How many times have you gone to the doctor’s office and felt, I don’t know, ignored?
For me, it’s every single time. Whether I have a cold, chronic headaches, an upset stomach or even need to check up on my cystic ovaries, I always feel like the doctors I visit don’t have any time for me. This isn’t just an American phenomenon – I’m writing about what happens in South Africa, too.
Take, for example, my six-month check up at the gynecologist. During these visits, I check on my ovaries to see if the cysts on them have become smaller or bigger. I also check up on other thinks like my blood sugar and blood pressure to make sure that it’s not too high. I have a history of diabetes in my family, with my father being diagnosed at the beginning of this year. So knowing how my insulin resistance is going is key to getting healthier.
Sometimes the cysts are smaller, which is great. My doctor kindly lets me know and I cheer inside. I know that whatever I am doing must be working. I know that I am healthy.
Then there are times when my cysts are bigger, and sometimes there are more than before. Those times are emotionally difficult, and more often than not I have to fight back tears.
But no matter what the situation is with my cysts, the doctor’s reaction and words are always the same.
I’ve been told to keep up with The Pill even though I’ve desperately told them time and time again that it worsens my depression and suicidal ideation.
I’ve been told that I need to eat ‘healthy’ but without a single guide as to how.
I’ve been told that I need to exercise regularly but without knowing what kind of exercise, for how long, or even tips on how to work it into my busy schedule.
And I get it, I know people will say that it’s not the doctor’s job to coach me in my mental health, diet, and exercise. And honestly, that makes me wonder what doctors are even for. This happens to so many people with PCOS and other incurable illnesses.
In fact, it happens to anyone no matter, what their situation is.
So what happens is that we pay for exorbitant doctors’ fees, then go home to good ol’ WedMD. I’ve honestly learned more there than I’ve ever learned spending R900 (around $70) for a 10-minute appointment with 5 words exchanged between me and my gynecologist.
I want to be able to feel confident that they will have the answers to my problems and be able to spend an adequate amount of time consulting with me on them, but apparently, that’s just too much to ask for.
Another instance was when I went to visit a dermatologist for my hormonal acne and acne scars. After one minute seated in his chair, he moved me to a microscopic camera and confirmed what I already knew: my acne was around my chin and jaw.
Silly old me tried to tell him how my anxiety was particularly bad because a stranger had literally broken into my apartment yelling about killing the previous tenant.
And oh yeah, my PCOS makes acne a recurring nightmare in my life.
His response? “Don’t be stressed and lose weight.”
And with that he drained my wallet of R1000 and sent me home.
What would have been beneficial is if he took the time to ask me about my stress and how it manifests in my life. If he learnt that I went through a traumatic event, maybe suggest a psychologist that could help me deal with that. Offer up resources that I can use to help myself to heal.
He could have also deepened his thinking about my PCOS and discussed with me how my weight has been affected by it.
When were you diagnosed with PCOS? How has your weight changed since then? Do you struggle to lose weight? What exercise program are you on? What kind of food do you consider clean? Do you have time to cook or do you rely on bought-meals to get you through your day?
The list can go on forever.
So, to all the doctors out there, reading this and seething at my words: stop and think.
How can you claim to be a healer when you can’t even look your patients in the eye long enough to register their pain? How can you claim to be a healer when you haven’t asked after the fundamentals of wellbeing?
Or, you know, you could charge me R10 instead.
A rand for every minute I waste in your condescending presence.