Being Your Own Health Advocate

By Gillian Melia Rader

The other day I was listening to a friend’s story about her struggle through the medical system.  A healthy, vibrant, and active 29 year-old woman living in Southern California with no history of health issues suddenly found herself fighting to feel better daily. After being told over and over by her doctor that nothing was wrong, she became frustrated knowing something wasn’t right and not getting any support.  She eventually lost feeling in the upper half of her body.  She went to her doctor yet again and was soon after diagnosed with lymphoma…

Of course this wasn’t the first story I’ve heard like this but it resonated with me deeply. I am the same age she was when she was diagnosed. I too am healthy, vibrant, and active – how could such a thing happen? Our conversation focused not on her illness and recovery, but on the lack of support and care that she received during the months leading up to her diagnosis.  It begs the question, whose responsibility is it when it comes to your health?

As an herbalist and health coach, it seems to me as though there are two main camps when it comes to overall wellbeing. There are the doers and then there are those who have things done to them. The doers ask themselves the simplest and most important questions of all: How do I feel? Why do I feel this way? What can I do?  The doers are revolutionary because they do not feel they need big pharma in order to live a healthy life. They believe that there are solutions much closer to home – even as close as their kitchen or backyard.

Your health is your responsibility. That doesn’t mean if you fall ill you’ve done something wrong; it means it’s time to examine how we address self-healing.  Many of us have become so detached from our bodies and the messages it sends us that it’s difficult to know ourselves and easier to be told what to do by a doctor.  Slowing down and tuning into your feelings is the first step to being able to understand what’s going on. When you are able to listen to your body, you are able to give it what it needs to heal and stay healthy.

 Become an advocate for your own health:

1.  Ask yourself how you are feeling. Where do you feel pain?  Where do you feel great? Are you feeling happy, tired, irritated, or energized? Recognizing and understanding how you feel is crucial to being in tune with your body.

2.  Pay attention to how you feel before and after eating. Could a certain food or drink be upsetting your system? There are simple signs the body gives us like noisy stomachs, bloating, bad digestion, or lethargy after meals.

3.  Consider alternatives before going straight to medication.  At the first sign of discomfort do you try to mask it by popping a pill? Over-the-counter medication works on treating symptoms but often ignores the root cause.  Ask yourself why you might feel the way you do and try something else, like drinking water or tea, or even just closing your eyes and taking a break for a few minutes. Your body is speaking to you, and if you force it to be quiet you are ignoring the deeper message.

4.  Take care of your body by staying active. Nourish your mind with positive thoughts and honor your spirit by choosing to focus on living the life that you love.

Remember that your health is your responsibility.  You have the power to make choices that can be either helpful or detrimental to your wellbeing.  You don’t have to be perfect, but you can spend some time developing and trusting your instinct when it comes to your own body.  If you pay attention to its inner wisdom, more often than not you will find yourself choosing health.

Gillian Melia Rader is a certified Health Coach and a founding member of Forgotten Language Herbs.  As a teacher, mentor, and urban herbalist, she is dedicated to guiding people into the lives they have always envisioned for themselves.