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For those of us struggling with real health issues, an ongoing level of stress occurs not only from the condition itself, but from the emotional toll of going to see doctors. Yes, that's right, I said emotional. For how many of us fully trust our doctors, feel safe, comfortable, cared for and relaxed? Hardly any of us really do, if truth be told.
For more run-of-the-mill medical experiences, like getting a yearly mammogram or ob-gyn check up, a full physical or dental cleaning, anxiety can trump common sense leaving many of us dangerously un-checked for years and years. My grandmother was so afraid to see the doctor that she suffered mini-strokes and heart disease in silence until the end of her life when the medical professional examining her was so shocked and horrified he suspected domestic abuse, though that had not been her issue at all.
So what gives? The problem is that going to the doctor entails intense vulnerability, intimacy and exposure in ways we rarely even let our significant others experience with us. We are naked, our mouths open, our eyes closed, our legs open, our skin prodded and rubbed, needles stuck in, rears hanging out and still, still we must remain composed and though we feel at the mercy of the doctor, we are really the ones in control.
Remembering that the doctor is a paid professional you are consulting instead of the master of the instruments with all the power will take some of the anxiety out of the interaction. Of course having the time and energy, money and insurance to shop around for a doctor you love helps tremendously, but most of us do not have that luxury.
I liken my medical experiences to chores I hate but which must get done. I no longer fool myself into believing that an 8:30 appt. means anything other than 9:30 or that the doctor will remember my name, or that he'll be gentle, or that she'll really understand what I'm saying and answer my questions. Instead, I grit my teeth, make a list of things that are particularly "need to know" and bring it with me into the exam room to remember to discuss, bring a wonderful book or magazine to escape into, and bite the bullet.