After an extensive rigmarole of medications in the last year, my wife and I sensed I needed a second opinion for my diagnosis. I’m so thankful.
It’s funny because we can get anyone to diagnose us what we want them to. Granted there are some things that are clearly either a particular diagnosis or not (broken bones, HIV, cancer, and the list goes on). But we can psychosomatically imagine a condition and we find ourselves in that spot. I remember a story from years ago of two POWs in Vietnam who were held in two separate pits in the ground that were used as a latrines. The Vietnamese would humiliate them by going to the bathroom on them and laugh. After a period of time, a helicopter rescue came to save them. One soldier jumped right out of the pit with just enough help needed to get out, but the other lay in fetal position and couldn’t move. The rescuers needed to actually go into the pit and carry him out. When they got into the helicopter, the team asked the healthy solider why they were so different in their demeanor. The fetal solider couldn’t even talk. The other said that while he was in there he took their excrement and threw it back at them. He refused to take their crap (sorry, had to). Our attitude towards adversity affects more than we realize.
Just like those POWs, we can either play dead or fight. I’ve done quite a bit of both in my life, but certainly a bit more of the former. Sometimes when given a diagnosis we can go into fetal position. And other times we fight what we have. Often times this includes looking outside of our circles of influence and knowledge to get a more clarifying understanding of our situations.
When I think of people in Scripture who were sick, I can’t help but think they sought medical advice before their miraculous healings (advice from doctor’s, prophets, wise sages). Among these include: Naaman, Peter’s mother-in-law, the Centurion’s son, the woman bleeding and many more. Naaman’s story of having leprosy was particularly interesting. Advice was given from Naaman’s wife’s servant (someone captured from another country). His wife then told him and eventually he sought help through his master, the king of Aram, who then asked the king of Israel. The Israeli king was royally upset that he would be asked to do something he knew he couldn’t. But along came Isaiah who would offer the solution from God. Now maybe these weren’t all second opinions as much as a unique go-about to a solution, but I think that’s exactly what a second opinion is: a confirmation or a hope. If given a terminal diagnosis, of course you would get second opinion in hopes that a doctor was somehow wrong. It just makes sense. Occasionally folks will get second opinions when they receive good news, but more often than not folks will listen to anyone for help to their terminal illness.
God orchestrated our situation in a unique way. Within the last two months I somewhat started from scratch with my counseling and psychiatric care. Reassessments were done by my current doctor and a brand new psychiatrist was brought into the fold; another godly man who taught my wife in her master’s program. The first assessment spun me around because the diagnosis I perceived as worse than I thought. It was concluded that I probably did have bipolar II, along with a type of anxiety disorder. I was desperately hoping and even convinced that I was just a bit depressed and not manic in any way.
Just days later I got somewhat better news, though my whirlwind of emotions made it difficult to find a ton of hope. At this point I was popping 6 different medications daily and found that a very depressing swallow. My new psychiatrist weaned me off of three meds and started me on another. We are in the process of potentially weaning off a fourth, bringing me down to just three meds a day. That in and of itself is a huge blessing and mental shift. I breathe a huge sigh of relief now that I actually am on so few meds comparitively. What is more, the psychiatrist was very skeptical of my bipolar diagnosis. This, too, affirmed my thinking.
So why? Why be diagnosed something as humiliating and troubling and endure such a turbulent time? And why not seek a second opinion sooner? Why not listen to more people, like Naaman did. The answer is very clear to our family and one in which I still am so thankful for. I’m bummed about my humiliation, but I get to move forward with my life, a life not planned out for me by my situation. I also am beginning to be healed, renewed and follow God in a direction I didn’t think I’d be able to. I trust this is going to take years, changing my thinking to when and if I might go into church ministry ever again. But I’ve learned there is always a way with God. Jesus is the way, certainly, not only to eternity but to hope now. And he weaves situations for His glory and our best – despite our sin, selfishness and whining. The technical word for the weaving and ultimate control that God has over all creation is: sovereignty. While a churchy-type word, I can’t think of any better word, and a word I’ve begun to praise God daily for.
So I’m praising God for getting me out, enabling to start anew and time to heal. As I begin to deal with much larger issues, I anticipate more pain and turbulence, but I am thankful for second opinions and the opportunities that new mercies present. It’s difficult because for as much as I’ve gained by getting out, there’s so much I’ve lost as well, particularly relationally. Bitterness, anger, disappointment, hurt and sadness swoosh around in my guts as I think of my last 12 years of service, but I am hopeful that God will bring healing to that. I’m not going back, but I’m willing to follow God’s lead. It will be tough, it will take work, but ultimately it will be for others’ best, my family’s best and God’s glory.
And I don’t need a second opinion about that.