Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Doctor, doctor

The other day I was at the doctor for a routine checkup, and the nurse took my blood pressure first, as usual. As she tested it I sat there thinking about how I knew that it would be fine, and how relaxed I felt. Unlike a year ago, when I went to the doctor for a routine checkup and my blood pressure was unusually elevated, I didn't feel nervous or worried that the doctor was going to discover something really wrong with me. Of course, the follow-up visit was when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which was a very good thing to learn.

But it amazes me that it has only been a year since that happened. In that 2008, I got diagnosed with hypothyroidism, I found an endocrinologist and began getting regular blood tests, I started taking daily medication to manage the condition, I was diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism, I had surgery for the first time in my life, I went to the cardiologist, and I found a GP that I liked. I must have been to the doctor 20 times this year, whereas in previous years I went no more than twice, and sometimes not at all.

The amazing thing is all of these visits really did have the effect of de-sensitizing me to doctors. A year ago when I sat in that chair as my blood pressure reading came back high, my heart was pounding, and not because I was worried about the pressure itself. It was because doctors were foreign and scary to me, even if I knew I was healthy. Doctors just plain made me nervous, and when you're suddenly showing a high blood pressure reading, the pounding pulse doesn't really help ease the doctor's mind. But I always did feel that. My heart would be in my throat, my chest would feel tight, and I just wanted it to be over.

Part of it, I think, was nerves over being diagnosed with some sort of horrible condition. And part of it was probably that I was afraid of being told that I was fat and unhealthy--but even after starting Weight Watchers and totally changing my lifestyle, even after having that to bolster myself in case a doctor started lecturing me--even then, I was still so nervous. I think it was just the unknown, and the lack of communication, and the sense that the doctor's office was like a whole other world.

And now I'm part of that world, but at the same time I am still basically healthy, managing my lifestyle, making good choices, dealing with my condition, and not at all debilitated. I understand doctor-speak a bit more, although I still get a bit thrown when one of them whips out his tape recorder to dictate something in shorthand right in front of me. I know how to get the most out of my visits to the doctor, I'm not afraid to ask questions, and I really feel like the management of my health is a joint endeavor between my doctors and me.

Part of that, of course, is that I am lucky to have great health insurance and to have found excellent doctors who take the time to talk with me and make sure I understand what's going on with my own health, who answer my questions and genuinely seek my input into decisions about my health. But part of it is just the normalizing of something that used to seem unusual to me. I'm used to the doctor's office, I'm used to checking in and filling out forms and I always know what my copay will be. I have my Kindle, which is great for waiting rooms, and by now I'm so used to having blood drawn that I can even look at the needle as it goes in without wincing.

I thought about all this as my blood pressure was being taken the other day, and so I wasn't surprised to hear that it was normal, not just because I'm not under nearly as much stress this year as I was at this time last year, but also because I have my blood pressure tested all the time, and I've been tested for a million things, and I'm aware of my own health status. It feels like I've always felt like that. I can't even believe that only a year ago, doctors still scared me. Things have changed so much since then. I feel so much more in control.

13 comments:

  1. I'm glad that you feel more in control - it's amazing what your state of mind can do to a situation. Having your health in check is so important, and being able to really talk with your doctor without getting nervy? That's a fantastic achievement. I just hope the year of 20+ appointments is done!

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  2. I still freak out every time I get my blood pressure checked because I am in some lame contest with myself to have the world's best bp.

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  3. I'm happy for you that you feel comfortable with your doctors--that's a feat in itself! Also, I'm glad you pointed out the benefits of good health insurance. I think it's impossible to feel good about your health management when your deductible only gets met if something catastrophic happens. My two questions for employers during my job search are: "Do you have dental?" and "What's the co-pay?" :-P

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  4. Here's why you're my inspiration. Not because you're healthy. Or unhealthy. Or anything. But, because when you're faced with a problem, you look for a solution. You let nothing stand in your way. Not even preconceived fears. I love that about you.

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  5. Good for you - I am working to make the same sort of changes in my life, and you've been a huge inspiration to me.

    Glad to hear that all is well!

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  6. going to the doctor is bad for my perfectionist mentality, because I feel "less than" if anything is off. Glad to hear things are different than a year ago. I need to start making appointments before my health insurance runs out. I'm going to miss my PPO. :(

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  7. Does it make me weird that I've always really liked having my blood pressure checked?

    It's good that you've gotten used to the doctor's office. Doctors are your friends (unless they are douche knockers but that's a whole other story)! I went all the time as a kid so doctor's offices do not phase me as an adult. The DENTIST, on the other hand...no likey.

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  8. That is a great place to be when it comes to healthcare. I hope that everything continues to go smoothly for you!

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  9. Just a congrats on your great blood pressure results. You've been through a lot! So glad to see that it appears to be benefiting you.

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  10. Once I had a child I was used to being poked and prodded and I got so desinsitized (sp) that doctors rarely phase me anymore. But I remember the days of being scared and not able to participate in my own care.

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  11. Like you, I learned about way too many health conditions in the last year and have seen more doctors in one year than I have in my entire life (which is long...) I used to get all upset about the sitting and waiting and my bp would be high, now I wouldn't exactly call it control, maybe I've just accepted the mundaneness of all of it? Did I just make that word up?

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