Friday, July 24, 2009

that was it, that was the answer to everything

...perhaps it's premature, but I am practically giddy. I'm so delighted.

I got my head put on straight. Literally.

Approximately 9 years ago, I got extensive reconstructive surgery on my jaw (long story, let’s go for coffee and I’ll tell you the rest); about three years ago I was rear ended in a car accident, within the next year I side swiped someone (yes, my fault), and early this past January I hit black ice and my car slid calmly into a parked van (not my fault, but if you ask certain provincial insurance agencies, it was). In hindsight, I guess you’d have to say that my head has undergone a lot of trauma; and while I suspected this was affecting me, I was not - despite repeated futile efforts - able to confirm that this was in fact the case.

My experience with the medical profession has certainly had its ups: I’m alive, essentially, because they exist. My childhood had a few hospital stays and a surgery or two, and so I learned very young the value of the availability of medical treatment. But that’s basically where it stopped. For some reason, my entire adult life (and including my teenage years) has consisted of almost entirely negative experiences. Jaw Surgery aside (that guy was an angel and a remarkable doctor), I have begun to seriously question those who would call themselves “interested in helping you feel better” – this was rarely, if ever, the case.

Since I graduated high school (approx. 9 years ago), I have been visiting the doctor with some frequency – and seeing that I’ve moved a lot, I’ve been able to meet and evaluate at least 30 medical professionals from across our country. I never felt good, or healthy; so I kept going back. I had a list of “symptoms” longer than both my legs, and learned early on that the doctor didn’t want to hear my list. Bring up one issue, get a pat on the head and a prescription drug for that issue, take drugs, and come back in 4 weeks. Not only was I repeatedly brushed off as a hypochondriac, I was always rushed through the system. I began to feel as though the doctors I was seeing were more interested in getting people in and out the door than they were in listening to why I came in; and they were certainly more interested in prescribing drugs than they were in figuring out the root cause. I’ve even had doctors write false information on my medical files; although they waxed poetic that they believed me, they would write something entirely different on my permanent record. As you can imagine, my trust in the system was waning.

But I continued to persist. I began to do my own research – reading countless online medical journals, studying endless diseases and their symptoms – and to my surprise, the doctors actually listened to me. I began to walk in not with a list of symptoms, but a full knowledge of my current proposed-solution to why I felt the way I did. I had facts, evidence, and convincing arguments at my disposal. If I wanted a certain blood test, I knew which symptoms to describe most prominently, and if I wanted a certain type of medication, I knew exactly what to say. The problem with this approach, however, is that I was getting what I wanted because I was good at explaining why I should get it – I was not at all getting what I needed.

And so, for the past 4 or 5 months, I’ve put my doctor-compulsion to rest. I was and am quite exhausted with the topical fix, the head-patting-reassurance, and the quickly given pills. I want real answers. I want to know the cause.

I have heard repeatedly that the Naturopathic approach to medicine can be incredibly beneficial. And the only positive experience I’ve had since I turned 18 was, in fact, at a Naturopath’s office. I had the name of a recommended Dr from a trusted friend of mine, and about a month ago, made the call and the appointment, and went in to see him. I won’t get into everything we discussed, obviously (there was a list…obviously). But I did bring up what I brought up here at the beginning: my head. I’ve had TMJ since the second accident (for those who don’t know what TMJ is, it’s an incredibly annoying and oft’ painful clicking and locking of the jaw). I asked this Dr about it and he said that since he did not specialize in things of the Muscoskeletal nature, he’d refer me to someone who did.

I was referred to another Naturopath (one with a background in Chiropractics etc). I went and saw him yesterday.

I want to buy him a pony, or perhaps his own private island, or maybe he’d settle for a no-nonsense kiss on the lips. I said, maybe it’s premature.

