isn’t reason enough. Not gonna lie – I fluff up the story a bit now. I was close to blacking out from the pain that shot up my neck and into my head, so whatever I think is necessary to avoid that, I’m going to do it.
- It’s okay to ask to schedule around that time of the month: Woo, being a lady! Maybe this is just me, but I never thought to do this before. I used to just hope for the best. But, after a particularly awkward OBGYN appointment, I thought to bring this up when my vascular doctor scheduled a procedure about a month out of the appointment I was in at the time. She was glad that I did, and honestly, there was nothing awkward about it whatsoever. Why haven’t I been doing this from the start??
- You can explain yourself without apologizing: I’m still working on this one, but I’ve improved over the years.
- Skip mass transit if you have to: I hate to spend money, but I’ve learned that sometimes I have to prioritize getting home quickly and safely. This has involved taking a car service or a cab, at times. I’ve finally stopped beating myself up for doing this.
- Be open about your food concerns: There are times when I know that I need to eat very lightly or carefully, whether it’s due to pain or due to nausea that turns me off of my favorite foods. It’s such a relief to feel comfortable enough to explain to close friends and family why I can’t eat particular foods at particular times. Plus, it can actually be helpful to have a real response to “I don’t care, what do you want to eat?” Wellll, let me tell you…
- It’s okay to sleep at unconventional times: Louder for the people in the back! Needing a nap does not make me a child. It does not make me lazy. It means that my body is working a little harder than usual and needs a break before a breakdown. Sleep in general is super important, of course, but making peace with having different needs from others has been huge for me.
- The internet isn’t (always) bad: I’m grateful for my academic background because I know how to go about research in an informed manner. I know the signs of a factual, science-driven publication versus…well, the other stuff. I, like many others, have let WebMD diagnose me with a long list of fatal illnesses in the past. However, I’ve also found a lot of great information in public forums. If you know how to assess a source and take everything with a grain of salt, the internet can be hugely helpful.
- Always get the DVD copy of your MRI/CT/what have you: I mentioned this in my last post. You never know when you’ll need it.
- Never assume that the doctor “would’ve” or “should’ve”: I asked at my last appointment if my surgeon from the original kidney surgery would have seen evidence of Nutcracker syndrome when he was operating in that same area. My vascular doctor said no. I have also assumed that I’ve had certain tests done already because my kidney has been under investigation for so long – also, no.
- Ask for clarification again…and again: Sometimes I zone out and start in with the nods and “yeps” while a doctor dumps information on me. An example: that time my primary care physician told me that my heart doesn’t draw blood back as quickly as it should and then carried on with his checkup…what does that mean? Is that called something? Now I make sure that I don’t leave an appointment without enough of an understanding that I could potentially explain the situation to someone else.
- You can say it’s time to stop when things are getting a bit out of hand: I’ve let a nurse spend an hour trying to insert an IV line in about seven different spots along my arms and hands. I let another nurse struggle to place two catheters (TWO?) for much too long before telling her that I’d rather just do the scan without one. Don’t let your desire to be a nice, easy patient keep you from remembering that you are ultimately in control.
- Know your safe places: Living in a city, it’s helpful to know where I can go to sit down if I’m starting to feel a bit off while I’m out and about. There are parks everywhere, but in the colder months I’ve utilized public libraries, specific coffee shops that tend to have seats available, Sean’s workplace, and certain train stations where there are plenty of benches. Keeping a few of places in mind gives me a safety net – peace of mind for my anxiety brain.
- Have a “kit”: Speaking of anxiety, I have a “kit” on my phone made up of things I found while in a good headspace that I’ve saved for times when I am not. It’s mostly art – photos, videos, poems and posts that never fail to pull the curtain back a bit when I’m stuck in the dark. There are also apps I use to distract myself, such as Sudoku and Tumblr, which help me focus away from unwanted thoughts at night so that I can get to sleep.
- A little exercise is better than none at all: I love going to the gym, and I feel my best when I’m in a routine that involves going to the gym nearly every day. Whenever I’m feeling sick for an extended period of time or have an injury, I fall out of that routine. I used to lose my motivation completely during these times. Currently, my cardio is limited to walking, so I’ve been making sure that I keep up with my floor workouts at home. This isn’t the level where I’d like to remain, but that’s okay. Getting back in the gym will be amazing, but I can make my smaller efforts in the meantime.
- You can say no to medication: You. Can. Say. No. To. Medication.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: Just because a diagnosis seems probable does not mean that it will definitely be confirmed. Heck, I’ve been officially diagnosed before and had the diagnosis revoked. Multiple times. Be open to change, always always always.
- You might need a third opinion: I’ve seen a lot of specialists. A lot. I’ve been dismissed, and I’ve been told that there was “no way” certain conditions could even be considered. It happens. Guess what? You can “thank you, next” a medical professional. I’m definitely not saying that you should cycle through doctors until you find the one who tells you what you want to hear, but if you’re truly not convinced by one person’s opinion, go forth and keep pushing.
- Gloves: My hands are never going to be a normal human temperature. I accept this. I’ve stopped questioning whether or not I should take gloves with me when I go anywhere. The answer is always yes.
- Live like your world could be turned upside down tomorrow: I try to imagine the changes I would make in my life if I was ever given life-altering news. What would I do differently if faced with a situation where I could lose my current abilities and opportunities? We hate to think about this, but none of us have any particular amount of time guaranteed to us, and I am not saying this to be grim. I’m saying this because I’m now realizing that the most important thing I’ve learned from my experiences is that if you’re waiting for someone to tell you that time is running out – don’t. Do everything with that source of motivation, and watch how your life changes.