I don’t really like dealing with doctors. I have never really liked dealing with doctors and have never felt comfortable putting my body and my health in the hands of another human being. I am not saying I don’t have trust and control issues and I can completely admit to having minor to moderate hypochondria tendencies. But I still believe the points I intend to bring up in this post are completely valid regardless of any neurosis I may be responsible for.
I have always had white coat hypertension for as far back as I can remember. This condition eventually got to the point where I would have to warn the doctor ahead of time and tell him or her that I get very nervous around doctors, so my blood pressure will most likely be sky high. I often asked the doctor to wait to take my BP until the end of the exam after I had relaxed a bit. Inevitably—perhaps this is where my mistrust of doctors began—the doctor would basically ignore me, take my blood pressure within seconds of—or sometimes in the midst of—my shaky proclamation, and literally freak out about how high my reading was, giving me a speech about high blood pressure, and generally expressing extreme alarm in reaction to my reading. This of course made me the opposite of more calm. It also made me feel very unheard, made me wonder if I really did need to worry about my heart health and blood pressure, and made me feel even less trusting of doctors. The message I received over time from repeated experiences by various doctors was that I have absolutely no personal power in a doctor’s office and that my emotions and even articulate thoughts and feelings about my health and my own body, the body I deal with every day, will never be heard or considered. How terrifying.
Just a note that once the exam was over, usually the doctor would take another reading and of course notice that my BP had decreased drastically and basically returned to normal. Despite this fact, at one point in my early teens, doctors were so concerned about my BP readings that they ordered an ultra-sound on my heart, only to find that nothing was wrong. I appreciate that they checked to make sure I was healthy, but it was quite frightening at the time. I have since learned to find ways to calm myself in a doctor’s waiting room so I do not even have to proclaim anything to anyone ahead of time, at least with regards to my blood pressure. Reiki has been very useful for this.
So as not to draw attention to myself, I can usually sit in a doctor’s waiting room with my hands resting naturally on my abdomen, and perform Reiki on myself to help combat the nerves. The last few times I have done this, my typical elevated BP reading of about 134/87 has decreased to around 110/60. White coat syndrome begone! Image obtained from here.
Contemplate for a moment the amount of trust that is needed for a human being to receive care from a doctor, who is undisputedly, a fellow human being. Of course, I acknowledge that one of the human beings in this scenario has gone to medical school and the other human being has most likely not. I do understand that doctors don’t know nothing—medically speaking—and I am grateful that we have experts in this world who know more than I do about medicine. But doctors also don’t know everything—medically speaking. I personally feel like on a scale of medical knowledge between knowing everything and knowing nothing, doctors in general fall somewhere in the 40% range (if 100% is knowing everything—like what God might know about medicine, and 0% is knowing nothing—like what a six-month old baby might know about medicine). That is just how I feel, but of course, I could be wrong. However, I do believe that a huge part of healing, health, and the art of caring for the human body, has less to do with intellectual knowledge, and at least just as much, if not more, to do with the art of human relations, instincts and intuition, and other holistic considerations. I do think that doctors are seriously lacking in this area, and whenever I come across a doctor who chooses to apply his or her medical knowledge in cooperation with basic human compassion, patience, and understanding, I have noticed that my anxiety is virtually non-existent.
Feel free to read about one of my first-hand experiences with contrasting forms of care from two different podiatrists in “REIKI, PART III: FINAL ROOT HEALING.” One of these doctors I refer to as “The Butcher,” and the other, “The Miracle Worker.” Both doctors were around the same age with the same education (they actually went to school together). The Miracle Worker made me feel cared for, honored, and actually took care of my ailment within seconds, after having suffered at the hands of The Butcher for weeks. The Butcher, antithetically, disregarded and invalidated the amount of pain I was experiencing, blamed me for part of the problem, and was never able to relieve me of the severity of my condition.
