Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to Dump a Doc in 20 Years

Break-ups are hard. Even when you know they're coming, and it's your call to end the relationship, it can still feel like a sucker-punch to the gut.

I woke up yesterday to my annual fall sinus-splosion. I'm hoping to stave off a full-blown infection, but it got me thinking that there is an inevitable trip to the doctor in my future. I remembered the request my new general practitioner made of me when I saw her in the spring, so this morning, I did a chore I'd been avoiding for, like, two years.

Today I did the doctor-patient equivalent of handing back a cardboard box of my ex's CDs and sweatshirts. I requested my medical records be transferred, and that I no longer be considered a patient in my old general practitioner's office.

I didn't think I would be this emotional about it, because it's been over for about two years, but a serious, long-term relationship is ending. And that really, really sucks.

I'd been seeing my doctor for as long as I can remember, and basically as long as she'd had her own practice. She did all my school physicals, hooked me up with free samples of meds I needed so I wouldn't have to pay for prescriptions, and once had to flush my ear canals, which brought us to a new level of intimacy. I was often in the office once per month or more, and we joked that she would name one of the exam rooms after me. (Spoiler alert: This should have indicated a problem. Healthy people don't have medical files that read like War & Peace).

But I had seen the signs for a while. The loss of interest. The change in tone. Knowing that I had too much baggage. As her practice grew, it got harder and harder to get in to see her, and when I did make it past the Fort Knox front desk staff, she was more abrupt. At my last appointment with her, as I checked off concern after concern on  my laundry list of health complaints, she looked me in the eye and told me there was nothing physically wrong with me, and that I should consider counseling to work through my hypochondria issues. Yikes. I'm pretty sure that falls under the heading "What NOT to tell patients" in Bedside Manner 101.

I avoided her for a long time, just because I didn't want to hear more of the same garbage, to walk in, be handed a script for antibiotics and a dose of condescension. I started going to the walk-in clinics in Walgreens for allergy and sinus things, and promised myself I would find a new GP.

A few months go by. I still consider myself her patient, still write her name on all my "In Case of Emergency" forms. I danced around finding a new doctor for a while. I knew I wanted to find a closer practice, one affiliated with the hospital within eyesight of my house. I just never got around to it. Building a good doctor-patient relationship is hard, and it takes time, and I just didn't have it in me to hear that I was crazy from yet another medical professional.

In the winter of 2012, my (unknown to me) celiac was flaring so badly that my husband took the figurative bull by the horns and scheduled me an appointment with a new-to-the-area gastro, and presto changeo, I get the diagnosis that likely saved my life. In the almost two years since then, I've assembled a new team of doctors, including a new GP who understands my illness and respects me as a patient. That makes me feel sort of awesome.

What doesn't make me feel awesome is that I've been holding a grudge. I'm not saying I blame my old doc for my celiac, but I do, kind of. I know it's not personal, that she never had some ulterior motive of letting me slowly disintegrate from the inside out. And yet ... I feel like I deserve an apology, but it's one I will never get.

In a way, losing faith in a trusted doctor is like being a kid and catching your mom with her hand under your pillow, trading a baby molar for a crumpled single. It ruins the illusion, breaks the trust.

Today, I took a step toward closure. I feel more than a little stupid for letting it upset me, but then again, I cried for a week after I saw Titanic for the first time, so I guess I'm just a delicate little flower.

I know I'm better off. Just the same, I think I will spend the rest of the day eating ice cream straight out of the carton and listening to Bryan Adams.


  1. I feel better knowing I'm not the only person who's medical history reads like War and Peace! Glad to see you found a new doctor you like and will help you stay well!

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