“Doctors urge me to take my meds. When I don’t, they become agitated. I take their meds to calm them down.” – Brian Spellman
Up until the age of twenty-four I didn’t have a good opinion of my doctor, or any member of the NHS for that matter. I didn’t like talking to them about what was going on inside my head. What the f**k could they do anyway? With their cutting glares and blunt questions. I didn’t want to take the pills that they so easily dished out.
How could they be so matter of fact about things when I was so clearly distressed?
It was only when I had a breakdown in 2013 that I finally understood the reason for their attitude. It’s a doctor’s job to fix a problem, not dish out hugs and tea.
Think about it, on average a doctor has ten minutes per patient to diagnose and suggest a solution. It doesn’t matter if you have anxiety, cancer or a serious case of the shits. Ten minutes max. When you look at it that way, it makes more sense to keep sympathy to a minimum and focus on a treatment. Not ideal I know, but it’s the truth.
When push comes to shove I’d rather have a doctor who can fix the problem, rather than offer sympathy.
For me the solution was medication. Despite an initial bumpy 72 hours, the SSRI meds that I was prescribed worked well for me and I’m still very grateful for that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not cured, but it allows me to function with greater ease.
The NHS has failed me in many ways, but I’m still thankful for what I’ve received and I don’t blame the doctors. Free health care is a gift that I’ll never take for granted.
This is not to let medical staff off the hook when it comes to adequate care. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and this doesn’t always happen. For instance, the ‘Practitioner Nurse’ at my local GP is a miserable cow. I wish I could word it more eloquently, but it’s the truth. She’s moody, abrupt and patronising. (Doesn’t go well with my sarcastic, dark comedy personality).
An example of a recent conversation, concerning my repeat prescription.
Nurse: Have you thought about killing yourself?
Me: Not recently…. but it’s always an option I suppose.
Come on… That’s comedy gold! I think that she meant to say “have you had any recent suicidal thoughts?” You know, the generic and non offensive terminology to use.
But she went off script….. so I did too!
Top tips for dealing with a doctor’s appointment
- Make notes – I do this EVERY time, because it helps me to be concise. My anxiety is like a shape shifter, and new symptoms crop up every year. So I write bullet points, both physical and emotional, and I rank them in order.
I tend to walk straight in there, hand them the list and say. “I don’t feel great at the moment. I’ve made a list of symptoms because I worry that my anxiety will prevent me from being clear.”
- Take distractions – I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been in a nice waiting room. Bad lighting, the smell of hand sanitizer and walls filled with threatening posters about illnesses you could catch. “Do you want to die of Vitamin D deficiency? Then do something NOW!” (I may have made that one up).
Plus appointments are rarely on time. So be thoroughly prepared. Take a bag of goodies to keep yourself occupied. I’m serious, treat it like a trip of some sort. Magazines, puzzles, phone apps, music. You deserve a reward for doing something that makes you uncomfortable. In many ways the waiting room is the worst bit, the time when anxiety is most likely to kick in. So pre-empt it with distractions.
- Ask for support – It’s ok to take someone with you if you’re struggling. Even if it’s not a family member. If you can’t physically take someone with you then there are other ways to get support. For example, before appointments I sometimes ring the Anxiety UK helpline to discuss how I’m feeling. It’s just nice to tell someone who gets it. Feel free to tweet me anytime @ClaireyLove – I’m on hand if you need a boost.
- Go in there with the right attitude – Respect YES… sympathy not essential. Think of yourself like a broken car and the doctor is a mechanic. As long as they listen and discuss treatment options with respect then you’re in good hands.
- Take charge – If you’re really not happy with your doctor then maybe think about trying somewhere else. There’s no shame in it. You deserve to be treated fairly and in most cases it’s easy enough to try another surgery.