I had a doctor. I can’t remember her name anymore. But I won’t ever forget her.
Every time I have to see a new doctor, I think about her. Every time that I have to make an appointment with the current doctor, I think about her. Sometimes I don’t pick up the phone to make that appointment because I am thinking about her.
My hesitancy to go to the doctor may seem like it doesn’t make sense. I am very sick. When we pulled my insurance records last summer, I had averaged two doctors appointments a week for two years. That’s not normal.
However, I feel like the number would have been even higher if I wasn’t haunted by that appointment. If I didn’t cry in fear before I made appointments with new doctors, maybe I would have picked up the phone more. Or I wouldn’t call my parents crying that I just didn’t want to see another doctor. That maybe the symptoms would go away on their own. It seems irrational most of the time. Every doctor is not that doctor. But in my mind, every doctor is that doctor.
I’ve never not gotten medical care in acute circumstances, but if I can help it, I don’t go. I shouldn’t be scared. But there’s that doctor that I can’t forget it.
I was 23 years old. I was living in a big city all by myself. I had a whole bunch of weird symptoms that fell all over the map. Headaches, light sensitivity, bone pain, loss of range of motion in my neck, pain all over my body, and finally extreme fatigue. At 23 years old, I had a demanding job. It was when I started training for my first 5K that I knew something wasn’t right. Over the next few months, my symptoms only got worse. Since I had so many symptoms, I called my primary care physician, who ran some blood tests.
It was 8 AM, and I was on my way into the office when my cellphone rang. My primary care doctor was calling to break the news that I had lupus. I wasn’t sure what lupus was, but I knew it was bad. I turned the car around and drove to the doctors office to pick up my medical records and test results. Then I made the fateful call to that doctor. To that rheumatologist.
I went to see that doctor. I showed her my test results and she told me that I didn’t have lupus. She pushed on some tender points and told me that I had fibromyalgia. She gave me the card of a pain specialist and left the room. Again, I was 23 years old. I didn’t know what a pain specialist did. I knew I was in pain, but I didn’t make that appointment. I just went home.
A few weeks later, when I was still in excruciating pain all of the time, I called the doctors office back. I asked for an appointment while I was crying. The receptionist work me in for that afternoon. I showed up on time, parked in the parking garage, and took my spot in their waiting room. Oh, how I could tell you about all of the waiting rooms.
Not long after sitting down, the nurse call me back to the exam room. The doctor walked in with an air of anger. I can’t even remember what she said to me, but she left the room with the door open. I’ll never know if she left it open on purpose or not, but since she did, I could hear her berating her nurse for calling me back before the person with the regularly scheduled appointment. I guess verbally assaulting her nurse wasn’t good enough, because she came back into the exam room to do worse to me.
She asked me if I had made the appointment with the pain specialist. I hadn’t. I was in a lot of pain, not thinking clearly, and because I didn’t know what a pain specialist was, it wasn’t a top priority for me. I couldn’t cook my own meals anymore and I could barely do my laundry, in fact, bathing was problematic. It was all I could do to make lean cuisines in the microwave and get to work. If you’ve ever been in a ton of pain, you’ll know what I mean when I say that I could not think clearly. I had supportive parents, but they lived in Alabama and I lived in Northern Virginia. There was no one to help me with the practical parts of life.
So, that doctor decided to take out her frustrations on me, I suppose. After yelling at me for not calling the pain specialist, she proceeded to pull at every joint in my body. I did not have joint pain. My joints were not inflamed. There was no need to pull on them. As she started pushing and pulling and yanking at major and minor joints, she continued to yell at me. She kept yelling that I had hypermobile joints, so that’s why I was in pain. I yelled over her for her to stop. I was in tears because she was hurting me. Yes, I do have hypermobile joints, but I’ve had those my entire life. Over extending my hypermobile joints, like she was doing, was only adding to my pain.
After she was done verbally and physically assaulting me, I had tears streaming down my face. I collected my things and went back to the parking garage. I won’t ever forget the parking garage attendant, either. As I paid him for the privilege of parking at the doctors office, he made a comment about the look on my face. I was that upset, I suppose. He commented about how displeased I looked. I told him he was right, and that I would never be back.
So, I ended up seeing that pain specialist. She gave me a bottle with 90 pills a Vicodin and no instructions. The plan must have been to keep me doped up to forget the pain. No one was interested in why I developed fibromyalgia at 23. I had to be my own healthcare advocate and do that for myself.
I never took any of those pills. I was so scared. I remember finding them in the closet after I moved to the Charlotte area. They were woefully out of date, but I was still in pain. I took one.