I have recently switched gynecologists because of this lack of compassion-understanding-patience component, and had a really positive experience during my most recent visit. I had been noticing that my former gynecologist just did not quite seem remotely capable of truly hearing me. She was kind and fairly patient, but on many occasions, I would tell her what was going on with my body, and she would say something to me that seemed completely contradictory to what I had just said, to the point where I would actually repeat myself to make sure she had initially heard me correctly. I felt as if she had made up her own mind about my health, regardless of what I was sharing with her about my body. I might say something like, “My body feels fine when A, but not when B,” and she might respond with a list of things to help deal with A—even though I had just told her that A is fine and B is my actual concern. When I repeated myself about B, she dismissed that concern and moved onto another topic completely. Quite confusing and bizarre was this experience. This sounds like a subtle thing, but it became frustrating in terms of care and made me feel less comfortable trusting her with things like prescriptions and diagnoses. And since I am so sensitive in general, my anxiety would be greater just knowing that this particular person often does not truly hear me when I am expressing myself. I also noticed that during my last visit with her, the exam she performed on me was quite painful and I expressed this to her clearly during the examination. She ignored my assertion and literally talked over me as she quickly finished the exam and declared I was fine. Her behavior made me feel like she just did not want to deal with me. Again, another seemingly minor detail, but this treatment indicated to me that she was unsympathetic to my discomfort level, and again, not as concerned as I felt she should have been with something that actually might be a cause for concern.
When I finally switched doctors, I was so relieved to find that this new practitioner was so gentle, truly listened to what I was saying about my body, and responded thoughtfully. My visit with her took just as much time as my other visits and it was never as if I was demanding a ton of either doctors’ time. But the time that this doctor did share with me was utterly more respectful and thoughtful. I also noted that during my visit with her, my anxiety was nil. It was if I could instantly sense that she was going to give me the care and respect that I needed, even if she did not have all of the medical answers—she did of course, but even if she did not, I still would have returned to her. I felt that if she could not find the answers to my questions, she would do her best until I felt satisfied and comfortable. Quality of experience is so important to me when it comes to doctors and that is why I dumped Dr. Lousy-Care for Dr. Fantabulous.
Image obtained from here
My most recent visit to an eye doctor ultimately prompted me to write this post and I will end with this final anecdote.
I have always had exceptional vision, but have also always secretly wished that my eyesight was terrible, because I want to be a hot person wearing glasses. So, every few years, I check back with an eye doctor to see if I need a prescription in the hopes that I can finally live out my hot-secretary-in-glasses fantasy.
I had never met with this eye doctor before and when he asked what brought me into the office, I shared with him that my eyesight seemed to be failing me when reading things up close (which is true, not false). He then gave me a card to read and put some lenses in front of me. The blurred words became instantly clear and I was excited at the prospect of picking out sexy frames and walking away from this visit in full faux-intellectual hot mama form. However, he pointed out that I might just need to not hold things so closely when I am reading them, because when he pulled the card away several inches, the words became clear. [In this moment I felt a bit foolish and confused, but oh well.] He then stated that he would not advise that I start using lenses if I don’t need them, because from there, my eyesight will never go back to being the same. He recommended that we discuss options once he completes the eye exam. So far, so good. Up until this point, I felt that this doctor was behaving in a caring and compassionate manner, looking out for my long-term well-being and being frank and relaxed with me about my eye health.
After performing each mini eye assessment, he would say things like, “Very good.” And “Excellent.” At one point I even saw (with my own fabulous eyeballs) him type into his computer “20/20.” He completed the exam and essentially concluded that I have perfect vision.
I started to get a bit suspicious however, when he took a slightly obnoxious detour to point out that I have an anatomical ocular deformity, something about a narrow opening, and said that this would eventually lead to stabbing pains and can only be corrected with laser surgery. He said it could be one year, or it could be ten years, but it will happen. Horrified, I asked if I could live the rest of my entire life without this ever becoming an issue—since he assured me it is not an issue right now—and he abruptly interjected, “No, absolutely not, it’s going to happen.”
