Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Caring for Yourself ... Wisely

"Use wisdom, and it will take care of you. Love wisdom, and it will keep you safe."
- Proverbs 4:6 (ICB)

Today is Day 2 of #RABlog Week and the topic is “Active vs Reactive Patients – We usually start as naïve and trusting patients, then at some point we realize we must take an active part in our own medical decisions…” 

Some of you may be reading this blog for the first time, as a result of #RA Blog Week, but there are others of you who are regular readers that don’t struggle with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), so I am going to talk today about something relevant to the #RABlog Week topic and to all of us: wisdom.

Perhaps there are a few exceptions out there, but for most of us, wisdom is not something we are born with. Take, in point, the story of ironing my doll clothes. 

I was about 10 years old and living in the tropics, and so wearing a bikini around the house wasn’t that unusual. My favorite doll Crissy, however, wanted to look a little fancier than I did. Alas, her dress was wrinkled. Being the daughter of a fashion queen (not just self-professed … my mother actually became a paid fashion and image consultant later in life), I knew that wearing wrinkled clothes just wouldn’t do. I told my mother, as she was walking out the door, that I would need to use the iron to take care of Crissy’s fashion crisis. 

Being the good mother she was, my mom told me to wait until she got back home. And being the (stubborn, disobedient) child I was, I completely ignored her instruction. Crissy’s dress was wrinkled. I was going to fix it. Period!

Both self reliance and listening to the wrong people can lead to unwise choices

I remember the day like it was yesterday: setting up the ironing board, plugging in the iron, smoothing out Crissy’s little dress as I prepared to press it. The iron went down on the tiny satin garment. Then I pulled the iron back towards me, in a smooth motion, just like Mother had taught me. There was only one problem. When I pulled back the hot iron, I pulled it back a little too far. As I stood there in my bikini, I gasped as the foot of the hot iron scorched a four-inch rectangular brand into the bare skin of my lower abdomen. It hurt so bad, it’s a miracle I didn’t drop the iron on the floor and burn the house down.

I didn’t know back then what a third-degree burn was, but I’m quite positive I had one. I panicked, realizing I would be in big, big trouble if my mother found out I had disobeyed. Forgetting for a moment about Crissy’s dress, I looked at the dark brown scar the iron had made on my stomach. If she saw that, she would know! In my childhood naiveté (aka stupidity), I somehow thought that peeling off the burnt skin would hide the evidence. So yes, that’s what I did. (Yes, now it’s your turn to gasp!)

Despite my best efforts, my mother found out about my trespass anyway, as I finally had to go to her for antibiotic ointment for the burn that was now in risk of serious infection. Crissy’s dress was still wrinkled, and I was in deep doo doo. That said, it was the one time I didn’t get a spanking for what I did wrong. I’m pretty sure my parents knew the natural consequences were enough in this instance. I had learned my lesson. The hard way. Clearly, wisdom was not one of my inborn traits!

In that particular instance, my lack of wisdom was due to not listening to someone else’s advice. I have many other examples, though, where I lacked the wisdom to listen to myself; where I took the advice of someone else who didn’t know better. In almost every case – whether it was rushing into something on my own accord or being led down the garden path by someone else – I can point to one common denominator: I didn’t listen to my gut.

If we are to be wise, we must listen to that still, small voice

Over the years, I have learned that God has placed in me a tiny voice that tells me the right way to go. As a Christian, I call that the Holy Spirit. Many people just call it their “gut feeling.” Whatever you call it, I bet you know what it is. It’s that tiny whisper that says “don’t go there” or “don’t do that.” It’s the whisper of wisdom calling to us, telling us to look before we leap, to think before we act, to pray about those big decisions, and to seek a second opinion.

Sometimes, it’s our pig headed stubbornness that causes us to ignore those gut feelings. We don’t look at the facts, we don’t take instruction, and we don’t proceed with caution. Other times, however, it’s the advice of those in authority over us. Yes, even doctors. They are supposed to know what’s best for us, right? Well, in some cases they do, but in other cases, no, they don’t. 

I’m in a battle right now with one of my doctors over my RA treatment regimen. Recently diagnosed with psoriasis, my rheumatologist has jumped to the conclusion that it may be caused by Plaquenil, and so I should change to a different RA drug. You know what? I don’t think so. Three or four other doctors have said my very mild case of psoriasis is hardly a side effect worth worrying about, compared to the other potential side effects of other RA meds like Methotrexate. And so I am in “wait and see” mode. 

