How I Cured My Doctor Dependency…and Cleaned Out My Medicine Cabinet

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This title is a little misleading. Cleaning out my medicine cabinet actually had nothing to do with curing my doctor dependency. It’s just that as I was cleaning out the drug cupboard today, it reminded me that a year ago I stopped trusting my doctor.

It was a big deal for me. For many (15) years I believed that there was no malady physical or emotional that couldn’t be sorted out on a paper covered exam table. I loved all of it – the long wait, the symptom confessional, the solution scrawled messily on a piece of paper.

Just the idea that there was a remedy for the various maladies that plagued me kept me on the appointment rounds. Symptoms came and symptoms went during those years, but hope was a constant.

Then one day about a year ago my doctor revealed herself as incurably human as the rest of us.

You see, I wanted my oldest son to see a pediatrician and, as an advocate and firm believer in the role of the family doctor, she wanted my son to remain in her care. She is an excellent doctor, but I was getting pressure from all sides to have my struggling son thoroughly tested for everything from attention deficit to autism to vitamin deficiency.

I insisted. Then watched in horror as my doctor shape shifted before our very eyes:

Do they (my son’s school) even know who I am? I’m not just any doctor you know. I have a reputation as the best doctor in West Vancouver.

The words God complex looped in my head protecting me from how horrified I really felt. She continued. I was accused of tarnishing her reputation by not taking my son to the psychiatrist she recommended the last time I asked for a referral to a pediatrician. She told my son that only really sick kids went to pediatricians, kids with things like heart disease and cancer.

I coddled:

“I’m sure we won’t find out anything new.”

I mollified:

“It’s just a formality.”

I lied:

“It’s just his teacher insisting on this.”

I stared at a spot on the ground, immedicably shamed, while she rounded out her lecture, finally handing me the referral. Then I grabbed my son and ran.

I haven’t been back. My medicine cabinet reflects that. My health reflects that. I haven’t had a symptom I’d stoop to share with her in over a year.

Cured by my own stubbornness! How do you like that?

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13 thoughts on “How I Cured My Doctor Dependency…and Cleaned Out My Medicine Cabinet

  1. How awesome are you? Yes, doctors are just people like the rest of us – my own experiences with doctors have made me skeptical too. I was particularly disgusted when I took my oldest for his first trip to the ER last Fall to get his chin sewn back together and the attending proceeded to lecture me on how ER doctors make very little money and that there’s no money in medicine these days. Oy vey, just what I wanted to hear at that particularly stressful moment. Good for you for calling bullshit on that doctor – pretty much anyone can get a pediatrician if someone deems there is a need (or possible need): my little guy got one so he could get a referral to a speech pathologist (which is certainly not cancer!)

    • “Good for you for calling bullshit on that doctor”
      You have no idea how much I needed to hear that, Erin. Thanks!
      Your ER story reminds me of my son’s kindergarten substitute who told me that he hates teaching kindergarten but that he needed the money. WTF!

      • WTF is right. Whatever happened to having an ounce of professionalism. I think too many people nowadays have zero filter.

  2. Oy! I could write a novel on this topic. CatMan has some pretty serious and VERY “off the beaten path” medical issues, and he has been through the ringer with the medical system. And the vast majority of doctors seem to think that they are infallible gods who know everything, and you are a mere peon who couldn’t possibly have a clue. But the truth is that CatMan has done more research and read more medical literature on his particular malady than most doctors ever will. One time he even went to a clinic where he was seen by a panel of “experts”. He was pretty excited going into the whole thing because he thought maybe he’d finally get a solution. But it turned out that the so called experts knew far less than he did, and he spent the majority of the visit educating them on the most recent studies! Good GAWD!

    Anyhow, it’s been a tough lesson for me to learn, but doctors are just humans… and they suffer from all the downfalls that all humans do. I think that especially in this country the profession tends to attract people with huge egos as well, because you really have to be either a saint or an ego maniac to suffer the tortures of the US medical system.

    I’ve finally come to the conclusion that you really have to view the doctor as a tool, not a healer. I mean, they’ve got some education and experience, which can be helpful, and they also have the ability to perform certain tests and prescribe medications. But you really have to take charge and be the one calling the shots or else you tend to get swept up into a swirling jumble of opinions, prejudices, emotional baggage and ego.

    Whenever I’m tempted to wander into a doctor’s office, and just say “fix me” I have to remember that my step-mother is also a physician… and I know WAY too much about her to EVER put myself at her mercy in that way, so why would I think that other doctors would be so different?

    • OMG…I so love and eny your honesty and ability to “put yourself out there”…wish some of this would rub off on me…we all know the say, “you’re only as sick as your secrets”…if one subscribes to this, then you must be very very healthy indeed! :o)

    • That’s awesome. I don’t have any doctors in the family, but I can see how it would colour one’s perception of the profession. In the end, I’m glad that I had such a miserable experience. I’m a bear for punishment so it takes some pretty blatant behaviour to wake me up. I understand Eco Cat Man’s frustration. I’ve researched my son’s difficulties inside and out and it gets pretty tiresome having to update professionals on the latest!

  3. It’s great that you took a stand and didn’t let her bully you like that. I believe you have to really look for a great doc and keep searching until you find one who can be a real partner in your health care. I love my doc, she is proactive, she does all the appropriate testing, willing to think outside the box (she’s a D.O. And they are often open minded like that) and she respects my not wanting to take meds for anything unless I absolutely have to. A good doctor should not be fraud of 2nd opinions.

    • Hi Shannon. Thanks for the support. As I’m sure you know, kids make you brave. There’s no way I would have insisted on a referral for myself, but where my kids are involved…
      The upside is that we found a pediatrician that sounds almost as incredible as your doc and, I’m actively looking for a new doctor for myself.

  4. I love this for the sheer fact that I would do and have done the same thing. I once spent a boat load of money going to a homeopathic doctor…only to stop going once I got “real” health insurance. He kept calling to check in, and I haven’t responded. I even have a medication I want to return that is unopened, but my embarrassment and stubbornness are keeping me from doing it. I think I stop going and switch doctors once I give up on the meds I’ve tried (and of course, never regularly took). If you find a lasting solution let me know! Right now, my lack of health insurance is keeping me out of the doctor’s office. It’s sad that I’m counting down the days until I get health insurance and already have a list of who I “need” to see lol!

    • Megyn, if I was there I’d take the medicine and return it for you. Returning things that you’re embarrassed about is where a good friend comes in handy. I hear you with the list. Wish I had a solution other than hating your doctor and being too lazy/busy to find a new one. Not having health insurance is enough to make anyone sick with worry. Hope it comes through soon!

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