If you think about it, the Wizard of Oz is really about the Serenity Prayer. The tin man wants a heart to be able to love the things he can’t change; the lion, some courage to change the things he can; and the scarecrow, a brain with which to know the difference.
Most of my life I’ve begged the wizard for a heart … to be able to accept my hand of cards and play them gladly, no resentment whatsoever for the suicidal ideations, lovely medication side effects, and other heath conditions that make me feel as though I’d fit right in with the rowdy crowd at our local diner’s early bird special.
But this month, I’m concentrating more on acquiring and using courage … the courage to become my own best health advocate, to fight back against a corrupt and dangerously incompetent medical system in this country, to fire the doctors who could care less if my symptoms worsen or impede my recovery so that I flip the bill for the surgery required down the line.
Don’t get me wrong: I believe in medicine. I believe it is our friend and ally in the war against mood disorders and other illnesses. It’s the professionals administering the pills I’m worried about. Some of them are brilliant … like Dr. Smith, my psychiatrist. Many are not. And I’m no longer going to tolerate the ones that do not hold my hand as I do everything I possibly can to acquire good health … not just for my limbic system, but also for my endocrine system, my respiratory system, and my entire nervous system.
If you’re confused and have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, I suggest you ask you doctor for your medical records. Gauge her response. It’s a telltale sign. When I failed to procure my mental health records from a psychiatrist I used to see after three written requests plus a few verbal ones, I knew it was time to leave. Last week I camped out in the offices of my endocrinologist because the first two efforts at obtaining my records over the phone were blown off.
“You know what,” I told the assistant, “I think I’ll just come in and hang out in your offices until I get them.” A half-hour later, photocopies were made and I went home with an ambitious assignment: to learn everything about my pituitary tumor that I could, as well as the side effects of the medication I am taking, which–surprise!–may be responsible for most of my cardiac and respiratory problems.
I began to study the endocrine system just like I did the limbic system three years ago in order to better understand my mood disorder. The results were fascinating … which I’ll share in a future blog about the mongo role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the correlation between specific hormones and mood … think PMS and you have an idea of what I’m talking about.
For some reason I thought that my journey down the endocrine and cardiac paths would be better paved than those I’ve traveled in my mission for good mental-health information. Because, let’s face it, most doctors don’t understand mood disorders, and many stare at me as though I am speaking about my imaginary little friend when I mention that I am on a mood stabilizer and two antidepressants. “Oh … I see,” they say, waiting for me to add some other nugget of odd information, like I love to picnic at nude beaches and offer peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches to the masses.
So down the yellow brick road I go in a quest for courage. Lots of courage…. to camp out in endocrinology offices all over the world until I get my BLOODY records; to ask the necessary but unpopular questions (“If I don’t want to have surgery down the road, what can I do now to help prevent that?”); and to seek the opinions of the foremost specialists (Johns Hopkins … the Land of Oz) in a given field, i.e. cardiology and endocrinology.
A Beyond Blue reader recently shared with me this quote from Mary Anne Radmacher: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” Maybe, just maybe, she was talking about securing her medical chart.
To read more Beyond Blue, go to http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.