Do you have a favorite doctor? I’m not talking about your favorite M.D. who takes care of you the best at their medical practice. I mean, do you prefer the laser-eyed-mole-chasing Dermatologist over the pinprick-scratch-test Allergist? Or the “take a deep breath” (100 times until you’re dizzy) Internist vs. the “slide down to the end of the table, you might feel a little pressure” OBGYN?
My favorite doctor has always been the dentist. Mostly because I have never really been told anything bad during my appointment. I am blessedly free of cavities (ok, ok, there was one, but I’d like to think it was a fluke), and have skated by with barely any scolding over my sporadic flossing habits. In fact, I am usually able to shine like a braggy, obnoxious star pupil when I exclaim with pride that I am not a coffee or tea drinker, nor do I favor soda outside of the occasional movie theater cherry coke. I get my pearly whites all buffed and sparkling, then walk out with a new toothbrush and things are looking good.
Perhaps you aren’t really a doctor type of person. Like, if I came over to your house and was in need of some Ibuprophen and inquired as to where your medicine cabinet was, you might give me a quizzical look to say “Why would I need an entire cabinet for medicine??”
I see your point.
But, here’s the thing, I grew up in a very medicine-friendly household. Not like substance abuse medicated or anything, just the kind that felt strongly about the benefits of a 6 month supply of Tums, a 3 month supply of inhalers, nose spray, cough medicine, 3 varieties of aspirin and a couple boxes of Sudafed, (when it was still available over the counter and crafty kids had yet to realize it was a key component in Meth making).
Sometimes, when I was older and found myself tossing and turning at 3 am unable to sleep, I’d creep into my parents room and whine to my mother about my insomnia. She’d kindly drag herself out of bed and into the kitchen, where she’d cut a Benadryl in half and hand it to me with a glass of water. Now, mom, before you get defensive, I was very grateful for this instant fix! I feel like it’s the equivalent of doctors suggesting that you give your baby a touch of Benadryl before a long flight or car ride in order to calm them down. So, whether it had a placebo affect on me or not, I always fell into a sound sleep immediately after that middle-of-the-night dispensing of medication.
By the same token, we were also a family that would head to the doctor for pretty much anything that ailed. For the mere price of a copay (thank you insurance), we could at least obtain peace of mind, if not a friendly Z-Pack. Hence my lengthy list of doctors at the beginning of this wayward rant. I assume most people struggle to maintain a general physician, with nary a need for an additional Grey’s Anatomy entourage.
For example, a friend of mine once told me that, growing up, if she complained to her mom that she didn’t feel well, her mother would reply, “Are you bleeding?” If not, there was no doctor to be seen. This so affected her psyche, that when her parents did try to offer her medicine or take her to the doctor, she thought she must be terminally ill and adamantly refused any sort of treatment.
So – the overall truth is that I was born and bred to find a sense of calm upon entering a physician’s office, and a sense of purpose behind dutifully taking my assigned prescriptions. It all goes to instantly soothe the beast inside of me called, Hypochondria. My fear of impending illness or disease, for both myself and those around me that I love, is so intense that I’ve succombed to panic attacks just thinking about the big What If’s. When I worked in a hospital during college, my mom’s first question to me, knowing my fears, was,
“Doesn’t it bother you being around sick people all the time?”
And I responded “Actually, I feel really safe constantly surrounded by doctors. Should anything go wrong, I’d absolutely be in the right place!”
It seems that I’m a medical lifer. Scrubs and white lab coats, icky tongue depressors and those weird plastic moldings of our internal organs just seem to put me at ease. Only one doctor do I really loathe, and he comes with one of these.
*Insert dreaded da, da, dum music here.
The eye doctor is a certain brand of torture. They employ all kinds of ancient pain techniques that involve blinding, blowing, straining, gouging, searing and overall frustrating that leave the so-called patient (aka. Prisoner Of War) feeling adrift in a sea of misery. Left at the utter mercy of your Opthamolo-hitman until they release you from your hazy world.
My vision has been terrible for decades, so at this point, trips to the eye doctor are too many to count. Maybe my anger and anxiety are the result of my first pair of glasses being delivered just weeks after I attended a Bryan Adams concert—wearing a bejeweled tie and broad-brimmed black hat, no less (blame it on the vision problems?)—and, subsequently, was too blind to see him clearly when he romanced me with (Everything I Do) I Do It For You. C’mon, that is a TOTAL catastrophe and grounds for the seeds of hatred to begin.
Or maybe it all started after I begged my parents to finally let me get contacts on my 13th birthday. I thought they would transform everything in my benign seventh grade life, and I would reappear as a majestic butterfly to expertly bat my newly glasses-free eyeballs at Steve Dugger to win his affection. Too bad that, by the time I was finally able to jab those transparent half-orbs into my eye-sockets, I was affronted with a mirror reflection that was basically ⅔ eyebrows. For years I’d been hiding those hairy caterpillars behind the rims of my standard, 90’s oversize frames and, TA DA, now they were front and center for the world to ogle. I don’t blame Steve for deciding Missy Scheer was the hot one!
It could be because of that whole, lazy-eye, had to wear an eye-patch like a pirate situation, but let’s not get into that again.
But, if I’m really being honest with myself, the true fear stems from embarrassment, pure and simple.
Somehow I always take it personally when I can’t read the lines on that stupid eye-chart. It’s a test I can’t study for (though, full disclosure, I did memorize the board once when I was tired of guessing wrong and just wanted the torture to be over) and am always doomed to fail. As if every time the doctor says “And can you tell me what this line says” I’m forced to scour my mind for a realistic answer…
“E, S, T…um, 2? Are there numbers in here? Are you going to take away my license? Do I need a seeing-eye dog?
And the doc will just keep forcing me to plug away, moving to the next line as if they don’t notice that I’ve started sweating so profusely that I’ve pitted out the shirt I’m wearing. As if suddenly the line will become completely clear.
“Ah, yes! I see it now! The first one is a rooster, then Justin Timberlake, some cowboy boots, a measuring cup and some mac & cheese.” 20/20 vision! Hand me my pilot’s license.
Let’s not even GET into the process where they ask you which one is better, 1 or 2. 3 or 4. 5 or….come on!! Now you’re just shitting me! You’re gonna go back into your little perfect-vision lounge after this appointment and laugh with your cronies about how many times you got that gullible little twit to guess! “And it was the same one the whole time! Hahahahah!”
I realize the further I get into explaining this phobia of mine, the more crazytown I sound. I once told a friend that I had plenty of neurosis…she wondered at the time, what those might be. DING DING. Here you go.
Apparently, stressing out over going to the eye doctor is just going to be my lot in life, because I’ve heard your vision just get’s worse as you age. And I’m too afraid of someone peeling back my cornea and buzzing lasers into my brain to get any sort of Lasik surgery.
Instead I’ll just wail all my sorrows and horrors to you fine people. And maybe the next time you find out I’m heading to the eye doctor, you’ll offer to buy me an ice cream cone afterwards. For now I’m just going to schedule my next dentist appointment so I can feel better about myself.