The Vexation of Dr X
The other day I had to go to my doctors clinic to get some paperwork that I needed for an extension form for one of my university essays (I’m currently studying for my PGCE). Now, you’d think this would be a straight forward visit; I’ve been using the same doctors clinic for over ten years and the doctors there have always been really helpful and positive… until now. Enter Dr X, I will call her this for the purpose of this blog. Dr X is a woman in what looks like her late 40’s to 50’s with grey hair in a bob, a jumper borrowed from Velma Dinkley and spectacles which she has clearly stolen from Irma Langinstein, the best friend of April O’Neil from the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons.
Picture the scene, I walk into the doctors office and sit down on the chair. Dr X spins round from her computer, missing the bald cat I was expecting her to be stroking. She then moves her chair closer and closer to me, so close that I literally can’t move my legs without touching her and my back is already to the wall. Then, in the sickly sweetest tone she welcomes me to her office and asks me how she can help me today. Ok, I thought, clearly she has no awareness of personal space but she seems nice enough. I told her why I was there, to get a letter for Uni which had to be backdated to July as that was when my hypomania kicked in and it all started going a bit west. She looked at me and smiled and asked me if I’d asked for a sick-note back in July to which I replied no, as I am self-employed I envisaged myself handing a sick note… to myself. It was at this point that the mood changed. In my head dark clouds covered the ceiling, rain began to fall and thunder boomed loudly around me, reverberating in my ears. I explained to her why I never asked for a sick-note and how it was imperative that I had some evidence from my doctor of my bipolar and the fact that I had been in an episode. Using that very condescending sweet tone of voice where you can imagine her saying ‘awwwww so your bipolar then, how cute is that, must be so hard for you’, she refused my request point blank and told me the best she could do was print out my medical history and the record of my appointments at the clinic. I said ok because I didn’t really know what to do at this point and I was already frustrated with the way I was being spoken to. So she printed the documents and handed them to me but immediately I noticed that the paper wasn’t letter-headed and there were no signatures: in short, I could have made that up on a Word documents and nobody would have known the difference. I pointed this out to her and she told me that I should sign each piece of paper. Again I pointed out that I could have made it up at home and signed it to which she responded with a long, weary sigh as clearly I was becoming a pain at this point. She signed my documents after some not-so-subtle prompting from me the took a prolonged look at me and asked me why I wasn’t on mood stabilisers. I was a little taken aback by this question, obviously that had been discussed many moons ago and I had always said no to any excess of medication, I want to eventually be off the medication in between episodes.
What happened next both stunned and annoyed me beyond all reason. Instead of listening to a word I was saying she started reading off the computer screen telling me when I had seen the doctor, which funnily enough I already knew, since, well… I had been there! I had seen my usual doctor and my doctor and I had agreed that I would slowly decrease the dosage of my medication and see if I could get myself off them. By this point I had the distinct feeling that Dr X was sponsored by a pharmaceuticals company because not only was she telling me to increase my quetapine but was telling me over and over again to go onto mood stabilisers. I told her as politely as possible that I neither want nor need them and that I, my usual doctor and the psychiatric consultant were all happy with me slowly, over the year, decreasing the dosage.
To cut a long story short, this made me feel so patronised I was livid. Not only did she ignore the reason why I actually came to see her and then try and do the minimum necessary to shut me up, she then tried to tell me I wasn’t coping with life and I needed not just a higher dose of drugs but to add some more drugs into the mix. This woman, who had met me for the first time today and had seen a minimal, very brief medical history which only said that I was bipolar on her computer screen had decided that I wasn’t functioning or fit and well. I haven’t felt that judged in a long time and it took me a few hours afterwards to calm myself down from the anger and frustration.
The point of this blog was not just to recount a mildly dramatic story from the health centre but to point out that sometimes Dr’s are much to eager to push drugs on people. I didn’t need or want more medication but Dr X was so pushy and adamant that I should. I’m a very strong minded individual but I can easily see how somebody less bold than me could have been talked into taking more meds than they needed because after all, we’re supposed to trust the doctors right? They’re medical professionals!
I want to end this blog by saying, no matter who you are and who your doctor is, always think about what they tell you first. Keep in mind that they don’t see you every day, they don’t know how you cope with things, they don’t know how you function. All they know sometimes is what you tell them and what a book tells them is the right solution to a generic problem. Dr X didn’t even consider the key factors in whether I NEEDED those drugs, like… am I functioning, am I coping well, how do I feel, what’s happening in my life? I could have walked out of there with gods know how much Lithium and 300mg of quetapine (instead of just the 100mg quetiapine that I take now) for absolutely no reason which would have lead me to endure weeks of physical and mental hell from the change of meds (See my blog ‘The Chaos of Med Changes‘) and dosages but the bottom line here: I don’t NEED them! Medication is not candy and it’s not there to be like ‘oh, you had a bad day, take some mood stabilisers!’ Oh, and don’t forget the side effects of those drugs are massive and the negative impact they have after prolonged use on the physical body has been clearly documented. But that’s a story for another blog…