Yesterday I did something pretty amazing. It was amazing in that it was completely normal. For most people, it would even be bordering on the mundane. But for me, it was a pretty big deal.
I went to the doctor.
Why is that such a big deal, you ask?
Because Dear Readers, I have a LOT of baggage that I’m starting to unpack when it comes to medical professionals.
From my writings in the past, you know that my relationship with my mother was dysfunctional. One of the things I don’t think I’ve ever touched on is that I suspect my mother had some degree of Munchausen syndrome.
Munchausen syndrome according to Wikipedia is the “a factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves.” I am not a mental health professional and other than a Psych 102 class I took in college, I’ve had no training or education in any of the fields of psychology. That being said, there’s only so many checkmarks you can place on a page before a conclusion shows itself. I’m not saying she had it for sure but as a layman, I’d say it was a huge likelihood.
Looking back now with adult eyes, I can also see how some of her behaviors spread to me and my health care. There was a period of time when I was a little kid that I went to the doctor a lot. It wasn’t just for the routine childcare type of reasons, but for just random things that became huge ordeals. Tonsils, yeah that’s normal. But from second grade to 9th grade I had a medical issue pretty much every year. Some of them even overlapped. At one point, I had two surgeries for two different things within a six week time period. Twice I was “homebound” and had teachers come to my house because I couldn’t go to school because of medical issues.
Throughout all of this, she became exalted by her role as this super caregiver mother savior figure. She relished the concerned smiles and the pitiful nods. As I got older I started noticing the perverse pleasure she got when one of us was in poor health. Even when I couldn’t place a name to the actions, they were uncomfortable neighbors. When I was old enough to extract some control over myself, I stopped telling her about my ailments. And I made a promise to myself never ever to be like her.
That made me totally and completely gun shy of doctors for most of my adult life. I did receive the necessary maternal care when I was pregnant. But as far as other healthcare? I nope’d the fuck out of it. For years and years, I’ve OTC’d myself. For the few serious infections I couldn’t beat into submission, I allowed myself to be dragged to a doctor. But mostly, I healed myself the best I could. And what I couldn’t heal, I just dealt with.
That was until I couldn’t deal with it anymore.
For years I’ve seen struggling with headaches that I could not overcome. I’ve tried everything to counteract them. While some efforts brought temporary relief, nothing stuck. Seeing as they were mostly connected to my period, I cycled through different birth control options. That ended with my tubal ligation (you can read about it here). So when they still circling me like buzzards in the months since then, I decided to throw in the white towel.
I began to look for a primary care physician.
It took some calling around but I was able to get an appointment with a doctor I had seen maybe five years ago. Once the day came and I sat there on the crinkly paper of the exam table, I decided to make another brave move. Not only was I going to tell this doctor about the headaches that I’ve nursed for years, but I was also going to tell him about my depression too.
Part of me felt like a failure. Part of me felt like I was slipping dangerously close into my mother’s shoes. It probably also didn’t help that there was another voice in my head, one that belonged to someone I had once held in high regard, repeating that if I went to a doctor about depression, the doctor would report me to CPS and my children would be taken away.
Here’s the thing. I knew then, just like I know now that statement was a bunch of bullshit. But sometimes when you’re struggling, you go against your intuition. You follow the leader because it’s easier. Look, when you’re struggling just to keep your head above water, you don’t give a damn what direction you’re being towed. And that’s exactly what people who make such comments want. I know a lot about the type of people who corner you into submission for their own gain. They want you weak and powerless.
I am many things, but weak and powerless I am not. And that is what made me stand up for myself and speak my truth to the doctor.
I just told him. I told him about my struggles with headaches and with not feeling worthy. I told him about not being able to sit in brightly lit rooms when my brain decided to turn on me. I told him about my anxiety. I explained how when the pain was bad everything changed to technicolor that blurred like the lights in a 1980s recorded sporting event. I told him how the pain started in my neck then went behind my eye and lodged there like a metal spike.
And he believed me. He didn’t judge me. He didn’t think I was fishing for prescriptions. He didn’t call CPS and try to take away my kids.
He knew what I was experiencing was real and it was a malfunction of my body and called it by its name. He said it could be treated.
He gave me a diagnosis. In fact, he gave me a few.
And some prescriptions.
And I wasn’t afraid.
I’m not my mother. I’m not held by her standard. I’m not even held by that really bad advice from someone else. I’m my own person. And right now, I need some help. And it just so happens, that help is of the chemistry kind.
The medicines were called in at the pharmacy closest to my house and ready for pick up by the time I got back in town. I started them this morning.
I don’t know if today has been weird because of the introduction of new substances to my body. Or from the weight of unpacking so much of this bullshit. Or from the impending storm (Yes! Another one!!) but it hasn’t been bad. It’s been okay. And I think I’m going to be having more okay days than I have before.
And I’m happy about that.