Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Do Not Smile at Doctor Visits

After the photos I took Friday, I went to the doctor.  One thing I have learned from doctors is that they think that nearly every patient they have is at least part hypochondriac.  If you look nice at all or smile, they assume that any ailments you have are purely imaginary and obviously of no importance, otherwise why would you attempt any normal note of civility.

When I was growing up and any of us said we were feeling sick (I may have told you this many times before, but I feel it is important and bears repeating), my parents first had us get up out of bed; get fully clothed; do our hair; brush teeth; eat; and then only if we were to the point of tears or had a fever would we stay home. Enthusiasm and cheerfulness was key.  It kind of carried over in my life to almost every aspect in a put-on-a-smile-and-carry-on sort of way.

Jan Steen  "The Doctor's Visit"
I love that her son is with her and playing with toy arrows (only in my case it was a cell phone).  
But even my mother has pointed out that when going to the doctor all sense of trying to seem normal and cheerful should be left at the door so the doctor has an inkling that you actually feel the way you feel; or have been feeling--because, let's be honest, sometimes our adrenaline picks up a little and sometimes we feel fine during the doctors visits only to have the symptoms return soon after we leave the doctor's office.  They don't believe anyone, but themselves of course, can put on a show and act like they feel better than they do. Why would anyone try to do that?! Just so you know, I was being sarcastic in that last sentence.

Generally, it is good to go to the doctor wearing nice clothes; but do not under any circumstances; smile. I repeat do not smile. Doctors take negative symptoms and turf them off as long as possible, believing that if the patient really feels that way they'll come back four or five times before the doctor has to do anything (or actually look up the symptoms).  So the best thing to do: no make-up, hair slightly messy, but not grungy, and stop smiling.

You see, smiling in any human society means I am happy to see you.  Doctors cannot have that, unless of course you're there for your physical or you've just been told your cancer is gone--then by all means smile. Don't stop smiling if it is the latter.

For example, for the third or fourth time I have gone in to the doctor, explained my symptoms of pain and needing to lie down from about 3 p.m. until bedtime; like a baby induced bed rest; with a heating pad on my ribs and upper belly. I made the dire mistake of wearing make-up and accidentally smiling at other people having fun with you, T and the doctor saw it! Ugh.

After explaining my symptoms and answering some questions the doctor said, "It must be muscular, have you done any stretches?"  Then as I told them moments before and several times before that on different visits, "Yes, I do stretches right before bed and I go to Pilates and Yoga at least 2-3 times a week."  Once they said, "Ask your Yoga or Pilates instructor to give you some other stretches you can do." Been there, done that. I let them know.  "Go see a physical therapist or a chiropractor?"  Then this last time, "Oh, maybe you're over doing it--take a couple of days off and see what you think?"  And then the stinger, "You know, you should only have the heating pad on that part of your stomach for about 15-20 minutes on the lowest setting." What?!

Then comes the doozy medicine recommendation, "Try some Tylenol."  When you're pregnant there are few pain medications you can take and Tylenol is the one doctors always suggest--but it does NOTHING!  If I took it every time I had pain a bottle would be gone in a week, so I don't. Extended Tylenol use can cause internal damage. I like my internal organs, thank you very much.

That's when I feel discouraged and annoyed--I mean, the whole time I have been sitting in the office waiting with the top of my back touching the top of the chair trying to give baby girl and my ribs some extra space, and limit pain.  Is there nothing this professional doctor can do to help me feel better?!! No. Apparently, it will get worse the closer it comes to the time baby girl gets here. Thanks doc, for diddly squat.  Then I accidentally smile when I imagine the doctor having those symptoms and feeling how I feel. Yeesh.

Science, you have failed me.

Hopefully less than two months to go. I can do this!


  1. I am so sorry, Mel! I have been there, too, with each pregnancy getting progressively harder, and it is the worst, especially when the doctor thinks it's all just in your head. Hang in there. Can we bring you dinner sometime?

  2. Thanks Lindsay! I realized this sounded like a rant and a half, but I just wanted my kids to know. :) Right before my grandma was diagnosed with cancer years ago she went in explaining to the doctor all her symptoms. My grandma was known for always looking her very best, no matter the circumstances and I suspect it was because she looked so nice the doctor discounted her complaints and told her it was all in her head. The next doctor that saw her, did some tests and told her she had less than two years to live. So I am probably really paranoid. I feel like the doctor should be able to do something more than suggest things I have tried and maybe give me something so I can function. Gratefully, W and the kids are really helpful. I feel so blessed that I have them. :)