Health scares and medical crises are intimidating. Sometimes we get a great doctor and a miraculous breakthrough in our prognosis. But sometimes things are very dark and the prognosis is grim.
Add to that the imposing authority figure of a medical professional who tells you there’s no chance, there’s no hope for full recovery, or that you’ll always need to take this medication, and you can feel not only overwhelmed, but sickened with intimidation. Who are you to question this medical expert?
The rules for Intimidation to invade and take hold are as follows: you stay quiet, you back down, and don’t you dare speak up.
Or you could break the rules, break the pattern that Intimidation thrives on.
I once had the audacity to do this.
Our son had struggled with asthma for years, needing frequent scary trips to the emergency room when he was having trouble breathing, even with the inhalers and all the medicine he was on. He then endured painful allergy shots for several years, and bravely handled the treatment because he was hoping he’d become tolerant of dog dander and finally be able to have a pet. He started to stabilize at around age 12, and we grew hopeful that now at last he could have a dog. At a follow up appointment with his allergy specialist, we brought up this question.
Dr. F absolutely refused to even discuss it.
“But you had previously said that perhaps with allergy shots, over the course of several years, that he might grow immune to some of these things. Couldn’t we re-test him and see if he would now be able to tolerate dog dander so he can get a dog?” I asked.
Dr. F was not happy with me. I was questioning and asking him to re-evaluate this situation. He wasn’t used to being questioned , and he let me have it. Alex sat on the examining table, watching me carefully petition his doctor.
Dr. F turned to me and said very sternly, “Mrs. Caldwell, he cannot have a dog. I don’t think you get it–this is a serious matter. Children die from asthma!!”
Oh, I got it alright. I was furious at him for scaring my child with those words and using those intimidating words to couch his refusal for re-examining our son. We left the office that day and I told my son not to worry about what the doctor said, that he was getting stronger and healthier every day, and that I would find a way to get him tested again. I wanted my son to know its okay to question, its ok to investigate, and to look for answers.
At the root of intimidating circumstances and encounters with people we feel intimidated by, there is that element of fear. Fear that we’ll cross that line that they’ve put down for us. Afraid that they’re right and we are really wrong. That we have no right to insert our thoughts or opinion. If we cooperate with Intimidation, we’ll lose not only our voice, but our right to speak up or speak out.
But if we decide that we are tired of becoming smaller, quieter, and powerless, then it’s time for healthy anger…and action.
Often people who are overwhelmed and intimidated have unknowingly given away their right to be angry. Whether you’ve over spiritualized this (as in, nice Christians don’t get angry) or you’ve suppressed your range of emotions and just settled in the land of panic or fear, it’s important that you realize anger is not only an important, healthy emotion and correct response to situations where abuse or injustice is occurring, but it’s also a signpost.
It points up– as in: look up, square your shoulders, take a deep cleansing breath of self worth and dignity, and speak. Speak up. Speak out.
But beyond anger, there’s something more that’s needed. You know the saying, “Don’t get mad, get even!”
Well I say, don’t just get mad– get free.
And that’s what I did. I freed us from this intimidating, egotistical doctor. I searched for a better one. This is how I found him.
Several times when Alex had had an asthma attack late at night and we’d be on the verge of taking him to an emergency room, I would call the allergy specialist on call and once in a while I’d get Dr. K.
Dr. K would always first say, “Well Mrs. Caldwell, what do you see? What does he sound like? You’re the mother. You know him better than me.” He would consult me and dialogue with me about Alex’s condition, and he’d incorporate my mother’s instinct into the equation and make his determination based on my instinct and knowledge of my son and his medical expertise.
In other words, he respected me. He didn’t look down on me from his grandiose sense of all-knowing medical power. He listened to me. I was heard for my insight and contribution to the picture. This was a Dr. I could respect, because he also respected me.
So we switched to Dr. K. He didn’t see any problem with my request to have Alex re-evaluated with a skin test to see if he was still allergic to dogs. He wasn’t very optimistic but he was willing to consider it as a possibility. So we had the test done.
When the results came back, we sat in his office waiting. Alex was quietly hopeful. Dr K walked in. He had the test results in his hands.
“Mrs. Caldwell, this hardly ever happens. I’m not sure if it’s the allergy shots over the years or what. But your son is no longer allergic to dogs.” He smiled at us. “Alex, you can go out and get a dog.”
So we did. For almost 14 years this sweet flop of a dog, Harry, was a reminder to us that we can’t just wish and hope things would be different. We can’t continue to take timid steps backward everytime someone powerful in demeanor rises before us.
We can’t let Intimidation snuff out our dreams and silence our voices.
So speak up, today. For yourself. For someone you love.
And set yourself free.