I know I’ve written about this at least once before, but it happened to me again yesterday, so going to rage write it again in ALL CAPS FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK IF THE ROOM. Not really. The people who need to hear this are likely not in the room. So, people in the back of the room – if you could just, I don’t know, send this link or print this out or leave it in random medical offices…that would be super. Rage write? What? You know I don’t really do that unless I need to. Rage writing being when I pump out a blog in less than, say, two weeks time, which is typically my minimum editing goal as I’ve been told that there are times when my emotional reaction to something is out of balance with the actual something. By my husband. He is the one who says that.
I don’t care, really, if I’m out of balance on this something because I know I am not the only person whom it affects. And I know how it feels. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with those guilty hearing the actual frustration/sadness/anger/deflation in my words.
Have you got your
popcorn celery sticks ready? Hang tight, need to throw in a little background.
A few weeks ago I went to a new doctor regarding some ongoing knee pain. I actually tweaked my knee in January while playing doubles (that’s tennis, Rich, the small yellow, fuzzy ball). I know the exact date it happened and what I was doing at the time, which was going for a return on a cross court shot. I got pulled way off to the right of the deuce court and had to do a dramatic lunge to fire my response (for the record, a winner). In doing so, I felt my knee parts stretch like a rubber band but didn’t hear the tell-tale sound of ripping fabric, so knew I’d probably hadn’t torn anything. Probably. Of course, I did keep on playing and, of course, I did not ice or rest or elevate at any point in the following days. The result has been a knee of annoyance ever since and eventually the cause of some limitations in activity.
Yes, I know it’s July.
Yes, I probably should have gone to the doctor sooner.
I actually did have an appointment back in the April/May range that I canceled at the last minute. I canceled because I began hearing around the club water cooler that the fairly local doctor habitually focused on whether (or not) he felt that his patients were in proper shape. In other words, he would likely attribute my knee pain to being overweight and inactive. In other words, I probably would have asked him what he thought about the incredibly active sport of tennis that had brought me to him…before storming out. Neat pandemic side effect – you can cancel doctors’ appointment within that 24 hour window with no penalty. As we rolled into the end of our spring tennis leagues, I staring asking around again for recommendations. This time I was pointed to a more non-local doctor, but one who had a great following at my tennis club. I got myself on her books for mid-June and off I went, forgetting to do any research at all on her doctor-abilities.
It was love at first sight. Well, kind of. This doctor is with Virginia Commonwealth University, a teaching hospital, so my initial intakes were with a nurse and then a resident. I will admit that I went in ready for action with a prepared list of foods and activities when the inevitable accusation came about better managing my diet. It never came. The appointment was a long one – also surprising in this twenty-first century world of in-and-out medical care. It involved more strength and flexibility testing than I’ve probably ever had – all of which were met with oohs and aahs as my strength and flexibility does tend to be above average for my age group. I could not have been more proud to return home and announce that, not only was I not given an all clear on any tears, I also was given a gold star for the best clamshell they’d ever seen. I think I’ve mentioned maybe once or twice that accolades motivate me.
I could not have felt better about the appointment or my prognosis and happily performed my at-home rehab over most of the next thirty days until my follow up appointment, which was yesterday.
Are you still with me? Just about to get to the rage writing.
What. The. Actual. Eff.
The start of the process was the same. I got checked in at the front desk. I went up to the third floor. I settled into a waiting room chair to practice Spanish. I was summoned to an exam room. I had my vitals checked and did all the no, nothing’s changed health wise questions with the same intake nurse as the previous visit. Shortly after the nurse left, a new person appeared, badged as a resident. Does it matter that he was male? I’m not sure. Other than I cannot imagine a woman approaching another woman on their first date the way he did because women tend to have the utmost respect for woman things, like, oh, I don’t know, how effing hard it is for most of us to feel good about ourselves while listening to a running commentary of things that are wrong with us inside of our woman heads.
It took less than a minute.
That is how much time I had with this resident before he had my problem all figured out.
A quick glance at my chart, a quick how’s the knee? and then you know for every pound you lose, you take six pounds of force off your knees. Here we go – and me with no prepared list. I knew where we were headed and started to stammer. Without being asked, I started listing out what I’d eaten that day. He continued on as if he didn’t hear, what about processed foods? I explained that during the pandemic (why was I sweating?) I’d pretty much learned how to be a cook-from-scratch person. He kept going….you should download…(some app…he’d now lost me) and switch to a plant-based diet (I think I started rambling about how I swim, play tennis, lift weights) best diet for fiber (really not listening at this point), gut health (wondering if it would be rude of me to just stand up and leave…), exercise really isn’t important (well, this is awkward…wait until the 184 million people with gym memberships find that out)…
At this point I was just nodding, smiling, and trying not to release a backlog of frustrated tears.
