When was the last time you went to the doctor?
Now when was the last time you went to the doctor for yourself?
If you're like me, you probably can't remember. I've never been one to rush off to the doctor, but even I can see a severe drop in self-care since my uterus went into operation. The kids get bad sick -- we go to the doctor. My husband gets man-sick -- he retreats to our bed for an eternity. I get sick or injured... (you weren't expecting something to happen, were you?)
Even though I pretty much never go for help unless I'm really concerned, I have a ridiculously hard time getting taken seriously by the doctor, my husband or my children. There is no patience for my complaints and no space for my recovery. Just suck it up, wait it out and someday you'll get better.
I was reminded of this recently when I headed off to the minor injuries clinic at the local hospital because my wrist was hurting. The doctor took one look at me and sent me on my way.
"Have you taken any meds for the pain?" she asked.
"It doesn't hurt badly enough to warrant pain meds, but you came in here anyway?" she probed.
"Look, I'm a mom. I get sick and hurt a lot and I just suck it up. That's what moms do. I didn't take any meds, but it does hurt."
She was not impressed.
"No obvious swelling. You can move it. No blood. You don't even need a wrap. Just take some Tylenol. You'll be fine in a few days."
I cannot tell you how deeply ashamed I felt when the doctor shoved me out the door. Her very demeanour made it clear that she resented me wasting her time. Even though my wrist throbbed and I knew something was WRONG, I still felt guilty for asking for help.
Worse yet, I self-flagellated for the entire drive home and then had to walk in the door and confess my lack of a diagnosis to my husband.
"See? I knew nothing was really wrong with you. Bring that basket of clothes upstairs."
It's been two weeks now since I sprained my wrist and it still hurts. Not a little. It kinda hurts a little bit of a lot, which is mom code for "I thought about cutting it off last night, but I drank a big glass of wine instead and silently cried myself to sleep."
Yesterday, I finally forced myself to ask my family doctor for a referral to a specialist.
"Is your right wrist the only place you have joint pain?"
Of course it isn't the only place I have joint pain. My left hip and my knees hurt so badly that I can't run further than the end of the driveway. I'm pretty sure I cracked my left kneecap last year when I slid down on wet pavement, and even though I still can't put any weight on it, I'm holding out hope that it will get better on its own. And I know this isn't a joint, but since you're asking, I'm 99 per cent sure I've got another hernia. Oh, and sometimes I get sciatic pain.
But what I really say is, "Yes, that's the only joint pain I have."
Because even when someone is asking, when someone seems like they might genuinely care a little bit about how I'm doing, I still suck it up and wait for time to heal the rest of my wounds. I still can't bring myself to ask for their time and headspace to treat what ails me. I still can't manage to prioritize myself above whoever is next on their appointment list.
The worst part is that I know I'm not alone in this. My girlfriends and I compare the ways in which our bodies are falling slowly apart under the strain of the years and the burden of picking up really heavy children. We don't talk about getting better. We talk about getting through it. "My chiropractor visits really help" or "Have you tried taking a vitamin" or "Maybe some apple cider vinegar would do the trick?"
We are the same women who jump up from half-eaten dinners to wipe a four year old's ass, who stuff our pockets with tissues and take the kids out of the house, so our sick husbands can get some rest. You put someone else's name on a problem and we will drop everything to fix it.
When was the last time we tried to fix ourselves?
Time heals a lot of wounds, but only if we give them the time to do so. Time to rest. Time to see a physician. Time to make them take our complaints seriously. Time to follow through on the real treatment plan (and not the abbreviated one I made up for myself). Time for our families to step up and do a bit more.
When was the last time you went to a doctor?
Maybe you should go today. I'll save you a seat.