Doctor’s Orders

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If you’re in treatment, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve come into contact with a number of health professionals. With both physical and psychological problems, I’ve been to over a bajillion doctors, pharmacists, nurses, NPs, PAs, specialists, etc, and that’s a conservative number. Some of them have been incredible, amazing people who quite literally have saved my life. I’ve had my therapist since age eight, and I’ve had my psychiatrist for over six years. They are both amazing people, and I can’t imagine how I got along without them. I also have a couple favorite pharmacists, three stomach specialists, an endocrinologist, an OB/GYN, a PCP, and have been to a cardiologist and ENT.

And then there are others that I hope go through the same trauma they put me through. I’ve had an NP try to prescribe me a drug I’m allergic to, someone who never responded to a crisis situation when I had to be hospitalized (my mom had to wait outside his office to even talk to him), an over zealous NP who had me on every medication under the sun, among so many other “professionals” who made my life harder during a time where I was at my worst.

Ok, so what was the point of that story? It can be very difficult to navigate a world of doctors, acronyms, pain, appointments, waiting, medications, and frustration. This becomes even worse when you’re already sick. I have a few things that help me when it comes to the world of healthcare.

1. I take notes on the backs of their business cards. These can be little notes like “friendly,” “kind,” “efficient,” or “cold.” This works especially well with people who I don’t encounter all the time, like pharmacists or people in a practice. This helps me remember which professionals I like and why.

2. I don’t waste time on doctors I don’t like. I’ve spent so much time trying to work with doctors who weren’t willing to work with me. Now, I try to find people who take the time to explain my conditions and treatments. I also look for doctors who aren’t too “gung-ho” about strange tests and treatments.

3. I set aside a lot of “padding” time around appointments. This has saved my ass on a number of occasions. For example, at the last two doctor’s appointments I’ve had, the doctor has been over an hour late. That’s just how it goes. There’s no point in being angry or frustrated about it. However, if I’ve scheduled appointments back-to-back, I’m going to be stressing about being late, and I’ll rush through my appointment. I know that when meeting the doctor, I have to be fully present to take part in my treatment. I need to have the time to ask the right questions and remember the answers. It’s not always easy to find this amount of time, and I’ve had to make sacrifices at work to make sure I have this padding. However, I’ve found that the reduction of time-related stress has been invaluable in the treatment process.

4. Allow yourself to debrief and, if necessary, grieve. There’s a lot of information to take in at appointments. Sometimes you get good news, sometimes you get bad news, and sometimes you’re left with more questions than answers. Whatever the case, I find debriefing very helpful. Sometimes I text my family/friends after my appointment. Sometimes I don’t want to talk to anyone and instead get a coffee by myself. Sometimes I go to back to work. Sometimes I spend an hour wondering how I can have a “pseudo” syndrome.

Sometimes, treatment can be as much of a process as having the illness itself. However, with enough practice, discretion, and luck, it eventually becomes an inconvenient habit.

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