This is a question I thought I would never have to ask myself! Mind you, there are a lot of things I thought I would never have to endure or even think about, and a lot of those things have happened anyway, so I guess this weird thought should come as no surprise…
I have an ongoing issue with General Practitioners. It sounds terrible to say, but I’ve been through a couple of different ones since my diagnosis just over two years ago, although I have been with the same one for over a year now.
The issue is that, for the first little while, they seem really caring, helpful and proactive in helping me with all of my ‘complex’ health issues. They suggest things to try, and do their best to help me cope and obtain treatments or diagnostic procedures to try and figure things out.
But after a while, they seem to tire of me and become flippant, frustrated and not so helpful. There are no more things to suggest (unless I suggest options myself and ask their opinion), and no more medications or interventions to try. They start to tease me when I arrive with new symptoms, or when I dare to ask questions or share how I’m feeling in the hope of finding a little compassion, sympathy or support.
This quote from a blog post of a chronic illness patient really brought it home for me…
Once you reach a certain number of diagnoses, it’s like they check out. I can feel it. When they see me coming, they begin to put off a vibe of annoyance and distrust. It’s heartbreaking. I need them. I need to be given a fair shot. But they don’t want to deal with me. I’m too complicated.
To look at it from a GP’s point of view, I can understand their frustration to a point. I understand that it hurts them to know that they can’t ‘fix’ me, and that they might even send me away following my appointment without being able to do anything directly to help with whatever I am dealing with at that time. Here is a good blog post about working with chronic illness patients that has been written by a Doctor –
But I’m not just there for a new prescription or in the hope that there is some new ‘magic bullet’ that will fix all of my problems. I’m not that naive. Being on the chronic illness road for over 2 years means that I have learnt a lot of things, including that there is no cure (and there won’t be one in the near future either) for any of the health conditions that I am dealing with.
Sometimes I just want them to reach over, hold my hand and tell me ‘That really is no fun, and I’m here for you. How about we do some blood tests to see what your so and so levels are like?’ Or perhaps suggest what topics are most important for me to discuss with my Specialist next time I see her?
It isn’t all about pulling out your prescription pad and giving us more medications. It’s about compassion, and that is what I think is most lacking a lot of the time at my appointments. It is just a small thing to reach out to a patient and let them know that you acknowledge what they’re going through is tough and that you are here to support them, but it can make all the difference to someone who is travelling a long road through chronic illness.
I often feel left adrift and on my own between appointments with the Specialist who is managing my health conditions, so support from my GP is paramount on a day to day basis to help us get through.
So to my GP, as well as trying to take care of myself, I will try to take care of you so that you don’t get burnt out and dread seeing my name on your patient list. But the effort goes both ways, so please try to take care of me too, and support me when I need it most.