I had a medical appointment recently that made me understand my patients so much better.
For the past year and a half, I’ve been having some weird medical symptoms that have been making me miserable. I’m in pain often, but the pain moved around and was somewhat hard to define to doctors. I spent the past year and a half in and out of doctors’ offices and in physical therapy which didn’t seem to help (even though I was a model patient and did all the exercises religiously). I am a good patient so I went for MRI’s and answered questions which always seemed “besides the point”, but I didn’t get answers and started to feel like a whiny person who was making things up.
A few weeks ago, at the advice of a friend, I went to see a rheumatologist. Within 10 minutes of the appointment, I was elated. His questions seems to “fit” the problem. It was so clear he got exactly what I was trying to describe and he was able to fill in the blanks of what I was struggling to define. Best of all, he seemed to know exactly what my problem was. Now we have to figure out how to treat it most effectively, but at that moment, it seemed almost beside the point. I left his office and cried with relief. Someone actually understood what I was going through – and here’s the critical factor—didn’t think I was crazy!
At that point, it didn’t even matter so much if we never found a solution (although I feel confident we will). What was important – there was something that was wrong which was definable and I wasn’t losing my mind. I had gotten so caught up in feeling like maybe I was wrong and imagining things and somehow in blaming myself. If no doctor could see a problem, maybe I just wasn’t “trying hard enough” at physical therapy, at exercise, at ignoring the pain. Finally, someone was saying clearly that a problem does exist and that my pains are not phantom or lack of will. And that was such a relief.
Sometimes I have wondered why my patients start to cry with relief at that first appointment. I thought I understood it before now. Now I understand it so much better.