Managing Your Experience of Medical Trauma Step 1

No pain is insignificant. Suffering is universal.

Many people are too quick to say that “no matter what you are going through, someone has it worse” or “there is always somebody with bigger problems”. This is emotionally dismissive and gives the message that your struggles are insignificant and that you are overreacting. If you start to feel unheard and rejected the only way to cope is to refuse to cry for help because you try not to burden others with your pain.

Many people might indeed experience worse trauma and post-traumatic reactions, but my concern is, how is the situation affecting you?

The first most difficult step is to acknowledge the pain and the second is to muster the strength to reach out for help. Finding more information about your experience helps you to use learning as an art to turn information into insight.

Here are a few practical steps to mitigate the impact of the overwhelming feelings of Medical Trauma when you have to visit a medical professional like a doctor, specialist, oncologist or physiotherapist.

Prepare to spend a lot of time in the waiting area:

  • Load your favourite music on your phone and take earphones.
  • Something to drink – water.
  • Something to soothe a dry throat.
  • A snack.
  • Tissues and wet wipes for unforeseen situations.
  • A few extra plasters.
  • Your favourite book.
  • Your notebook.

Prepare for your conversation with the doctor by making notes of the following:

  • Write down your questions.
  • Prepare a timeline of the pain that you experience.
  • Make a list of all the medications and supplements you are taking.
  • Make a list of your symptoms. Be specific.
  • Take a friend or family member with you to help you fill in the blanks. This visit will be an overwhelming experience and you will not be able to grasp all the information.
  • You can ask for more information and a second opinion.

During your visit:

  • Be kind and courteous. A medical professional is a human being who chooses a career to make a difference and help people.
  • Treat the people at reception nicely. Although your visit is about you and your health a smile goes a long way to lighten up everyone’s life.
  • Use your notes to guide your questions and feedback. This will assist you to remember and share vital information.
  • Be specific and honest.
  • Use your words to describe your unique health experience and don’t assume the doctor will “automatically know” what you are going through.
  • Listen and ask questions if something is unclear or concerning.
  • Ask your companion to take notes.
  • Feel free to discuss your long-term treatment plan, as well as the side effects of medication.

Although adverse medical conditions, like cancer and strokes, hurt the hearts of the people who help you fight from the sidelines, they care about you. You are in a situation like no one else and you are precious and special.

If you're feeling lost, remember that The Good Shepherd will leave a flock of sheep to seek out you, the lost lamb. You are precious in the eyes of God.

So, let us walk this path together, knowing that amidst life's challenges, there is always room to find hope and peace.


Dr Barbara Louw

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