I had a dentist appointment on Monday.
Strictly speaking, I should have had a dentist appointment some time before that but I had been putting it off. I know that ‘suck it up’ is a pretty good way to get through things you don’t want to do, but the dentist just takes the biscuit. She always asks me whether I drink a lot of fizzy drinks and I always remind her that I made myself sick multiple times a day for quite some time and also didn’t eat very much tooth strengthening food. Then she apologises and gets on with looking inside my mouth.
Also I’m cutting a bloody wisdom tooth and I don’t want any more poking and prodding in my mouth thank you very much.
Anyway, enough of my dentist moaning. I’m sure it’s the last thing you want to spend your time reading, especially if you know me in real life, in which case you probably don’t really want to be reading this anyway.
I want to write today about appointment fatigue. I’m pretty sure that it’s an actual thing and that I’ve read about it before – I’m not claiming it as my own neologism.
I’ve got appointment fatigue.
It dawned on my the other day when I realised I couldn’t just put in a repeat prescription for Fluoxetine again because my medication needed reviewing. I don’t mind – I understand that prescribing anything is a responsibility and I’m not a doctor and these things need to be checked. I’m just really, really fed up of appointments.
Some people are proud of their record of never having to go to the doctors’ or the hospital. They wear their not having been for many years like a badge of achievement. Despite the fact that it’s not others’ choice that I got my body and you got yours; despite the fact that there is nothing shameful about looking after your own health: we all hate medical appointments.
I’ve had my fair share of appointments over the years. Allergy clinic; orthodontist; orthopaedic doctor man and, of course, everything that comes with the eating disorder: therapy, blood tests, bone scans, inpatient stays…the list goes on. I find this very difficult: I do not want this to have been my life, or my medical history. I do not want to have cost the NHS a vast amount of money. I hate talking about it at work and having to take time off to attend.
Of course, things are better now than they have been. I’m not in hospital 24/7 any more; I don’t have therapy once a week (or more) these days and I no longer have to have the regular blood tests that come with clinical starvation. There was a time (when I wasn’t in hospital) where I would have appointments maybe four days a week. At that point my health became a full time job.
Of course, I know that I am beyond lucky to have been born in a country with free healthcare at the point of need; that I have had the fortune to have been so wonderfully cared for by the NHS; that there are millions of people around the world who do not have access to what I do. I know that people will read this and roll their eyes at my utter sense of entitlement and spoilt attitude towards the whole thing, but I’m nothing if not honest here. And if I feel it, then maybe someone else out there will feel the same way.
The crux of this matter, after some thought, I think might be taking care of your own health is hard work. Maybe this is true for everyone; maybe I am very lazy – I don’t know. What I do know is that I would quite happily go the rest of my life without a single appointment anywhere. Seeing specialists and doctors makes me feel like a drain and a burden. It makes me feel that people think that I’m obsessed with the attention; that I enjoy being ill.
I’m not sure this has an answer. I would love people to know that I don’t want to go to the doctors; the hospital; the dentist. I would love the doctor; the hospital; the dentist to know that I’m not there because I want to be; that I don’t enjoy appointments; that my life does not revolve around a bizarre thrill at people talking about my health, at being the centre of attention.
Please, if you are one of those people who has not been to the doctors/dentist/hospital for years, don’t think that it’s because those who do have appointments are weak, or that your moral strength keeps you away from the health system. Please don’t say ‘I haven’t been for years: I hate going to the doctors’.
I don’t go because I love it. I would rather not go at all. I go because I have to.