The Importance Of Feeling Listened To At The Doctor

by Stacy Seltzer
Originally Published: 
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I walked through the exit doors quickly, in a hurry to get home. This appointment had been sandwiched in between a work conference call and a play date pick-up, and I felt lucky to be done early.

The air was warm but felt nice on my skin as I pulled off my paper mask. I smiled and thought about how unbelievably well that went, and I was surprised to feel tears welling up in my eyes. I was crying not because I was sad, but because for the first time in a long time, I had legitimately felt heard.

I had debated for weeks about calling my primary care doctor. I picked up the phone at least 10 times and hung it back up. I would rehearse what I would say, taking notes and changing the way I said it over and over.

I had been down this path before. I know that my words matter, and that in order to get the help I need, I have to be clear and precise.

For the past few months I had felt like something was significantly “off.” I was tired, bloated, and dizzy, and I constantly felt on the brink of collapsing from physical exhaustion.

My first real sense that something was wrong was with my daily run. For the past year I had jogged the same two mile route in approximately the same amount of time. Then one day I woke up and it literally felt like I was running through cement. My lungs and endurance were fine, but my body just couldn’t seem to move.

Next I noticed that simple acts like walking stairs or easy yard work became difficult. Jumping on the trampoline with my kids (one of my normal favorite pastimes) now consisted of continuous sitting breaks while my children cried because mommy wouldn’t play like she used to. And soon it started to feel like no matter how much sleep I got, it never ever felt like enough.

Yet how do you “prove” tired?

Throughout my life I have encountered a few medical professionals who have made witty or even snarky comments when I mention fatigue as a symptom. They often remind me of my two young kids, my full time job and of course … my progressing age (like I could forget any of that).

So this time I went in prepared. I had my list of symptoms, my reasons for why I believed this was something more, and I had even researched some blood work tests that might be helpful.

I was ready.

I believe strongly in acting as your own advocate in medical situations. I know there are phenomenal doctors all over the world, but there are also some not-so-good ones. Yet an even more important fact to remember is that doctors are humans beings just like you and me, and although they may be experts in a certain field, they are not experts on everything involving you.

Because of this, I very rarely go into any doctor situation, be it a gynecologist, emergency room, or even the dentist, without a little bit of anxiety. Yet this time I felt ready, because I knew I needed this doctor to listen to me.

And guess what? He absolutely did.

He nodded and smiled and asked real questions. He listened to my heart and lungs while he talked about possible issues that could be causing these changes (like anemia, vitamin deficiencies and thyroid problems). He inquired about my existing medications and asked me how I was feeling on them.

He cared and he tried, and I glowed with appreciation for it.

Women can sometimes feel brushed off at the doctor. Many end up not going at all because they simply don’t feel listened to. Several times I have avoided talking about something at the doctor because I just didn’t want to try to explain or prove it.

Those tears at the end of my appointment came from a place of pure joy. That doctor didn’t just give me the bloodwork scripts I needed to try to find out what was wrong, but he also gave me a piece of my confidence back. He gave me back the courage to continue to be my own advocate.

I don’t have the test results yet, but I will soon. And although I know that is extremely important, I want to take a moment to concentrate on this little victory. It’s small in the time it took, but big in the impact it has had on how I will treat myself and my health moving forward.

It was reminder that no one knows my body better than me, and my own intuition deserves a place at every doctor’s appointment in the future.

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