If you’ve never been to an appointment with a Naturopath I’ll give you a general description of what it’s like. Your first appointment is usually an hour long. Yes, one full hour with a medical professional who is interested in figuring out the WHY’S behind how you feel. It is a feeling unparalleled. After he listened to my stories and asked his insightful questions, he did a few “tests” so he could figure out a bit more about how my body is working. It’s hard to explain the tests without actually demonstrating them for you so I won't (he would pull on my arm and I’d have to resist, etc). In any case, after he conducted his experiments, he determined that it was “just as he thought”. My head was off it’s center. So he fixed it for me (not to worry! No neck cracking or sudden movements; it was a very slow adjustment, he just pressed on the muscles right below my skull, and it was intensely relaxing).

I can not even tell you how drastic the change has been, and it started from the minute the adjustment was made! His theory is that when I got my jaw surgery the problem started, because they fixed my jaw but did not ensure that my jaw and my head were in line. As for the accident(s), he said that, typically, TMJ doesn’t start unless the head/jaw is actually hit. So the fact that a jerked movement cause my TMJ means that likely, I was already halfway there, and the problem was only aggravated by the accidents. So with my head being off kilter, the rest of my body would have been thrown off. My circulation would be effected, and would therefore affect the circulation to my brain. My digestion would be effected, my nervous system was effected, and so was the alignment of my other joints and muscles.

I feel like I have someone else’s neck on. It’s so soft. And not at all like impenetrable steel. Aaaah.
AND, I slept like a baby last night. An actual baby (right through the night of course!) I fell asleep when I went to bed, which hasn't happend in three years (usually I am awake for at least an hour or two...unless I go to bed when I am absolutley nausiatingly tired)…and I woke up rested (that hasn’t happened in 3 years either). I feel happier, and I actually feel clear headed (again, three years). I am so unbelievably stoked.

There’s obviously more that has to happen; I have a few more appointments with him coming up, but the fact that I can feel this good after only one appointment makes me want to sing the Halleluiah chorus on the busiest street in town.

Now if you’ll excuse me, me and my relaxed neck muscles have some feeling amazing to do!

*disclaimer: I am by no means trying to blanket-statement the entire medical profession. These experiences have been just that: my own experiences. I do not discredit the many hardworking and stellar individuals in the medical profession – the only thing I’m questioning are some of their methods.


Lindsey said...

How much does it cost to visit these Naturopath doctors? Does the good 'ol Canadian health care system pay for this?
I have pretty bad TMJ. I don't have to tell you how bad it sucks... because you know.

ashleyalvina said...

It's usually around $100/appointment (check in your area) - and luckily yes, I have medical coverage through my work that pays for it! Regardless, I'm in the "it's worth it" camp...if you can afford it...simply because I'm so fed up with have prescription slips thrown in my direction! It's nice to have someone who is willing to find the root cause of something.

For TMJ you want to find a Naturopath or a Doctor who understands the muscoskeletal side of things (ie: someone with a background as a chiropracter/etc). Chiropracters themselves make me nervous (again, had some bad experiences) but again if you find a good one who knows what they're doing (who is willing to learn about your body before touching it), it'll be worth it. Ask around your community to see if there's one that comes highly recommended, and DON'T SETTLE until you find one that you're comfortable with.

You could also talk to your dentist; apparently there's devices that are supposed to help with TMJ (although i never looked into them for some reason).

All I've read about TMJ is that it's incurable. Maybe I'm speaking too soon, but it seems as though a large part of my problem is already on its way to being resolved (if not drastically reduced)! I'll keep you posted k?

...hope that helps?? And ya, it is HORRIBLE. So painful and annoying and intensely disruptive...let me know what you find out!

Anonymous said...

Hi! This is Christina Myers (Glenda's daughter)... I followed your blog link through the comment you posted on mine just now (thanks for the insightful comment and observation! It's always reassuring to hear that someone 'got' what I was trying to say!). I was reading through your posts on here and got very excited at this post about visiting the naturopath. I've been considering seeing one for ages, but never have ... any chance you'd share the recommendation of who you saw? It's tough to find someone just google searching! If you're comfortable giving a recommendation, you can send it to my personal e-mail