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Anxiety and doctor’s appointments

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It had been around been six months since my last doctor’s visit.

Part of that is because in the last six months my life has changed drastically.

The other part of that is because I got new insurance when I got a new job, and I couldn’t visit the doctors I’ve loved and built a relationship with over the last two years.

It’s sort of like dating.

You get to know the person the best you can. Sometimes you’re compatible and sometimes not. Other times there’s a breakup and you finally get comfortable enough to see someone new.

Six months is a long time to go without getting checked out when you have type 2 diabetes.

Usually, you’re asked to come visit every three months for blood work.

I’m not a shining example right now, but I’m taking care of it.

Here’s the thing – I was facing some anxiety about my last appointment.

“There were so many times I left the doctor’s office crying because I didn’t get the help I needed”

Mila Clarke Buckley, The Hangry Woman

I already have lots of anxiety anyway. This is an amplified version. Just talking about this makes me feel like I might have a panic attack.

Rather than jump into a new chair, and answer tons of questions about my medical history, and continue on with my current routine, I wanted to find the right person, who would listen to my concerns and believe me. I wanted to find someone who was going to change things.

But walking into that new office still gave me sweaty palms and a racing heart.

Why do I have anxiety?

Many times, I left the doctor crying because I didn’t get any encouragement or the help I needed.

Often, I left with a scolding or a threat.

Few moments of encouragement came from those visits.

I walked out with the idea that having type 2 diabetes meant that I was a failure.

My idea was that taking insulin meant that I had done poorly, and it was a punishment.

I left feeling like I couldn’t ask questions, or like I would seem dumb for wanting to know more about something that I didn’t fully understand.

Doctors dismissed me when I mentioned patterns in my blood sugar — like huge spikes when I slept.

He told me “you need to do better,” instead of “let’s talk about what’s going on so we can fix it.”

I pressed that my NPH insulin wasn’t working for me and was asked what I was eating and when instead.

I have dozens of these examples. When they continue happening over time, you start to believe that you, the patient, are the problem somehow.

Then I finally found a great care team — a sympathetic diabetes educator who thought I was weird for taking notes, a great endocrinologist that explained things to me and patiently answered my questions.

I’d met with a dietitian who asked me what I like to eat, and helped me build around that.

I found a primary care doctor who worked with me to understand what it would take for me to be ready to get pregnant.

My care team was positive and helpful.

The thought of starting back at zero felt painful.

Hitting the reset button is tiring

Having to start over, and explain my whole history was just upsetting.

I didn’t want to meet my new care team with the same judgment as before. I wanted to address my concerns, without blame, and get to the root of my health issues.

The visit with my new doctor

My doctor had compassion.

We talked my overnight spikes and daily highs, so she changed my insulin. I told her I was doing five finger pricks a day, so she prescribed a Freestyle Libre. I mentioned my exhaustion and she checked my thyroid.

All of my questions were addressed, and her office even called me a few days later to be sure I was adjusting properly to all of my new medication.

Since then, I’ve had great blood sugar control, I dropped seven pounds since getting off my insulin and my appetite seems normal — not ravenous like before.

Advice for anxious moments

I fight for my health, and I’m not easily discouraged, but my anxiety was still present for this appointment.

In the past, anxiety has caused me to shut down, so I think about a few things before each visit.

  • Write down all of your questions before you go. Try to get everything addressed before leaving.
  • Let the doctor know up front you have questions and concerns that you want to talk about. Open the door for the conversation you want to have.
  • Research the doctors you’d like to see ahead. You can get a sense of how they treat patients through sites like ZocDoc. Your insurance company may also have reviews for your doctor.
  • Don’t punish yourself by thinking of bad moments that haven’t happened yet. Go in with an open mind about your new care team.
  • If it doesn’t work out, you can always keep searching until you find someone who fits.

I know I may change doctors in the future again because life is uncertain, but I have to keep speaking up for my health.

It’s up to me to keep digging into my patterns and using my voice at every appointment. I hope this gave you some helpful tips if you’ve felt the same way.

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