Sixty seconds and this guy knew all about my diet and exercise program without ever asking about my diet and exercise program. I spent the ride home offering up excuses for his lecture. He had no idea that he was talking to a woman who has spent literal decades worrying about her weight, starting after a gymnastics judge told me she’d taken three tenths for the chub around my middle and enhanced with a weight goal given at first sight by my college gymnastics coach. He had no idea that the mental speedbumps of my twenties landed me on a list of SSRI’s with the benefit of calming my brain and the detriment of adding pound after pound at the exact moment that I stopped having daily three hour workouts. He had no idea that I cannot think of a restaurant visit where I haven’t looked at the menu and wondered how each item would look on my waistline or how that causes me to lock up when making a decision on ordering. He had no idea that every time I stand naked in front of my mirror, I see every ripply flaw while longing to only see myself as the perfect person that my husband does. He had no idea that when I shop for clothes it is with anxiety, hoping no one notices as I search the back of each rack where stores keep the bigger sizes or how I’ll walk away with a shrug of not really for me if the numbers stop in the single digits or how I’ll never announce that something wouldn’t button or zip but instead just throw out an I just didn’t like it to the waiting attendant rather than ask for a larger version (I just realized that there may be a lack of larger sizes because people are buying them).
But really, none of that should have mattered.
I think we have just reached a lazy form of doctoring where blurting out well, if you could just lose a few pounds…has become the standard prescription to well-being. That theory was practically confirmed two days later when my child went to Minute Clinic with an ear infection and the first paragraph in her four pages of paperwork was dedicated to her weight and potential for obesity. She’s a teenager. Thank you, CVS, we look forward to her eating disorder. Also – quick question, as this information was not included – how does obesity cause ear infections?
We are now on day four of discussing my post appointment gloom in our home – common after I’m made to feel like a failure at basic life by a doctor. Today’s analogy was shoe size. What if every doctor I went to told me that the only way to avoid creaky joints, allergies, insomnia, and shingles was if I went from a size 7.5 shoe to a size 6. I would probably leave the office thinking well, that’s not going to happen yet immediately start researching ways to make my feet smaller (axe? binding?). I’d begin to obsess over whether everyone was noticing how enormous my feet were and I’d start buying smaller shoes, suffering through blisters just to give the appearance of tiny. I’d notice everyone around me with small feet yet fail to see those with feet the same size or larger than mine. I would stop going barefoot and throw out my flip flops and cancel every pedicure appointment for the rest of my canoe shoe life. Yet, the reality is that I have about as much chance of going from a 7.5 shoe to a 6 as I do going from a size sixteen to a size six.
I know this because I have tried it all. I have tried harder than anyone should have to try at anything.
I wonder if there has ever been a time when a patient has replied to the diet and exercise suggestion with oh, no, I really just like being this heavy! or what? I had no idea! No one’s ever told me that it is better to be skinnier! or thank you so much, you’re the first doctor ever who has given me a beacon of hope via a tofu cookbook. Maybe if I had asked this doctor if he knew of any great apps about eating holistically it would have seemed more relevant. It’s just that I didn’t. The resulting slingshot was some really tough workouts over the following days. Maybe he won, then, right? My feelings were hurt, my confidence dinged – but, sure, I’ve thought about diet and exercise and how gross I am ever since. I really pushed myself the rest of the week to be better. Woohoo?
Maybe its because I’m not posting my plates (weight or dinner) on social media. Is that the missing link? The old if it’s not on the interwebs, it didn’t really happen? I typically don’t announce my daily feats because I hate the reverse fat shaming of it. I hate it so much that I hide or unfollow or mute anyone fills my feeds with quips about how I can be better or questions on whether I want to be. Yes, I do want to be better. And, yes, I get it – some of those posts are linked to income. I just suspect that whomever is writing the check is clueless to the idea that, for each of those posts, there is at least one someone reading it who is left feeling awful about herself because she (probably she) knows the latest fad is also useless and will soon start actively avoiding that super-fit-and-posting-it friend because she will be embarrassed and feel judged. I’ve said it before – not everybody gets to be a size six.
With the resident doctor out of the office, I did open the floodgates to my actual doctor. I felt a bit childish and tattle-tale-y. She was kind enough to listen to me, explaining that this was the resident’s first day (on the planet? interacting with women?) and that he was primarily a holistic doctor (did he train in the woods? where there were no people?) and that she would certainly talk to him. Will it make a difference? I have no idea – I kind of doubt it. I suspect the source of the weight conversation is via a push from our insurance companies – again, a lazy way to prove they tried to help their subscribers. That probably explains why it’s taken me nearly two decades to finally be allowed entrance to an endocrinologist’s office. It definitely explains why the repair of a split abdominal wall is considered cosmetic though the cause of it was overdoing core activities and the existence of it can cause loads of medical issues – one of which is a protruding stomach for which no core workout will fix; another of which is bleeding out due a lack of muscle wall between internal organs and a seatbelt tightened in an accident.
So, yes, Dr. Diet Plan.
I have thought about being healthier. I think about it pretty much all day, everyday.
I’m sorry you didn’t like my breakfast of cottage cheese and fruit because of the protein level. It’s just that, as a woman with a family history of arthritis, the calcium is important to me. I’m sorry that my lunch of greens and salmon also bothered you. It’s just that we also pass along high cholesterol in my family and the omegas are good for me. I’m sorry that you’ve never experienced the slamming metabolism brakes of menopause. I’m sorry that you haven’t seen me sweating my ass off at the gym or doing my weekly meal planning or visiting my bookshelf of healthy cookbooks. I’m sorry that you pegged me before you even knew me.
I’m sorry that you won’t be seeing me again, because I am a really, really great patient.
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