Monday, June 23, 2014

Body Language and Health Care #MHAMBC

Wow, day 23 already. Since I was unable to get online during my vacation and missed the past 5 days of the blogging challenge, I wanted to go back and follow one of the missed prompts. We were to watch this Ted Talks by Amy Cuddy about how our own body language impacts how we feel.

Beyond the obvious applications that Amy lays out for how doing some simple "power poses" can impact our hormones and help trick us into internalizing a feeling of power, I can't help but feel like this could help those of us dealing with chronic pain.

Over the past 8 years of living with chronic migraines and fibromyalgia, I've noticed a number of changes in how I carry myself physically. It seems a pretty natural reaction to pain, nausea and multiple sensitivities; not to mention the loss of my ability to hold a job and the subsequent career and social derailment. These days my posture sucks. In an effort minimize the impact of a world full of noises, smells, movements and lights that trigger and exasperate my symptoms I've made myself very small indeed. Basically, all of my non-verbals reflect how terrible I feel.

For me, the ideal application for this technique would seem to be in the doctor's office. Generally speaking, doctor offices are full of painful stimuli and you have to go when you are scheduled no matter how bad you are feeling. Once there, you have to fill out paperwork while sitting in a small waiting room chair surrounded by others - forcing you to kind of hunch over and keep those arms close all while trying to manage your purse and shield your eyes from the harsh lights. Seems like I always end up waiting with at least one person who has small out-of-control child(ren) who assault my ears with their din. Then a nurse will put you in a room, ask a bunch of questions, put you on exam table and take your vitals. You are left again to wait for the doctor for some unknown amount of time. When they finally show up you rarely get much of their attention. Many now carry a laptop that they spend 90% of their time looking at and furiously typing on. They ask questions but only listen to the first 2 or 3 words before you can see them check out. The entire process, intentional or not, serves to highlight the power differential of the doctor/patient relationship.

Unfortunately, the power these doctors hold to assist or hinder your access to proper medical care, prescriptions, testing, treatments, and the cost/coverage of said care is absolute. They have very real power over our lives. They know it and we know it. Over the years, I've seen how it impacts my ability to speak up when I disagree with the direction things are going, or to question his/her findings or treatment plan. I am often scared of being labeled as non-compliant, difficult, over-reactive, or that I won't be believed and taken seriously. You know the old - "it's all in your head." As the patient I have real value and could be a great partner in my own healthcare, if only the doctors could see it.

So the question is, can performing these power poses, while waiting in the exam room for the doctor to arrive, help us to fake that feeling of power enough to convince the doctors to take what we say more seriously? Can we overcome the dehumanizing effects of our healthcare system when we are in front of a single human doctor? Can this better our interactions with our doctors?

I'm going to give it a try.

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