We teach children to tell the truth. We take an oath to tell the truth when we get on the witness stand. When we watch Superman, we hear “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”. We’re caught up in the premise of truth and yet when we go to the doctor, we often hold back telling the truth.
Let me be clear, omission of facts (data) is not living your truth. Minimization dilutes truth! Trying to be or act the way our provider expects us to be/do diminishes our truth.
This is what I’ve learned after being a patient advocate for over twenty years. If you don’t tell the truth, the raw, nitty gritty details, your healthcare provider is working with insufficient data. If you don’t give your provider all the information, it’s like leaving ingredients out of a recipe…what a disaster.
Truth is a two-way street. If you aren’t honest with yourself, how can you be honest with your provider? If you’re having a flare, don’t just believe it’s a passing thing and doesn’t need attention. If you’re in pain, don’t dumb down the number on the 1-10 scale so the provider thinks you’re brave and can handle the pain with minimal intervention. The opioid crisis is predicated on a lack of truth, making providers hesitant to prescribe narcotics for pain.
Truth is a funny thing because many believe it works on a sliding scale. I want you to ponder the idea of truth on a sliding scale when it comes to your health and well-being. I’ll give you an example.
One of the times I went to therapy, I was seeing a Jungian analyst. He was a highly competent psychologist and I liked him a lot. I trusted him. After eighteen months of seeing him I walked into my session and initiated termination because I felt “healed”. He was persistent in asking me if I truly believed what I was saying. I’m stubborn! I left therapy, telling myself I was healed. Nine months later I was driving and pulled into a gas station to use a pay phone (I’m dating myself) and called him. He answered, the first words out of my mouth were, “I need an appointment, I’m crazy” (not in the clinical sense, in my personal experience of how my life was going.)
I learned a lot about truth telling from that experience. I learned that telling the truth didn’t diminish my worthiness or my life in my therapist’s opinion. By telling my truth, I healed more quickly. Best outcome was I felt lighter walking in my own shoes.
I encourage the patients I advocate for to be honest with their providers. There’s a caveat here, sometimes patients feel they are telling the truth because they don’t remember/recall the complaints they’ve had between appointments. It’s interesting that we believe an episode or experience isn’t important to tell the provider. Every aspect of your health experience is important to the provider.
What’s the first truth you’ll tell?