Is Your Doctor Judging You?
In Sussex County, Delaware, when you don't have insurance, or if you have Medicaid, and are a female, like me, you can go to the public health center to take care of your "family planing" needs. This means you get your annual check-up, birth control, and other "lady issues" for a lower cost, according to your income. I have been going there for about 5 or 6 years now, as I have no insurance.
It was a hard switch for me because I had a wonderful OBGYN who took great care of me, but it was a monetary decision that had to be made. I believe in being honest with my doctors. I have always believed this as I feel it is an essential part of my healthcare. How can they give me an honest answer if I am not honest with them, my doctors? I had always been honest with my primary care doctor, and he has been wonderful to me over the years. So when I switched to public health, I carried this notion with me.
When you get there for your first appointment, they ask you a bunch of questions about your sexual history, and your habits like smoking and drug use. At the first appointment, the Nurse Practitioner asked me if I smoked pot. I was 18--and my heart was wide open! And I answered "yes." Much to my surprise, I got a whole run-down (like, 1950's style) of the dangers of marijuana.
The Nurse Practitioner told me about how "evil" people get when they are addicted to marijuana and can't get more. She told me that I needed to be careful because people often "lace" marijuana with other drugs--like cocaine. She told me how it would be harder for me to accomplish things in life because I would demotivated--and fat too, because it makes you eat so much. I listened, told her that these things didn't really apply anymore, and that my motivation and work ethic were just fine. I explained to her that I didn't drink, and it was a way for me to relax, recreationally.
A couple of years went by, everything was fine. Around year 4 of going there, I started to notice some changes in my body. I was getting a lot of infections, and I was having pain in strange places. I mentioned it to my OBGYN, and she said that it was in my head. She told me I wasn't qualified to make an assessment on myself as to whether or not I was infections.
I was pretty insulted to say the least. I am a pretty intelligent individual. I am really in touch with my body as well, so I knew that what she was telling me didn't sound altogether accurate. Still, I felt that I was over a barrel, and couldn't afford to go anywhere else. I was getting my services for free, and since she had the power, I had none.
I found ways around it. I called my primary care physician when I needed medication, and tried to avoid going into the public health center for anything other than my annual exam and my birth control refills. I decided that, given the persistent problems I was still having, that I should do some of my own research, to see if I could fix the problem myself. After all, I have used homeopathic medicines in the past, so maybe there was something there for me. Or, I began to think, maybe these symptoms really were in my head, as the doctor had told me.
I was pondering that thought one afternoon, when the Dr. Oz show came on TV. It was an entire episode about...you guessed it, the VAGINA! Well, I sat down and began to watch as women were complaining of "phantom pain" down there, and other problems such as infections. Dr. OZ said, "If your doctor tells you it's in your head, it's time to switch doctors." Not only that, but he said that the high amounts of estrogen in many birth control pills is the root of the problem. I have been on a high dose of estrogen for 10 years, and that's a long time...
Being such a “googler,” I got on the computer and read more than a few dozen websites. Then I started talking to my girlfriends, and my mom about what I was experiencing. Naturally, my mother was the most alarmed, and said I needed to switch doctors. Over the last several months, I asked my PCP about the lower estrogen, and he agreed with my assessment. But, if I wanted it from him, I would have to see him as my OBGYN, and well, that was a little weird for me. He's my PCP.
But still, I knew I had to switch to someone else--and getting married, my fiance, Daren and I had agreed that we would try and get insurance. So I thought, I'll finish out with this public health, and after the wedding, I will switch back to my original guy. So, when I started my last pill pack last week, I called public health to make that final appointment, unbeknownst to them.
The morning before the appointment, I was sipping on my coffee, and bitching about how I didn't want to go. Daren came with a rather bright idea. He said, "this is your last appointment right?" And I said yes. He said, "I think we should do a little experiment, here." I was all ears! He went on to say that when I went in, I should tell my doctor that I quit smoking pot a few months ago. Then I should reiterate all the problems I have been having and see if she would give me what I had been asking for--a lower dose of estrogen in my birth control.
I thought it was worth a shot, although it felt strange that I should have to bring up my lack of recreational drug use in reference to my vagina. But I went in, sat down, and when the question came up, I humbly said, "Oh no, I quit about 4 months ago." Well that woman lit up like a Christmas tree, "Oh I am so proud of you!" and blah, blah, blah. When she was through I added, "You know, I am still experiencing these specific problems, as I have said before." Well suddenly, EVERYTHING changed.
Apparently, I needed a lower dose of estrogen--go figure. And I got it, finally. And apparently one of the problems I have complained of could be pretty serious....requiring some testing to make sure everything is okay. I couldn't help but feel mildly triumphant. But as I left the office, something else hit me--she had been judging me all along, and withholding treatment for over two years as a result. And I felt shocked, amazed, and completely deflated.
My honesty at the time had totally bit me in the ass for all these years. Nothing about me had changed, except for the fact that I told her what she wanted to hear... I am going to switch doctors as soon as humanly possible. I actually want a doctor that I can be honest with--call me crazy. But now, I am gun-shy to be honest. I feel that what happened to me is pretty outrageous. I was dealing with problems for over two years that could have been fixed had she not thought me a complete idiot because I smoked a little pot every now and again. And I have to say, I consider myself a good advocate for my treatment.
There are likely many people under her care that she can treat that way who would never even know the difference. And that pisses me off. So this post goes out as a warning to some, or perhaps an eye opener to others. Apparently, not everyone has caught up yet...I guess in some places you are still a degenerate, idiot, stoner if you smoke a little reefer once in a while AND you are honest about it with your doctor. And they may decide to withhold treatment from you as a punishment.