For any intention to live healthy, the need for planning and protocols will come about. Under the context of a diagnosis, the need becomes even greater. Although I have no intention of this becoming a blog about living with an autoimmune and chronic condition, there will be times that I will reference it as part of my personal health story. Three months from now, I will surpass two years since receiving a formal diagnosis for autoimmune conditions. In that time, I have taken careful consideration to observe a few key reminders, particularly in the adherence to a personal health action plan.
Life can be messy. If everything were perfect and likely, we wouldn’t have concepts such as serendipity, fate, or dumb luck to help motivate us through life. Take your diagnosis as an opportunity. For me, this has entailed additional learning, meeting new people, and some re-centering of my values both as an individual and a health professional.
Be open to support from unlikely sources. When I was diagnosed, I was between jobs, living on a very frugal budget, and without great health insurance. I was using medical services minimally and those that I did use wouldn’t have been my first choices under different circumstances. However, throughout my experiences, I have been greeted with help from those who I never would have assumed would be good sources. Despite restraints and, in some cases, dead ends, I have found that most people working across health disciplines wish to help and are willing to extend a few extra minutes of their time to find the right resources. Limitations may exist and are not reason to become frustrated. Practice patience and remember that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.
Build yourself a team. It is not realistic to expect one person to know it all, nor is it practical to assume that one health or medical professional will be able to meet all your needs, especially when formulating a lifestyle centered plan to approach a current diagnosis. Take all aspects of health and wellness into consideration including, but not limited to nutrition, mental and emotional health, and financial advice.
Crosscheck sources. Negative information can be alarming, while fragmented resources are often confusing. It can also be easy to get up in arms about the latest claims (those of which may or may not have reliable, supportive evidence). Initially, I was pretty unclear by what people were telling me or why so. My research side went to sources such as PubMed to find the literature that better explained what I was being told. Sometimes this clarified while other times it led me down inconclusive paths. In many cases, I needed a verbal explanation. Eventually, after assessing information across literature with that from personal and public professional resources, I began to connect the dots. Never the less, the process remains ongoing.
Be your own advocate. Although we have many trained professionals out there, they may not all be accessible to us. Many conditions or family of related ones have advocacy groups that can help provide referential information or link you to lists of targeted providers. In addition, we have to prepare ourselves to ask questions. While doing so, respect other people’s time and be prepared for the possibility that they may not have the clearest answer right away. Bottom line, be proactive and, by all means, do not play the victim.
Consider alternative resources. Modern technology has allowed health information to be delivered through new methods, such as videos, virtual meeting platforms, and online forums. In addition, many practitioners, especially those of specialty focus, are willing to meet with people in group settings, include blogs on their websites, and will even help patients look into alternative payment options, such as those that can be covered through Health Savings Account funds.
Don’t be afraid to let go. Living healthy isn’t always the easy choice. It may entail giving up things you once loved and, in some cases, a few some ones. Throughout this process, I cannot reiterate enough how important adequate social support is. It is normal for people to have some misunderstandings about what you are going through and why you are making changes. Being realistic is imperative, however, those who come with critical or unsupportive approaches, may be better off let go. They may have served a critical role in your life and past, but if they are detrimental now, it’s best to take your distance and stick to those who will support your health journey.
Strive for realistic goals, not perfection. A successful health plan is considerate of behavior change, the environment in which we live, and the resources we have available to us. It is important to set realistic goals. When adapting a new protocol, it is both imperative and mindful to figure out where there can be flexibility if and when the strictest adherence is necessary. This will vary from one person to the next, especially considering conditions of the chronic nature. Learn from others, but set your own goals and respective protocol.