It’s officially been a month since I quit the office job. On my first day of unemployment I wrote up two pages of “to do’s” and throughout August I’ve been getting through them at my own procrastinating pace. I’ve also been doing an excellent job of ignoring the most important one; fixing my bum.
But I finally signed in at the new doctors surgery last week and booked an appointment. I don’t go to doctors much, but since I moved to London my body seems to be falling apart and trips to those in the medical profession are becoming all too frequent for my liking, although for me frequent means more than once a year.
For some reason I have this idea that when you leave your local GP you’re generally feeling better.The Doc has assured you that the green, puss spewing mini volcano on you inner thigh is quite normal, they’ve made the appropriate empathetic noises, maybe even a reassuring pat on the shoulder, and you walk out with a prescription for the cream that’s going to smother not only the life force of volcano but all your apprehensions as well.
I had to wait half an hour to see my doctor. Not uncommon at a GP, no. But in the UK they’ve got this 10 minute rule for each patient and as far as I can tell they stick doggedly to it. If you haven’t got all your ailments seen to in the allotted ten minutes, they tell you to make another appointment. I’m not kidding.
Now I consider myself fairly patient, and admittedly I was slightly entertained in the waiting room watching a mum give her young daughter tough love as she continually stuffed up tying her shoe laces (the kid, not the mum), but I was left to wonder why I had to wait half an hour. I saw the woman who went in before me to “my” doctor leave ten minutes after my appointed time. What was he doing? Paperwork? Toilet? Internet surfing for a new job? The waiting room was now empty but for me and a guy with the buttons of his fly undone (what’s the correct procedure there by the way, do you tell people?). Hurry the hell up will ya!! I’m an unemployed bum, I’ve got things to do, blogs to write, freshly scented bathroom odours to destroy. Geesh.
Ok sure, doctors are humans and need a break throughout the day, but if you’re going to be so precious about the ten minute rule, schedule your patients in around your breaks. So as they say here in the UK, by the time my name was bleeped on the LCD display above the entrance door, I was not best pleased. If we were in Australia this would have meant that I was in the shits or it gave me the shits – kind of an apt bit of slang that.
My doctor turned out to look like he had just left medical school, not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just context for my rant. I explained to him that the last doctor I spoke to had surmised I had IBS but that we had not done any testing to eliminate other things. He asked me what my symptoms were and as I self consciously laughed through tales of diarrhea which lasted two straight months, bloating, flatulence and never ending stomach gurgles, he stared at me blankly and then turned to his computer screen. When he turned back after giving up on whatever it was he was trying to print, telling me to just go to the Patient.co.uk website myself and do some reading, his face was one of pure disinterest, mixed with a sprinkling of disdain. I guess with only ten minutes something’s got to go, and maybe they’ve all decide that thing is empathy.
I imagined that maybe he was only working as a GP because he failed his neurosurgeon exam and had to wait a year to reapply. Now as his old class mates were being treated like demi-gods in some posh hospital, life for him was a torture chamber of everyday ills, bowel movements and kids with colds. Well tough titties Doctor Feelbad! Do your penance, and maybe, just maybe, after your sentence among us commoners you might develop a little sympathy down the track for the person inside that head you’re about to cut open.
I don’t know, in the short while I’ve been able to put a name to this hideousness that is happening to my body, I’ve got the impression it’s one of those things that aren’t taken seriously, like joint pain or asexuality. It’s a product of our times and as it’s made worse by stress, I’m sure it’s sometimes looked upon with a little contempt. Unless he wants to hang out with me for a couple of days and stake out a prime viewing spot by the toilet, it’s pretty hard to prove. The only other physiological symptoms are essentially a constant tummy ache, and how do you prove that?
You know what though, part of me doesn’t blame him, I do feel really stupid that this is what I have. I mean, knowing that this one is made worse if I’m stressed makes me feel like a weak willed idiot, that if I was just more in charge of my brain all of this would be so much easier. I don’t like having a weakness and this one is ruining the enjoyment of my life. I turn down invitations to dinner because I can’t trust my stomach, I weigh others up in my mind trying to determine if the event will have enough noise to cover up what I call “inside farts”, I can’t go to the theater unless it’s a musical and movies cause me so much stress each time there’s a quiet scene I’m probably mentally creating inside farts where none would have existed in the first place if I hadn’t started thinking about it. Every waking moment, this damn thing is on my mind in some form or another.
After having to prompt him that I needed a blood test and bacterial testing (last doctor told me that) to eliminate other things, he filled out a form for the blood test and reluctantly handed over a stool test kit. Reluctantly? Really? Why? It’s not like he’d have to handle the sample himself, it just goes in a yellow specimen box and off to a lab. I don’t get this guy. And then he made me nearly fall off my chair in surprise when he actually took the time to explain how to collect the sample and where to bring it back.
It’s not like there was a siren going off, a blinking light or some half naked dude in a leopard skin loincloth banging on a giant gong, but somehow I knew my ten minutes were up. So now I have to reign in my procrastination and get both of those tests done. Then it’s onto the thing I’m dreading the most, the elimination diet. And if you thought this was a mighty long whinge, wait till you hear what that’s all about!