Today I had my annual eye exam, the least intrusive of all check-ups. (Yes, I rank them). But even this once benign routine has turned high-tech and threatening.
What used to be a quick look to see if I need stronger contacts now involves a strange, whirring machine inspecting deep inside my retina. What used to be easy now has me biting my lip and sweating as I watch my physician carefully scan each dot and spot on the x-ray.
You’d think my doctor phobia would have lessened over the years, but its worse.
Forget about waiting for mammogram results, blood work, or bone density tests. Forget about the most intrusive grand poobahs of them all, the gynecological exam or God forbid, the colonoscopy. Forget having my blood pressure taken or pulse measured, or EKG’s.
It doesn’t matter. I’m a wreck.
I’ve asked myself a million times, what am I really afraid of? Of being sick? Of hospitals? Of being put in the medical system, a slave to appointments and procedures and tests? Am I afraid of getting older? Of death?
The answer is yes, to all. And it’s because of this high anxiety I put off visits.
I cancel appointments. When I finally succumb, I obsess for days, sometimes weeks. I finally go, but I’m reluctant and skittish.
I divide the visit into parts, which calms me a little. There’s the drive over, the waiting room, the call from the nurse to enter, sitting in the examining room (the most anxious, heart-pounding part), the knock on the door, the doctor entering, the questions, and the exam. There’s the possibility of more tests, more exams. Something will go wrong.
I’ll never escape the system. I get so nervous nurses have told me to take deep breaths. My doctor says I have the worst case of white coat syndrome he’s ever seen.
The strange thing is I’ve enjoyed decent health all my life (knock on wood) with only a few bumps here and there. I have friends who’ve gone through life-threatening illness with more pluck and courage than I’ll ever muster. And for the most part, I like doctors. They’re kind and sympathetic.
Over the decades they’ve morphed from wise, older physicians to my peers and more and more to bright young people. I think of them as the bookish, smart kids who liked organic chemistry.
And yet…I don’t like how they know more about me than I do. I don’t like how they’re the gatekeepers to my body, the interpreters to what’s going on deep inside. I don’t like how they know what my organs need better than I do. If knowledge is power, they hold all the cards. And even though well meaning, this makes me feel weak, out of control, and even childlike.
The logical part of me knows the medical knowledge I’ve gathered has helped and no doubt, made me healthier. Still, it’s the not knowing, the what-could-happen that haunts me.
Although I’ll never be one of these fearful people who go years without getting examined, I wish I was one of those lucky souls who take life (and medical exams) as it comes. I wish I could be brave and fatalistic.
Instead I’m stuck doing my best and dividing each doctor visit into parts.
Does going to the doctor give you the vapors? Comments are always welcome.
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