Have you ever had that feeling when you just KNOW something isn’t right? That distinct feeling deep in your gut telling you that you should be trusting your instincts? Rewind to the middle of summer. Hubby was in the shower and I noticed a red mark (I regularly perve on hubby in the shower. Jokes, I was having a wee as we only have one bathroom).
Anywho, he said he’d noticed it too but it wasn’t hot, itchy or doing anything. Over the next week, it got bigger. He filled in an e-consult form and after sending in pictures, was advised by the GP to use a steroid based cream. It actually worked for about a week and the redness was fading. And then it wasn’t. In fact, it had doubled in size. It was baffling us. Mainly because it was just a big red mark.
Over the next 6 weeks it grew to a massive 12 inches across his back. Like a port stain. He had various Push Dr appointments, he spoke to many pharmacists, he tried all the recommended lotions and potions. Eventually the GP agreed to see him. Away he came with yet another potion. Frustratingly, it didn’t work. Finally he was referred to a dermatologist but I realised the waiting list would be lllloooonnnnng and at this point I’d had enough. I KNEW something wasn’t right.
I called the GP and insisted, while we were waiting for the dermatologist, that blood tests needed to be done. Thankfully, he agreed. Less than a week later, we had a text message at 8pm on a Monday night informing us there was an urgent prescription waiting for us at the local chemist which must be taken immediately. The blood test was positive for Borrelia Burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The rash alone should have triggered the prescription for antibiotics and blood tests aren’t reliable when it comes to this disease.
You can only imagine my f*cked off-ness. I pretty much sprinted to the chemist in an exasperated panicked and stressed-out fashion. Meanwhile I started researching Lyme disease. The worrying thing is, it’s such a complicated disease and is regularly misdiagnosed.
I was talking to Nutritional Therapist, Karen Preece Smith, about the impact of Lyme disease as she works with many clients with long term illnesses. Karen sent me some resources to help me research the treatment plans in case the initial dose of antibiotics didn’t work. The scary thing was, the rash disappeared BEFORE hubby started the antibiotics so by the time we’d have gotten to the dermatologist, there wouldn’t have been any reason to test for Lyme and it would have gone undetected for years. At which point, the effects could have been devastating.
I KNEW when to push back at my GP and I’m comfortable doing so. I know how important it is trusting your instincts. But what if you’re not? Who better to talk to than my favourite NHS GP, Dr Sarah Yelland, who is passionate about evidence based lifestyle medicine and informing and empowering others to live their healthiest lives.
‘How do I feel about patients coming back for a second opinion?- honestly I’m good with that, in fact I am more than happy, because it probably means there’s something that hasn’t been addressed, hasn’t been disclosed or has been overlooked. After all the few minutes you get with your doctor is pretty limited and the possibilities are enormous. So, of course, there will always be times when taking a second look could lead to a more accurate diagnosis, a better treatment or improved outcome. It’s not just the patient who wants this, but doctors too, because really that is the heart of medicine- we want to help, heal, serve and do our very best along the way.
We are generally perfectionists don’t you know!
Absolutely- there will be times when more tests or medicines are simply not helpful or more importantly can be harmful, and times when patient expectations are not within the realms of reality…. But if you have left a consulting room without a reason or explanation that you understand or accept then ask again (nicely) and don’t be afraid to share your why.
Understanding needs to work both ways. Health is a partnership- and health improvement needs both parties to do their bit.
This is why one of the skills doctors are increasingly taught is to identify the patients ideas, concerns and expectations:
What YOU think is going on- because believe it or not most of us are fairly intuitive when it comes to our own bodies.
What you are especially worried it could be, and even though you may be thinking it’s highly unlikely (because it probably is highly unlikely), its that niggling worry that just won’t let you settle.
What you think the doctor should be doing- whether it’s tests or referrals or medicines. I know you may not feel confident to share these thoughts, many feel they can’t because I’m not the Doctor’ or feel silly for suggesting something they saw on Casualty. However, we are influenced by what we see or read or hear. And how do you know the doctor didn’t consider it, maybe it’s a totally bonkers idea but what if it was brilliant one that the Doc just hadn’t thought of yet.
When it comes to medicine YOUR story is the most vital- diagnosis is 80% history, 15% examination and only 5% testing- or something like that.
So it’s less about being a good or bad doctor, or a good or bad patient- mostly its about getting your doctor on the same page as you, or you on the same page as your doctor- because that is usually where the best medicine happens.’
Trust in your gut
Ray Sadoun is a mental health and addiction recovery specialist for OK Rehab. I asked for his thoughts on instincts and here’s what he had to say:
Why you should trust your instincts
‘As much as it’s important to logically work through our issues, sometimes we get a powerful intuition about something and we should not ignore it. For example, you may get an instinct to call a friend you haven’t seen in a while, only to discover upon calling that they are in a very bad way. Sometimes, I get this instinct with my clients; recently, I felt as though one of my clients wasn’t opening up to me properly, and after some respectful probing, they revealed that they were battling a huge issue they hadn’t yet brought up in therapy. It’s important to trust these instincts as it is often our subconscious warning us about something.’
The importance of practising caution when trusting your instinct
‘As much as I advocate for trusting your instincts, it’s always important to practise caution as your intuition can be wrong. This is particularly true for people with anxiety, as their fear of a certain situation can deceive them into thinking the situation should be avoided. For example, one of my clients with social anxiety often reports a sort of premonition before every social event; she feels as though she shouldn’t attend as something bad is going to happen. However, this is her anxiety playing tricks on her as her fight and flight mode is often in overdrive and wants to protect her from the perceived danger. This is an example of why we should carefully consider our intuition and not make any hasty decisions based on it.’
Knowing how to push back and ask difficult questions
‘If you trust your intuition and you believe you need to act on it, communicate it with people around you. This can be particularly difficult in the workplace as you may fear judgement, but I would always recommend being open and honest in this situation. You don’t have to make any exaggerated comments, but simply saying something like ‘I don’t have a great feeling about this’ will help people to understand that you aren’t comfortable.’
So how can you communicate confidently and graciously in situations when you feel uncomfortable pushing back, either personally or professionally?
Janie Van Hool is a communication expert and author of The Listening Shift: Transform your organisation by listening to your people and helping your people listen to you (Practical Inspiration, 2021). She was happy to offer these very helpful tips:
‘Firstly, take space… breathe out, count to 5, look them straight in the eye and acknowledge or appreciate their view, or perspective. Use phrases like ‘I can see the sense in your point of view…’.
State your case
‘On this occasion, I’m going to have to disagree and here’s why…’. Share your reason for disputing their position.
Finish with a question that starts with ‘Would you be willing… (e.g., ‘to consider this as a route forward?’) This inquiry offers choice – and because most people want to be seen as agreeable, they’ll most likely agree!’
Finally I reached out to very awesome Joanna Howes. She is an award-winning performance and leadership coach who we’ve worked with before on our article about imposter syndrome. Here she’s offered her brilliant insight for this piece,
‘In my work I’ve definitely agreed to things when I knew my gut said no and I ended up kicking myself. The reason I said yes was that I felt uncomfortable challenging and didn’t want the other person to think I didn’t trust them.’
Be true to yourself
‘I have also interviewed many leaders who say you need to learn to trust your instincts and then also be okay if it doesn’t work out but at least you followed your path. It’s about being true to yourself. There is a balance between checking in with your analytical mind and not just relying on feelings alone, it’s about accessing all parts to drive great decision making.’
Have you ever been in a situation where you KNEW something wasn’t right? Tell us about it by commenting below or reaching out to us over at Instagram.