I haven’t been to the doctor at all since I’ve moved here.
I’ve been avoiding doctors like the plague. I was always like that, though. I never really liked doctors. I felt like I needed to protect myself from them, and my way of protecting myself was to avoid them any way that I could.
It probably wouldn’t be that bad if I was a person in generally good health. But I’m not. I have asthma, arthritis, anemia, and malnutrition – all conditions that should be monitored regularly by a doctor. I know I need to see a doctor. I made a few half-hearted attempts to find one nearby, but the places I called were not accepting new patients, so I quickly gave up the search.
Then I received a notice from my college that my account was blocked due to missing health records. I’m not sure if I had mentioned it before, but I have no medical records, no immunization records, nothing. My mother switched doctors so much that my medical records were never complete, and I eventually lost track of them altogether. The only required vaccination to get into graduate school was the MMR, so I found a Walgreens clinic last month and paid for the vaccine with my credit card.
I didn’t realize, however, that a second MMR vaccine was required. I got so frustrated and angry because I know I had to have had these vaccinations as an infant, but because of my mother’s foolery, it is impossible for me to prove it. I looked into paying for a titer test, which would cover all vaccinations, but that cost way more than getting a second vaccine would. If I would just find a doctor, this would all be no problem. I have insurance that covers everything. But doctors. No doctors, please.
Perhaps it was because doctors and medical issues had been on my mind more than usual, I don’t know…but last week, I had a memory that eventually put things into perspective for me.
I was very sick. I had been sick for awhile, but my mother didn’t like doctors very much so I only went when required. By the time I got in to see the doctor, I was sick enough that he wanted me to be hospitalized. My mother talked with the doctor, right outside the exam room, insisting that she could take care of me at home. After enough back and forth, my mother somehow convinced the doctor to not hospitalize me. I was stabilized with breathing treatments and sent home with a bunch of supplies and medications.
And just as my mother had often done, she saw opportunity in my illness. I was a perfect target now, sick enough that I could not fight back. She abused me. Under the guise of a concerned, caring mother, she took advantage of me. And she got away with it, because she continued to do it every time I was sick, throughout my adolescence and adulthood.
At first, I didn’t really think much of this memory. I didn’t think it had a purpose. But I thought about it for a couple of days, and then I realized something. In some twisted way, I associated doctors directly with the abuse my mother inflicted on me. Doctors were not there to care for my health; doctors helped my mother hurt me. As an adult, intellectually, I know that those doctors had no idea what my mother was doing. They didn’t help her perpetrate; she did that all on her own. And as I’ve mentioned before, my mother had the amazing ability to sway people on to her side. Those doctors didn’t know what hit them.
As a child, I wouldn’t have known any better. I didn’t know the extent of my mother’s powers over people at that time. I just knew that the doctor sent me home with my mother so she could hurt me. So I associated all doctors in the same way: as my mother’s helpers.
My feelings towards doctors became less muddled as I thought more about this. This whole time, I have been unconsciously blaming doctors for my mother’s abuse. I can’t do that now. My mother has no access to my doctors anymore. I can go to a doctor without fear that I will be hurt. This was a huge realization for me.
Acting on this new insight, I gathered some more phone numbers from my insurance website and made a few calls. I found a doctor who was accepting new patients, and scheduled an appointment for the end of the month.
I told my therapist in the beginning of our session Monday about the big news. My medical issues and my hesitance to go to the doctor have been an ongoing discussion over the last several weeks, and I had regularly shot down her subtle insistence that I see a doctor. She smiled as soon as I told her I finally made an appointment. I could see that she was genuinely happy for me taking this step. I gave her my usual weird look and told her that this wasn’t that serious.
I could tell that she was holding back excitement. “I really want to celebrate, but I don’t want you to be all uncomfortable and tell me I’m weird,” she said. I told her to just let it all out. So she did. She did some version of a sitting dance in her chair and threw her arms up in celebration. All I could do was laugh.
My therapist then asked what prompted the sudden change. So I told her about the memory, and my subsequent insight and connecting of the dots. She agreed that it made sense, and was not surprised at all that I would have formed that association in the first place.
We started talking about the possible complications of seeing a new doctor. She had e-mailed me a packet of information for trauma survivors on how to handle medical situations a few weeks earlier. During today’s session, my therapist asked if it would be better if I called the doctor ahead of time to explain my trauma history and some of the things I may need. I gave her a look, and she already knew my answer. Using the phone gives me horrible anxiety, and needing to engage in a regular conversation, especially about those topics, is still not doable for me.
Then my therapist suggested a second option. She offered to call the doctor for me, to vet her and her experience with trauma patients, and find out if the doctor would be a good fit for me. If she was, then my therapist would talk to her about some of my issues -my diagnoses (physical and psychological), my triggers, things I would not want to talk about, etc. I was all on board for this. My therapist and I came up with a list of what I wanted to be included in the discussion – she would not talk about anything that I didn’t want to be disclosed.
I agreed to have the PTSD diagnosis disclosed, but not the DID; I don’t feel like most medical doctors have enough of a grasp on DID to handle that information adequately. My therapist asked if I wanted her to address my issues with eating. Since I am overweight, doctors automatically assume I need to diet and associate all of my health issues with weight. The reality is that I have lost a significant amount of weight in the last two years and I struggle with an eating disorder that often causes me to not eat enough. I know that my eating habits will need to be addressed because I have chronic malnutrition, but it would be helpful if my doctor knew my specific issues ahead of time so she doesn’t end up triggering me into starvation.
We talked about what procedures I wouldn’t be comfortable with, and what the doctor could do in case I am triggered during the appointment. It was a lot to discuss, and I ended up getting a headache halfway through our session today just thinking about it. I still have a few weeks to prepare. My therapist is going to call the doctor in the next few days, and I guess we’ll go from there. Until then, I’ll just try to deal with my anxiety about it as best I can.