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Visiting my GP

This page posted 6 July 2012

By Janesse – May 2012

I would like to share an experience I had while visiting my GP.

As some of you may know through my personal stories in ‘My Journey through Agoraphobia’, I have agoraphobia and depression.

My agoraphobia is slowly improving as I am able to do things now that I couldn’t do for years, but I am very much a work in progress and still limited in many ways.

I have been seeing a therapist (a psychotherapist) for a number of years and I am very happy with her.

I have many issues from my childhood to deal with as well as my agoraphobia and depression. We have been on a painful, difficult journey together and she has literally and figuratively saved my life on a number of occasions.  This journey has also been slow and frustrating in its slowness, however it is working for me no matter how slow it may seem.

I didn’t find my therapist via my GP, she was recommended by a friend of a friend. The GP I see was also recommended by a friend and while he knew of my agoraphobia and depression, we usually only discuss it briefly as when I visit him it is always for other physical health problems that I have.

I have not taken any medication for my conditions for a number of reasons.  I am in no way anti medication as I have friends who take medication and it has helped them enormously and when used in the right way, I feel for some people it can be beneficial.  However for me it is not the path I have chosen to take.

Before I explain my experience with my GP, I would also like to say that I think GPs have, for the most part, a difficult job, especially these days.  However, I think it is important I share my experience.

I have a decent relationship with my GP, we are always friendly and he has shared family photos with me, we try to have a laugh etc. He has suggested, okay strongly suggested, that I take anti-depressants and I have explained to him my reasons for not wanting to go down that path.

He also said to me on one occasion that he didn’t really believe in therapy, that he thought most therapists dragged therapy on for way too long so they could take people’s money and that he believed he could help ‘cure’ people more quickly and more effectively than a lot of therapists.

Now I found the above statements totally outrageous and while not expressing my outrage I did say that I totally disagreed with him. I could see that he really wasn’t listening to me and not wanting an argument, so I left it at that.  He also has told me that I just need to face my fears and think positively, (yes, because all of us with anxiety disorders know that it is just that easy, that if we just did that we would be cured don’t we?!!!!!).

I tried to explain to him that if it was that easy then no one would have any anxiety disorders, but again he wasn’t really listening and to avoid an argument, I left it at that.

A week or so ago, I visited my GP to have a carcinoma removed from my foot. After the procedure which involved a local anesthetic and stitches (ouch!) we sat down and he told me that the previous night he had been to a dinner and lecture on anxiety and depression by a professor from England.

He then tried to persuade me to take anti-depressants for my agoraphobia and depression. Again, I explained my reasons for not wanting to go down that road.

This is how the conversation went from there:

Dr: But you are not getting any better.

J:   I know it has been slow, but last year I would not have been able to even come here and have this procedure done and sit here with you like this, so I have come a long way. I am also able to do more things than I ever have before. I know I am not there yet, but I am getting there.

Dr: But it has taken a long time, you have been in therapy for too long.

J: I know it has been long, but there was a time when I was too scared to even be at home on my own. There was a time when I was anxious all day every day and that is not the case anymore.

Dr: But if you took anti-depressants you would get better now.

J: That is not necessarily true, I know a number of people who have been taking anti-depressants for a number of years and they are still agoraphobic or still depressed.

Dr: But tell me this. What have you done in your life that is worthwhile?

(This question actually threw me for a loop; I didn’t know what to say)

Dr: You have done nothing worthwhile in your life.

J: (I started to cry at this point).

Dr: You don’t work.

J: I do work, I work from home (I said the name of the company I work for)

Dr: You are not married, you don’t have kids.

J:  (Crying now). You know my long term relationship of 20 years ended last year. That was a big setback for me.

Dr: That’s life. You still have done nothing worthwhile with your life.

J: I have good friends. I have been a good friend to my friends. I have loved them and they love me. Isn’t that the most worthwhile thing you can do? Loving people?

Dr: You probably only have another 20 or so years of quality life ahead of you. That is all you have left and you do nothing.
You need to take anti-depressants. Therapy is not doing you any good. Therapists don’t know what they are doing.

J: My therapist has saved my life on a number of occasions.

Dr: Well that’s good I suppose but you still are not better and you are wasting your time. You also need to be more positive. You need to say positive things to yourself.

J: I can say all the positive things in the world to myself but if I don’t believe them deep down, there is no point saying them.

Dr: Why don’t you believe them deep down?

J: That is part of the reason I am in therapy! I have no sense of self worth.

Dr: Why?

J: That’s what we have been discovering in therapy. And it is working.

Dr: Well I don’t think it is.

J: You don’t know my whole life story, things that have happened to me in childhood; sexual abuse, homelessness etc, both my parents dying.

Dr: That is the past; forget about it, it all happened in the past.

J: It may have happened in the past, but it affected me greatly and I just pushed it all down, did not ever deal with any of it, and sooner or later this stuff comes back to affect you.

So, that is the crux of what was said.

Needless to say I left his office very upset.

A friend of mine had driven me there and I was telling her what he said, especially the bit about when the Dr said my life was not worthwhile. She was astounded that anyone could say that, to anyone, but especially to someone who has an anxiety   disorder and depression.

That night I started to think about all the things the Dr had said and I became very upset.

I started to think he was right. My life was not worthwhile and that I had not done anything worthwhile my whole life.  I would never get better and that I was just going to be like this for the rest of my life.
It had taken a long time for me to get even a little better so there must be really something wrong with me that no one could fix.

Being here was just a waste of my time, and worse, everyone else’s time as well.

I cried all night, didn’t sleep and was depressed for days.

My friends were telling me not to listen to him; that it was outrageous that he had spoken to me like that, that he was not a trained mental health professional, that he did not know my whole story etc.

I talked through the whole thing with my therapist and only then did I start to feel better. We are still working through it. I am still working with my issues around this.

To be clear, I do have issues and I am working through them.

However for a GP to speak to a patient who is already fragile in the way he did, I find totally unacceptable.

I could have easily become suicidal. If this was a year ago, I probably would have.

I know that many people with depression and anxiety have difficult experiences with GPs or doctors.

Unfortunately, GPs are often the first port of call for many people with anxiety or depression.

It can take a lot of courage to admit that we have a problem and even more courage to talk to someone about it. Then when we do, to be treated with anything less than understanding is inhumane.

Having researched this a bit more, I have found that many people have very disturbing or unhappy experiences when they visit their GP or doctors presenting with anxiety or depressive symptoms.

I think this is a very important issue that needs more awareness.

I know that there are some wonderful GPs out there, but unfortunately not all of us have access to them.

I also know that GPs these days have a difficult job, they are being asked to deal with things that perhaps are beyond their training or that they are not equipped to deal with. It is easy to say just change GP’s or doctors but for some people especially those in country areas this is not possible.

The reason I wanted to share my experience is not to criticise doctors or to put anyone off going to their GP.

I wanted to share my experience in the hope that it may help someone else who has an unhappy experience with a GP.

If this happens to you, please do not think that you are the problem. Please do not give up on seeking the help you need.
Please talk to someone about your experience and work through it.
Please try to understand that this is just one persons opinion. It does not make them right.

Apart from sharing my experience with this issue here, I would like to do more to highlight this issue and to hopefully help in some way.

I am not sure quite yet how to do this but I am working on it!

If anyone has any suggestions or has their own experience they would like to share please contact me through ADAVIC.

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