He also made some mention during my perfect exam of how he has no sympathy for me because he has had glasses plastered to his face since he was nine years old.
Nice. Compassionate. Trustworthy. This guy hates me!
At this point, something in my gut kind of turned, my trust in this doctor began to dwindle and spiral, and by the end of my visit, I was convinced of his awfulness.
After he had resentfully declared to me the results of my perfect vision test, he said something about picking out frames and writing up a prescription. I then stated that I can’t really waste money on frames, especially if I don’t need them right now, if my vision is essentially perfect. To which he replied in an inappropriately joking, yet persuasive tone, “Sure you can!”
So…he’s a sadist AND a crook.
Image obtained from here
During this visit and as we were wrapping up, I could not help but wonder if others in my position were allowing themselves to be subtly bullied by this fellow, just as I was allowing him to subtly bully me—I am certain that like me, many people would be just as caught off guard, managing the shock, and incapable of doing much more than just surviving the visit and getting the Duck out of Dodge (I’m not in the mood to swear right now and I think my pun is beyond clever, no?). As far as I am concerned, I will never return to that establishment again. [He also warned me that I need to come back every year and that we really need to stay on top of this.] Clearly, his focus was far from compassionate. Instead, his medical goals veered towards robbing me and playing into my hypochondria, via means of effectively terrifying me about potential ailments of what’s to inevitably destroy my eyesight and cause considerable amounts of pain—pain requiring surgery and only surgery in order to survive this tragic optical incorrection of mine. Perhaps I do have an eyeball deformity of some kind, but at this point, I’m leaning towards forgetting his frightening threats and obtaining a second opinion if necessary.
[Do people even get second opinions any more? I feel like second opinions are so old school passé, but I would like to bring this vintage trend back. Who’s with me? Can I get an Amen?]
It often frightens me how much power we give to doctors, and I do not even want to contemplate at length the amount of power many of them assign to themselves. They know more than most of us about medicine—fact. I literally have no idea about anything that doctors know, and this unfortunately does give them an insane amount of power. This eye doctor could have lied and told me that I have terrible vision and need glasses in order to troubleshoot the onset of ophthalmic disease. I honestly would not have known the difference between truth and fiction. How could I? How could any of us? There’s that trust factor again. The amount of trust that we are required to give these people/strangers we depend on really scares me. Especially since they are humans just like us. They have issues and baggage just like us. They could be assholes or saints just like us. We just don’t know and we just have to trust. But my gut has always been my best guide, and regardless of how much more this guy knows about eyeballs, I also know he’s a fucking asshole who doesn’t care about me. Therefore, he’s lost my trust and my business; because the other unfortunate fact is that he is in business. He gets paid a lot of money every time a patient visits him. And he gets paid a lot of money every time someone purchases frames from him.
I often wonder if after a visit to a doctor’s office, patients feel perhaps violated or just sort of funky and mildly disrespected, just as I did (and still sometimes do). After a lousy visit with a crummy doctor, I remember I used to think that something was wrong with me. Doctors used to be so untouchable in my mind. Of course I was the one with the problem, and of course it could not possibly be them! And I wonder if others like me often think, “Well, this is my doctor, and all doctors are the same. They all went to medical school and they are in the business of healing, so it must just be me. I will just deal with my silly feelings and get over it. This is my problem, not theirs.” After many difficult encounters with doctors, I have finally learned that these dismissive statements I used to tell myself are simply not true. Since I have started to empower myself to navigate through the health system in a holistic way, using one-part logic, one-part gut feelings, and just a dash of hope, I have found that truly caring individuals do exist in the medical world, despite all the louses. There are lovely human beings who go to work every day, just like all of us, and who are passionate about healing others and interested in utilizing their brilliant knowledge to truly save human beings. They really are out there. Trust me, I have done the legwork. I have just had to learn to sift through a few losers to get to the gold.