I have cut my dosage of Plaquenil to see if it will help alleviate the psoriasis symptoms. Will my RA flare up as a result? I don’t know. But my gut tells me now is not the time to make a wholesale change to my medication. My RA is by and large under control. When I say I am not in pain most days, and any pain I do experience is minimal enough to be treated with over-the-counter remedies, then that’s what I mean. I do not think, as my doctor suggests, that I just have a high pain tolerance … and I know that my blood work will support my claim. If and when I get in enough pain – from RA or the psoriasis – I will be willing to make a change, but not until then. Ultimately, my healthcare is about me, and no one knows my body better than I do.

In the same way as I have to be willing to say “no” to doctors sometimes, I also have to be willing to say “yes” to their advice, as well as other ideas. When I was first diagnosed, I refused to go on any DMARDs (anti-rheumatic drugs) for fear of side effects. But when I wasn’t healing properly from shoulder surgery and my orthopedist told me I really needed to consider one, I listened. It was the best decision I ever made. Likewise, I listened to my Pack Health coach Tamara, who educated me on the impact of rest, diet and exercise. Making tiny goals each week, which have led to new health habits, have helped me live a better life with RA. 

I have learned that no matter what I am facing – health issues or not – all of the advice in the Bible is true. In Proverbs, we are told to seek wisdom, to use it and to value it. But where do we find it? The Bible says it is found in God. When I pair earthly knowledge – found in research and asking questions – with prayer, I find wisdom. And where does it show up when I need it? In my gut.

Do you seek out, use and love wisdom? Do you see the value of weighing the advice of others, while also listening to your “gut” when making healthcare decisions for yourself? What do you do when faced with difficult decisions?

Caring for Yourself ... Wisely originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart, and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday. This week, I am also linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Dawn at Journeys in Grace, as well as with Lori Schumaker.

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  1. The difference between yes and no is a thin line sometimes. There is a fun song "Should I stay or Should I Go". I ask that question (in some form) almost every day. What should I do. It is a tough call some days especially when I feel the guidance one way and want to go another.

    At church we call this a question of discernment. Home is so much simpler, I just do what Sheryl tells me well sometimes.

    1. Yes, discernment is it exactly. And you're right on two accounts - it's not easy when we feel pulled in multiple directions, and it's much easier when we have someone we trust that can just tell us what we need to do! I remember when I became a single parent and how overwhelming it was to be suddenly making all these big decisions on my own. It was scary! I am grateful to now be married to a wise man with whom I can discuss things with. Two heads are truly better than one, in many cases!

  2. I love this Linda. That still small voice of God that I also know as the Holy Spirit is definitely telling me to take care of myself & that involves saying "No" to some of my medical teams suggestions & saying "Yes" to some of them. I've always been an Active patient & they respect my views but I sometimes respect them too much & that can get in the way of me saying No.
    At the moment, I've just got home from hospital after surgery No 6 on my leg so my gut feeling is saying...sleep girl, sleep.
    Thanks Linda for another inspiring blog
    Sam xx

    1. Praying your surgery recovery will go well this time, Sam. xx

  3. They call it mindful non-adherence and that's certainly what you're describing. Careful reflection and listening to the voice within has given you the answer that feels right to you. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. I hadn't heard that term, Lene, but yes, it is certainly about being mindful - mindful of what others are trying to teach or share with us, and mindful of what we need. In the end, we need peace with whatever decision we ultimately choose.

  4. Your example is painful to imagine, but such a great analogy!

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! Yes, how often we try and disguise our mistakes! And yet, the more we try and cover them up, sometimes that just makes it worse. Hindsight is 20/20, isn't it?

  5. Oh, your story of the burn made me hurt just thinking about it and I could almost see what you were going to say ahead of time... being a girl who sort of made up her mind to do things her own way, I've been in that same situation a time or two.

    And listening to ourselves, our gut and His voice, is always a necessity when we are also trying to listen to the doctors. I have to remember that they are an instrument He uses, but they are not God and sometimes we need to let ourselves boldly speak what we know we need to say. I am glad you had that courage!

    Thanks for sharing this at #GraceMoments Link up last week.

    1. "They are an instrument He uses, but they are not God." - indeed! I am fortunate to have some good doctors I trust in some areas, but I am still trying to find a better fit in a couple of cases. Oh well, just taking it one day at a time!

  6. Linda,
    What a stinker you were! :-) I am praising God you didn't burn that house down! lol! Oh, but I SO hear you on listening to that still small voice within us - the Holy Spirit! This recent mold issue in our home as only discovered because I kept hearing that voice telling me something wasn't right in this new home (new to us - not new build). I am so thankful that through the years God has walked me through many situations of listening and not listening. Now I am so much better at discerning that voice and heeding to it!!!
    Blessings, my friend!!

  7. I prayed for you while reading this. Your faith and clinging to Truth are inspiring. Thank you. :)