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When Fighting for Your Life Means Going Against Your Pacifist Beliefs

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Everyone has beliefs, religious or not, that make us who we are. I am a Quaker and hold pacifist beliefs. These views are important to me and they don’t usually interfere with my everyday decisions. Due to my chronic illness, I’ve recently had to go against my pacifist beliefs and fight for my life because I was not receiving appropriate medical care.

When you have a chronic illness, you are reliant on doctors to manage and treat your symptoms so that you can live a normal life. I have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a form of dysautonomia that affects many bodily systems. I was dismissed by many doctors for my illness being too complex. I was also told by doctors that they couldn’t help me. I was bedridden for a long time and I believed my doctors when they said that there was nothing that they could do for me. I was offered no treatment and my condition deteriorated to the point where I couldn’t read or speak coherently. I couldn’t even use the phone to make appointments. My quality of life had been allowed to drain away to nothing.

After almost two years of living with my debilitating symptoms, I got my diagnosis of POTS. I researched my illness thoroughly and found that there were things that my doctors could have been doing to help me. When the first and only treatment that I was offered was found to be unsuitable for me; I knew that I would have to fight to get my quality of life back. I was unsure if I wanted to go down that route because I did not want to go against my pacifist beliefs. The incident that swung it for me was when I was rushed to hospital with life-threatening complications from an unsuitable medication. It was only then that I truly understood the severity of my illness an how little my doctors understood about it.

I went to my doctor’s appointments armed with research papers and notes. I felt like I was going into battle. To me, it felt wrong and I was sick to my stomach, but I reminded myself that I had to fight for my life because no one else was going to do it for me. I deserved to have a life again; there was no need for me to waste my life lying in bed all day. I wrote numerous letters of complaint to the doctors who were in charge of my care. I demanded more regular appointments to monitor my ever-changing symptoms. When no alternative treatments were offered, I wrote a letter outlining the many treatment options that are available for those with POTS.

In the end, I managed to get myself a treatment program that worked, but I felt like I’d sacrificed a piece of myself to get there. If my doctors had recognized the severity of my illness from the start, then maybe I wouldn’t have had to fight against them for an appropriate treatment.

My pacifist views may seem controversial to some. But, no one should have to fight for a better quality of life or relief from debilitating symptoms. Fighting and speaking up for yourself is challenging for anyone. Telling someone who has over 10 years of experience that they are not doing enough to help you is also a challenge. However, it is necessary if you want to have a life again. I hope by fighting for a better treatment for myself today, somebody else will have an easier route to a diagnosis and treatment.

Getty Image by OGri

Originally published: July 6, 2018
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