You were nervous to even make the appointment to begin with. You've been having some itching and discomforts "down there" for a few weeks.
You've also noticed that it may have started about the time your partner started being a little too rough with you sexually and verbally. You think there may be a connection but you don't know and you are scared as hell to bring it up. You've been realizing more and more that this relationship isn't right for you. You really need to talk about it but you don't know how. Somehow you hope that your doctor will ask a few more questions.
Then, just as you are working up the courage to tell the doctor what is really going on, you look over and see a poster, giving you some suggestions on how to 'make your appointment go well'. This is killing me, you think. I can't do this....
What does the poster say?
Someone dear to me recently went to her doctor and saw a poster that read '10 tips on how to make your doctor visit go well'. (I'm trying to devise a plan to sneak into this patient exam room so I can snap a picture of it for myself). Some of the suggestions were very helpful: for example, bring your medications with you, bring your health history if you are a new patient, etc.
However, there were two tips that stood out the most to her. They said something akin to, "remember, your doctor is not your therapist, if you need therapy, please find a mental health counselor" and "please keep your description of symptoms to exactly the complaint we are treating today".
I'll be the first to admit, there is something wrong with our health care system. And I understand that now more than ever, health care providers are expected to examine, diagnose and treat a patient within 10 minutes. I understand the spirit of the message. Err, Kind of.
That being said, that model of medicine: the quick and dirty, no nonsense, robotic health "care" is no care at all. It is, quite frankly, damage control, at best.
Where does that leave you when your vagina hurts and you think you are being abused? Where does this leave a patient who has a sore throat for the 5th time in 6 months and is really hoping the doctor will ask her what's really going on, how she's really doing? Are we just the sum of our parts? If I have a broken foot, am I expected to act like my foot is the representation of me? What about my broken heart?
Many doctors and other health care providers, who witness some of our most vulnerable times: illness, loss, and disease, fail to create partnerships and extend empathy to those they care for. There is no "health care" in that.
The body works best when it is thriving in health, not treating disease. More and more data is available that illustrates the irrefutable connection between mind, body and spirit. One must be nurturing all parts for optimal health. This connection means that sometimes a physical symptom is a manifestation of something much bigger.
Your vaginal infection? Yes your doctor can throw some treatment your way and send you out the door but it doesn't help you. Because it's not about your vagina. It's about the rejection of your sensual, sexual self because that part of you is being violated. The patient with the sore throat? Perhaps she's afraid to use her voice or speak her mind. The bruises on her leg? She hates herself and wants someone to notice. The weight gain? He's stressed because he hates his job. No cholesterol drug will heal that. The chronic constipation? She's afraid to let go of something big in her life.
There are many incredible doctors and other health care providers who understand this. They create meaningful, working partnerships with their patients for optimal health. The best part is is that these doctors realize that it is not their job to "heal" the patient: it is their job to walk alongside the patient as they heal themselves.
I know things have to change to create a better environment for our health care to take place in so that these kinds of interactions are more encouraged instead of the "how many patients can you see in 9 hours and how much money can you make the clinic?" Our whole entire system needs adjusted.
However, I'd like to advocate for doctors and other health care providers to let it start with them. Not every patient needs this intense attention every time. But if you take the time to establish working partnerships with your patients and check in with them often, they will learn to know they can trust you. They will start to share more often.
Sometimes a heart attack is a heart attack. Sometimes it's a big, fat, broken heart. And we need a little help.
Doctor, Please don't tell us not to mention it. We are begging you to ask us.